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Adapted for the Stage by Cheryl L. West
Based on the Original Screenplay by Doug Atchison
Directed by Charles Randolph-Wright
November 13 – December 27, 2015
Kreeger Theater

Based on the beloved film, Akeelah and the Bee tells the story of an independent 11-year-old girl whose razor-sharp mind just might take her all the way from the Chicago projects to the finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Johannah Easley, in her Arena Stage debut, “triumphs [portraying] all of the young word-lover’s fears and hopes as she fights for her dreams” (Star Tribune). Playwright Cheryl L. West (Pullman Porter Blues) and director Charles Randolph-Wright (Ruined) bring this spirited adaptation to life this holiday season in a production hailed by City Pages as “E-X-C-E-L-L-E-N-T.”


NATHAN BARLOW (Reggie Anderson) is thrilled to be making his Arena Stage debut and most recently performed as the title role in Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet at the Guthrie Theater, for which he won an Ivey Award. He has performed in over 13 productions at Children’s Theatre Company, beginning when he was eight years old, including Cinderella; Bud, Not Buddy; Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas; The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963; and Hansel and Gretel. He is two years out of the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater BFA Actor Training Program and has performed at various theaters in the Twin Cities including Theater Latté Da, Ten Thousand Things and Mixed Blood Theatre.

AIMEE K. BRYANT (Gail Anderson) is thrilled to make her Arena Stage debut. After receiving her BFA from Howard, she moved to the Twin Cities where she has spent the majority of her career. Her most recent theater credits include The Gospel of Lovingkindness (Pillsbury House Theatre), The Nature Crown (Theatre Forever), The Color Purple (Park Square Theatre) and My Fair Lady (Guthrie Theater). With Children’s Theatre Company, her credits include Seedfolks; Stamping, Shouting, Singing Home; Splash Hatch on the E Going Down; A Year with Frog and Toad; and Seussical. Aimee is a founding ensemble member of Congo Square Theatre in Chicago, a 2015 McKnight Fellow at the Playwright’s Center and she was named best acress of 2015 by Minneapolis City Pages.

DARIUS DOTCH (JT/Judge/TV Announcer) is an Ivey Award Winner who is making his Arena Stage debut, and was recently seen as Lank in Detroit ‘67 at Penumbra Theatre. Additional credits include Harpo in The Color Purple and Flip in Stick Fly (Park Square Theatre); Marcus in Colossal (Mixed Blood Theatre); A Civil War Christmas and Lombardi (History Theatre); Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet (Guthrie Theater); and The Road Weeps, The Well Runs Dry and Broke-ology (Pillsbury House Theatre).

JOHANNAH EASLEY (Akeelah Anderson) is extremely honored to work with this extraordinary cast in her debut at Arena Stage. She is a core dancer with Journey Productions, which has allowed her to perform at Minneapolis / St. Paul theaters including the Ritz Theater, Pillsbury House Theatre, Walker Art Center and Penumbra Theatre. Other theater credits include The Buddy Holly Story (History Theatre); For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf (Mixed Blood Theatre); Hairspray (History Theatre); and Henry’s Freedom Box and Almost to Freedom (SteppingStone Theatre). She would like to give shout outs to her mother, the entire Akeelah and the Bee creative team, her family and teachers/mentors for their support. Instagram: @joeasley.

ANA CHRISTINE EVANS (Trish/Horse Girl/Mohawk Girl) is thrilled to make her debut at Arena Stage in Akeelah and the Bee. She has performed in Alice in Wonderland, Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat and Madeline and the Gypsies with Children’s Theatre Company. She has also performed with Stages Theatre Company, History Theatre, Bloomington Theatre, Illusion Theater and her high school in Minneapolis. Some of her favorite roles include Alice (Alice in Wonderland), Coco (Coco’s Diary) and Louise (Sunday in the Park with George). She thanks her family for their unconditional love and support.

