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Asolo Rep to Launch Rolling World Premiere of FANNIE: The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer in Association with Goodman Theatre and Seattle Rep

Posted: February 2 / 2021

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(SARASOTA, FL) – Asolo Rep proudly continues its 2021 outdoor season with the launch of the rolling world premiere of Cheryl L. West's Fannie: The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer. Directed by Henry Godinez (Resident Artistic Associate at Goodman Theatre) with Music Direction and Arrangements by Felton Offard, Asolo Rep will start the “roll,” followed by productions to be announced at Goodman Theatre and Seattle Rep. Fannie previews February 16 -19, opens February 20 and runs through March 3 on Asolo Rep's newly constructed outdoor Terrace Stage, located on the front steps of the FSU Center for the Performing Arts.

Originally commissioned by Goodman Theatre and Seattle Rep, Fannie tells the impassioned story of American civil rights activist and hero, Fannie Lou Hamer. Part theater, part revival, and all power – this one-woman show with music will have you head nodding and hand clapping from start to finish. From her humble origins as the daughter of a Mississippi sharecropper, to co-founding the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and demanding recognition at the National Democratic Convention, hers is a story of justice that will not be denied.

Asolo Rep audiences will remember E. Faye Butler from her tour-de-force performance as Queenie in Show Boat (2013). A nine-time Joseph Jefferson Award-winner, E. Faye is a celebrated performer whose work has been seen across the country, including Paper Mill Playhouse, The Kennedy Center, Steppenwolf Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse and more.

Director Henry Godinez is the Resident Artistic Associate at Goodman Theatre, where he is also the director of the Latino Theatre Festival, and a professor in the Department of Theatre at Northwestern University. He is the co-founder and former artistic director of Teatro Vista and has directed at Goodman Theatre, Portland Center Stage, Signature Theatre Company in NYC, Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Indiana Repertory Theatre and Colorado Shakespeare Festival. 

"Fannie Lou’s story is so significant today because sadly the issues she faced in the 1960s are all too relevant today; voter suppression, racial divisions, and social inequities," said Director Henry Godinez. "Fannie lived her patriotism and what it means to be an American in the marrow of her bones. The faith she had in the constitution and the price she paid for her unshakable belief in it, was so much greater than most of us can ever imagine. I hope audiences will leave the theatre appreciating the rights we have as Americans, truly believing that each of us can make a difference if we vote and make our voices heard."

Music Director and Arranger Felton Offard is a guitarist, composer, producer and educator. He was a touring and house guitarist for several Broadway shows including Hamilton (Chicago), The Color Purple, Jersey Boys, The Addams Family and more. 

Helen Hayes/McArthur Award-winning playwright Cheryl L. West's work has been seen on Broadway (Play On!), Off-Broadway and in regional theaters throughout the country, including Seattle Rep, Arena Stage, Old Globe, Goodman Theatre, Indiana Rep and more. Her plays include Shout Sister, Shout!, The Watsons Go To Birmingham1963Last Stop on Market Street, Akeelah and the Bee, and more.

"Fannie Lou Hamer was a woman of incredible passion with an unstoppable drive for justice," said Asolo Rep Producing Artistic Director Michael Donald Edwards. "We are thrilled to collaborate with two of our country's leading regional theaters to bring her story to life. It is written by the immensely talented Cheryl L. West and performed by E. Faye Butler, who is herself an unstoppable force on stage. Expertly shaped by Henry Godinez as director, this is exactly the story we need right now to galvanize us towards creating a brighter, more equitable future through joyous study of our past heroes."  

Health and Safety Protocols
Asolo Rep Outdoor Performances

Following the guidance of government health officials, Asolo Rep has implemented several policies to help make your experience as smooth and safe as possible.

· Advanced ticket sales only, cut off is two hours prior to performance. No walk-up sales.

· Upon arrival at venue, patrons, staff and volunteers will receive no-contact infra-red temperature checks.

· Contactless Entry: print at home tickets can be printed or scanned from phone

· Masks are required to be worn over the nose and mouth by patrons, staff, and volunteers at all times when on the premises

· Concessions will not be available for purchase and food and drinks are not allowed in the seating area.

· Performances will have no intermission.

· Outdoor venue seats 250.

· Seats are arranged in socially distanced pairs and cannot be moved. Larger parties will be seated as close as safety protocols allow.

· No physical playbills; performance information will be projected on large screens, emailed to patrons, and available on Asolo Rep’s website.

