Ain’t I A Woman?

Produced by Landé Belo. Directors: Landé Belo, Sara Amanda and Beverly Andrews

A theatrical initiative examining the intersection of race and gender; written, directed and produced by black women.

Ain't I a Woman


Wednesday 10 – Saturday 13 July and
Tuesday 16 – Saturday 20 July at 7.30pm
Matinées on Saturdays 13 and 20 July at 3pm.

At the Tower Theatre, Stoke Newington

Buy Tickets
Wednesday 10 July at 7.30pm
Thursday 11 July at 7.30pm
Friday 12 July at 7.30pm
Saturday 13 July at 3pm
Saturday 13 July at 7.30pm
Tuesday 16 July at 7.30pm
Wednesday 17 July at 7.30pm
Thursday 18 July at 7.30pm
Friday 19 July at 7.30pm
Saturday 20 July at 3pm
Saturday 20 July at 7.30pm

Q&A with the writers of Ain’t I A Woman?
Our five fabulous writers of Ain’t I A Woman? will be available for an exclusive Q&A at the Tower Theatre on Saturday 13 July!  The Q&A will take place immediately after the matinée performance.  To attend the Q&A make sure you purchase your ticket NOW for the matinée performance on 13 July – do not delay, this performance will be sold out!


“No black woman writer in this culture can write “too much”. Indeed, no woman writer can write “too much”…No woman has ever written enough.” ― bell hooks

2037: The Burden of representation weighs heavily on Fin as she faces an invidious choice: self over cause? Nicki Takes A Breath and prepares to pander to a lazy trope as this will open doors for her…or not?…..Will Ngozi actually resort to self-inflicted grievous bodily harm and succumb to the physical and metaphysical “whitewashing” promulgated by Changing Rays?  Mary, Queen of Thots optimistically ventures into digital dating….the perfect antidote for her self-loathing and depression….meanwhile, Tiwa exposes the insidious impact of the economic crisis on her world and wonders why we are not all In Conversation about this or don’t we care…?  

From a London casting room to a dystopian future, a sci-fi mystery to a TV studio, women tell their different stories, sharing their perspectives of being black and female in contemporary Britain … 


Changing Rays by Mauricia Lewis

labelled the angry black woman whenever I challenge the status quo

Enter the world of Changing Rays where willing participants can undergo treatment to change their skin colour from black to white.  Will Ngozi finally get the acceptance and recognition she craves by undergoing this treatment?  A dystopian satire offering a strong social commentary on western conventions of beauty standards and the pervasive impact on the black psyche. 

Cast
Ngozi : Anoä-Kanelle Calpas
Karen : Kailee O’Sullivan

Director : Landé Belo
Assistant Director : Eileen Gbagbo


Nicki Takes A Breath written and directed by Sara Amanda

 – be your idea of you and not the idea of you they want you to be

Nicola (“Nicki”) and Adenike (“Nicki”) will do anything to clinch their dream role: Nora in A Doll’s House.  Just one thing, this Nora needs to be “ghetto”……

Cast
Adenike/Nike (“Nicki”) : Keia Johnson
Nicole/Nic (“Nicki”) : Saffron Dey

Director : Sara Amanda


In Conversation by Eileen Gbagbo

we’re not going anywhere until you get my name right

Who better to wax lyrical about managing personal finances than expert Dr Tiwa Sowunmi-Smith and what better platform than TV show, Inside Money in front of a live audience?  If only the host will let her get a word in edgeways….

Cast
Tiwa Sowunmi-Smith: Zainab Ottun or Keia Johnson
Lauren Morris : Louise Paton
Producer : Rebecca Hill

Director : Landé Belo
Assistant Director : Nick Edwards


2037: The Burden by Rukiat Ashawe

They always want us to be “strong”, the one who everyone else depends on.

