African-American Shakespeare Company's production of CINDERELLA directed by Sherri Young | December 22-24, 2017

December 22–24, 2017


Written by African-American Shakespeare Company Members
Directed by Sherri Young

Enjoy the laughter this holiday season with the African-American Shakespeare Company’s original production of Cinderella. Delighting audiences for over 23 years, this is the heartwarming production of the lowly scullery maid who doesn’t know her own value. Only when a special invitation to the palace arrives, does Cinderella begin to dream of something more, but her stepmother and (oddly masculine) stepsisters have different plans for our heroine. Dreams do come true… with the help of a sassy fairy godmother who can make the magic happen. A side-splitting comedy that will have all ages with tears of laughter in their eyes and warmth in their hearts this holiday.


Director’s Note

I wanted to take our show back to its original brilliance. Over the years we have had so many alterations and changes, that now it’s time to go back to the original hearfelt storytelling that makes Cinderella so special—with the uniqueness that only African-American Shakespeare Company can bring.

Our little girls of color hear things like “not good enough”, “not pretty enough”, “not special enough” more than any child—so Cinderella is our gift to our young girls of color to know that they are treasured. This is the show for those little girls who were told they could never be a Princess, this is the show for those who tried to scrub the brown off their skin or wear the bed sheets on their heads so they could have long flowing tresses.

Seventeen years ago, I didn’t see enough positive images for young black females at the time. Black women were portrayed as a sassy, sashaying, hand-on-hip abrasive characters. What these images lacked was a 3D representation of the black woman. We do have that inner strength, but there is also vulnerability, softness, and the need to be loved, cared for, and protected.

Needless to say, our Cinderella doesn’t fit in the traditional form of what we remember the Disney Cinderella to demonstrated. Yes, our Cinderella is kind and gentle, but she is fully aware of the inequalities in her life—and yet she does not allow those inequalities to define her. This is what makes Cinderella so brilliant! In the face of all of these atrocities that happens she fights to remain positive and rise above.

Our Cinderella discovers that even if there were no Prince (spoiler) in her life, she would still be able to be all those things and that is what a makes her a strong woman.

