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Sunday, November 17, 2019

"Soft Power" Closes off Broadway after two extensions

Kristen Faith Oei

Cast includes Donna Reed Scholarship alumna

Off-Broadway's Public Theater concluded its limited off-Broadway engagement of Soft Power on November 17 after two extensions. Soft Power is set following the 2016 election. It centers on a Chinese executive who is visiting America and falls in love with a good-hearted U.S. leader as the power balance between their two countries shifts.

The cast included Kristen Faith Oei, a Fremont, Calif. native and 1999 Donna Reed Foundation National Award recipient in Dance. Most recently she appeared in the Broadway production of Spiderman:Turn Off The Dark, understudying chorus and dance roles.  She served as dance captain in the sit-down company of Wicked in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Other credits include Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida first national tour (Amneris cover); We Will Rock You Las Vegas; West Side Story European tour; Fame - The Musical national tour; The Suite Life on Deck; and the Country Music Awards with the Dixie Chicks.

Bedlam’s “The Crucible” Begins Off-Broadway

Zuzanna Szadkowski
Performances began November 8 in the Connelly Theater for Bedlam's production of The Crucible by Arthur Miller. Inspired by the Salem witch trials that took place in the Massachusetts Bay Colony during the early 1690s, Miller wrote The Crucible in 1953 as a comment on McCarthyism, a moment in U.S. history when the government persecuted people accused of being communists. The cast includes Fort Wayne, Indiana native Zuzanna Szadkowski, who was the 1997 Donna Reed Foundation National Scholar in Acting. She is known for her role as Dorota Kishlovsky on the CW teen drama series Gossip Girl. Szadkowski also appeared on The Sopranos, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and Guiding Light.

Saycon Sengbloh cast in Aretha Franklin biopic

Saycon Sengbloh
Donna Reed National Scholarship Winner
The forthcoming Aretha Franklin biopic, Respect, starring Jennifer Hudson as the Queen of Soul, will include Tony Award winner Saycon Sengbloh who was a 2001 Donna Reed Foundation national scholarship winner in Acting and Musical Theatre.

The biopic will follow the singer’s rise to superstardom, from her childhood singing gospel in her father’s church to her emergence as one of the most powerful and influential voices in soul and R&B. The movie will also examine Franklin’s impact on civil rights and women’s movements.

Sengbloh has starred in a number of Broadway musicals. Her breakthrough came in 2015, when she was cast in Eclipsed, a play about five Liberian women and their tale of survival near the end of the Second Liberian Civil War. It became the first play with an all-black and female creative cast and team to premiere on Broadway. Her performance received positive reviews from critics. She won Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play for original Off-Broadway production, and Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play nomination for Broadway production.

Frozen II arrives in theaters worldwide November 22.

Santino Fontana

Voiceover cast includes 2000 Donna Reed Festival scholarship finalist

The gang from the original Frozen film will embark on a new journey that goes beyond their homeland of Arendelle, and this time Anna will be joining Elsa on the adventure. The cast will include Tony winner Santino Fontana (Tootsie) providing the voice of Hans.

Fontana, from Richland, Washington, was a 2000 Donna Reed Festival scholarship finalist in acting.

Brandon Victor Dixon to star in Kennedy Center’s “Next to Normal”

 Brandon Victor Dixon

Donna Reed Foundation Scholarship Award Alumnus

Tony-nominated actor Brandon Victor Dixon (Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert, Shuffle Along…) will join the previously announced Rachel Bay Jones (Dear Evan Hansen) in the Kennedy Center's Broadway Center Stage production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Next to Normal.

Michael Greif, who directed the original Broadway production of the hit musical, will stage the D.C. engagement, which runs January 29–February 3, 2020, in the Eisenhower Theater. Tony winner Jones will play Diana, the role created on Broadway by Tony winner Alice Ripley, with Dixon as her husband Dan. 

Dixon, from Gaithersburg, Maryland, was a 1999 Donna Reed scholarship finalist in musical theatre.

