'Merry Wives,' Adapted by Jocelyn Bioh '08 and Directed by Saheem Ali '07, at Shakespeare in the Park 2021
BY Amanda Breen, April 2, 2021
An adaptation of William Shakespeare’s comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor, written by Theatre alumna Jocelyn Bioh ’08 and directed by alumnus Saheem Ali ’07, will open the Public Theater’s Free Shakespeare in the Park 2021 season on July 5, 2021.
For over 60 years, Shakespeare in the Park has been a beloved New York City tradition, presenting free performances of world class theater to more than five million people. Located at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, the program realizes founder Joe Papp’s goal of a theater that is of, by, and for all people. Ali is an associate artistic director at the Public Theater.
Shakespeare in the Park’s 2020 season was canceled because of the pandemic. Bioh’s and Ali’s adaptation, which sets the Bard’s play in South Harlem in a community of West African immigrants, will be the first performance at the Delacorte Theater since the summer of 2019. The Public Theater calls Merry Wives “a celebration of Black joy, laughter, and vitality.”
“We have spent the last year getting ready,” the Public Theater’s site states. “We’ve been producing new work and preparing for a safe return. We’ve grieved, Zoomed, innovated, supported our communities, and connected our city.”
Bioh is a Ghanaian-American writer and performer from New York City. Her play School Girls Or, The African Mean Girls Play (Kilroy’s List 2016) recently completed successful runs at the MCC Theatre and Center Theatre Group. She conceived and wrote the libretto for The Ladykiller’s Love Story (music and lyrics by Cee Lo Green), which is in development at the Apollo Theatre. She is the writer of plays Happiness and Joe, Nollywood Dreams (Cherry Lane Mentor Project 2017, Kilroy’s List 2015), and African Americans (Howard University, 2015; Southern Rep Ruby Prize Award Finalist 2011; O'Neill Center Semi-Finalist, 2012). Currently, Bioh is under commission to Manhattan Theatre Club and the Atlantic Theater Company and is a Resident Playwright at LCT3. She was also most recently staffed on season two of Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It for Netflix and wrote an episode of the Netflix show Russian Doll.
Bioh’s theatre acting credits include In The Blood (Signature Theater), Everybody (Signature Theatre; Lucille Lortel Award nomination, Best Supporting Actress 2017), Men On Boats (Clubbed Thumb at Playwrights Horizons), The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time (Broadway; Tony Award Winner for Best Play, 2015), An Octoroon (Soho Rep, Obie Award Winner for Best Play, 2014), Booty Candy (Wilma Theater), Seed (Classical Theater of Harlem, Audelco Award Nominee), and Marcus; Or The Secret Of Sweet (City Theatre), among others. In television, she’s made appearances on Blue Bloods (CBS), The Detour (TBS), The Characters (Netflix), Louie (FX), and One Life To Live (ABC).
Ali is a theater director in New York City. His most recent audio plays include Romeo y Julieta (The Public Theater, 2021), Shipwreck (The Public Theater, 2020), and Richard II (The Public Theater & WNYC, 2020). Some of his other numerous directing credits include Fires in the Mirror (Signature Theatre, 2019), The New Englanders (MTC, 2019), The Rolling Stone (Lincoln Center Theater, 2019), Passage (Soho Rep, 2019), and Fireflies (Atlantic Theater, 2019), among others. His upcoming projects include Bioh’s Nollywood Dreams for MCC and Bioh’s and Michael Thurber’s Goddess for Berkeley Rep, both of which are anticipated in 2021.
Ali is the recipient of Stage Directors and Choreographers Workshop Foundation’s (SDCF) Sir John Gielgud Fellowship, New York Theatre Workshop’s Emerging Artist Fellowship, Columbia University’s Shubert Fellowship, and Northeastern University’s Presidential Scholarship in Theatre.
The full performance schedule for Merry Wives will be announced at a later date.