It’s 2037 and the beginning of the end for The Movement.  After valiant resistance in a 20-year war, they have been decimated by a deadly virus released by the other side.  Their survival hangs in the balance and their leader, Fin, has a very difficult decision to make…

Cast
Doctor : Norma Hewins
Fin : Kahlea Allison
Clive : Dominic Reed
Brave : Manuela Lazić
Max : Femi Davies
Jinx : Chaachi Deane


Director : Landé Belo
Assistant Director : Eileen Gbagbo

  • 'The Burden' in rehearsal

Mary, Queen of Thots by Katrina Smith-Jackson

 – But if prayer’s the answer to ‘hashtag winning’…where’s my Academy Award at, Lord?!

Sick of rejection being the theme tune to her love life, Mary decides to bite the bullet and give dating apps a go.  Yet throwing herself head first into the deep end of messy love (and even messier sex) as a depressed Black zillennial definitely has its “kinks”…race play fetishes to name one! But as touch starvation and swipe addiction begin to wash over her, will Mary sink or swim in the murky waters of the digital dating pool?

Cast
Mary : Megan-Madaleine Freeman

Director : Beverly Andrews
Assistant Director : Sara Amanda


For Ain’t I A Woman?
Producer : Landé Belo
Set Design : Bolu Dairo
Costume Design : Roxanne Ivy Roberts
Lighting Design : Nick Insley
Sound Design : Sarah Assaf
Musical Director and Composer : Isabelle Ajani
Singers : Chaachi Deane, Anoä-Kanelle Calpas and Isabelle Ajani
Movement Director : Lydia Newman


Stage Manager : Isabel Quiroz
Lighting Operator : Sophia Chrisafis
Sound Operator : Anna Kidd
Wardrobe : Angela Large
Wardrobe Assistant : Geviana Noronha Indi
Dramaturg : Sara Amanda
Photography : Pau Ros