· Portable outdoor restrooms will be available.

· Patrons will not have access to the building.

· Hand sanitizing stations will be available throughout the venue.

· Prior to and following each performance, all seats and common areas will be disinfected with an electrostatic sprayer.


E. FAYE BUTLER*…………..………………….Fannie Lou Hamer

*Member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.   


Director...............................................HENRY DOMINIC GODINEZ
Music Director and Arranger.............................FELTON OFFWARD
Costume Designer.........................................MICHAEL ALAN STEIN
Lighting Designer...........................................................ETHAN VAIL
Sound Designer.................................................MATTHEW PARKER
Projection Designer..................................................AARON RHYNE
Wig Designer..............................................................MR. BERNARD


MR. BERNARD (Wig Designer) is excited to make his debut at Asolo Rep. He has designed wigs for theatre productions including most recently Fannie: Speak On It! at Arena Stage and Goodman Theatre. Other credits include Ain’t Misbehavin regional tour, Crumbs From the Table of Joy (Steppenwolf Theatre), Sophisticated Ladies (Drury Lane), An Evening with Nat King Cole (Minneapolis Arts Center). Mr. Bernard is a renowned hairstylist with over 40 years’ experience. He served as a leading platform artist for Johnson Products Company and was owner of Mr. Bernard’s Hair Salon. He is a licensed instructor of cosmetology and has participated in many television, film, and video shoots. When he isn’t fishing, he enjoys working on his new passion: Mr. Bernard’s Wig Tree! 

E. FAYE BUTLER (Fannie) is happy to return to Asolo Repertory Theatre having last performed as Queenie in Showboat. E.Faye’s career spans 40 years performing in plays, musicals, concerts, clubs, cabaret across the country and internationally. National and Regional Tours: Mamma Mia, Ain’t Misbehavin, Dinah Was, Cope, Nunsense. International, Regional: La Jolla Playhouse, The Goodman, Kennedy Center, Harmon Hall, Steppenwolf, Court, Victory Gardens, Peninsula Players, Chicago Shakespeare, Chicago Children, Milwaukee Rep, Yale Rep., Drury Lane, Marriott’s Lincolnshire, Paramount, Porchlight, Congo Square, Arena Stage, Baltimore Centerstage, Olney, Signature, MSMT, Shakespeare, Pasadena Playhouse, Paper Mill, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Seattle Rep., The MUNY, St. Louis Rep., Fulton, Preforming Arts Center Hong Kong, Teatro La Habana, Shanghai Oriental Arts Center, Northlight. Recipient of nine Jeffs, two Helen Hayes, Four BTTA, R.A.M.I., Ovation, Sarah Siddons, Excellence in the Arts, Kathy Lampkey, Rosetta LeNoire, Guy Adkins, After Dark, Barrymore, and Black Excellence Awards. Inducted into the Women in the Arts Museum, Lunt-Fontanne Fellow. Most recently named Chicagoan of 2020. www.e-fayebutler

HENRY GODINEZ (Director) is the Resident Artistic Associate at Goodman Theatre, where he has directed more than a dozen plays including the world premieres of Karen Zacarias’ Mariela In The Desert, Luis Alfaro’s Straight As A Line, Regina Taylor’s Millennium Mambo, and Feathers and Teeth by Charise Castro Smith. Other Chicago directing includes the world premiere of Cheryl West’s Last Stop on Market StreetWater by The Spoonful by Quiara Alegria Hudes (Court Theatre), Paula Vogel’s A Civil War Christmas (Northlight Theatre), Nilo Cruz’s Two Sisters and a Piano (Teatro Vista), and Anna in the Tropics (Victory Gardens Theater/Teatro Vista). Godinez is the co-founder and former artistic director of Teatro Vista. Born in Havana, Cuba, Godinez is a professor at Northwestern University and serves on the board of directors of the Illinois Arts Council Agency. He is the proud recipient of the TCG Alan Schneider Directing Award, the Actors Equity Spirit Award, and the August Wilson Award.

