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Front Porch Arts Collective debuts ‘Chicken & Biscuits,’ first self-produced show

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Front Porch Arts Collective debuts ‘Chicken & Biscuits,’ first self-produced show
The cast of “Chicken & Biscuits” PHOTO: Courtesy of Front Porch Arts Collective

Boston’s Black theater company, the Front Porch Arts Collective, launches its first self-produced performance this month. The regional premiere of Douglas Lyons’ comedy “Chicken & Biscuits” runs Dec. 9 – Jan. 8 at Suffolk University’s Modern Theater.

Directed by Lyndsay Allyn Cox and featuring a primarily local cast, “Chicken & Biscuits” follows two sisters Baneatta and Beverly Jenkins as they prepare for their father’s funeral. Baneatta, the elder sister, has taken on the weighty role of family matriarch, while Beverly is the fun, carefree younger sister handling her grief in a very different way. When the family gathers for the service, secrets and personal baggage begin to spill out in the hilarious production spiced with a dose of family drama.

Dawn Simmons, Front Porch co-founder and co-producing artistic director. PHOTO: Stephen F. Bevacqua

Dawn Simmons, Front Porch co-founder and co-producing artistic director, says the play was perfect for Front Porch’s first solo production from the start. “It is really specific and unique to the Black community, to that experience,” Simmons says. “It is about family. It is about joy. And while there’s some sadness to it, that’s not the underlying thing. It’s not about our trauma, it’s about our resilience and our triumph.”

Lyons has been heavily involved in as many productions of his play as possible, including Front Porch’s. In addition to working with the Front Porch team to prepare the show, he’ll be present at opening night on Sunday, Dec. 11 and will host a workshop of his new play, “Invisible,” directly after the performance.

Thomika Bridwell PHOTO: courtesy of Front Porch Arts Collective

Roxbury native Thomika Bridwell plays Beverly. She says she saw a lot of herself and her own family in the story. “I think this play really shows the power of talking about things, airing out your differences, your grievances, and loving through the hard things,” says Bridwell. “I hope the audience sees themselves.”

This self-produced show is a long-awaited moment for Front Porch, and Simmons says it’s prompting reflection on where the company should go next. Self-producing was always the plan, but with Boston audiences still hesitant to head back into theaters en masse, the company will have to consider the best way to reach people.

In the interest of attracting audiences, “Chicken & Biscuits” also presents an opportunity for Front Porch to show off local talent. Simmons hopes that audiences will be reminded how much Boston has to offer in the theater scene. “We pick really fun, interesting artists to work with and I just want to show them off,” says Simmons. “I hope audiences are able to come into the theater and feel like they had the best time.”