  • The first read-through of the plays

Changing Rays
Anoä-Kanelle CalpasAnoä-Kanelle Calpas is a vibrant performer whose heart beats for theatre, music, and dance. She’s thrilled to make her Tower Theatre debut in Ain’t I A Woman?. In the past year, she has left her mark in several productions, including a staged reading of Gatsby & Fay with SEDOS, a pantomime, Beauty & the Beast with City Academy, and more recently in the cabaret concert DIVAS with the Festoon Theatre Company. Balancing her love for the arts with her academic pursuits, Anoä-Kanelle is currently completing her master’s degree in computer science and AI.
Landé BeloKailee O’Sullivan
Nicki Takes A Breath
Keia JohnsonKeia Johnson grew up in a military family all over the world, but it was her move to Memphis that helped her establish her sound and performance style. While starting as a performer and recording several independent projects, the theatre has always been a part of her life. Over the last decade, Keia has been cast in The Color Purple (ensemble, 2013), Once On This Island (TiMoune, 2014), Hoodoo Love (Toulou, 2015), Simply Simone (Nina, 2015), The Parchman Hour (2019) & The Night Watcher (2021). She was nominated for an Ostrander Award for best Lead Actress in a Musical for Simply Simone. From 2016-2018, she traveled the world on Holland America Cruise lines singing Blues, Rock and Roll, Jazz, Classic R&B, and Soul. Under her company, KJ Management, she writes and curates shows for regional cruise lines and Artist Management. She is studying for her Master’s in Musical Theatre at Goldsmith’s University.
Saffron DeySaffron Dey is a London born actor who trained at the Brit School and the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts, receiving a BA Hons in Acting. Since graduating at drama school she has worked on a number of productions, from staged readings at the National Theatre, and most notably playing the role of Angie in Top Girls at the Liverpool Everyman. This is will be Saffrons debut performance at the Tower Theatre.
In Conversation
Zainab OttunThis is Zainab Ottun‘s first time participating in a Tower Theatre production! Currently training part-time at The Actor’s Cafe (Screen Acting) whilst balancing her day job as a Software Engineer, she is also a singer and member of Brixton House Community Choir. During her university studies, she featured in a short film Diaspora Tales, and was an Assistant Musical Director for Jazzmanix (Pop & Gospel Choir) and Vice President for Afrodynamix (African and Caribbean Dance Society) at Southampton University. She also trained at The Unseen during the pandemic.
Louise PatonThis is Louise Paton’s first production with the Tower Theatre. Recently she appeared as Sylvia in the musical version of Stepping Out and as Adele in Double Acts, which will be competing in the Welwyn Theatre Festival in late May.
Rebecca HillRebecca Hill
The Burden
Norma HewinsNorma Hewins has had the ambition to act and write ever since she can remember. Now, after 35 years in Education with 15 of them in senior leadership roles and 10 of those in headship… she feels it’s her time! It’s never too late to follow your dreams. At 60, she is delighted to be cast in her first public appearance at the Tower. She is married with 3 children and 1 granddaughter.
Kahlea AllisonLondon and Essex based Actor Kahlea Allison is a captivating performer with a range of experience and a versatile skill set. Her passion for acting has led her to honing her skills in Theatre, short-films, and gaining experience as an assistant director. Kahlea graduated with a 1st in Drama and Performance and has attended 2 years of drama school at Collective Acting Studio, training in the Meisner acting technique, Laban movement, screen acting, improv, voice-acting work, and American accents.
Landé BeloDominic Reed
Manuela LazicThis is Manuela Lazić’s first Tower Theatre production and her first time on the stage! She trained in the Meisner technique at the Actors Temple, and has also participated in a very formative month-long Tennessee Williams workshop in Paris with American acting coach Jordan Beswick. Manuela is also a professional film critic writing for various British and international publications, as well as a filmmaker, having so far directed two short films. She is currently co-writing another short film that aims to shoot in the summer.
Femi DaviesFemi Davies joined the Tower Theatre in April this year and Ain’t I a Woman? is his first production with the company. He has trained with Identity School of Acting, Kingdom School of Arts, City Academy and has appeared in showcases such as Chicago and Constellations. Femi also has a background including short films and stand up comedy. He is currently training with Middleweek Newton Actors Academy and for fun, “likes to be funny and work on music and stuff”.
Chaachi DeaneChaachi Deane is an actor and singer of mixed British and Caribbean heritage. She grew up just around the corner from the Tower Theatre and has loved performing for as long as her memories go back. Musical theatre is one of her biggest passions and she sings regularly in concerts and cabaret nights. A recent highlight was getting to sing some Aretha Franklin in Festoon Theatre’s show Divas which was held at Phoenix Arts Club. Recent acting credits at the Tower include Margot in Labour of Love and Bettina in Two Billion Beats. She also played Aladdin in the Mildmay Club’s mash-up panto Cinderladdin.
Mary, Queen of Thots
