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ITHACA, NY: Due to sold-out houses and popular demand, the Kitchen Theatre Company's presentation of Michelle Courtney Berry's LABOR has been extended for one additional performance on Sunday, June 18 at 4:00 PM. Tickets are now available at the Ticket Center located in the Historic Clinton House, by calling 607-273-4497 or online at Those unable to get tickets to Berry's completely sold-out run now have an opportunity to see her engaging performance.

The Kitchen Theatre Company's alternative series, KITCHEN COUNTER CULTURE concludes its 2005-06 season with Labor on Sunday, June 18 at 4:00 PM. Ithaca powerhouse Michelle Courtney Berry-actor, poet, teacher, city councilwoman, Tompkins County Poet Laureate, and more-transports us from the cotton fields of North Carolina to a steamy Manhattan apartment, from New Orleans, where an unsung hero rescues Katrina victims, to the Catskills, where Berry's father builds a log cabin with his own hands. Berry brings to life her many characters through the work they do, from the labor of building a house to the labor of childbirth. This one-woman play serves as both the launch and close of the Kitchen's currently running New Play Festival that features three new pieces by local playwrights T. Paul McCabe, George Sapio and Marie Sirakos.

In Labor, we hear the voices of mothers and sons, fathers and daughters, grandmothers and grandfathers, and other laborers who, says the playwright, "reveal their sweet longings. Whether hating or praying, fighting, dying, or giving birth, they gasp a rough hallelujah in their desire to be known." Labor shares stories meant to inspire and engage audiences in a conversation of how the work of "ordinary" hands and people makes us all holy. Labor also speaks politically, to the abuses waged upon the underclass, the working class, and the struggles of those trying to "rise" to middle class. It's a piece about the politics of skin, the politics of labor, the oppression of men and women, and the ways they seek to change, accept, or deny their circumstances.

Directed by Robert Anthony Hubbell, Berry's performance features song, comedy, music, dance, and of course, poetry. "May you be entranced by the sound of a rumbling train coming, the chain gang corn ditty and the Native ghosts clanking. May these voices do right by the ancestors and may they, as Ancestor Grandma Annie B. Whitley Williams Coppage always did: 'may they make the house holy'," says playwright/performer Michelle Courtney Berry. Berry dedicates her four performances of Labor to the memory of dearly departed ancestor-Sojourner-truth-seekers who devoted their entire lives to the eradication of racism and other 'isms,' that afflict our society: Rere Hassett and J. Diann Sams.

Audiences will have the opportunity to participate in a talkback with the artist after each performance.

MICHELLE COURTNEY BERRY, artist, author, vocalist, and playwright, was named the 2005 Poet Laureate of Tompkins County and unanimously reappointed to serve another one-year term in 2006. She has received grants from the Pew Civic Change Foundation, Poets & Writers, and a CAP award for fiction. She holds a Master's Degree in Communication from Cornell University and a BA degree in English and Political Science from Harpur College at Binghamton University. She is currently an Assistant Professor at the Park School of Communications at Ithaca College and on summer faculty at Cornell. Michelle's one-woman show, The Month of Not Speaking, toured regionally and received rave reviews at the Geneva Summer Arts Festival, after its sold-out world-premiere debut at the Kitchen Theatre Company in 2003. Previously, she appeared at the Hangar Theatre as Claire in Proof and opened for legendary greats Maya Angelou, Howard Zinn, Amiri Baraka, Father Dan Berrigan, Gayle Danley, and others. Her rendition of the September 11 poem she performed (Love Letter to Dr. King) received a standing ovation from audience members at the legendary Nuyorican Poets Café in New York City. An alumna and fellow of the Cave Canem Poetry Collective and the Breadloaf Writer's Retreat she was ranked 16th in the nation at the 2003 National Slam Poetry Festival in Seattle and has been the grand slam poetry champion of Ithaca in that same year. She has performed to thousands in school auditoriums, on college campuses, in dimly lit cafes, in adult homes and detention centers, within migrant farmer camps, and in coffeehouses throughout the nation. In early 2006, she opened the acclaimed Light in Winter Festival, in which she wrote and performed an original ballad about Hurricane Katrina with extraordinary musicians Fe Nunn and Chris White. Previous collaborations include jazz, blues, and avant-garde work with internationally acclaimed cellist Hank Roberts, percussionist Jhakeem Haltom, and guitarist Jake Roberts. As a Cave Canem fellow, Michelle studied poetry with Lucille Clifton, Sekou Sundiata, Cornelius Eady, Toi Derricotte, Sonia Sanchez, and Nikky Finney. Her work has been published by The University of Michigan Press, Random House, Cokefish, Cave Canem, NV Magazine, Gannett newspapers, Roberson Museum, Paterson Literary Review, nocturnes (re)view of the literary arts, Obsidian II, and elsewhere. Michelle has received grants from the Pew Foundation, The Community Arts Partnership (CAP) for Fiction, and from Poets & Writers Magazine. She holds a dual bachelor's degree in English and Political Science from Binghamton University and a master's degree in Communication from Cornell University. She has attended the prestigious Cave Canem Poetry Retreat in Esopus, NY, the Breadloaf Writers' Conference in Vermont, and the Hurston-Wright Foundation Writers' Retreat in Moraga, California. Michelle plans to tour with Labor throughout the U.S. and abroad.

Kitchen Theatre Company's KITCHEN COUNTER CULTURE series brings Central New York the cutting-edge, outside-the-box, bold, uncensored work of writer/performers who are fearless in their convictions and daring in their presentations. The series celebrates new voices and diverse approaches to the act of performance with artists who are breaking rules and breaking new ground. The series opened with LA-based artists Le Van D. Hawkins and Alexander Thomas' Black Stuff, followed by the tour-de-force solo play My Life in the Trenches by Jill Dalton, and Wonder Woman the musical by lesbian-feminist Elizabeth Whitney. Alice Eve Cohen, whose performance pieces for families delight, charm and surprise, returned with The Parrot. This series is funded by New York State Council on the Arts and sponsored by Foster Custom Kitchens and The Jewelbox.

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