—Sherri Young


Cinderella — Paige Mayes
Paige Mayes is back again after the exciting run in one of her most funniest roles: Helena, in African-American Shakespeare Company’s production of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Paige has appeared in previous AASC productions as Grandmother in Cinderella as well as Lala, Normal Jean, etc. in The Colored Museum. This is her fourth production with the company and she is beyond thrilled! She is an actress, dancer, and singer originally from Denver, CO. Paige graduated from Arizona State University where she received her Bachelor’s in Dance. She also attended the American Conservatory Theater where she did the Summer Training Congress and the SF Semester. She is beyond thankful to be working in the Bay Area and prays to go beyond what she can exceed.
Prince Charming — Rickey G. Soto III
Rickey Gene Soto III is an actor, singer, and dancer recently transplanted to the Bay Area from the central valley of California. Rickey is currently studying at San Francisco State University, most of his experience and training comes from his time spent at Modesto Junior College near his hometown. He is excited to be working with the African-American Shakespeare Company for the first time and hopes this will be a stepping stone to a bright future in show business. 
Evil Stepmother — Alison Whismore
Alison Whismore is excited to be working with the African-American Shakespeare Company for the first time. She has performed on three continents and in four languages. Before moving to California in 2011, Alison performed extensively in France with an itinerant company, specializing in interactive theatre working in collaboration with local communities. Local credits include Alonso in The Tempest, Lady Russell in Persuasion, Gertrude in Hamlet, Berthe in Boeing Boeing, and Lady Catherine in Pride and Prejudice. She just finished performing with San Francisco Shakespeare Festival’s tour of Romeo & Juliet and regularly transforms into a hippie on The Magic Bus in San Francisco. Alison holds a BA Honours in Drama from Manchester University, UK, and trained at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in London. She is an Equity Membership Candidate and is a member of the Teaching Artists Guild.
Shaniqua — Devin A. Cunningham
Devin A. Cunningham is an actor, singer, and writer from Oakland, CA and this is his first time working with the African-American Shakespeare Company. Devin studied acting on California’s central coast at the Pacific Conservatory for the Performing Arts. Some of his acting credits include Officer Lockstock in Urinetown the Musical, Ensemble/US Lord Pinkleton in Cinderella, Ensemble in The Pirates of Penzance, and US Lord Stanley in Richard III. This is Devin’s first production with the African-American Shakespeare Company and he is truly excited to be a part of an original work made by and for his people. 
Zonita — Jourdán Olivier-Verdé
Jourdán Olivier-Verdé is pleased to return to African-American Shakespeare Company for his second production. The Actor/Singer was previously seen appearing in the AASC production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream as Theseus and Oberon, and prior to that, in the DC Metro area appearing in A Raisin in the Sun as Walter Lee (Hallam Award Recipient for Best Actor); Marty in Dreamgirls; and Mister in The Color Purple, to name a few credits. He received his training as an Acting Minor at Howard University, American Academy of Dramatics Arts in New York (AADA), and the International Academy of Film and Television Los Angeles. He is very thankful for the support shown by Sherri, Peter, his Dungeon family, his West Coast family (J-D), and the rest of his family on the East Coast.
Duke — Gabriel A. Ross
Gabriel A. Ross is excited to return to African-American Shakespeare Company having recently played Flute/Thisby in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He has performed in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 15 years. Some highlights include: Antony in Julius Caesar (Silicon Valley Shakespeare); Charles/Ladvenu in St Joan (Jewel Theatre); Torvald in Doll’s House (Marin Onstage); Launcelot Gobbo in Merchant of Venice (Custom Made Theatre); Saturninus in Titus Andronicus (Renegade Theatre); and Edgar in King Lear (Festival Theatre Ensemble). He earned an MFA in Classical Acting from George Washington University/The Shakespeare Theatre Company. Last year he toured the west coast performing children’s theatre with California Theatre Center. He has appeared recently at San Francisco’s The Speakeasy and played the title role in Isaac’s Eye at Custom Made Theatre.
Page — Zaire K. Herd
Zaire Kelis Herd is a dancer, athlete, and Girl Scouts member from San Francisco, CA, and she is very excited to be working with the African-American Shakespeare Company! A 5th grader at Mission Dolores Academy, she participates in sports, specifically volleyball. Zaire has also been a Girls Scout member of Troop #61574, where she has learned leadership skills, arts and crafts, as well as participated in numerous camping trips and the sale of the Girl Scouts signature cookies. Zaire began attending the Don Fisher Clubhouse—Boys & Girls Club where she joined Nitty Dupree Studio of Dance and quickly became not only part of one of the dance teams, but she also assists children younger than her, helping with dance routines and keeping them focused. Zaire was in her first dance competition this year at Six Flags in Vallejo. Zaire has participated in mini plays at the Boys & Girls Club. Cinderella is her first full play.
Page — Joshua Shaw
Joshua Shaw is a 10-year-old from the Bay Area who made his debut in entertainment as the “First two-headed crossing guard” in a play by Handful Players in 2015. Since then, he’s been performing with Nitty Dupree Studio of Dance (NDSD) dancing in competitions across the country. Joshua is also a violinist, and a coach lead at his school overseeing several activities for the second year in a row. In his free time he enjoys teaching peers and younger dancers how to tumble and dance. As busy as he is, he’s an academic scholar who’s on top of his game! When Joshua grows up he’d like to be in the entertainment industry.
