Shakin’ The Mess Outta Misery

In November 2017, Pegasus Theatre Chicago—the recipient of seventy-seven Joseph Jefferson awards— presented Shakin’ The Mess Outta Misery by Shay Youngblood. The play follows “Daughter,” the main character and 25-year-old narrator who shares memories of being raised by a community of women after losing her mother as a child. This timeless coming of age tale explores passage into womanhood, race and rituals in the 1960s south. After tragically losing her mother, Daughter is raised by a community of women who share stories of survival, healing,deep faith and mystery. See the Chicago revival of this hit play!

Image Credit: “In the Spirit” from the original painting by Bernard Hoyes, 18 × 24” Private collection.

About the Production Team

SHAY YOUNGBLOOD (Playwright) Georgia born writer Shay Youngblood is author of the novels Black Girl in Paris and Soul Kiss (Riverhead Books) and a collection of short fiction, The Big Mama Stories (Firebrand Books). She is the recipient of numerous grants and awards including a Pushcart Prize for fiction, a Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award, an Edward Albee honoree, several NAACP Theater Awards, an Astraea Writers’ Award for fiction and a 2004 New York Foundation for the Arts Sustained Achievement Award. Ms. Youngblood received her MFA in Creative Writing from Brown University and has taught Creative Writing to faculty and graduate students at NYU and has been Visiting Writer in Residence at the University of Mississippi and Texas A&M Universities. She was recently awarded a National Endowment for the Arts sponsored Japan-US Creative Artist Fellowship for 2011.

ILESA DUNCAN (Director) is the producing artistic director at Pegasus. Her recent directing work includes Rutherford’s Travels (co-adapter), For Her as a Piano and Blacula at Pegasus, Darlin’ with Step Up Productions, Broken Fences at 16th Street Theater, the Jeff Award-nominated The Nativity with Congo Square, and the Jeff Award-winning Jar the Floor at ETA Creative Arts. Duncan has also worked with Goodman Theatre, Writers Theatre, Victory Gardens Theater, Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, Lifeline Theater, Stage Left and Chicago Dramatists, as well as Contemporary American Theatre Company (Ohio), The Alliance Theatre (Atlanta), Arena Stage (Washington DC) and Lincoln Center Theater (New York). Ilesa’s creative nonfiction short stories have been published (Columbia College Chicago), and she’s written poems and screenplays.  For the stage, she was a co-writer and director of BLAKK LOVE: STOEEZ OF A DARKER HUE,  and facilitated the group writing project PORTRAITS (2007) for the Chicago Foundation for Women and the devised project DO YOU SEE WHAT I’M SAYING for Chameleon.

SHAWN WALLACE (Music Director/Composer) is a keyboardist, composer and music director. He has music directed and composed for such theatres as MPAACT, Chicago Theatre Company and DanzTheatre Chicago.  He has worked with luminary artists such as Common, Ice Cube, Bobby Brown, Dwele, Johnny Gill, Jon B., Bilal, Estelle, Julie Dexter, Rene Neufville, Rakim, Eric Roberson, Maggie Brown, Ugochi and Cherisse Scott. Shawn studied Music Theory and Composition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and currently serves as Musical Director for two New Thought congregations: The Emmaus Center and the Namaste Center for Spiritual Living-Chicago.  Shawn has worked for several years as a Teaching Artist throughout Chicago schools teaching Record Production and Theatre Tech to youth from 6th through 12th grades. His independent film score credits include; Severed Ties (Showcase Productions/ Lions Gate Films), Puzzle Love (Storybox Productions) and Son of America (Tanskin Productions/N’Spire Entertainment INC).

NICOLE CLARKE-SPRINGER (Choreographer) is a member of Deeply Rooted Dance Theatre where she has performed with artists such as Roberta Flack in Kevin Iega Jeff’s Flack as well as Jennifer Holiday in the world-renowned Penumbra Theatre’s Black Nativity. As a member of Deeply Rooted’s artistic team, Clarke-Springer choreographed works such as Nine, Dounia and Femme, and was Assistant Choreographer to Kevin Iega Jeff for Congo Square Theatre’s Nativity for two years.  In 2013, Nicole was named Deeply Rooted Dance Theatre’s Emerging Choreographer for the program Generations. Nicole received her B.S. in Arts Administration-Dance from Butler University in Indianapolis, IN where she received the award as Butler Ballet’s Outstanding Performer.


Melanie Loren: Daughter
Felicia McNeal: Big Mama
Stacie Doublin|Tina Marie Wright: Aunt Mae
debrah neal: Miss Corinne
Toni Lynice Fountain: Miss Lamama
Sandra Watson: Miss Tom/Miss Mary
Takesha Meshé Kizart: Maggie/Miss Rosa
Darian Tene: Fannie Mae/Miss Shine


Music Direction: Shawn Wallace
Choreography: Scenic Design: Elyse Balogh
Costume Design: Paul Kim
Sound Design: Kirstin Johnson
Props Design: Katy Vest
Production Manager: Kelly Butler


Stacie Doublin (Aunt Mae) Chicago:  Streetcar Named Desire, The Room, Diner Tales, The Radio Play:  Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Goose (Raven Theatre); MacBeth, Twelfth Nite, Taming of the Shrew (Oak Park Festival Theatre); Skin of Our Teeth, Incomplete and Random Acts of Kindness (The Artistic Home); Love Child (Live Bait Theatre, Chicago Theatre Company); Elephant Man (The Side Project); The House That Will Not Stand (US), Waiting to Be Invited (US) (Victory Gardens Theatre); Fabulation:  or the re-education of Undine (US) (Next Theatre); When the Ancestors Call (ETA Creative Arts). Regional:  Defamation:  The Play (Canamac Productions)/ Film/TV:  “Unfocused” (pilot), “JimMortal” (pilot)

Toni Lynice Fountain (Miss LaMama) was last on stage in Pegasus’ 2015 world premiere of Nambi E. Kelley’s For Her as a Piano. Other theater credits include Gertrude in Clara (Black Theater Alliance nominee for Best Actress in a Musical), Candylady in HooDoo Love (directed by the late Nelsan Ellis), Train Is Comin’, Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and The Wedding Singer. Toni’s film credits which include Judge Jones in “Overcome” screened at the Black Harvest Film Festival and “Abused Authority”. Television credit: Wanda Sykes “Herlarious,” OWN Network. Toni has survived cancer since last on stage, and is so grateful to be able to perform again!

