The nonprofit Manhattan Theatre Club (MTC) has partnered with LaChanze, Taraji P. Henson and Madison Wells Live as co-producers of the new play “Jaja’s African Hair Braiding.” Written by Jocelyn Bioh, the world-premiere play is set to begin previews on Sept. 12 ahead of an official opening on Oct. 3 at MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre.
The new work will mark Bioh’s Broadway playwriting debut, as well as the Main Stem debut for director Whitney White.
LaChanze recently earned Tony Awards for producing “Topdog/Underdog” and “Kimberly Akimbo”; she won an earlier Tony as an actor for her turn in “The Color Purple.” “Jaja’s African Hair Braiding” will mark the Broadway producing debut of Henson, who is an Oscar- and Emmy-nominated actor. Madison Wells Live’s most recent Broadway credit is the Tony-nominated musical “Shucked.”
“Jaja’s African Hair Braiding” is set in a Harlem salon, where a group of vivacious West African immigrant hair braiders create artistry on the heads of local women. On this particular day, love emerges and secrets are revealed as this intimate community must face what it means to be an outsider in a place they consider home.
“Her work brings the vibrant lived experiences within our global community to center stage,” LaChanze said of Bioh’s play in a statement. “This joyous, funny and inspiring play is sure to attract fresh and inclusive audiences.”
“Madison Wells is dedicated to amplifying the voices of badass women who fearlessly challenge the status quo,” added Gigi Pritzker, founder of Madison Wells, the parent company of Madison Wells Live, a producer of theatrical work. “It is with great enthusiasm that Jamie Forshaw and I partner with MTC as producers of the world premiere of ‘Jaja’s African Hair Braiding.’ This is a remarkably witty, entertaining and moving play and we are honored to cast a spotlight on the exceptional talents of Jocelyn Bioh and Whitney White, two trailblazing female artists who continue to inspire and captivate audiences with their empowering narratives."
Madison Wells Live was the conduit by which Henson became a part of the project. “I want to thank Madison Wells Live for inviting me aboard this incredible and entertaining project,” said Henson. “This play holds immense importance within the Black community, addressing themes that resonate deeply. It celebrates the beauty, strength and resilience of Black women, highlighting the art of hair braiding as a form of self-expression and empowerment.
She continued, “I am honored to contribute to the representation of diverse voices on Broadway and use my platform to uplift marginalized communities.”
Of her new co-producers, MTC artistic director Lynne Meadow said in a statement: “Each of them is bringing special talents to our team and we couldn’t be more proud to be joined by such accomplished partners.”
The full creative team and casting for “Jaja’s African Hair Braiding” will be announced.
MTC operates under the leadership of artistic director Meadow and executive director Chris Jennings.