ZARIA GRAHAM (Georgia) makes her Arena Stage debut. Her theater credits include Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy (Children’s Theatre Company); Into the Mirror, B is for Bully, B Literal Less, The Girl Who Cried Wolf and The Courage of Nine (Capri Theater); and Broadway Bus Stop Production (Intermedia Arts). She appeared on the Disney network and on Star Search. Zaria has performed gospel, pop, theater, musical theater, concert theater and recital repertoire with several Twin Cities artists, working with T. Mychael Rambo, Greta Oglesby, Dennis Spears, Peter C. Brosius and Chico Chavez.

SHAVUNDA HORSLEY (Rhonda/Fay-Fay Foxy/Pronouncer) is pleased to make her debut at Arena Stage. She has performed at several Twin Cities theaters and arts organizations and will next be seen performing in Six Characters in Search of an Author at Park Square Theatre. Her training includes the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater BFA Actor Training Program and Globe Education (London), and her awards and honors include the 2015 Verve Grant for Spoken Word. ShaVunda is the winner of the 2010 Farrago Fresher’s Poetry Slam (London) and 2010 Whut it Do? Peace Fest and Hip-Hop Competition.

LEO JAMES (Javier/Chucky) is proud and grateful to be making his Arena Stage and D.C.-area debut. Regional credits include Urinetown (Bobby Strong), Brigadoon (Charlie Dalrymple), Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap (Mr. Paravicini), The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Chip Tolentino) and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (Chip). Television credits include national commercial work for Yoplait and Best Buy. He was the first place winner of the 2015 NATS National Singing Conference in Greensboro, NC and recipient of two 2015 Spotlight Awards for Outstanding Performance in a Leading Role (Bobby Strong) and Outstanding Performance in a Supporting Role (Charlie Dalrymple). LJ would like to acknowledge and thank the creative team, Trent and Mr. Randolph-Wright. He dedicates his performance to LP, AJ and JM.

TONY NAM (Dylan’s Dad/Pronouncer) is pleased to be making his first appearance at Arena Stage. He previously performed in the D.C. area at Ford’s Theatre (Our Town), the Kennedy Center’s Theater for Young Audiences (The Cricket in Times Square, American Scrapbook, Unleashed, Kite on the Wind), Folger Theatre (Much Ado About Nothing, Measure for Measure), Shakespeare Theatre Company (Othello, Pericles), Woolly Mammoth (Martha, Josie and the Chinese Elvis) and Round House Theatre (Treasure Island). Regional theater credits include Theatre Works (Pacific Overtures, Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award), Seattle Children’s Theatre (The Red Badge of Courage) and Island Stage Left (Much Ado About Nothing). He holds a BA from St. Mary’s College of Maryland and an MFA from the University of Washington.

MILTON CRAIG NEALY (Drunk Willie/Principal) makes his Arena debut. His Broadway credits include Pop Gordy in Motown The Musical; Caroline, or Change; John in Miss Saigon (also London and Australian productions); Four-Eyed Moe in Five Guys Named Moe; Ain’t Misbehavin’ (revival cast); Agwe in Once on This Island; and Dreamgirls (original and revival casts). National tour credits include Horse in The Full Monty (also Australian production), Marty in the 2010 tour of Dreamgirls and Judas in the 20th anniversary tour of Jesus Christ Superstar. TV and film credits include Person of Interest and The Blues Brothers.

GRETA OGLESBY (Batty Ruth) is delighted to be making her Arena Stage debut. She made a big splash in the theater community when she played the lead in Tony Kushner’s Caroline, or Change at The Guthrie Theater, for which she received an Ivey Award. Greta’s resume includes five seasons at Oregon Shakespeare Festival; Crowns, Burial at Thebes, Sunshine Boys and Appomattox (Guthrie Theater); and Gem of the Ocean and Amen Corner (Goodman Theatre). Greta recently published the book “Mama ’n Nem: Handprints on My Life” (Kirk House Publishers).

