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Ella Joyce

plays Mabel Singer in UrbanflixTV's

net hit series. CASTING THE NET.



CASTING THE NET  now streaming on




Filming  "The Havisham Effect".

Ella Joyce plays "Jackie", directed by Leila Djansi.


Ella Joyce  was at The Goodman Theater in Chicago, playing Bessie, in "Having Our Say" by Emily Mann, directed by Chuck Smith. Ella Joyce was nominated by Black Theater Alliance in Chicago.

Having Our Say is a fitting tribute to the indomitable Delany sisters 

Bessie and Sadie Delany celebrate more than a century of badassery.

One of the most ghoulish stories I've ever heard was a 2015 NPR piece by Daniel Rosinsky-Larsson about the way a New England newspaper's well-meaning tribute to the area's oldest people was being received by some of its recipients. Instead of welcoming the award as a nod to their longevity, some of its horrified winners viewed it as an ominous "kiss of death." Compared to a lot of other societies, America has some work to do when it comes to taking care of its longest-living citizens—let alone honoring them.


I suppose that's part of why Emily Mann's joyful, informative stage adaptation of Bessie and Sadie Delany's 1993 memoir (cowritten with Amy Hill Hearth) is such an affecting and uplifting experience. One-hundred-and-one-year-old Bessie (Ella Joyce) and 103-year-old Sadie (Marie Thomas) welcome audiences into their living room and kitchen in Mount Vernon, New York, and tell stories from their long lives, which span the postslavery Jim Crow era, the Harlem Renaissance, and the civil rights era.

Most memorably, Chuck Smith's Goodman Theatre production is full of tales of gamesmanship and outright social defiance the Delany sisters engage in while having to navigate the demands placed on women of color in their white-dominated professions (Sadie was a teacher and Bessie a dentist). In some cases, it's brave mischief, like skirting a face-to-face interview in order to secure a position at a white-run school; in others, it's staring down death, as when Bessie tells off a leering white sexual harasser. "I wasn't afraid to die," she says. "I know you ain't got to die but once, and it seemed as good a reason to die as any." That one of the most badass lines uttered on a Chicago stage this year comes from a based-on-real-life centenarian woman of color is pretty fabuloous.


   This show has been Jeff Recommended*

*The designation of "Jeff Recommended" is given to a production when at least ONE ELEMENT of the show was deemed outstanding by the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee.

Ella Joyce was nominated by The Black Theater Alliance for role of Dr. Bessie Delaney.


Ella Joyce receives Ovation Award

for Featured Actress in role of Ruby in

August Wilson's "King Hedley II" at The Matrix.

Congratulations to cast of KING HEDLEY II on

2017 OVATION Awards,

and LA Drama Critic Circle Nominations.


Nominated for six OVATION Awards, including Ella Joyce for Best Actress In A Featured Role. 

“King Hedley II” Reviewed by Dan Berkowitz

In these days of short attention spans, when the “ideal play” is described as being 70 minutes with no intermission, the very idea of a three-hour evening in the theatre is enough to make some audiences cringe. “How will I stay awake that long? How can anything be interesting for three hours?!?”

Well, if the play is by the great August Wilson, and is in the hands of a group of superlative actors working under an assured director, it can be interesting and then some. In Michele Shay’s production of King Hedley II at the Matrix Theatre, the three hours fly by.

Mr. Wilson, who died in 2005, was best known for “The Pittsburgh Cycle” – 10 plays about the African-American experience throughout the twentieth century, of which King Hedley II is one. He wrote with specificity, not only of place (with the exception of one of the plays, the Hill District of Pittsburgh) and time (each play takes place in a different decade), but also of language. Characters erupt in geysers of words: they use language to caress, to cajole, to threaten, and to punish. While there are cascades of words in each of Mr. Wilson’s plays, none are extraneous, and every one of them takes aim straight at the minds and hearts of the audience.

In 1985 Pittsburgh, King Hedley II (Esau Pritchett) is a 30-something petty thief, back home living with his mother Ruth (Ella Joyce) after seven years in prison for killing the man who cut him with a razor – the vivid scar still bisects his face. King and his pal Mister (Jon Chaffin) dream of opening a video store, and are selling probably-stolen refrigerators to get together the necessary cash, and when that doesn’t seem to be producing enough, they rob a local business to hurry things along.