Takesha Meshé Kizart (Maggie/Miss Rosa; Swing: Miss LaMama) Theatre credits include Sister Africa (Genesis at the Athenaeum), The Faculty Lounge (Oil Lamp Theatre), and Alegrías Y Lágrimas (Gorilla Tango Theatre); and The Armadillo/Iguana Bacterial Unification (Arc Theatre). A versatile Classical, Jazz, Soul, and Pop Vocal Soloist, she has also appeared with Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Kimmel Center, African American Museum of Philadelphia, Winspear Opera House, Fort Worth Opera & Symphony, Dallas Arts District Tuesday Nite Jazz, Aspen Music Festival, Palm Beach Opera Orchestra, Knoxville Museum of Art, France Musique, MIDEM Festival, and Palais des Festivals Cannes.

Melanie Loren (Daughter) On stage credits include ETA Creative Arts Foundation’s award-nominated Out Loud, and Blagojevich, Blagojevich!; and Clara Ward in Clara. Melanie has toured Chicago in MARY (Historical Perspectives for Children). TV/Film credits: Chicago P.D. (NBC) and recurring role on APB’; films Heaven On Seven, (directed by comedian B. Cole and starring actor-comedian Damon Williams); The Rhythm and The Blues opposite Leon of The Temptations and The Five Heartbeats. Melanie has performed across the U.S. as a singer and dancer (e.g., in Los Angeles in Treat Her Like A Lady and at the Kennedy Center)

Felisha ‘Ekudayo’ McNeal (Big Mama) is a Jeff-Award winning actress (JAR THE FLOOR/eta) who has performed onstage for the last 39 years. She was last seen in LAUGH TO KEEP FROM CRYING, written and directed by Christine Houston. Felisha has performed for MPACCT, Chicago Dramatist, The Black Ensemble Theatre, Hidden Stages, Chicago State University, and ETA. McNeal earned a BA from Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin. “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun or does it explode? I choose that my dream explodes.”

debrah neal (Miss Corrine) was last seen in Booty Candy (Windy City Playhouse) and Congo Square Theatre’s world premiere of Sanctified (BTAA nominee for “Best Featured Actress in a Play”).  Some of her other credits include The Old Settler and The Piano Lesson (Hansberry-Sands Theatre Company), Love Child (Live Bait — Jeff Award), Morning, Noon And Night, and American Menu (Chicago Theater Company), Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and The Colored Museum (Fleetwood Jourdain), and Heat (ETA Creative Arts Foundation and “Best Ensemble” nominee by the African-American Theatre Alliance).  debrah is also a seasoned director.

Darian Tene (Fannie Mae/Miss Shine) Recent credits include: Give It All Back (Sideshow Theatre), Little Shop of Horrors (American Blues Theater) and A Charlie Brown Christmas (Emerald City Theater). She graduated from the University of Alabama where she appeared in Chicago The Musical and Aint Misbehavin’ (Theater Tuscaloosa).

Sandra Watson (Miss Mary/Miss Tom | Swing Big Mama) reprises the role she created in the Chicago Theater Company production. Recent credits include The Play About My Dad, (Raven Theatre), To Kill a Mockingbird (Jeff Nominated-Steppenwolf), and Hope VI (Chicago Dramatists). Other theaters include: Pegasus Theatre, Raven Theater, National Past Time, Victory Garden and The Goodman. Other shows with Chicago Theater Company include Do Lord Remember Me (Jeff Award), and Morning, Noon & Night. Film credits: “Morning Due” (Cannes Film Festival Nomination).

Tina Marie Wright (Aunt Mae) is a Chicago-based actor.  Credits include Field of Souls, The Sisters of Belzoni, The Dreamers (ETA Creative Arts Foundation) First Words, Radical Hearsay, Trouble The Water (MPAACT,) Flyers, (University of Wisconsin, Greenbay), Unforgettable, A Streetcar Named Desire (Black Ensemble Theater), and the Chicago premiere of Shakin’ The Mess Outta Misery (Chicago Theater Company).

Nichole Green (US: Fannie Mae/Shine/Miss Mary/Miss Tom) Straight outta of Rockford, Illinois where she began her training in the Creative and Performing Arts program at Auburn High School and a BFA from The Theatre School at DePaul University.  Nichole is on the path of reigniting her acting career.

Tierra Whetstone  (US: Daughter, Miss Rosa) Tierra most recently performed the role of Willa Ward in the Open Door Theater’s Clara by McKinley Johnson (BTAA nomination for best-supporting actress in a play). Other Chicago credits include Train Is Coming and If Scrooge Was A Brotha’. A member of Chicago’s Henry Hendricks Weddington School for the Performing Arts Vocal Arts Ensemble since 2006, young opera singer Tierra has apprenticed and performed with such international artists as Yo-yo Ma, Roderick Dixon, Jared Dixon, and Catherine O’Connell. She’s currently pursuing a B.A. in Music with an emphasis on conducting and voice at North Park University.