SEAN PHINNEY (Dylan) makes his Arena debut with Akeelah and the Bee. He has played parts in three pieces directed by the Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists (SPCPA) — New Play Festival (Penumbra Theatre), The Boys from Syracuse (Lehr Theater) and Almost, Maine (Pillsbury House Theatre). He has also been in Junie B. Jones, Dog Sees God and Good ‘N’ Plenty (Youth Performance Company) and Bully (SteppingStone Theatre). Sean participates in the TruArtSpeaks annual poetry slam competition and had a solo performance at The Garage for his music/spoken word.

JAMES A. WILLIAMS (Dr. Larabee) is pleased to make his Arena Stage debut. He originated the role of Roosevelt Hicks on Broadway in August Wilson’s Radio Golf. He appeared Off-Broadway in Wilson’s The Piano Lesson and My Children! My Africa! A founding member of Penumbra Theatre, James has been a regular on Twin Cities stages for over three decades. He has also performed at Center Stage, Goodman Theatre, Huntington Theatre Company, the Kennedy Center, Mark Taper Forum, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Syracuse Stage and Yale Repertory Theatre. He was nominated for an NAACP Image Award in 2007, received an Ivey Award for Performance Excellence in 2008 for his portrayal of Troy Maxson in Fences and was also named 2008 Artist of the Year by Minneapolis’ StarTribune. He is a 2015 McKnight Theater Fellow at the Playwrights’ Center and a 2015 Fox Resident Actor Fellow.

MOLLY YESELSON (Izzy/Snorting Girl/Air-Speller Girl) is thrilled to be making her Arena Stage debut. She attended Camp Arena Stage and was also a member of the Voices of Now Mead Ensemble. Some of her favorite roles have included Betty Parris (The Crucible), Leopold T. Bosco (Stefanie Hero) and the Lord High Underling (The Wiz). She originated the role of Molly in Sparta! The Musical and was also featured in the documentary This is Sparta. She studies private voice with Marilyn Moore and oboe with Kenny Stilwell at the Levine School of Music. Special thanks to Laura Rosberg, Sandra Blakeslee, Sean-Maurice Lynch, Fareed Mostoufi and Ariel Warmflash. Love to Mom, Dad and Maddie. Her favorite word in both English and Latin is “ergo.”


BRU AJUEYITSI (Reggie Anderson/JT/TV Announcer) makes his debut at Arena Stage. He was last seen in Theater J’s production of The Call (Alemu). Local credits include Constellation Theatre Company’s The Love of the Nightingale (Hippolytus); American Century Theater’s Hello Out There (Young Gambler) and Bang the Drum Slowly (Perry); Synetic Theater’s The Island of Dr. Moreau (Parker u/s); and Capital Fringe Festival’s award-winning Disco Jesus and the Apostles of Funk. He also toured with the Maryland Shakespeare Festival. Bru holds a BS in health science from Lincoln University and studied at the National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts in D.C. TV/film credits include a silver line metro commercial.

KARIM ANGULO (Javier Mendez/Chucky) is very excited to work on a production at Arena Stage. A ninth-grader at The Lab School in D.C., he has performed in many plays in his young life, most notably as a member of Lumina Studio Theatre, a youth theater company specializing in adaptations of Shakespeare and other classics located in Silver Spring, Maryland. Karim has appeared in, among many others, Lumina’s productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Metropolis, Nicholas Nickleby, Kabuki Coriolanus, Henry V/Brother Hal, Twelfth Night and Hamlet. In addition to performing with Lumina, Karim has participated in programs at Imagination Stage, Adventure Theatre and Camp Arena Stage. He also runs track and cross country and avidly collects comic books.

