Etta and Ella on the Upper West Side

By Adrienne Kennedy
Directed by Monty Cole


One of the American theater’s seminal writers, Adrienne Kennedy captures the Black experience in America in the 20th century with a trademark embrace of symbolism, lyricism, and mythic figures. In this world premiere production, Etta and Ella Harrison are talented academics on the Upper West Side – as well as sisters and rivals. After a lifetime of competition, they are on the verge of destroying each other. Next-generation director Monty Cole employs a cinematic approach to this intricate blend of monologue, dialogue, voiceover, and prose in a work that is part experimental play, part narrative thriller.

Etta and Ella on the Upper West Side is supported in part with generous funding from the California Arts Council, Western States Arts Federation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Co-Presented with REDCAT. Produced by CalArts Center for New Performance.

Photo by Rafael Hernandez. 



About the Artists

Monty Cole is an award-winning theater and film writer-director based in Chicago, IL. He has directed for The Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf, Center Theatre Group, The Playwrights Center, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Victory Gardens Theater, CalArts Center for New Performance, Cape Cod Theatre Project, Alley Theatre, American Blues Theater, and others. His re-interpretations of classics from Eugene O’Neill’s The Hairy Ape to Hamlet have received awards and critical praise in Chicago. His play American Teenager is a commission from the Goodman Theatre’s Playwrights Unit. He is currently an Artist in Residence at CalArts Center for New Performance, a fellow at Hermitage Artist Retreat, and a Research Scholar of the Bridge to Faculty at UIC. In 2021, Cole directed three short films: SIX FEET APART by Isaac Gomez, SONS OF TOLEDO, written by Cole and Matt Foss, and his own short, WHOLE. Recently, Cole directed an episode of The Cymbeline Project for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Coming up, Cole will direct Incendiary by Dave Harris at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre in DC. Monty has a BA in Theatre Studies from Emerson College and an MFA Directing degree from the California Institute of the Arts.


Adrienne Kennedy is an award-winning playwright, lecturer, and author. Her plays include Funnyhouse of a Negro (Obie Award), June and Jean in Concert (Obie Award), Ohio State Murders, A Movie Star Has to Star in Black and White, A Rat’s Mass, The Owl Answers, Motherhood 2000, Electra and Orestes, She Talks to Beethoven, An Evening with Dead Essex, A Lesson in a Dead Language, and The Lennon Play.  She is the recipient of an Obie Award for Sleep Deprivation Chamber, which she co-authored with her son Adam. Other awards include a Guggenheim Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Literature, the 1990 American Book Award, and induction into the Theater Hall of Fame. Her published works include In One Act, Alexander Plays, Deadly Triplets, He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box and Other Plays, and the memoir People Who Led to My Plays. She was also commissioned to write plays for Jerome Robbins, the Public Theater, Mark Taper Forum, Juilliard School, and the Royal Court in England. She has been a visiting lecturer at Yale University, New York University, Harvard University, and University of California at Berkeley, where she was Chancellor’s Distinguished Lecturer in 1980 and 1986. In 2018, Kennedy was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame for Lifetime Achievement in the American Theater.

Creative Team

Tori Danner, Ella
Sarahjeen François, Etta
Wesley T. Jones, Troupe
Maleke Clemmons, Music 

Adrienne Kennedy, Writer
Monty Cole, Director
Yuki Ding, Scenic Designer
Claire Chrzan, Lighting Designer
Clare Marie Nemanich, Sound Designer
Hsuan-Kuang Hsieh, Video Designer
Akina Van De Velde, Cinematographer
Loren Weldon, Costume Designer
Edward Monaghan, Fight Choreographer
Mecca Andrews, Choreographer

Rui M. Xu, Producer
Chris Swetcky, Production Manager
Maria V. Oliveira, Stage Manager
Rachel Scandling, Associate Producer
Ella Fornof, Assistant Light Designer
Violet Smith, Lighting Programmer
Eliot Burk, Assistant Sound Designer
Wei-Fang Chang, Assistant Video Designer
Bailey Johnson, Assistant Costume Designer
Katherine Paez Froehlich, Assistant Production Manager
Winky Kim, Assistant Stage Manager
Rebecca K. Hsia, Assistant Stage Manager, Fight Captain
Meng-Hang Shih, Percussionist
Victor Sandoval-Torres, Costume Shop Director
Kate DeWall, Master Electrician
Patrick Smith, Props Master
Jenica Anderson, Production Associate: Head of Sound and Video
Arman Memarzadeh, CalArts Prop Run Crew
Danielle Pope, CalArts Prop Run Crew
Porter Jacob Lawrence, CalArts Lights Run Crew
Milo Wakefield, CalArts Sound Run Crew

Dionne M. Robinson, Understudy (Etta/Ella)
Chisom Diana Dimiri, Understudy (Etta/Ella)
E. E. Williams, Understudy (Troupe)

Additional Film Team:
Jingchen Zhao, Assistant Director
Zoe Lappin, Videographer
Xiaoke Zhang, Assistant Production Designer
Qi  Liu, Assistant Production Designer
Karen Ayala, Assistant Costume Designer
Angeline Gutierrez, Makeup Artist
Extras: Freddie Carodine, Christopher Martin, Shyteek McLeod, Danielle Pope, Marie Sadd