Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea

Playwright: Nathan Alan Davis
Directed By: CJ Williams

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Run Dates: May 17, 2024 - June 9, 2024

Show Info

The running time for this show is appx 100 minutes, with no intermission. Strong language and adult themes. A water based haze is used in this production.

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Production Snapshot

Eighteen-year-old Dontrell Jones the Third decides that it is his duty and destiny to venture into the Atlantic Ocean in search of an ancestor lost during the Middle Passage. But his family is not at all ready to abandon its prized son to the waters of a mysterious and haunting past. Blending poetry, humor, wordplay, and ritual, Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea is a present-day hero’s quest exploring the lengths and depths we must go to redeem history’s wrongs.

What Critics Have to Say About Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea

Critic’s Choice! “A mesmerizing blend of magical realism and poetic social comment” – The Los Angeles Times


James Abott as Dontrell Jones III

James Abott
Dontrell Jones III

James Abbott (Dontrell) is an experienced actor and skilled puppeteer with over 15 years of captivating audiences. Trained at Wayne State University, James has left his mark on stages along the Eastern Coast. His performances blend authenticity and charisma, creating unforgettable experiences. Notable for his transformative roles, James portrayed Sizwe Bansi with the Matrix Art Theater, showcasing his depth and commitment. His portrayal of Musa in "Salt City" at Bronx's Apollo Theater garnered acclaim. More than an actor, James is a storyteller delving into the human experience. His dedication and passion shine through every performance. With an impressive portfolio, James Abbott II continues to inspire and captivate, connecting deeply with audiences.

Maggie Alger as Erika

Maggie Alger

Maggie Alger (Erika) is a Detroit-based performer, working in both theatre and film. Maggie has had the pleasure to perform locally with Open Book Theatre (The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley), The Ringwald (The Cake), Shakespeare Royal Oak (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), and Slipstream Theatre Initiative (Three Tall Women, A Doll’s House: Part Two). She has worked on several short films and feature films, including the brilliant Signs of Mice. Maggie trained at the Atlantic Acting School in New York City, but really credits her talent to her sisters, who would perform the American Girl plays with her in their living room. Maggie would like to thank her family and everyone who has been supportive of her relentless persistence.

Sheila Peck as Mom

Sheila Peck

Sheila Peck (Mom) is a talented actress making her debut at the Open Book Theatre. She is humbled and honored to be a part of this production and is grateful for the support of all her friends and family. Sheila is also one of 5 female co-founders of LLETS. Our central initiative, the Chocolate Box Theater Co., is specifically designed to nurture and empower our youth. We warmly welcome and deeply appreciate any contributions made to support our cause.

Damon Curtis Nathan as Dad

Damon Curtis Nathan

Damon Curtis Nathan (Dad) is a native of Detroit. He was raised in the city and holds the distinction of being the youngest among 5 siblings. With 6 years of acting experience, Damon embarked on his journey in the world of cinema. His educational background includes film studies at Wayne State University, and he is excited to make his debut at the esteemed Open Book Theatre Company. Damon extends his heartfelt gratitude to his acting inspirations: Lynch Travis and CJ Williams. Their influence has been instrumental in shaping his artistic path. Notably, Damon played a significant role in the production of “No Sudden Move” for HBO Max, collaborating with acclaimed actors Bill Duke and Don Cheadle. This opportunity has left him deeply honored, and he aspires to elevate his acting career to new heights.

X'Ydee Alexander as Danielle

X'Ydee Alexander

X'ydee Alexander (Danielle Jones) is new to Michigan coming all the way from California. She started acting in middle school when she unexpectedly landed the role of Genie in ALADDIN, since has been in numerous high school and community theatre productions. She recently performed in ANNABELLA IN JULY at the Detroit Repetory Theatre as Piper. She is also a founding member of a new nonprofit called LLETS, supporting youth theatre in detroit.

Ashley M. Lyle as Shea

Ashley M. Lyle

Ashley M. Lyle (Shea) is a professional singer and actor in the Metro Detroit area, as well as an anti-racism activist for the theatre community. Some of her credits include Who Will Sing for Lena (Matrix Theatre-Detroit), Ain't Misbehavin': A Fats Waller Musical (JET-Walled Lake), and two shows right here at Open Book - Christmas at Pemberley and Nollywood Dreams, where she won EncoreMichigan's Wilde Award for Best Actress in a Play (Comedy). Ashley wants to thank her family and friends for coming to see the show and she wants to thank YOU for enjoying Black art that's positive and enlightening. (Website: #FreeSudan #FreePalestine #Peace

Marcel D. Gabriel as Robby

Marcel D. Gabriel

Marcel D. Gabriel (Robby) is an all around entertainer: comedian, musician, model, and artist. He has acted in several productions abroad. Fans may remember him for starring in such productions as. “He Loves Me She Loves Me Not.” (1 & 2.), D. Carlton Production (2019 and 2020), “You Can’t Get Away” with Full Moon Films, Christian Spratling (2024). He is currently filming his own series titled, “Drive Me to Your Love,” Cel Gabe Productions (2024). He is very appreciative of the opportunity and everyone involved in making “Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea” one of the most rewarding experiences of his career.


CJ Williams as Director

CJ Williams

CJ Williams (director) is making her Open Book debut. She earned her BA in Theatre Arts from CSULA and is a former Theatre Arts teacher. She unofficially retired from acting years ago, and an unexpected move to Detroit during Covid inspired her to take an acting class to meet people and it reignited her passion for theatre. She recently played the role of Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Shakespeare Royal Oak, and Martha in Joe Turners Come and Gone at the Detroit Rep. She is currently in the beginning stages of forming a new non profit community youth theatre program on Detroit's West Side.

