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In DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, shooting "The Havisham Effect". Ella plays "Jackie".


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


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 fabulous.

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HAVING OUR SAY schedule (only two weeks left!):

Fri, Jun 1: 8:00pm
Sat, Jun 2: 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Sun, Jun 3: 2:00pm & 7:30pm
Wed, Jun 6: 7:30pm
Thu, Jun 7: 2:00pm & 7:30pm
Fri, Jun 8: 8:00pm
Sat, Jun 9: 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Sun, Jun 10: 2:00pm

Price: $


Show Type: Drama

Box Office: 312-443-3800

Running Time: 2hrs
Click Here for Half-Price Tickets
  Having Our Say Reviews
Highly Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Highly Recommended

"...At its core, this is a nonfiction work of biography - ideal, by the way, for young people who may not know all or any of this history - about lives of quiet revolution, or quotidian determination. You see the grief that comes to many of us later in life when we lose our parents. You realize that without love we're all not much more than a hill of beans."
Read Full Review

Chris Jones

Chicago Sun Times - Highly Recommended

"...Guided by Chuck Smith's deft direction, Ella Joyce (Bessie) and Marie Thomas (Sadie) winningly bring the sisters to life with warmth, grace and good humor. During this two-hour immersion, one can't help but be swept up in this compelling look at history through the memories of these two resilient women."
Read Full Review

Mary Houlihan

Daily Herald - Highly Recommended

"..."Having Our Say" is told entirely from the perspective of the two unmarried Delaney sisters Bessie (1891-1995) and Sadie (1889-1999). Though the notion of listening to your elders go on and on about long-dead friends and relations might be anathema to some, Mann concisely and incisively conveys the ordinary and extraordinary life circumstances of these amazing women."
Read Full Review

Scott C. Morgan

Chicago Reader - Highly Recommended

"...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)."
Read Full Review

Dan Jakes

Stage and Cinema - Highly Recommended

"...Now gracing Goodman Theatre through June 10, Chuck Smith's delightful revival couldn't be more intimate, despite the vast Albert stage. But then so is its source: New York Times reporter Amy Hill Hearth's 1991 book, the best seller that inspired Mann to turn the Delanys into the loveliest hostesses ever."
Read Full Review

Lawrence Bommer

Splash Magazine - Highly Recommended

"...From the very first moment, the words of this engaging duo capture your imagination and your heart. You forget the amazing acting talent, superior writing and engrossing stagecraft and believe you are in the presence of 103 year-old Sadie and 101 year-old Bessie. You follow their dedicated, committed lives through a century, beginning with Reconstruction after the Civil War, and progressing through the abomination of Jim Crow laws. You go with them as they move to New York after college in the South, take part in the blossoming of Black Culture during the Harlem Renaissance. You enter with them into their participation in the civil right's and women's right's movements, and smile indulgently as they explain how they stayed virgin "spinsters" after "watching the roosters worrying the hens"."
Read Full Review

Debra Davy

Let's Play at ChicagoNow - Highly Recommended

"...Amy Hill Hearth wrote the critically acclaimed memoir of this historically accurate, nonfiction account of the trials and tribulations of the 'good nature' Delany sisters.' However, The Delany sisters' lives were brought to life on stage by the unconquerable Director Chuck Smith who showcased the women with wit and wisdom. This family drama played out for two hours with over 100 years of oral history that will leave you enriched with knowledge of one family who happens to be colored in this country."
Read Full Review

Rick and Brenda McCain

Around The Town Chicago - Highly Recommended

"...The story is amazing and spellbinding and the performances by these two powerful ( and loveable) actresses is one that should not be missed. As I said the performance is the shortest two hours of theater I have been an audience member of and I would have loved to hear a few more stories as well as see the meal that they worked on finished."
Read Full Review

