Etta and Ella on the Upper West Side

Adrienne Kennedy and Monty Cole
Past event


One of the American theater’s seminal writers, Adrienne Kennedy captures the Black experience in America in the 20th century with a trademark embrace of symbolism, lyricism, and mythic figures. In this world premiere production, Etta and Ella Harrison are talented academics on the Upper West Side—as well as sisters and rivals. After a lifetime of competition, they are on the verge of destroying each other. Next-generation director Monty Cole employs a cinematic approach to this intricate blend of monologue, dialogue, voiceover, and prose in a work that is part experimental play, part narrative thriller.

The program includes a post-show talk on February 24 with Monty Cole, Tori Danner, Sarahjeen Francois, Wesley T. Jones, and Maleke Clemmons; moderated by Daniel Alexander Jones.

[Adrienne Kennedy is] one of the American theater’s greatest and least compromising experimentalists.

Alexis Soloski, The New York Times

Etta and Ella on the Upper West Side is a world premiere production.

Co-Presented with CalArts Center for New Performance.

Produced by CalArts Center for New Performance.

Made possible in part with generous funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

about the artists

Adrienne Kennedy

Adrienne Kennedy is an award-winning playwright, lecturer, and author. Her plays include Funnyhouse of a Negro (Obie Award), June and Jean in Concert (Obie Award), A Movie Star Has to Star in Black and White, A Rat’s Mass, The Owl Answers, Motherhood 2000, Electra and Orestes, She Talks to Beethoven, An Evening with Dead Essex, A Lesson in a Dead Language, and The Lennon Play. She is the recipient of an Obie Award for Sleep Deprivation Chamber, which she co-authored with her son Adam. Other awards include a Guggenheim Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Literature, the 1990 American Book Award, and induction into the Theater Hall of Fame. Her published works include In One Act, Alexander Plays, Deadly Triplets, He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box and Other Plays, and the memoir People Who Led to My Plays. She was also commissioned to write plays for Jerome Robbins, the Public Theater, Mark Taper Forum, Juilliard School, and the Royal Court in England. She has been a visiting lecturer at Yale University, New York University, Harvard University, and University of California at Berkeley, where she was Chancellor’s Distinguished Lecturer in 1980 and 1986. In 2018, Kennedy was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame for Lifetime Achievement in the American Theater.


Monty Cole

Monty Cole is an award-winning theater and film writer-director based in Chicago, Illinois. He has directed for The Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf, Center Theatre Group, The Playwrights Center, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Victory Gardens Theater, CalArts Center for New Performance, Cape Cod Theatre Project, Alley Theatre, American Blues Theater, and others. His reinterpretations of classics from Eugene O’Neill’s The Hairy Ape to Hamlet have received awards and critical praise in Chicago. His play American Teenager is a commission from the Goodman Theatre’s Playwrights Unit. He is currently an artist in residence at CalArts Center for New Performance, a fellow at Hermitage Artist Retreat, and a research scholar of the Bridge to Faculty at University of Illinois Chicago. In 2021, Cole directed three short films: Six Feet Apart by Isaac Gomez; Sons of Toledo, written by Cole and Matt Foss; and his own short, Whole. Recently, Cole directed an episode of The Cymbeline Project for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Coming up, Cole will direct Incendiary by Dave Harris at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre in Washington, D.C. Monty has a BFA in Theatre Studies from Emerson College and an MFA Directing from CalArts.

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cast & creative team


Tori Danner, Ella

Sarahjeen François, Etta

Wesley T. Jones, Troupe

Maleke Clemmons, Music


Adrienne Kennedy, Writer 

Monty Cole, Director 

Yuki Shiyu Ding, Scenic Designer 

Claire Chrzan, Lighting Designer 

Clare Marie Nemanich, Sound Designer 

Hsuan-Kuang Hsieh, Video Designer 

Akina Van De Velde, Cinematographer 

Loren Weldon, Costume Designer 

Edward Monaghan, Fight Choreographer

Mecca Andrews, Choreographer


Rui M. Xu, Producer 

Chris Swetcky, Production Manager 

Maria Oliveira, Stage Manager 

Rachel Scandling, Associate Producer 

Ella Fornof, Assistant Lighting Designer 

Eliot Burk, Assistant Sound Designer

Wei-Fang Chang, Assistant Video Designer 

Bailey Johnson, Assistant Costume Designer

Katherine Paez Froehlich, Assistant Production Manager 

Winky Kim, Assistant Stage Manager 

Rebecca Hsia-Palma, Assistant Stage Manager 

Victor Sandoval-Torres, Costume Shop Director 

Kate DeWall, Master Electrician 

Patrick Smith, Props Master 

Jenica Anderson, Head of Sound and Video

Arman Memarzadeh, CalArts Prop Run Crew 

Danielle Pope, CalArts Prop Run Crew 

Porter Jacob Lawrence, CalArts Lights Run Crew 

Milo Wakefield, CalArts Sound Run Crew


Dionne M. Robinson, Understudy (Etta)

Chisom Diana Dimiri, Understudy (Ella) 

E. E. Williams, Understudy (Troupe)


Additional Film Team:

Jingchen Zhao, Assistant Director 

Xiaoke Zhang, Assistant Production Designer 

Qi Liu, Assistant Production Designer 

Karen Ayala, Assistant Costume Designer 

Angeline Gutierrez, Makeup Artist 

Freddie Carodine, Christopher Martin, Shyteek McLeod, Danielle Pope, Marie Sadd, Extras



Travis Preston, Executive Artistic Director

Rachel Scandling, Producing Director

Marissa Chibás, Director of Duende CalArts; Producing Artist 

Daniel Alexander Jones, Producing Artist 

Amanda Shank, Associate Artistic Director 

Chi-wang Yang, Associate Artistic Director 

Paul Turbiak, Director of Communications 

Rui M. Xu, Producer 

Chris Swetcky, Director of Production 

George Lugg, Consulting Produce