On the domestic side, 35-year-old Tonya (Ciera Payton) is pregnant with King’s child, which produces tension between the couple: King wants the baby, but Tonya – having already had a child at 17 who had to be brought up without a father, is determined to have an abortion. And Elmore (Montae Russell), an old flame of Ruby’s who has a tendency to disappear from her life at odd moments, shows up again, this time asking her to marry him.

Montae Russell and Ella Joyce. Photo by Oliver Brokelberg

Looking on, and often commenting, is Ruby’s next-door neighbor, Stool Pigeon (Adolphus Ward), an ancient eccentric whose house – and front porch – are piled high with old newspapers, and who seems at times to have a direct line to the Almighty.

Described as one of Mr. Wilson’s darkest plays, King Hedley II indeed ends tragically – in a manner echoing the ancient Greeks in its irony – but there are plenty of laughs along the way, and the cast takes full advantage of both the laughter and the tears.

All the actors are splendid. Mr. Pritchett is a striking figure, tall, with a shaved head and burning eyes, looking as if he could break in half anyone who angered him. And yet there’s a vulnerability to King, almost an innocence, and Mr. Pritchett’s ability to convey this makes us – perversely yet inevitably – root for him even at his most despicable.

L-R: Ella Joyce, Jon Chaffin, Ciera Payton, Esau Pritchett, and Adolphus Ward. Photo by Oliver Brokelberg

He’s matched step-for-step by Mr. Russell, whose character is the ultimate sleazy con man, but whose bonhomie and wide smile keep you laughing as he empties your pockets. Mr. Russell’s winning manner makes Elmore’s final chilling revelation even more devastating and unexpected.

Mr. Chaffin quietly plays second-fiddle to King, going along even when he knows what’s about to happen could be a disaster; Mister’s wife has left and taken the furniture, and Mr. Chaffin deftly conveys the desperation of a grown man reduced to sleeping on the floor.

As a woman torn between her love for her man, and her refusal to be beholden to him, Ms Payton shows us someone determined not to fall into the same trap she succumbed to years ago – but lets us see at the same time how difficult the decision is.

As a sometime-doddering, sometimes-forceful presence which suggests a Greek chorus, Mr. Ward is by turns chilling and hilarious. His repeated description of God – “a bad motherf**ker” – brings laughs throughout the evening.

But perhaps the biggest laugh of the night is earned by Ms Joyce, as she nonchalantly tosses off a line late in the play about performing a sex act and the “need to do it again.” The actress, who originated the role of Tonya in the world premiere of the play some years ago, moves into the role of Ruby with grace and a fierce dignity: whether going for laughs, or living through the worst nightmare a mother can face, there isn’t a false note in Ms Joyce’s performance – she’s simply magnificent.

Ms Shay – who was nominated for a Tony for her performance in Mr. Wilson’s Seven Guitars – directs with a firm but nuanced hand. She keeps the pace crackling, and draws expertly layered performances from the cast.

John Iacovelli’s detailed set puts us – literally – in the hardscrabble dirt the characters must surmount, while Derek Jones’s lighting, Mylette Nora’s costumes, and Kevin Novinsky’s sound make valuable contributions.

My only quibble is the way the evening begins: as the audience sits facing a fully-lit set, a piece of music plays, loudly. Presumably it’s meant to set the scene, but (to me anyway) the lyrics were incomprehensible, and the piece lasts a full five minutes. It was an inauspicious way to start.

Thankfully, once the actors entered, all was well. King Hedley II is a powerful play, stunningly acted and well-directed. Go ahead and spend three hours with these characters – you won’t regret it.

King Hedley II
Written by August Wilson
Directed by Michele Shay

Matrix Theatre
7657 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90046

ELLA JOYCE WINS Ovation Award.



ELLA JOYCE nominated BEST LEAD ACTRESS by Encore Michigan Wilde Awards



Visit for tickets/schedule.

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"Ella Joyce completely lives inside and inhabits the tragic Faye. (Although Faye would never want you to think of her as tragic.) Whether shaking her booty dancing around the breakroom alone or wrestling with the dilemma of whether to confide secrets, she is proud, defiant, sassy, defeated, and forward-looking all at once."   --Amy J. Parrent, ENCORE   ENCOREMICHIGAN.COM

Dominique Morisseau's 'Skeleton Crew': Maybe the best play you'll see this year... 



Ella Joyce - "performance is powerful, persuasive and resonant. Thanks for coming home to share your talent".....DEADLINE DETROIT.

The Best of Ella Joyce on Roc -


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