Jared Grimes cast in “A Soldier’s Play”

Jared Grimes

Donna Reed Foundation Scholarship Alumnus

The Roundabout Theatre Company has announced it complete cast for the revival of Charles Fuller’s acclaimed A Soldier’s Play.  The Pulitzer Prize-winning play, which debuted Off-Broadway in 1981, will receive a new production directed by Tony Award winner Kenny Leon. Included in the cast is Jared Grimes who is cast as “Private Tony Smalls.”

Grimes was a 2001 Donna Reed national scholarship recipient in dance. He went on to become an Astaire Award-winning dancer and tap and hip-hop/street jazz choreographer, performing alongside legends such as Wynton Marsalis and Gregory Hines.

Grimes made his choreography debut in Cirque Du Soleil's, Banana Shpeel off-broadway, He has choreographed the musical Holler If You Hear Me with Kenny Leon, 42nd Street at Drury Lane Chicago with Michael Heitzman, and The Scottsboro Boys with Joe Calarco at the Signature Theater in DC. 

Blumhouse to release Remake of Black Christmas this December on Friday the 13th

Sophia Takal

Directed by Donna Reed Scholarship finalist in Acting

From director Sophia Takal (Always Shine) and from the script she wrote with April Wolfe (Widower), comes a bold new take on the 1974 slasher classic Black Christmas. It’s a cult horror classic as a campus killer comes to face a formidable group of friends in sisterhood.

Sophia Takal is an American actress, writer and director perhaps best known for her work in independent features such as All the Light in the Sky, Supporting Characters and Gabi on the Roof in July. Filmmaker magazine named Takal one of the "25 New Faces of Film" in 2011.

Takal, from Montclair, NJ, was a 2003 National Donna Reed Scholarship finalist in Acting.

Zach Villa - Master of All

Zach Villa

2005 Iowa Donna Reed scholarship recipient in musical theatre

Zach Villa has acquired considerable acclaim as an actor, musician, vocalist, dancer & songwriter. A 'jack of all trades, Zach appeared on Broadway and at Carnegie Hall before relocating to the West coast, only to appear with the LA Philharmonic in the world premiere of Frank Zappa's 200 Motels.

You've recently seen Zach starring as a series regular on FX's acclaimed "American Horror Story." In film, he has appeared along side Nicole Kidman in Karyn Kusama's "Destroyer." His three episode arc on Showtime's "Shameless" premiered this spring, and he has recently had the pleasure of appearing on SyFy's, "The Expanse."

Villa is from Clinton, Iowa and a graduate of the Juilliard School and Interlochen Arts Academy.

Read his bio

IMPOSSIBLE MONSTERS Sets UK Movie Premiere

Santino Fontana

Film stars 2000 Donna Reed Festival acting scholarship finalist


Tony Award winner Santino Fontana (Tootsie, Disney's Frozen) leads the cast in the psychological thriller Impossible Monsters. Dr. Rich Freeman (Fontana), an ambitious and well-liked psychology professor, pursues a sleep study with a focus on nightmares, dreams, and sleep paralysis - the success of which would result in a lucrative grant. As the line between dreams and reality blur, a member of the study is murdered, and everything begins to unravel, leaving Dr. Freeman fighting to make things right.

The cast also includes Natalie Knepp, Devika Bhise (The Man Who Knew Infinity), Donall O Healai, Geoffrey Owens (The Cosby Show), Dennis Boutsikaris (Better Call Saul), and Laila Robins (Homeland).

Written and directed by Nathan Catucci, Impossible Monsters will have its UK Premiere at the Cine-Excess Film Festival.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Preston Truman Boyd to Lead National Tour of Les Misérables

Preston Truman Boyd

2004 Donna Reed National Scholarship recipient

Preston Truman Boyd, a Moorhead, MN native, is joining the touring production of the Tony Award-winning musical phenomenon Les Misérables as Inspector Javert. The production opens December 10 at Shea’s Performing Arts Center in Buffalo, NY.

Boyd’s Broadway credits include Kiss Me, Kate, The Play That Goes Wrong, Sunset Boulevard, She Loves Me, One the Twentieth Century, Bullets Over Broadway and Big Fish. He was a 2004 Donna Reed National Scholarship recipient in both Vocal Music and Musical Theatre.