FELTON OFFARD (Music Director/Conductor) Various credits include: Music Director/Composer/Arranger: Fannie Lou Hamer, Speak on It!  Guitar: HamiltonThe Color PurpleAddams FamilyFirst Wives ClubPurlieMotown: The MusicalSister ActCould It Be Magic? The Barry Manilow SongbookRaisinBlue BrothersComfortable ShoesJersey BoysThree Mo’ DivasStanding In The Shadows of MotownCome Fly Away/Fly With Me. CD: Rise and Invincible. Master of Music from Northern Illinois University. Mr. Offard teaches guitar and music production at Chicago State University.  www.feltonoffard.com

CHERYL L. WEST (Playwright) Cheryl L. West’s plays have been produced in England, off-Broadway, on Broadway and in numerous regional theaters around the country. She has written TV and film projects at Disney, Paramount, MTV Films, Showtime, HBO, CBS, and BET. She is working on commissions for Seattle Rep, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, La Jolla Playhouse, Minneapolis Children’s Theatre, and the Goodman Theatre. A special acknowledgement to Mr. Charles McLaurin, Ms. Fannie Lou Hamer’s campaign manager and right hand man. His words and insight regarding Ms. Hamer were immeasurable during the development of this work. www.cheryllwest.com



Digital IllumiNation Event: Fannie: The Life and Music of Fannie Lou Hamer

February 25 at 7:30pm

Fannie Lou Hamer was a force of nature, a people connector, and a movement maker. In this digital conversation, participants will discuss how her work impacts our world and influences the Movement Makers of the world today, in Sarasota and across the nation.

This conversation will be held via Zoom.

Created in 2015, the IllumiNation Series explores the social, political, and cultural themes threaded throughout Asolo Rep’s theatrical season.  Discuss art and activism while connecting with community—these dynamic Community Conversations invite all to the table and challenge us to reflect upon our past and present in hopes for a more inclusive future.

Purchase each event individually for $15 or join us for all three for $39!

For more information about IllumiNation, visit https://www.asolorep.org/engage-learn/illumination-series.


Tickets start at $25 for blanketed lawn seating. Patrons must bring their own blankets. Seated tickets start at $40.

Tickets for the 2021 outdoor season are on sale for subscribers only now. Subscribers will be emailed a link to purchase tickets.

Tickets for Camelot and Ana Isabelle & Friends will go on sale to the general public on Monday, February 8 at 10am and Monday, March 1 at 10am, respectively.

Tickets are on sale online only at www.asolorep.org.


Now in its 62nd season, Asolo Repertory Theatre is recognized as one of the premier professional theatres in America and one of the largest in the Southeastern United States. One of the few select theatres in the nation that performs in true rotating repertory, Asolo Rep’s highly skilled acting company and extensive craftsmanship bring to life this unique performance method that gives audiences the opportunity to see multiple productions in the span of a few days. Asolo Rep presents up to 10 productions each season including contemporary and classic works and provocative musical theatre experiences. A theatre district in and of itself, Asolo Rep is committed to expanding its reach into the community, furthering its collaboration with the best theatre artists working in the industry today and cultivating new artists through its affiliation with the FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training. Under the leadership of Producing Artistic Director Michael Donald Edwards and Managing Director Linda DiGabriele, Asolo Rep’s ambitious theatrical offerings and ground-breaking education and community programming engage audiences and ensure its lasting legacy for future generations. www.asolorep.org     



Chicago’s theater since 1925, Goodman Theatre is a not-for-profit arts and community organization in the heart of the Loop, distinguished by the excellence and scope of its artistic programming and community engagement. Led by Artistic Director Robert Falls and Executive Director Roche Schulfer, the theater’s artistic priorities include new play development (more than 150 world or American premieres), large scale musical theater works and reimagined classics. Artists and productions have earned two Pulitzer Prizes, 22 Tony Awards and more than 160 Jeff Awards, among other accolades. The Goodman is the first theater in the world to produce all 10 plays in August Wilson’s “American Century Cycle.” Its longtime annual holiday tradition A Christmas Carol, now in its fourth decade, has created a new generation of theatergoers in Chicago. The Goodman also frequently serves as a production and program partner with national and international companies and Chicago’s Off-Loop theaters. 


Seattle Rep puts theater at the heart of public life. Founded in 1963 and winner of the 1990 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre, Seattle Rep is currently led by Artistic Director Braden Abraham and Managing Director Jeffrey Herrmann. Over a season and throughout the year, Seattle Rep collaborates with extraordinary artists to create productions and programs that reflect and elevate the diverse cultures, perspectives, and life experiences of the Pacific Northwest. Seattle Rep’s nationally recognized programs include the New Play Program, Seattle Rep’s Public Works, the August Wilson Monologue Competition, Pay What You Choose ticketing options, and numerous audience enrichment and engagement opportunities including post-play panels, discussions, and community events and presentations.