Page — Irease Tillman
Irease Tillman attends Gateway Middle School and is in a Japanese bilingual program. He is also a part of Nitty Dupree Studio of Dance and does music. This is Irease’s first time participating in a play outside of school.
Fairy Godmother — Kim Saunders
Kim Saunders is originally from NYC where she received her BA in Theatre from Marymount Manhattan College. She has performed at: The Nat Horne Theatre, Neighborhood Playhouse, Academy Arts Theatre Company, and American Ballet Theatre at Lincoln Center and several other companies in NYC. She then ventured west to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival where she performed for 6 years. Since moving to California she has performed with: San Jose Repertory Theatre, San Jose Stage, Napa Valley Shakespeare, Western Stage and other companies around the country. Kim is a company member of Custom Made Theatre and Left Coast Theatre. She has been nominated twice by San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle for best female principal as well as choreography. She also received a nomination from Theatre Bay Area for choreography. Kim is a professional director and works as a teaching artist in high schools supporting teachers and the amazing students she has the privilege of working with.
Grandmother — Virginia Smyly
Virginia “Ginger” Smyly, a native San Franciscan, participated in church plays and musicals as a child. She played cello in the Denman Jr. High School-award winning orchestra. She had a bit part in the Lowell High School senior play, based on Laugh-In. At the University of California, Berkeley, Ginger was a player in the Black Community Theatre Workshop of the African American Studies Department, under the direction of Margaret Wilkerson. Of note was their production of El Hadjj Malik. She landed the coveted role of Virtue, in the University of California, Berkeley, Theatre Department’s production of the Blacks. A career in Public Health ensued, including 9 years in West Africa. Now retired, she is an active volunteer-consultant with local community agencies; dances; sings in community choruses; and enjoys San Francisco’s diverse arts and culture. This is her first performance with the African-American Shakespeare Company.
Shayla — Sumayyah-Nuriddin-Green
Sumayyah Nuriddin-Green is ecstatic to be working with the African-American Shakespeare Company for a second time! The most recent role she played was Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden at the Marin Theater Company. In last year’s AASC co-production of Cinderella with San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company, she appeared as Young Cinderella and one of the Mice. At the Berkeley Rep School of Theatre she performed in the workshop Egyptian Explorers acting as an Archaeologist under the direction of Erica Blue. Sumayyah has studied dance at Redwood Heights Recreation Center with Patricia Hunter, Kids N Dance, Lyric Performing Arts, Destined 2 Dance and Piedmont Ballet, training in ballet, musical theater, jazz and modern. Sumayyah currently dances with the Youth Program at Raissa Simpson’s PUSH Dance Company. A few of her other interests are playing piano with Oaktown Jazz Workshops, attending Black Girls CODE programs/events, reading novels, writing poetry and sketching fashion designs. Instagram: @allaboutsumayyah
Shayla — Angelia Richardson
Angelia Richardson is an 11-year old from San Francisco, and is very excited to be working with African-American Shakespeare Company for another season! A sixth grader at Oakland School for the Arts (School of Dance), Angelia studies contemporary dance and ballet in addition to her general academics. Angelia is also fluent in Spanish and continues to excel in advanced Spanish classes. She was a competitive gymnast for five years, competing with American Gymnastics Club and Acro Sports. Angelia loves acting and truly has a passion for performing arts. Angelia began working with the African-American Shakespeare Company at the age of five, when she was cast as Young Cinderella. Angelia is very excited to return this year as granddaughter Shayla.
Sherena — Jazz Amira Hardrict
Jazz Amira Hardrict is an 8 year old 3rd grade student, and is thrilled to once again be in the cast of Cinderella. At age 6 she played the character of Young Cinderella, and loved the experience. Last year, at 7, she was cast as Young Simba in the 3Crosses production of the Lion King. She played the Monkey and Street Urchin in Aladdin, Little Magic in Dreamgirls, NY Kid in Rent, and Parisian Child in Funny Face. Jazz studies ballet, gymnastics, African dance, and martial arts. She dreams of being an artist and living in Paris with her Uncle Jaredt. Jazz is grateful to African-American Shakespeare Company for providing an outlet for artistic expression to youths.
Sherena — Danielle Hillman
Danielle Hillman is excited to make her acting debut with the African-American Shakespeare Company in its 2017 production of Cinderella. She is a 2nd grader attending Excellence Christian Academy in San Francisco. Danielle is currently excelling at a 4th grader’s pace in Language Arts and loves fueling her passion for creativity through sewing and drawing. This year, she joined the Children’s Division of Jess A Lady Empowerment, a modeling and coaching program, which afforded her the opportunity to model in Fashion on the Lake (Oakland, CA). Her next big project includes using her artwork to raise donations for a local family shelter.
Father — Jarrett Holley
Jarrett Holley is proud to continue his work with the African-American Shakespeare Company after appearing in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He is originally from Memphis, TN, but has lived and worked in the Bay Area for over 10 years since graduating from the Academy of Art University with an AA in Motion Pictures and Television here in the city. He has a passion for languages, swords, and stage combat, and is known as the resident Star Wars encyclopedia among his friends.
