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Reflecting on the Voices of African-American Women

Updated: Mar 24, 2022


The date for the final reading in the Table Reading Series

at the Palace Theater in Waterbury, CT has been changed to Sunday, March 27, 2022 at 2 pm. Join us for a presentation of four one-act plays on celebration of Women's History Month. The plays, by award-winning playwrights Charlene A. Donaghy and Cassandra Medley will feature both historical and contemporary African-American characters brought to life by actresses Debra Khan-Bey (below right) and Nyah Ajeya (left), directed by Phyllis Bash.

The four one acts are:

How to Fix a Broken Peacemaker by Charlene A. Donaghy

Love and loss between sisters can be a twisted journey. For Antonia (Nyah Ajeya) and her sisters, life after social distancing during Covid might bring them together to heal from a broken past.

Motherless Child by Cassandra Medley A heart-wrenching piece in which an enslaved woman (Debra Khan-Bey) talks to the spirit of the baby girl ripped from her arms and sold away 12 years ago. This one-act was originally performed in Period Piece, conceived by Susan Cinoman, Directed by Karen Carpenter, and Produced by Tracey Knight Narang and Terry Nardozzi.

Take My Advice by Cassandra Medley A news report of a family torn apart by an arrest hits a personal nerve for a woman (Nyah Ajeya) who's been through it before. She has some advice that comes from the hard road of experience. Cassandra Medley is a playwright who makes politics personal. Lifting As We Climb by Charlene A. Donaghy Debra Khan-Bey will be bringing to life Mary Church Terrell, an African American activist who championed racial equality and women’s suffrage in the late 19th and early 20th century. Her words—“Lifting as we climb”—became the motto of the National Association of Colored Women (NACW), the group she helped found in 1896. She was NACW president from 1896 to 1901. Terrell was among the founders and charter members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

This March 27 event will include a member luncheon sponsored by the League of Professional Theatre Women, CT Chapter.

The Table Reading Series offers audience members the experience of seeing new and inspiring plays with the unique opportunity to give feedback, ask questions and in some cases, be among the first to see a new work in development. Presented by producer Lauren Yarger of Gracewell Productions, this series has been curated to include works whose themes are relevant and reflect our ever-changing world. The series is open to Platinum level subscribers at the Palace, invited industry professionals and guests. There will be a limited number of tickets set aside for the general public. If interested, please email

About the Playwrights:

CHARLENE A. DONAGHY's plays have been produced and awarded from New York to Los Angeles, in Great Britain and Canada. Hansen Publishing Group publishes Charlene's play collection: Bones of Home and Other Plays. Other publications include Best American Short Plays (3x), Best Ten Minute Plays 2018, 25*10-Minute Plays for Teens, and Estrogenius, a Celebration of Female Voices (2x). Charlene is Producing Director of the Tennessee Williams Theater Festival and Festival Director of the Warner International Playwrights Festival. She is co-founder of the Association of Theatre in Higher Education Judith Royer Award of Excellence in Playwriting. She teaches playwriting, fiction writing, and theatre at University of Nebraska Omaha, is a founding member of Boston’s Proscenium Playwrights, a core member of NYC’s 9th Floor Playwrights' and Artists' Collective, a member of The Playwrights Center, and The Dramatists Guild of America where she served as a Regional Representative for six years. Ms. Donaghy is a breast cancer survivor and holds true Tennessee Williams words in "Camino Real" Make Voyages! Attempt them! There's nothing else.

CASSANDRA MEDLEY’s plays have been produced all over the U.S. since 1982. Most recent works: March 13, 2020, Martha’s Vineyard Theater, Celebrating Our Community, Gatekeepers Collective, Mrs. Palmer’s Honey, Bread and Roses Theater. Cell, Playing On Air Website “Relativity,” the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Ensemble Studio Theatre, 2004. Relativity won the 2006 Audelco “August Wilson Playwriting” Award, featured on Science Friday, National Public Radio, published by Broadway Play Publishing. “Relativity,” online radio broadcast, Los Angeles Repertory Theatre –February, 2008. Additional awards: 2004 Going to the River Writers Life Achievement Award, 2002 Ensemble Studio Theatre 25th Anniversary Award for Theatre Excellence.

About the Performers:

NYAH AJEYA is an actor and singer from Baltimore, where she was a Featured Young Artist. There she was an assistant musical director for a production of The Wiz at Johns Hopkins and performed in showcases. A BFA student in acting, film, television and theater at Long Island University in Brooklyn, Nyah also has television and film credits. She also brought to life the featured character in the novel "Jewel of the Nile" by Tessa Afshar at a special book launch presentation at the Mark Twain House in 2021. She jokes that her biggest talent is having the ability to turn any song into a bad country song.

DEBRA KHAN-BEY is lead producer and portrays Mamie Till-Mobley in David Holmberg’s White Woman, Black Boy: The Lynching of Emmett Till, directed by Tony-nominated, Austin Pendleton. Debra is writing and will perform a one-woman show about the legendary Nina Simone. She starred in Chekhov's The Seagull opposite Pendleton in NYC. She portrayed the lead role, Anne Wells, in a fundraiser staged reading of the Hollywood classic "Valley of the Dolls," also opposite Pendleton. A two-person play, The Spitting Image, is currently being developed for Debra as well as a television pilot. Debra starred in and produced her short film “American Hunger,” starring Emmy Award nominee, Ilene Kristen ("One Life to Live", "Ryan’s Hope").

SHEREE MARCUCCI (narrator) is Director of Special Projects & Curated Programs at the Palace Theatre, Waterbury and developed the Table Reading Series with Gracewell Productions. Hear more about her story when she speaks at another series she developed at the theater, 2nd Act, on Tuesday, June 7 at 7 pm. More information here:

About the Director:

PHYLLIS BASH has acted in film ("Gotham," "Stake Land," "American Playhouse") and has made numerous TV guest appearances. She also is a singer who has performed on Broadway (Porgy & Bess; Showboat; Funny Girl). Phyllis has performed with her daughter, actress/singer Erica Gimpel, and also with her husband, the late Joe Gimpel.

About the Producer:

GRACEWELL PRODUCTIONS and Producer Lauren Yarger produce inspiring works in the arts. She is thrilled to be partnering with the Palace Theater, Waterbury on this Table Readings series which previously has included The Little Sisters of Littleton by Kate Katcher (featuring Dorothy Lyman, Sachi Parker and Don Striano, directed by Jacqueline Hubbard) and Joy Meets Girl by Kimberly Hill ("Cheers," "Family Ties," "One Day at a Time," "Facts of Life" among others), with an ensemble cast directed by Susan Cinoman (TV's "The Goldbergs," Period Piece). For more information about upcoming projects or Producer Lauren Yarger, visit

About the Palace:

THE PALACE THEATER's primary purpose is to revitalize the Greater Waterbury community through the presentation of the performing arts and educational initiatives in collaboration with area cultural and educational institutions. Its mission is to preserve and operate the historic Palace Theater as a performing arts center and community gathering place that provides a focal point of cultural activity and educational outreach for diverse audiences. For more information, visit

This series is made possible with support from:

  • Stan Cohen

  • Timothy W. & Mary Ellen Rourke

  • The CT Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women

  • Emily Kaufman

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