In a perfect world, Jason A. Ellis, the founder and current Executive Director of Momentum Collective, Inc., would take the production of Not My Baby to other countries. “If I had money, I [would] take it overseas,” said Ellis. For now, however, he is putting his energy towards promoting the show in Alexandria. The show opened on March 17 and continues this weekend at the Richard Kauffman Auditorium.
Utilizing Hip Hop and R&B, this original musical set in the D.C. metro area, deals with social issues, including adoption. “I want to shine a light on topics that aren’t talked about and encourage discourse,” said Ellis. “I’m from Jamaica and I like to bring in references to my country – for example, I referred to ‘20 Jacky Pad’ in the show. This was my address in Kingstown.”
The multi-talented Ellis not only performs in the musical, he wrote the musical’s book as well as 10 original songs. The storyline and the music takes the audience through a whirlwind of emotions. Even limited by using temporary space and an imperfect sound system, Not My Baby soars, with strong voices and a team of very talented dancers.
Tamieka Jones (Wednesday), Nyeta Videl (June), Mary Ayala-Bush (Ruby), Jason Ellis (LaDarius, writer, director, etc)
Ellis has established himself as a recognized playwright, having written, directed, choreographed, and produced several original musicals. He has also performed in several productions at his Alfred Street Baptist Church, as well as with theater companies in the DMV area, in productions such as Hoodoo Love, A Soldier’s Play, Seven Guitars, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Company, Disney Dazzle, Dreamgirls, and Radio Golf.
Theodore Sapp (Patrick), Terry Spann (Pastor Joe), Alani Mason-Calloway (Yvonne)
Since 2009, Ellis has been employed with the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) in the Residents and Community Services Department. His work with ARHA has provided him a tremendous platform to interface with a cross-section of youth in Alexandria and build strong partnerships with a host of community stakeholders, particularly those focused on serving youth.
Terrance McLeod, Darnell Eaton (Emmanuel), Virginia Raye (TaSchica)
In 2010 he created, and still is managing, a leadership development program for low income youth in the city of Alexandria. This program has seen 100 percent of its participants graduate high school and over 80 percent of participants furthering their education at a tertiary institution or gain meaningful employment. This leadership program served as the catalyst for the creation of MC Inc., now with the inclusion of performing arts and technology-based skills development.
Mia Amado (Dominique), Jamir Miller (Craig), Eboni Jones, Celena Noel, Summer Mayes, Janiya Hooks, Kasey Murphy (Anika)
In Not My Baby, Ellis utilizes a talented complement of local actors and performers. “Half the cast is from Alfred Street Baptist Church,” said Ellis. “I don’t do a lot of open casting because I want to make sure we are family and get along. I tell the cast – ‘each one reach one’ -so the rest of the cast are referrals. Everybody in the show fits the character.”
Nyeta Videl, an Alexandria native, plays June in Not My Baby. Because June was so dysfunctional, playing her was difficult, Videl said. “But I did not look at June in a negative way,” she said. “Don’t judge June, but love her story.” Video has been a regular in Ellis’ plays, portraying the fun and quirky Esther in his 2016 production of U-Street. She is also known for her roles as Bernadette in Ellis’ 2015 production of Senior Moments, Hattie Mae Bemry in Angels and Winnie Mandela in The Nelson Mandela Tribute.
Terry Spann (Pastor Joe) said that he was thrilled to be a part of another Jason Ellis production and working with this fantastic cast and crew. “My father was a preacher but I didn’t have any interest in becoming one,” said Spann.
Not My Baby is at the Richard Kauffman Auditorium, 1108 Jefferson Street, Alexandria, VA. on Friday, March 24 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, March 25 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Photos by Gale Curcio
Top: Members of the dance team