Home About the Play Production Press Tickets Contact


Hershell Norwood

Having completed his M.F.A. at Brandeis University. Hershell has acted in PBS programs, television commercials, and an MGM film. During the summer, he has worked in summer stock companies in the New England area, Cape Cod, New Hampshire, and Maine. As well as professional acting, he has taught English, dramatic literature, acting, directing, and playwriting to secondary high school, community college, and university students. Hershell has written several full-length plays. The list expands with titles including The Tragedy of Leah, Go Dance Through the Veil, and a historically based play about jazz singer and legend Billie Holiday entitled Billie’s Blues. His intrigue in the art of theatre and theatre research has encouraged him to pursue a PhD in Fine Arts offered at Texas Tech University. His quest to distinguish between Western-American and African-American theatrical and cultural traditions has led to his dissertation topic, the Development of a Cultural Aesthetic Theory for African American Theatre.

T. Bankolé
The Director

A founder of Mugendai, Bankolé has traveled the United States and abroad conducting art seminars, showcasing his artwork, producing and directing theatrical performances. While working under the auspices of Woodie King Jr.'s New Federal Theater Bankolé produced, directed, and secured funds for several works including; The jazz inspired theatrical Homage to the Greats (1997), starring Antonio Hart; Acts from the Womb (1998), a series of six women's plays; and Parallel Lives (1999), a dance theatrical featuring participation from noted actors Armand Assante and Italian legend Marrio Fratti. He has worked with notable actors and artists such as Ruby Dee, Aretha Franklin, John Legend, and comedian Dave Chappelle. Throughout his career Bankolé has built great relationships with noted directors, producers and industry insiders. He serves as the producing director of playwright, Hershell Norwood's play, "Billie's Blues,Tonight At Mama's Jam".

Mugendai Entertainment
Produced By

A production company based in New York, was founded by T.Bankolé and Keith Sagel. Mugendai has primarily focused on film, music and television inspired projects.

Jaz Dorsey
Production Manager

Mansa J. Gory
Music Director

Mansa Gory was raised in Cheraw South Carolina which is the home tojazz great Dizzy Gillespie. During his time at the University of South Carolina, where he received his Bachelors in Music Education, Mr. Gory had the opportunity to perform in the highly prestigious Drum Corp. International for five years. At Carolina Crown Mansa achieved the Brass Member of the Year award. While marching with the Concord Blue Devils Mr. Gory achieved the Brass Rookie of the Year award and was inducted in to the Blue Devils Hall of Fame in 2001. As a disciple of Jazz, Mansa Gory has had the privilege of studying with Ron Westray and Wycliffe Gordon. He composes regularly for the resident Improv Ensemble at Columbia University. Mr. Gory also performs in the Hip Hop band A Broken Code and the Progressive Metal band IKILLYA.

Mr. Mansa Gory recently completed his Masters in Music Education from CUNY Lehman College and is currently the tenured Director of Bands at Mount Vernon High School in New York.

Emi Avgustein
Music Composer

Emi Augustin is a passionate, dedicated artist and mentor living and working in New York City. Having a musical mother for guidance, Emi started on piano at the age of four. After benefitting from the classical training, he received under his mother’s tutelage Emi branched out into performance arts as well as music. Emi's first taste of stage life came through plays organized by his church. When his mother recognized his skill and enthusiasm for the performing arts, she hired a manager and Emi began going out on calls as early as the age of eight. His first professional television spot was for Action News Philadelphia. That led to parts in movies, off Broadway plays, television advertisements and syndicated shows such as, Satchmo, Carlitos Way, A Bronx Tale, a Hersheys commercial, public service ads for the board of education, and a Burger King commercial. He also appeared on Sesame Street and Nickelodeon’s Don’t just sit there, to name a few.

Carlos Garcia
Sound Designer

For more than 10 years, Carlos Garcia has designed sound for film. T.V.and Theatre. He has work on Broadway productions such as, "tabbo", "Def Poetry Jam", Jakie Mason"Prune Danish", "Fortunes Fool", "Blue Room", "A Dolls House", and Bring in da Noise Bring in da Funk" to name a few. Last year he toured with Disney's " High School Musical" and is now Touring with " A Bronx Tale".

Michael Ralston
Light Designer

Mike Ralston Is a Chicago native who now resides in Brooklyn New York. He’s a Graduate of Columbia Film school of Chicago, and has been working as a lighting tech for more than 7 years. Mike is currently a light designer for Stage, Film and Television. He regularly works for ABC news, Nightly News, and credited as one of the Lighting designers for the 2009 MTV Video awards

Jo-Issa Diop
Production Designer

is a director/writer/filmmaker. Diop received her B.A. in African and African American studies from Stanford University in 2007. She has acted in several original campus productions and directed four successful productions of her own, including theatrical adaptations of Spike Lee’s School Daze & Do the Right Thing and an urban, 60s Motown adaptation of Grease. She currently works under the tutelage of Woodie King, Jr. at New Federal Theatre and is the founder of the Black Film Academy, an organization dedicated to reforming black film.