TAYLOR CHUNN (Georgia/Rhonda/Fay-Fay Foxy) is overjoyed to make her professional debut at Arena Stage. Taylor is a multi-talented seventh-grade honor roll student at a performing and visual arts school, studying vocal performance. Since 2013, Taylor has enjoyed attending The Children’s Theater Workshop and their summer camp at Howard University’s Department of Theatre Arts, where in 2014 she wowed audiences at the Ira Aldridge Theater portraying the sassy Sistah Bookin Say It Loud!, A Celebration of the Civil Rights Movement, and in 2015 as the quirky music teacher Ms. Stanley in How I Learned To Be A Kid. Taylor thanks her parents, family, friends, teachers, Denise J. Hart (director of TCTW), Arena Stage, Children’s Theater Company and Mark McKinnon (acting coach) for their love and support. Instagram: @tay_music16.

LAUREN DAVIS (Gail/Batty Ruth) hails from Maryland and is ecstatic to be a part of the Akeelah and the Bee cast. Her Children’s Theatre Company credits include Shrek the Musical, The Scarecrow and His Servant, Cinderella and Charlotte’s Web. Other theater credits include Oliver! (Theater Latté Da); Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet (Pillsbury House Theatre/Guthrie Theater); Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew and Antony and Cleopatra (Chesapeake Shakespeare Company); and Greensboro Four, Sing Out! and American Song Book (The Smithsonian). Television credits include America’s Most Wanted (Lifetime). She holds an MFA from Catholic University and a performing arts degree from Frostburg State University. She would like to thank God and her family for their love and support.

BUS HOWARD (Dr. Joshua Larabee/Drunk Willie/Principal Welch) is delighted to return to Arena Stage. He was last seen here in Polk County and The Great White Hope. Other D.C.-area appearances include Marty in the 2013 Helen Hayes Award-winning production of Dreamgirls at Signature Theatre, Emperor Jones at American Showcase Theatre and credits at the Kennedy Center, Studio Theatre, Source, Shakespeare Theatre at the Folger, Woolly Mammoth and Back Alley Theater. Off-Broadway, he has worked with the Negro Ensemble Company and Westside Theatre. National tours include the one-man show Frederick Douglass, Jitney and The Meeting. Film and TV credits include Ott in The Wire, Carl in Veep, The Corner, Gus in Serial Mom, Home for the Holidays, Murder at 1600, JFK, Homicide, Law & Order and A Man Called Hawk.

EMMA SOPHIE MOORE (Trish/Horse Girl/Mohawk Girl) is excited to perform at Arena Stage, where she began her acting career as a Yellow brick for the Arena Stage in Oz benefit. Other D.C. appearances include Big, The Musical and A Little House Christmas at Adventure Theatre. She has performed in The Secret Garden (Colin), West Side Story (Dream Maria) and Pippin (Theo) at Theatre Lab. Additional credits include Anything Goes (Faith), Into the Woods (Cinderella), A Chorus Line (Connie) and Seussical (Mayzie). As a dancer and violinist, Emma Sophie has performed in ballets and solo violin recitals at the Kennedy Center, National Gallery of Art, Warner Theatre and Carnegie Hall. She was a featured soloist and dancer for the Broadway Junior Collection DVDs. She recently starred in the short film Tunnel Vision and performed the original score.

VIVIENNE RIOUX-BAILEY (Izzy/Snorting Girl/Air-Speller Girl) makes her professional debut. She has performed in English and Chinese productions at her school (she speaks both English and Mandarin). She is a long-time member of Theatre Lab in D.C. and has appeared in their productions of Into the Woods Jr. and Honk! Jr. Vivienne was born in China and lives in D.C.

MICHAEL ROSEGRANT (Dylan Chiu) is delighted to make his Arena Stage debut. He was raised in the theater at an early age by Acting for Young People. His regional credits include Hamlet (Laertes) and Passaggio (Young Franco) at TFA and The Life of Galileo (Young Cosimo) at George Mason University’s School of Theater. His Chantilly High School credits include Picasso at the Lapin Agile (Sagot), Radium Girls, Little Red (Grandma) and Goldilocks on Trial (DA). Michael is executive producer of Chantilly’s broadcast journalism department and a state-winning forensics speech competitor. Also skilled in technical theater, he has worked as a stage manager, props/puppets master, lighting/ projections designer and producer. He would like to thank God, Mary Lechter, Mr. Monk and Mrs. K, the Rosegrant family and his parents, Mark and Susan.