Landé BeloMegan Madaleine Freeman is an actress based in London. Since training online at the Identity School of Acting during the lockdown, she has appeared primarily on stage in various productions across the capital, showcasing black women in a distinctive array of colours, from Yasmine Dankwah’s spoken word play Rite to Party to Freda Tuor’s workshop Black Sands. Ain’t I A Woman? will be her third appearance at the Tower Theatre, following on from her roles as Sarah Forbes Bonetta in The Gift and Susan in Seize The Day. She is very excited to bring incredibly written play Mary, Queen of Thots to the stage in what will be her first solo performance. She has a BA in World Literature from the University of Kent.
About the Directors
Landé BeloLandé Belo’s directing credits with the Tower include Fix Up (2019),I can’t breathe: being black in a time of Covid (part of the Love [and Survival] Festival) (2021), Mules (2021), Leave Taking (2022) and The Gift (2023). Her acting credits with the Tower include Francine/Lena in Clybourne Park, multiple characters in Doctor Faustus, Prudence in The House of Bernarda Alba, Pope Joan/Louise in Top Girls, Jellaby in Arcadia, Cynthia in Sweat, Queen Elizabeth in Richard III and Escalus in Measure for Measure. She produced In Hiding, a critically acclaimed show which premièred at the Tower Theatre in June 2023 and sold out its entire run, making it one of the most successful productions in Tower history and the first production as part of Landé’s initiative to promote black, female voices in theatre. Ain’t I A Woman? is the next instalment in this initiative.
Beverly AndrewsBeverly Andrews is a playwright, director, documentary filmmaker and the current immersive artist in residence at Britten Pears Arts (home of the Aldeburgh classical music festival), through the European Network of Opera Academies. An alumnus of two Sundance Institute’s film directors courses, she recently co-directed the Arts Council funded workshop presentation of her musical The Coloured Valentino. Her plays have been produced internationally, from the UK, US, India to Bhutan, earning her various accolades including: most anticipated play for Annawon’s Song at the 2020 Vault Festival; recipient of the Roland Rees Playwright’s bursary; and runner up (twice!) of the Alfred Fagon award. She won three international awards for I am Going to Make a Miracle (a documentary about the Arcola Theatre which she wrote and directed and was bought by Sky Arts). Sophia, a play which she wrote and produced, depicting the life of Asian suffragette Sophia Duleep Singh, will appear at this year’s Dhaka International Film festival celebrating the work of female filmmakers.
Musical Director
Isabelle AjaniIsabelle Ajani is a pianist, composer and artist from North West London. Music has been her most trusted reference, guiding her pursuit of understanding complex human emotion. This production marks the first of Izzy’s compositional work for theatre. Alongside this play, Izzy has completed the 1st year of her Music degree, hailing 2024 as an exciting year of firsts!
About the Writers
Eileen GbagboEileen Gbagbo is a spoken word artist, journalist and playwright based in London. Her writing explores themes of justice, identity, climate change and migration. She was Highly Commended in the 2015 Slambassadors competition and is an alumnus of the Apples and Snakes Writing Room programme. She has performed at various institutions including the Saatchi Gallery, Victoria & Albert Gallery, the BFI Southbank and The Albany as part of Apples and Snakes theatre show – Cece’s Speakeasy. She is currently part of the Old Vic Theatremakers programme.
Mauricia LewisMauricia Lewis is a London based contemporary writer hailing from pre-gentrified Hackney. Usually dystopian themed, her work focuses on humans coexisting within technologically advanced worlds. Her short play, Admiring Ebony, was long-listed with Pint-Sized plays in 2018 , whilst her monologue Take A Stand appears in Team Angelica’s Lit Anthropology of dynamic new monologues for actors from under-represented ethnicities.
Sara AmandaBased in Birmingham, Sara Amanda holds a degree in Applied Theatre and Masters in Dramaturgy and Writing for Performance. She works as a Theatre in Education practitioner and has experience in TV, including continuing drama, BBC productions, independent film, and theatre. Sara won the Amplified Audience Award in 2021 and was previously the artistic director of the touring Rush Theatre Company. Currently, she is mentored by Pains Plough.
Katrina Smith-JacksonKatrina Smith-Jackson started her career as a script researcher on EastEnders. She has worked as script writer on the Sky Atlantic show Riviera, on Hackney Wick for Bad Wolf and Channel 4, on several episodes of Hollyoaks, BBC children’s show JoJo and Gran Gran and on Waterloo Road. She recently developed the pilot for an original TV series for BBC Studios and Channel 4 based on her Screen Nation award nominated web series Shrink, a psychological thriller which examines the stigma of mental illness within the Black community. Winner of the TriForce Creative Network’s WriterSlam for her original series Tilbury Rush, (influenced by Katrina’s Jamaican heritage), her latest feature script, Queerly Beloved, was shortlisted for the Greenacre Productions and TriForce Creative Network Script Search initiative. She currently lectures at MetFilm School and the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and has been selected on the Soho Writers Lab cohort for 2023/24.
Rukiat AshaweRukiat Ashaweis a content creator, writer and playwright from South London. As a creator and writer, Rukiat’s initial focus centred around feminist concepts on gender and sexuality, which she has been awarded and received nominations for from NAZ, SH:24 and Brook. After a degree in sociology and entering the world of marketing, Rukiat leaned more into her love of science fiction, technology and digital culture. Combined with her love of gender studies, she is now exploring the intersections between them all as a creator and through her fictional work.

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