The Sierra Madre Playhouse was recently bestowed a $15,000 grant by the Sherri And Les Biller Family Foundation for their upcoming production of Thomas Gibbons’ Bee-luther-hatchee. The foundation awards grants to “inspiring productions and immersive educational experiences.” They seek out productions with “content that promotes important conversations around timely social issues.” This is the first major foundation grant awarded to the Sierra Madre Playhouse. Over the past few years they have been the recipients of several smaller awards such as the Tournament of Roses and the L.A. County Arts grants, but this is the largest to date.
When applying for the grant, artistic director Christian Lebano said, “We anticipated $5,000. We are thrilled to be receiving $15,000. And we are honored to be in the same company as ACT in Seattle, the Center Theatre Group, and the Geffen. It’s so validating to be included with this group of theatres.” The money from the grant will go directly to producing Bee-luther-hatchee and funding talk backs and panels where Lebano hopes to encourage and continue the conversations about race and the themes of race appropriation that are part of the play.
Bee-luther-hatcee is the story of Shelita Burns, an African-American editor who publishes Bee-luther-hatchee, the autobiography of a reclusive 72-year-old black woman named Libby Price. Shelita has never met Libby, and when the book wins a prestigious award she decides to deliver it to her in person. To her profound shock, the actual author of the book is not whom Shelita expected. A fascinating and provocative look at cultural appropriation and who has the right to tell someone’s story. The play opened January 13 and runs through February 18. There are talkbacks scheduled after every performance as well as panel discussions to keep the conversation moving forward. Something Lebano feels is necessary in today’s political climate.
The Sierra Madre Playhouse is located in Sierra Madra, California, 40 minutes from downtown L.A. The remainder of their season includes this summer’s musical, The Marvelous Wonderettes, and A Wrinkle In Time as part of their school outreach, The Field Trip Program. Tickets can be reserved at 626-355-4318 or at SierraMadrePlayhouse.org.