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Sarah Straub
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World Premiere by Awa Sal Secka and Dani Stoller combines comedy, spoken word poetry, and drama to tell a story of interracial and intercultural romance

OLNEY, MD — April 12, 2022 — Awa Sal Secka and Dani Stoller’s new play The Joy That Carries You begins rehearsals today for its World Premiere at Olney Theatre Center. Directed by Jason Loewith and Kevin McAllister, performances begin May 11, 2022 and run through June 12, 2022. The Invited Press performance will be held Sunday, May 15 at 1:45 pm. Interested critics should email for two complimentary tickets to that performance.

This World Premiere play about an interracial couple in crisis by local playwrights Awa Sal Secka and Dani Stoller (Signature's Easy Women Smoking Loose Cigarettes) melds sharp comic dialogue and moving spoken-word poetry on a journey about love and family, privilege and responsibility. Joy introduces us to Shiri and Alaia, navigating their first year together as a couple. Over the course of a few days, their relationship is tested by events that underline the radically different ways each of them, one African-American, one Ashkenazi Jewish, experiences the world. Strikingly personal in its intimacies, this World Premiere is a timely, poetic reckoning with joy and pain woven through deepest love.

The cast features returning actors and new talents to Olney Theatre. Billie Krishawn is Alaia, a poet with a vivid imagination who often uses her art to escape from the pressures of life. Playwright and actor Dani Stoller (The Thanksgiving Play) joins the cast as Shiri, a stubborn over-thinker with good intentions. She is head-over-heels in love with Alaia. Michael Russotto (The Amateurs) is Martin, Shiri’s dad and a kind-hearted yet slightly intense individual. Martin is proud of his Jewish heritage and is eager to share his wisdom with others. Susan Rome (The Diary of Anne Frank) is Nancy, Shiri’s step-mother, a talkative and “well-intentioned” woman. She may have taken an interest in drugs during the 60s. Bru Ajueyitsi is Alaia’s brother Ezekiel, a free spirited responsible young man who is the peace-maker and jokester of the family. Lolita Marie (The Royale) is Alaia’s Ma, a religious woman who is a little stuck-in-her-ways and handles difficult situations in the way she knows how. James J. Johnson (The Royale) is Beau. Alaia’s step-father, an individual of few words who is not always able to express his feelings. 

The creative team features Scenic Design by Misha Kachman, Costume Design by Danielle Preston, Lighting Design by Alberto Segarra, Sound Design by Matthew Nielson, Stage Managed by Karen Currie.


Masks and proof of COVID vaccination are required at all Olney Theatre performances. Those under 12 who are not yet eligible for the COVID vaccine must be masked and accompanied by a vaccinated adult. However, The Joy That Carries You is recommended for ages 13+. At this time, we do not accept proof of a recent negative COVID test in lieu of vaccination. Visit for more information.

The Joy That Carries You
By Awa Sal Secka and Dani Stoller
Directed by Jason Loewith and Kevin McAllister
Begins: May 11, 2022
Invited Press Opening:
Sunday, May 15 at 1:45 pm
Runs until June 12, 2022

Regular performances are Wednesday-Saturday at 7:45 pm; matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 1:45 pm.
Audio described performance on Wednesday, May 25 at 7:45 pm Sign interpreted performance on Thursday, June 2 at 7:45 pm

Tickets begin at $54. Discounts available for groups, seniors, active military and students. Purchase via or 301-924-3400

Special Events

Opening Night Conversation With co-directors Jason Loewith and Kevin McAllister, and playwright Dani Stoller
Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab Saturday, May 14, 2022 at 5:00 pm
free for members/$10 general public

Prior to opening night, co-directors Jason Loewith and Kevin McAllister sit down with one of the playwrights, Dani Stoller, to talk about the process of creating their new play.

Black-Jewish Relations: History, Controversy, and Allyship
Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab
Sunday, May 22, 2022 at 4:00 pm
Free with RSVP

The Joy that Carries You examines the radical (and not so radical) differences in privilege and experiences of its two queer protagonists, an African-American woman named Alaia and an Ashkenazi Jewish-American woman named Shiri. The fault-lines in their relationship echo fault-lines in contemporary Black-Jewish community relations, which demand investigation in the wake of our country’s racial reckoning and its rising anti Semitism. Join expert panelists Meredith R. Weisel, Regional Director, Anti Defamation League, James Stove, Director of Montgomery County Human Rights Commission and others as they consider how the longstanding allyship between Blacks and Jews has been tested in recent American history.

Spoken Word Workshop with Simply Sherri
in the Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab Lobby
Saturday, June 4th 2022 at 4:30 pm
Free with RSVP

Simply Sherri is well known for her love and erotic writing, but is unafraid to examine the totality of a black woman’s life, poetically illuminating subjects such as depression, misogyny and abuse, and surviving the political climate. Knowing how important it is to connect and share with young people, she has conducted workshops for DC Scores. She has also volunteered with DewMore Baltimore, becoming a “poetry auntie” to many.


Olney Theatre Center for the Arts produces and curates theatrical performance for the diverse audiences in our community, and educates, learns from, supports and inspires a more inclusive generation of theater-makers.

We strive to become an arts and culture powerhouse, redefining the American regional theater movement by cultivating and sharing the creativity of our community.

Founded in 1938 as a summer playhouse, Olney Theatre Center (OTC) now produces year-round world and American premieres of plays and musicals, and reimaginings of familiar titles; presents the work of leading companies; tours nationally and locally; teaches students of all ages; and mentors the next generation of theatremakers. For more than 8 decades, OTC has brought impactful theater performance and education to our community, helping to grow the vibrancy and vitality of our home in central Maryland.

Over the years, some of the biggest names in theater and film have appeared on our stages, including Tallulah Bankhead, Helen Hayes, Jessica Tandy, Hume Cronyn, Bob Fosse, Phillip Bosco, Eve Arden, Eva Gabor, Burl Ives, Jose Ferrer, Carol Channing, Olivia d’Havilland, Tony Randall, Paulette Goddard, Dorothy and Lillian Gish, Jane Seymour, Anne Revere, Frances Sternhagen, Arthur Treacher, James Broderick, Olympia Dukakis, Sir Ian McKellen, Marica Gay Harden, John Colicos, Uzo Aduba, Alan Cumming, Cheyenne Jackson, Robin de Jesus, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, among many, many others.

Olney Theatre is now the cultural anchor of a rapidly changing region and serves one of the most diverse, best educated, and wealthiest counties in the country. Situated on the unceded land of the Picataway-Conoy people, the Olney area was once a rural farming community with a unique Quaker heritage. Now the area is occupied by every kind of family that makes up 21st Century America, along with major corporations, shopping districts, civic associations, non profit organizations and a diverse collection of houses of worship. Montgomery County’s 1 million residents play a dynamic role in the Baltimore-Washington corridor, and is a driving force behind the region’s creative economy.

As of September 2021, Olney Theatre Center employed 40 full time staff, 20 part-time positions, 26 early career apprentices and players, and more than 400 professional artists. The Theatre intends to continue expanding to better meet the needs of our community.

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