Candice Franklin
Dance Choreographer

originally from St. Louis, Missouri, is the founder of Dance Industrial Professionals, Inc. in NYC. She produces and choreographs for concert, theatre, as well as corporate events, trade shows, and industrials. Ms. Franklin has produced several professional dance projects for New York artists as well as a cultural arts series and has choreographed musical theatre productions for children’s theatre groups such as the Uptown Kids Urban Dance Theatre, Keya Dance, African Globe Theatre, New York All City High School Choir, and area public schools.

She first began training in St. Louis, later receiving her B.A. in Dance on 4-year scholarship as well as professional training from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center and various other choreographers of the New York area. Since then, she has been seen in film, television, music videos, concerts, commercials, and on the off-Broadway stage. She is a former member of Joan Peters Dance Company and has performed with Avodah Dance Ensemble (principal dancer), Total Entertainment/Total Extremes Dancers (principal dancer/rehearsal director), Vissi Dance Theatre (principal dancer) and Earl Mosley’s Diversity of Dance. She continues to dance as a member of the Underground Dance Project and CEG Productions (Dance Captain/Choreographer), and with, Phoenix Rising (principal dancer/choreographer), and Nommo Contemporary Dance Theatre (principal dancer/choreographer). Her choreography has been seen on the stages of the Theatre of Riverside Church, Dance New Amsterdam, Sage Theater, Bernier Dance, 14 Street Y, American Theatre of Actors, Tribecca Performing Arts Center, Henry Du Jour Playhouse, and Joyce Soho. In addition, her choreography was presented at the Winchester Theatre in the Toronto Dance Festival to good reviews by the Toronto Globe & Mail as well as in the latest concert for Phoenix Rising Dance Creations where her work and photo of that performance was featured with critical acclaim in the New York Times.

Ms. Franklin is currently working on the music concert tour of "Jazz Ain’t Dead" which will open this Fall and continues to choreograph for film, live theatre, and music recording artists.

The Cast

Celine Justice (Billie Holiday) is a native San Franciscan and Brown University graduate. She currently resides in Brooklyn and has performed across the country both in theatre and film. Theatre credits include: The Engagement (Wings Theatre), F*ckin’ A (Mainstage), and Liliane (Rites & Reason). She is proud and humbled by the opportunity to play the greatest Jazz singer of all time and would like to thank all of her loved ones for their support and encouragement.

Thyaif Dalsh (Sadie) recently had the opportunity to perform at The Public in the Susan Lori Parks play 365days365plays. Evie in No Place to Be Somebody at the Sackett Theatre. Haddley Player in a play called Price of the Ticket. She has also performed in a reading of Ntozake Shange’s Mother Courage starring S Epatha Merkerson and Directed by Oz Scott. Her other works included playing a Slave Woman in Greener Grasses at the Theater for the New City, Barberdasher at the Stella Alter Theatre with Ted Lange and Art Evens. She also played Mayme in Lynn Nottage Intimate Apparel at the St Louis’s Black Rep and won the Woodie King Jr award for best supporting actor. Nominated for an AUDELCO for the Off –Broadway show Waitin to end Hell at the 47th Street Playhouse for NFT. She has also performed with the Negro Ensemble Co, National Black Theatre, Theater for the New City in Oldies Dances, and Roses are Brown. She has worked with Samm-Art Williams in his new play Last of the Line with Glynn Turman and her mentor and coach Charles Weldon, and Ted Lange new play Washington’s Boy. Her TV & Film credits include numerous commercials, Law & Order Third Watch, and Bernadette in Mario Van Peebles (Panther.) and several independent Films. She had been feature as lead Singer on the Hidden Beach Unwrapped vol.1 C.D (Song Crush on You) She gives the glory to God her lord and savior Jesus Christ.

Katharina Stenbeck (Katie) “Is originally from Stockholm, Sweden. She spent a lot of her childhood in London, England but returned to her homeland to attend the acting conservatory Södra Latin in Stockholm. She is a recent graduate from three years at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Manhattan where some of her favorite roles included Yelena in 'Uncle Vanya' and Rosamund Plinth in 'The Violet Hour'. She recently wrapped the short film 'Lion Bold' in which she starred as the female lead, Isabel. When she isn't acting, Katharina enjoys making music with her band Otterclan."

James Rich (Jack) James is very excited to be taking part in Billie's Blues. He is currently acting in and producing the original web series, Brooklyn Is For Lovers. James has studied with his current acting teacher, Tony Greco, for the past two years. He lives in Flatbush. Thanks to my Bambi for all her support.

Jason Pixon (Bobby) is a Cleveland native is blessed to take part in this production of "Billie's Blues". He would like to thank Bankolé and the staff for this opportunity.