Kiah Manthei as Stage Manager

Kiah Manthei
Stage Manager

Kiah Manthei (Stage Manager, she/her) most recently co-directed Catch Me If You Can for the Downriver Youth Performing Arts Center (DYPAC). She stage managed Open Book’s productions of How I Learned to Drive and Nollywood Dreams last season. She has also assistant directed Legally Blonde: The Musical (DYPAC), and has stage managed various other plays and musicals in the Metro Detroit area, including My Dad Was Fifteen Feet Tall (Outvisible Theatre Company), Princess Whatsername (DYPAC), The Turn of the Screw (Outvisible Theatre Company), and Xanadu (DYPAC). Kiah graduated from Wayne State University in 2019 with a Master of Social Work. In her free time, she enjoys hanging out with her cat, going to concerts, reading, and spending time with loved ones!

Samantha Silva as Prop Desiger

Samantha Silva
Prop Desiger

Samantha Silva (Prop Designer) is positively delighted to be returning to Open Book for her third season! She started here as a Stage Manager and has had wonderful experiences each and every time. Last season was her first foray into Properties Management with How I Learned to Drive and she looks forward to expanding her skills and enjoying the hunt for the perfect piece! She would like to thank the Open Book family for creating such a welcoming, inclusive, and collaborative environment and community. She is proud to work with such talented and dedicated artists. Thanks also to her bosses, family, and friends for their support and tolerance of this crazy schedule; to her husband for encouraging her to chase what brings her joy; and to her son, who inspires and surprises us every day.

Harley Miah as Lighting Designer

Harley Miah
Lighting Designer

Harley Miah (Lighting Designer) is a freelance artist for theatres, nightclubs, concerts, and festivals across the country, as lighting designer for IKO Global Productions. He has been Open Book’s resident lighting designer since its inception, earning Wilde Awards for Best Design – Lights for Open Book's production of Red in 2014, and This Random World in 2022. Harley's work has recently been seen at The Ringwald, Tipping Point, Detroit Public Theatre and the newly opened Inspired Acting Company in Walled Lake. Harley also designs lights for "Detroit Presents: Live from Marygrove" on Detroit Public TV, which airs Wednesdays at 7:30 on WTVS and St George's Academy in NYC. Harley spends spare his time with his loving partner Reyna spoiling their cats, traveling, and seeing as many shows as they can in this great theatre community we have in Southeast MI. He hopes you do the same.

Gordon Mosley as Scenic Builder

Gordon Mosley
Scenic Builder

Gordon Mosley (Scenic Carpenter) joined the Players Guild of Dearborn in 1986 and has been involved in theatrical productions ever since. Over the years he has also worked with Southgate Community Players, Downriver Actors Guild, Lincoln Park High School and Detroit Public Theatre. In 2012 Gordon was inducted into the Dearborn Theater Hall of Fame. Among his more notable construction projects were The Car for I Remember Mama based on a 1908 Cadillac, The Gazebo for Do You Wanna Dance?, The Sewer for Guys and Dolls and The Mid-Century Furniture for Promises, Promises. Gordon enjoys the unique challenges of building sets for a black box theater. He continues to upgrade set design and construction methods with his unique style of building and the use of 3D modeling software.

Ashley M. Lyle as Costume Designer

Ashley M. Lyle
Costume Designer

Ashley M Lyle (Costume Designer) is also playing Shea in this production. See her bio above.

Yetunde Akitikori  as Dramaturg/Consultant

Yetunde Akitikori

Yetunde Oyinade Akitikori (Dramaturg/Consultant) is an MFA costume design student at Wayne State University. Born and raised in Nigeria West Africa, she is excited and thrilled to work as the dramaturg/consultant of the play. She is a choreographer with a focus on Nigerian dances, as well as a costume designer/makeup-artist. With her background in dance, costume and being a Nigerian of the Yoruba tribe, she was a great fit and tremendous help to the director and other crew members in bringing to stage a culturally appropriate production of Dontrell.

Basirab Norris  as Choreographer

Basirab Norris

Basirab Norris (Choreographer), a dynamic force in the world of performing arts, hails from the vibrant city of Detroit. With a passion ignited at the tender age of 7, Basira’s journey as a professional dancer, drummer, and choreographer has been nothing short of inspiring. Her rhythmic prowess and captivating stage presence were evident early on, blossoming further during her formative years in high school where she began honing her skills. Since then, Basira has been a beacon of creativity, sharing her knowledge and expertise as an instructor at Wayne State University since 2001. Through her innovative choreography and infectious beats, Basira continues to leave an indelible mark on the world of dance and music.

Meet the Playwright(s)

Nathan Alan Davis

Nathan Alan Davis is a playwright from Rockford, IL, now based in New York. His plays include include The Refuge Plays (Roundabout Theatre in collaboration with NYTW, premiering Fall of 2023), Nat Turner in Jerusalem (NYTW), The High Ground (Arena Stage), Eternal Life Part 1 (Wilma Theater), Origin Story (Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park), Dontrell Who Kissed the Sea (NNPN Rolling World Premiere), and The Wind and the Breeze (Cygnet Theatre). In recognition of his body of work, Nathan has received a Windham-Campbell Prize (2021), a Steinberg Playwright Award (2020), and a Whiting Award in Drama (2018). As a screenwriter, he has worked on projects for HBO Max, Netflix, AMC, BET, and Paramount. Nathan is an alumnus of the University of Illinois, Indiana University, and the Juilliard School. He currently serves as Director of MFA Playwriting at Boston University.

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Open Book Theatre Company presents Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea - a must-see performance. Get your tickets before they're gone!