RAFAEL UNTALAN (Mr. Chiu/Pronouncer/Judge) makes his Arena Stage debut. D.C.-area credits include Marcus Gee in Yellow Face (Theater J), Bosola in The Duchess of Malfi (We Happy Few Productions) and Daimon/Saru in Anime Momotaro (Imagination Stage, 2014 Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Production, Theater for Young Audiences). His regional credits include Shag in Equivocation (Virginia Repertory Theatre), Oberon/Theseus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Virginia Shakespeare Festival), Rama in The Ramayana (A Contemporary Theatre) and Sydney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities (Seattle Children’s Theatre). Rafael spent three years in Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s acting company (2005-2007), appearing in various productions including Romeo and Juliet and The Winter’s Tale. In March, he will appear in Falling Out of Time at Theater J. Rafael earned his MFA at the Academy for Classical Acting at George Washington University.

NICOLE WILDY (Akeelah Anderson) is thrilled to make her Arena Stage debut. D.C. area appearances include The Piano Lesson (Maretha) and The King and I (Royal Child) at Olney Theatre Center and A Christmas Carol (Want, School Girl) at Ford’s Theatre. As a member of the Washington National Opera Children’s Chorus, she sang in La Bohéme and The Little Prince at the Kennedy Center. Off-Broadway she appeared in Dream Street (Jemima) at The Pearl. Nicole was recently a soloist at Broadway Night at the Apollo Theater as well as at the U.S. Open in Arthur Ashe Stadium. She is an award-winning competitive dancer at PowerUp Dance Center. A seventh-grader at Folly Quarter Middle School, Nicole enjoys trombone choir and jazz band.


CHERYL L. WEST (Playwright)’s plays include Pullman Porter Blues, which premiered at Seattle Repertory Theatre and Arena Stage and also played at Goodman Theatre. Her plays have been seen in England, on Broadway (Play On!), Off-Broadway and in numerous regional theaters around the country. She has written television and film projects for Disney, Paramount, MTV Films, Showtime, TNT, HBO and CBS and is the Webby-nominated writer for the original web series Diary of a Single Mom. Cheryl is the recipient of the 2013 American Alliance for Theatre & Education Distinguished Play Award, Helen Hayes/Charles McArthur Award for Outstanding New Play, Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, an international playwriting award for distinguished new plays, National Endowment Playwriting Award and Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP Best Playwright Award.

CHARLES RANDOLPH-WRIGHT (Director) is an inaugural resident playwright at Arena Stage where he premiered his plays Love in Afghanistan, Blue and Cuttin’ Up and directed Sophisticated Ladies, Guys and Dolls (both starring Maurice Hines), Oak and Ivy, Anthems, Señor Discretion Himself and Ruined. He directed Motown the Musical on Broadway, the national tour and in London (upcoming). Additional directing credits include the opera Porgy and Bess, Love/Life (starring Brian Stokes Mitchell), Through the Night and They’re Playing Our Song (in Portuguese in Brazil). Charles also co-wrote Bea Arthur on Broadway: Just Between Friends. He directed the award-winning film Preaching to the Choir and has written screenplays for HBO, Showtime, Disney and FOX. Television credits include directing Lincoln Heights, South of Nowhere, the “Freestyle” soccer campaign for Nike and Bebe Winans’ special America America. He produced and wrote the Showtime series Linc’s.

