Checking In With… Nollywood Dreams and School Girls Star Abena

Checking In With...   Checking In With… Nollywood Dreams and School Girls Star Abena
The actor is currently starring in Jocelyn Bioh's new work, which launches MCC Theater's 2021–2022 season.
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Abena Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Abena, an actor and vocalist of dual Ghanaian and African-American descent, was recently seen in the Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park production of Jocelyn Bioh's Merry Wives. The actor originated and subsequently reprised the role of Nana in Bioh's School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play, and her other New York City credits include Goddess, Appointment With gOD, Ragtime, and How the Light Gets In—Water is Life. On screen she has been seen in Orange Is the New Black, Daredevil, The Other Two, and Celebs Have Issues.

Abena is currently starring in another Bioh work, Nollywood Dreams, which launches MCC Theater's 2021–2022 season and reunites the entire cast from the 2020 MCC production that was postponed due to the pandemic. Directed by Saheem Ali (Fires in The Mirror), the production officially opens November 11 with a cast that also includes Charlie Hudson III (A Raisin in the Sun), Nana Mensah (Man from Nebraska), Sandra Okuboyejo (Hamilton), Ade Otukoya (Gem of the Ocean), and Emana Rachelle (In the Name Of).

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Charlie Hudson III and Abena in<i> Nollywood Dreams</i>
Charlie Hudson III and Abena in Nollywood Dreams Daniel J. Vasquez

How did this role come along?
I auditioned for this role towards the end of 2019 and was cast in February 2020.

Tell me a bit about the character you are playing.
My character's name is Adenikeh, and she is basically the Nigerian Oprah with her own popular talk show. She's in-the-know with all things "Nollywood."

How do you feel about returning to live performance?
I felt extremely fortunate to return to live performance in Merry Wives at Shakespeare in the Park, also directed by Saheem Ali and adapted by Jocelyn Bioh. Returning to MCC for Nollywood Dreams after we were shut down has been something I could only imagine for the past 18 months, and I feel even more grateful.

School_Girls;_Or,_the_African_Mean_Girls_Play_MCC_Production_Photo_2017_128.Abena Mensah-Bonsu, Mirirai Sithole, and Paige Gilbert in 'School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play' at MCC Theater (photo by Joan Marcus)_HR.jpg
Abena, Mirirai Sithole, Paige Gilbert in School Girls Joan Marcus

What would you say to audience members who may be feeling uneasy about returning to a theatre?
Any uneasy feelings are valid, since we are still experiencing a pandemic, but we are taking the best precautions as a company to ensure the health and safety of ourselves and the audience.

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What organization would you recommend people learn more about or donate to during this time of change?
Claim Our Space Now, Community Foundation of Greater Flint, Flint Kids Fund.

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