Young Cinderella — Nakayla L. Herring
Nakayla Lyn Herring is a local dancer and is very honored to be working with the African-American Shakespeare Company. She’s a kindergartner at Alice Fong Yu Chinese Immersion School, where she is learning to speak and write in Cantonese. Nakayla has been dancing for more than two years with Nitty Dupree Studio of Dance. During this time she has performed in the San Francisco 2016 Juneteenth Festival, won in the 2017 The Sacramento Convention Center Aloha Cheer Championship, and the 2017 Jamz Cheer And Dance at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. Nakayla enjoys making people laugh and smile and in her spare time she loves swimming and tennis.
Young Cinderella — Mauressa N. Perkins
Mauressa N. Perkins is a 3rd grader attending Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy (HMCRA). Although, she has no formal training, she has been an avid dancer, singer, and theatrical performer since she took her first steps. She has published many Musically dance videos and has many followers among her friends. As a first-grader she participated in the HMCRA Holiday Talent Show performing a solo of theme song to Disney’s Frozen. She is very excited to be working in her first official theatre performance with the African-American Shakespeare Company’s rendition of Cinderella.
Ballroom Lady #1 — Amyrah Furaha
Amyrah Furaha is a 13-year old singer, actress and dancer who attends Ile Omode in Oakland, CA. She has been able to improve upon her talent by taking classes and performing both at school and in the larger community. Amyrah has had a love for performing arts since she was 3 years old; and by appearing in Cinderella with the AASC, she is fulfilling a dream she has had since she saw the production in 2012.  
Ballroom Dancer #1 — Jarrett Holley
Jarrett Holley is proud to continue his work with the African-American Shakespeare Company after appearing in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He is originally from Memphis, TN, but has lived and worked in the Bay Area for over 10 years since graduating from the Academy of Art University with an AA in Motion Pictures and Television here in the city. He has a passion for languages, swords, and stage combat, and is known as the resident Star Wars encyclopedia among his friends.
Ballroom Lady #2 — Seynabou Kouyate
Born in Berkeley, CA 13-year old, Seynabou Kouyate is in the 8th grade and currently attends Ile Omode School in Oakland. Aside from her academics she’s involved in many dance styles, African drumming, and her school Jazz band. Seynabou shared a passion for dance since a very young age. She’s been a member of many performing arts companies and has attended many dance camps and workshops. She most recently attended Alvin Ailey Summer Dance Extensive at UC Berkeley. During the camp she studied various dance forms from professional instructors, such as jazz, ballet, African and modern dance. She is one of the lead dancers of the African dance troupe at her school. Seynabou will continue to expand her talent as a dancer and musician and hopes to become a professional dance teacher in the future.
Ballroom Dancer #2 — Ely Sonny Orquiza
Ely Sonny Orquiza is thrilled to perform at the African-American Shakespeare Company for the first time. He is a multidisciplinary actor and a teaching artist based in San Francisco Bay Area. He is the Founder and Artistic Facilitator of the Projector Room Play Readings Ensemble, an indie theatre troupe committed to uplift and introduce queer and multi-ethnic voices onstage. He has previously worked on the world premiere of John Adam’s Girls of the Golden West directed by Peter Sellars at the San Francisco Opera. Recent/favorite credits include A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Inferno Theatre), Rameau: Temple of Glory (Cal Performances), Reentry: Process of Resilience (Joe Goode’s Resilience Project), and Welga (Bindlestiff Studio). Ely holds a BA in Theater and Performance Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. Follow his upcoming projects on Instagram @TheOrquiza. Ely says, “Dream like a unicorn, execute like a warhorse” and “to all my strong networks of support: maraming salamat po.”
Ballroom Lady #3 — Selma Apara
Selma Apara was born and raised in Oakland, CA and is an 8th grader at Ile Omode, an African-centered private school in Oakland. Selma loves to act and is also a dancer. As an apprentice, she danced with Dimensions Extensions Performance Ensemble (DEPE), and with other professionals in the Bay Area. She received dance training in West African, modern, jazz, ballet, and Haitian. In Summer 2017, Selma attended the Alvin Ailey Dance Camp where she became the recipient of the first annual Catherine F. Syversen Award to continue her training in the Arts. Selma aspires to attend Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, and to become a computer engineer, entrepreneur, and to continue her love for dancing and acting. Also, Selma is a paid tutor and writer for her school’s website. She also enjoys writing code for web pages and has had some of her work featured on the school’s website.
Ballroom Dancer #3 — ArVejon Jones
ArVejon Jones is from Compton, CA. He attended San Francisco State University where he majored in Dance and minored in Japanese. He has danced all over the US, Canada, and Brazil. In the Bay Area, he has been a student apprentice with ODC/Dance, and has worked professionally with Copious Dance Theater, PUSH Dance Company, SOULSKIN Dance, and Sean Dorsey Dance, among others. He was a featured dancer in AM/FM, a film choreographed by Robert Moses for the San Francisco Dance Film Festival. In Boston, he performed throughout the Northeast with Prometheus Dance and Jean Appolon Expressions. In addition, he was contracted for two years as a Lead Teaching Artist for the Boston Ballet’s “Education and Outreach Initiative.” Currently, he is finishing a 20-city tour with Sean Dorsey Dance. ArVejon is happy to be in the Bay Area, and is delighted to be working with the AASC.

