Meet the Cast of DON'T TELL ME I CAN'T FLY!

Written by: Jillian Toyad

No words can describe the excitement revolving around the world premiere of DON’T TELL ME I CAN’T FLY, opening Friday, Oct. 28. Amidst the hustle and bustle of it all, it is only right that we introduce you to our beloved and talented cast members!
From award-winning playwright Y York, DON’T TELL ME I CAN’T FLY was inspired by the life and art of Milwaukee collage artists, Della Wells. The play paints an inspirational and engaging portrait of the life of Tonia, a 9-year-old African-American girl living in 1960s Bronzeville Milwaukee, and her struggle to find balance between her parents’ low-profile lifestyle and her own artistic soul. “The play is about how human beings use art to make sense of the universe and about the transformative power of art,” said director, Mark Lutwak.

Young performers, Matthew Wade, LaNae Ramey, Ashley Nord and Dashaun McCray are excited to be a part of the cast!

Fifth-grader, Ashley Nord, makes her debut performance with First Stage as Tonia in the Miss Katie cast. This creative and bubbly girl from Glendale first began classes with First Stage when she was six and is now with the African American Children’s Theatre. Ashley aspires for a career in fashion design, acting and teaching. 

Twelve-year-old LaNae Ramey from Milwaukee takes on the role of Tonia in the Miss Merci cast. She is a seventh-grader at North Middle School, Menomonee Falls, who loves to sing and act. LaNea has participated with First Stage at the Daniels-Mardak Boys & Girls Club and is currently a student at the First Stage Theater Academy. 

Matthew Wade, a fourth-grader at Golda Meir School, will play the role of Theo in the Miss Kate cast. Matthew has previously been in First Stage’s production of PETER PAN AND WENDY in which he played one of the lost boys, Bumbershoot and feels blessed to be a part of another First Stage production!

Dashaun McCray, 13, is an eighth-grader at Atonement Lutheran School. He has performed with Milwaukee’s City Ballet and in school productions including BETSY ROSS and PIRATES. With African American Children’s Theater, he performed in HARRIET TUBMAN’S FREEDOM TRAIN, THE INVENTORS and APPARENTLY NOT. Dashaun said that the opportunity to perform with First Stage is a “dream come true.”

The adult cast for DON’T TELL ME I CAN’T FLY brings back a familiar face for the part of Alma Bridge: Tiffany Yvonne Cox. Tiffany was last seen at First Stage as Addaperle/Lord High Underling in THE WIZ.  Since then she has continued to work in Chicago and the Midwest.  Recently you may have seen her at American Players Theatre (THE TEMPEST), Renaissance Theaterworks/Uprooted Theatre (CRUMBS FROM THE TABLE OF JOY), Griffin Theatre Company (LETTERS HOME tour).  She has also worked at Chicago Dramatists, Goodman Theatre, Chicago Children's Theatre and several other regional theatres.  Tiffany is also a founding member of UPROOTED Theatre.  

Chauncy Thomas makes his debut with First Stage as Leon Bridge. Prior to this performance, he was in ROMEO AND JULIET, RUINED, PERICLES and THE REAL MCCOY at St. Louis Black Rep; CRUMBS FROM THE TABLE OF JOY with Mustard Seed Theatre; and EURYDICE with Orange Girls. He spent three years performing children’s theatre for the St. Louis Rep.  Thomas currently resides in St. Louis and next will be seen in ON GOLDEN POND at St. Louis Black Rep. Thomas is also a member of the Actor’s Equity Association.

Making her First Stage debut is Chinai Hardy as Aunt Franny. Most recently, Chinai appeared in THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL at the Cleveland Play House and Roundhouse Theatre.  She was also in the World Premiere of Pearl Cleage’s THE NACIREMA SOCIETY REQUESTS THE HONOR OF YOUR PRESENCE AT A CELEBRATION OF THEIR FIRST ONE HUNDRED YEARS at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and Alliance Theatre.  Hardy’s other productions include IN THE RED AND BROWN WATER that won the Suzi Bass Award for Best Ensemble, FOR COLORED GIRLS WHO HAVE CONSIDERED SUICIDE/ WHEN THE RAINBOW IS ENUF, CROWNS, A LESSON BEFORE DYING, SECRETS OF A SOCCER MOM, IN DARFUR and DAMN YANKEES. She, too, is a member of the Actor’s Equity Association.

DON’T TELL ME I CAN’T FLY was part of the Kennedy Center’s New Visions/New Voices Biennial Festival in 2010. The play also marks the beginning of First Stage’s Wisconsin Cycle, during which First Stage will develop and produce six plays that celebrate the history and people of Wisconsin.

The world premiere of DON’T TELL ME I CAN’T FLY runs October 28 through November 13, 2011 at the Todd Wehr Theater in the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, 929 N. Water St., downtown Milwaukee. Tickets can be purchased in person at the Marcus Center box office, by phone at (414) 273-7206 or online at

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