Alan Bresloff

WTTW - Recommended

"...There is an almost musical interplay between Joyce and Thomas that ideally captures the sisters' relationship, and all the feistiness, humor and determined individuality they brought to it. And they make it easy for you to cheer the Delanys, who proudly declare that they never let prejudice stop them from doing what they wanted to do in their lives."
Read Full Review

Hedy Weiss

Chicago Theatre Review - Highly Recommended

"...This delightful adaptation of "one of the Best Books of 1994" is a welcome addition to the Spring season of Chicago theatre. It's an uplifting, thoughtful, humane and empathetic play-just the kind of entertainment we need now in this country. Often, Emily Mann's inspiring adaptation of this oral history is as humorous as it is heartbreaking. Brought to life by veteran director Chuck Smith, and featuring two talented and affable actors, there's much to be appreciated and gleaned from this heartfelt piece. It's the perfect introduction for middle and high school students to hear about history from individuals who actually experienced it."
Read Full Review

Colin Douglas

Chicagoland Theater Reviews - Highly Recommended

"...“Having Our Say” is an intimate play but Goodman has chosen it for the larger Albert Theatre rather than the smaller Owen Theatre. But the two performers fill up stage effortlessly, orchestrated by Chuck Smith’s unobtrusive but sure-handed directing. The apparently spontaneous talk flows naturally, creating a verbal mosaic of dozens of characters who were prominent in the lives of the sisters. The physical production also receives much help from Linda Buchanan’s heavily furnished period décor. The production makes deft use of the Goodman turntable stage, rotating in front of the audience to take the viewers from room to room."
Read Full Review

Dan Zeff

Third Coast Review - Recommended

"...Having Our Say is great oral history, but it's not always great theater. Two hours of two people talking to us without much action can be a long evening. The play would benefit by being cut to 80 or 90 minutes. Some childhood details could be trimmed and details added to the important events of their later years."
Read Full Review

Nancy Bishop

Picture This Post - Highly Recommended

"...Joyce and Thomas portray the sisters with grace and charm, creating a truly compelling and thought-provoking account of history. The play itself may just be two women sharing their life story, but Smith's production is captivating, with a pacing and comedic element that keeps the audience hooked on every development."
Read Full Review

Lauren Katz

Chicago Theater and Arts - Highly Recommended

"...Adapted by Mann from the book written by the Delaney sisters with Amy Hill Hearth, the play offers terrific insight into bits of the 20th century from a viewpoint seldom heard or viewed. I'm glad the Delaney sisters are having their say."
Read Full Review

Jodie Jacobs

Chicago On Stage - Highly Recommended

"...My mother always said that there is a lot we can learn from our elders, and an evening spent with “the Delany Sisters,” a pair of centenarians whose life story is the subject of Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years, now at the Goodman Theatre, certainly illustrates the point. Ella Joyce and Marie Thomas play Bessie and Sadie Delany, respectively, two sisters with extended family memories all the way back to 1812 who told of their century as black women in America in interviews with Amy Hill Hearth in the early 90s for a book that was transformed into a play by Emily Mann shortly thereafter."
Read Full Review

Karen Topham

PicksInSix - Highly Recommended

"...In the opening moments of Emily Mann's Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years, Bessie and Sadie Delany gather us up in the living room of the Mount Vernon, New York home they have lived in since 1957 and begin a conversation that takes us on the fantastic journey of their lives together. There are powerful resonant truths, sadness, and abundant humor in director Chuck Smith's inspiring production, now playing at the Goodman Theatre. The consummate performances by Ella Joyce and Marie Thomas tell a sweeping narrative about racial inequality in America and overcoming adversity with grace and dignity."
Read Full Review

Ed Tracy

  Having Our Say Photo Gallery

   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 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.

Jon Chaffin and Ella Joyce. Photo by Oliver Brokelberg

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.

Ciera Payton (L) and Ella Joyce. Photo by Oliver Brokelberg

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 nominated BEST LEAD ACTRESS by Encore Michigan Wilde Awards



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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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