ALEXANDER V. NICHOLS (Scenic Designer)’s Broadway credits include Wishful Drinking; Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway; and Nice Work If You Can Get It. Off-Broadway productions include In Masks Outrageous and Austere, Los Big Names, Horizon, Bridge and Tunnel, Taking Over, Through the Night and In the Wake. His regional theater credits include American Conservatory Theater, Mark Taper Forum, Guthrie Theater, Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Berkeley Repertory Theatre, among others. He was resident lighting designer for Pennsylvania Ballet, Hartford Ballet and American Repertory Ballet and lighting supervisor for American Ballet Theatre. Other dance credits include San Francisco Ballet, Boston Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Alvin Ailey, Hubbard Street, ODC/SF and the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company.

JESSICA JAHN (Costume Designer)’s previous works include Love, Loss and What I Wore (Westside Theatre); Die, Mommie Die! (New World Stages, winner of the Lucille Lortel Award); The Tutors (2ST Uptown); Once on This Island (Paper Mill Playhouse); Werther, The Manchurian Candidate and Carmen (Minnesota Opera); Maria Stuarda (Houston Grand Opera), Life is a Dream (world premiere, Santa Fe Opera); Carousel (Glimmerglass Festival); Monodramas and Mosé in Egitto (New York City Opera); Anna Bolena (Lyric Opera of Chicago); Don Bucefalo (Wexford Festival Opera); and Norma (San Francisco Opera and Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona). Her upcoming projects include The Crucible (Glimmerglass Festival), Maria Stuarda (Seattle Opera) and Norma (Canadian Opera Company).

MICHAEL GILLIAM (Lighting Designer)’s credits include Bonnie and Clyde, Brooklyn, Big River and Stand-Up Tragedy (Broadway); Gershwin Alone (West End); The Best Is Yet to Come, Striking 12, Blue, End of the World Party, Zooman and the Sign and Menopause the Musical (Off-Broadway); and Looped, Peter Pan, Brooklyn, Guys and Dolls and Big River (national tours). His work has been seen in many of the country’s regional theaters. His awards include Los Angeles Ovation Awards, Drama-Logue Awards, Garland Awards, San Diego Theatre Critics Circle Awards and the 1999 Career Achievement Award from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle.

STEN SEVERSON (Sound Designer) has designed sound for Broadway, London’s West End, Off-Broadway and numerous regional theaters. He is a partner in Acme Sound Partners, who have collectively designed more than 30 Broadway shows since 2000, garnering five Tony Award nominations and four Drama Desk Awards. Recent credits include King Lear (The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park), Family Album (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), Othello (Old Globe), Fallaci (Berkeley Repertory Theatre) and No Place to Go at Joe’s Pub (The Public Theater). He has taught in the sound design programs at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and the Yale School of Drama. He is currently the sound director at Children’s Theatre Company.

VICTOR ZUPANC (Composer) has worked on approximately 300 productions as composer, musical director and sound designer throughout the country. Theaters include Playwrights Horizons, The Acting Company, BAM, New Victory Theater, the Kennedy Center, SITI Company, Guthrie Theater, Theatre de la Jeune Lune, La Jolla Playhouse, San Diego Repertory Theatre, Berkeley Repertory Theatre and Missouri Repertory, among many others. His music has been heard in China, Japan, South America, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada and has been recognized with many awards and honors. Victor has also received many commissions for orchestral and choral music, and his music is heard regularly on NPR. He has also scored several films. He is in his 25th season as resident music director/composer at Children’s Theatre Company.

ELISSA ADAMS (Dramaturg) is the director of new play development at Children’s Theatre Company. Since 1998, she has overseen the commissioning and development of more than 35 new plays that have premiered at CTC. Previously, she served as director of playwright services at The Playwrights’ Center and literary manager at La Jolla Playhouse. She is a frequent guest dramaturg at the Sundance Institute Theatre Lab and has served on numerous panels for TCG. Elissa teaches a course in the theatrical process at MCAD, serves on the board of Open Eye Figure Theatre and TYA/USA and was a 2007 recipient of a McKnight Foundation Theater Artist Fellowship. She holds an MFA in dramaturgy from the University of California, San Diego and is, most proudly, the mother of Will and Joanna Sylvain.