Production Team

Director — Sherri Young
Sherri Young is an M.F.A. graduate from the American Conservatory Theatre; and former Commissioner for the San Francisco Arts Commission proudly serving for Mayor Gavin Newsom. She founded the African-American Shakespeare Company in 1994 and has been its Executive Director ever since. Sherri has directed 16 productions; produced and executed four programs for the organization; and speaks at various colleges, universities, and conferences across the nation. She manages approximately 60 company members and volunteers for the organization’s programs. Some career highlights includes creating the company’s signature holiday performance Cinderella, effectively building and stabilizing the organization over the past five years, increasing audience attendance by 30%, and increasing new funding support by foundations and individual donors within the past two years.
Production Manager — Leontyne Mbele-Mbong
Leontyne Mbele-Mbong is in her second season with the African-American Shakespeare Company as the Production Manager, having previously supplied them editing services. She recently founded CogentOAK, a virtual admin business that provides administrative assistance. Prior to starting her own business, Leontyne worked for 10 years at an engineering consultant firm, working her way from temporary receptionist to business development coordinator. The customer service skills she learned in her first job as travel agent fresh out of college, she now puts to use at the American Conservatory Theater box office, and at various theaters across the city where she can be seen working front of house. The over-arching theme of this patchwork is assisting people with just what they need to do what they desire hassle-free—be it seeing a show or working on the aspect of the budding business they love. She even creates websites! Check hers out at
Stage Manager — Lila Mullins
When Lila Mullins decided to take a life-long passion for theater and turn it into a career, it was the African-American Shakespeare Company that gave her her first internship with A Raisin in the Sun. Now, 5 years later, she is thrilled to be part of the creative team for the 16th annual holiday production of Cinderella! A self-proclaimed “Bay Area Brat”, Lila has worked and volunteered with numerous theatrical groups in San Francisco, including such productions as The Lamplighters’ 60th Anniversary Gala, Theater Rhinoceros’ Gertrude Stein & a Companion, and the Richmond/Ermet Foundation-Broadway Cares gala fundraisers, featuring various Broadway casts. Fresh off her latest internship with the touring cast of Hamilton, Lila is completing her final year as a senior at University of California, Berkeley, studying production and stage management, and applying for graduate schools. When not in the theater, Lila can be found traveling, reading, or feeding her baby turtles. Love to Mom, Alex, & Sherri!
Lighting Designer — Kevin Myrick
This is Kevin Myrick’s 16th season working with the African-American Shakespeare Company as the company’s resident technical director and lighting designer, sometimes switching to sets, sound, or projections. He studied technical theatre at San Francisco State University, and later earned degrees and worked in Computer Science and Technology. Since 1974 Kevin has worked as a designer, technical director or theatre tech for many artists and arts organizations including civic organizations like the San Francisco Arts Commission, the San Francisco Neighborhood Arts Program, and the Atlanta Bureau of Cultural Affairs, theatre companies like San Francisco’s Lorraine Hansberry Theatre Company, AfroSolo, Cultural Odyssey, the Oakland Ensemble Theatre Company, the Atlanta Children’s Theatre Company, Alliance Theatre Company, Just Us Theatre Company, and dance companies like the Wajumbe Cultural Ensemble, Dimensions Dance Theatre Company, and the Village Dancers. Kevin has also produced and designed for local cable television in metro Atlanta and San Francisco.
Costume Designer — Nikki Anderson-Joy
Nikki Anderson-Joy is a costume designer from the Pacific Northwest and lives now in the Bay Area. She excited to be working with the African- American Shakespeare Company again. She designed last season’s Jitney, and received a Theatre Bay Area (TBA) nomination for Best Costume Design, Tier 3. She has worked on past productions of AASC with The Winter’s Tale as Assistant Stage Manager and assisted Maggie Whitaker on Anthony and Cleopatra. She graduated from the Academy of Art University in 2014 and since has assisted on plays around the Bay, including Bereaved at Crowded Fire and Waiting for Godot at the Marin Theatre Company. She is currently a Costume Assistant at the San Francisco Opera.
Choreographer — Jarrett Holley
Jarrett Holley has a colorful dance background. He began his dancing career as a Mascot for Applebee’s and was able to turn that into a brief but well-spent term as a Ballroom Dance Instructor in the Bay Area. He is happy to bring his talents to berth with the African-American Shakespeare Company.
Associate Choreographer — Kim Saunders
Kim Saunders is happy to be making her AASC debut. Originally from NYC she was a scholarship student with The School of American Ballet and performed with American Ballet Theatre at Lincoln Center. She spent 6 years at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival choreographing and performing. In California some of the companies she has worked for are: San Jose Repertory, San Jose Stage, Custom Made Theatre, Altarena Playhouse, California Theatre Center, Foothill College, and Lyric Theatre. She is a Theatre Bay Area 2015 nominee for Choreography, as well as a gold medal winner for her direction at the Lenaea Festival.