SARAH BAHR (Assistant Costume Designer) is starting her final year of graduate school at the University of Minnesota pursuing her MFA in costume and scenic design. Her recent design credits include Juniper Tree (Open Eye Figure Theatre), 7 Dwarfs (University of Minnesota), ALOUD (Penumbra Theatre Summer Institute) and The Pavilion (Yellow Tree Theatre). She has worked with the Minnesota Opera, Guthrie Theater, NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Aspen Opera and Santa Fe Opera.

CHRIS SCHWEIGER (Stage Manager) is thrilled to be at Arena Stage. Chris has been working at Children’s Theatre Company since 2002, and her other credits there include Pinocchio, Alice in Wonderland, Annie, Babe, Robin Hood, Cinderella, Iqbal, A Year with Frog and Toad, Esperanza Rising, The Hobbit and Snapshot Silhouette. Chris has also worked with other companies in Minneapolis including Guthrie Theater, Ragamala Music & Dance Theater, Mixed Blood Theatre, Theater Latté Da and Illusion Theater. Chris has also worked at Perseverance Theatre in Alaska, Seattle Children’s Theatre, New Victory Theater in New York City, Alpine Theatre Project in Whitefish, Montana and Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City, Utah. She received her BS in theater from Northwestern University’s School of Speech and was a Peace Corps volunteer for three years in Mongolia.

JENNY BRASS (Assistant Stage Manager) has been organizing theater since the age of 16 when she lived in the Netherlands. Since graduating from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London, Jenny has worked extensively in both the U.K. and U.S. She currently works with various companies across the U.S., including Children’s Theatre Company, Tricklock Company and the California International Theatre Festival as their executive producer. Most recently, Make Theatre Company, for whom she is co-founder and executive producer, successfully completed its inaugural tour by producing French theater company Cie Macadâmes in four cities across the U.S. to rave reviews.

CHILDREN’S THEATER COMPANY (CTC) is the first theatre for young people to win the coveted Tony Award© for Outstanding Regional Theater (2003) and has welcomed more than 11 million people to performances and education programs over the last five decades. As one of the largest theatre companies in the nation, CTC has created over 200 new works, dramatically changing the canon of work for young audiences.


Behind the Curtain

Don't miss Akeelah and the Bee at Arena Stage - November 13 through December 27, 2015

Right from the Playwright

Don't miss Arena Stage's presentation of Akeelah and the Bee! November 13 - December 27, 2015

Photo Gallery


Post-Show Discussions
December 1 at 12:00 pm
December 2 at 12:00 pm
December 3 at 11:00 pm
December 9 at 12:00 pm
December 10 at 11:00 pm
December 10 at 8:00 pm
December 15 at 7:30 pm
December 16 at 12:00 pm
December 17 at 11:00 pm

Off Book

Welcome to Off Book - Arena Stage’s online forum featuring American artists at the top of their game, talking about what they do best. Actors,directors, writers, dramaturgs, designers - unscripted and unrehearsed.

I knew nothing about Akeelah and the Bee when I went to see the film, except that I had friends in it. I expected great performances from them, but I was unprepared for the unique, powerful, entertaining, and truly life-changing experience the film was for me. Read More

The movie was originally set in L.A., but I wanted to make the neighborhood more integral in the stage version so I reset it in Chicago — where I was born and raised — a choice I felt would illuminate the insidious violence plaguing my home city and many urban cities like it; cities where children literally feel under siege. Yet, I’m convinced it is our neighborhoods that are going to save our children. Read More

Q&A with actress Johannah Easley who makes her Arena Stage debut as the title role in Akeelah and the Bee. As Akeelah, she continues to inspire audiences with her determination and passion; empowering young women — both on stage and off. Read More


Audio Described

December 5 at 2:00 pm
December 13, 2:00 pm

Open Captioned

December 3 at 8:00 pm
December 23 at 7:30 pm
December 27 at 2:00 pm