From the moment it was announced that Chicken & Biscuits would be moving to Broadway, social media has been ablaze. After a highly praised run at Queens Theatre in 2020, cut short by the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the new comedic play written by Douglas Lyons will open at Circle in the Square Theatre this fall. Before it even opens, the play has already made Broadway history: Lyons is one of seven Black playwrights with productions this season, and director Zhailon Levingston becomes the youngest Black director in Broadway history, at 27 years old. Chicken & Biscuits stars Broadway veterans Norm Lewis and Michael Urie, and making her Broadway debut is Deadwood actress Cleo King. The play, which follows the Jenkins family and a reunion that begins to unravel when a family secret is revealed at the patriarch’s funeral service, features largely Black creative and producing teams and cast — 18 of which are making their Broadway debuts. “Something that I love that Jonathan Larson did with Rent is introduce Broadway to a new generation of talent,” Lyons said. “I think Chicken & Biscuits is going to do just that.”
We caught up with Lyons, Lewis, and Urie to discuss the importance of this show, reopening Broadway in a historic way, and whether chicken and biscuits will actually be served.
Chicken & Biscuits is already making history before it even officially opens on Broadway. How does it feel to be part of this monumental production?
Douglas Lyons: Because my background is in acting first, I always knew that, if given the opportunity, I would want to showcase and amplify other really unique and talented people with my work. Part of what Zhailon and I were looking for in the casting process were what we called unicorns. I, specifically, like to find “the newcomer.” This production is for the culture, it’s for the new talent, it’s for the laughter, the joy, and the healing.
Norm Lewis: I am beyond thrilled to know that I will be a small part of this new landscape of theater that is highlighting diversity of culture and storytelling — and on Broadway in particular. The fact that such a young Black director has earned this opportunity is inspiring. It is always a thrill to relive that special moment through the eyes of someone making their Broadway debut. Having 18 Black artists [making their debuts] makes it that much more special for me, because I feel there will be more opportunities on the horizon. I pray that this is just the beginning of new works from writers and creators of all backgrounds.
Michael Urie: I couldn’t be happier! I feel very fortunate to have a spot in this season. This fall of seven plays by Black writers is so exciting and thrilling. It has the opportunity to create synergy, to bring audiences back and cultivate new audiences, and reopen Broadway in a way that could only have been created by Broadway shutting down. By that I mean we shut down and we all looked inward. We all had the time to look around our own house, to see what was working and what wasn’t. This incredible crop of artists making Broadway debuts, beloved playwrights getting new opportunities, and introducing plays that have never been on Broadway, is changing the landscape for the better. The entire creative team is people of color and, I mean, 18 Broadway debuts! When’s the last time you heard that?
Douglas, take us to the exact moment when you said, “OK, I’m going to write a comedic play that centers on a Black family.” Give us an idea of what you were going through, or what inspired you.
DL: The original idea of Chicken & Biscuits dealt with a queer couple and how much homophobia and the Black family sometimes rub up against each other. Then I had my own family experience — when we buried my uncle — that provided the spark for the play. Chicken & Biscuits became a culmination of different stories and personalities from my family. My mother is one of seven, my father’s one of eight. I’m an only child, technically, but have always been surrounded by lots of cousins, and uncles, and aunts — and a lot of Black women, and they all are spicy and funny. Once I figured out my pen, and that I had the ability to highlight and give nuance, love, and space to Black women — which is not always allowed — and do that with joy, I was like, Oh, that’s a wrap.
What was your favorite thing about writing this show?
DL: I am still refining it as we speak because I’m a maniac. However, my favorite part is that I get to be as silly as I want to, authentically, in my own voice. There’s a certain nuance to a Black person in a Black church — things are said, things happen that you laugh at, and you don’t think twice about it. In the theater, I’m able to put it on display as comedy. The ability to be authentic is actually the most exciting thing.
Norm and Michael, why is Chicken & Biscuits the first Broadway production post-shutdown that you chose to be a part of?
NL: I am the one who is blessed because, actually, the show chose me. I have known Douglas for a bit now, and I’ve worked with him on another masterpiece that he has created. The past couple of years he kept telling me about this project and that he would like for me to be a part of it. We could never get the timing right until now, and I am so grateful we have.
MU: I’m a coproducer of this queer theater festival called Pride Plays. I first got to know Douglas through a musical that he wrote that we were going to do in Pride Plays in 2020, before the shutdown. When he reached out to do a virtual reading of Chicken & Biscuits at the beginning of this year, I read one scene of the script and was laughing my ass off. I didn’t even have to finish reading the script: I was just so happy to be laughing. So I said, “Yes, I am in.” I wanted to do this play on Broadway the minute I read it, because it’s totally hilarious, and extremely moving. It goes from side-splitting laughter to lump-in-your-throat emotion on a dime. I’m doing it because it is a play about family, and it’s filled with surprises, and it’s the kind of thing that we should have in a theatre. We should have something that’s going to delight and surprise audiences when we come back.
Douglas, your play centers on the Black church. For many in the Broadway audience, this is going to be their first encounter with an that culture and its many traditions. Is this play going to really take us there?
DL: Oh, there’s a full sermon! This play is meant to make the audience feel like a part of this family. It’s a proper service. When the audience first arrives, they will be met with gospel music. They will see the cast getting ready to go into the funeral. They will see them talking about losing a grandparent. They will see the grief, and the joy, and the beauty. We’re using the church to do what we do in a Broadway space. It’s why people have latched on to this show. They are not made to feel uncomfortable, they feel welcomed — as you should feel when you go to a service in a Black church.
Norm, you play the pastor, Reginald. Are there any pastors you drew inspiration from, and how do you connect with this particular character?
NL: Reginald is a man who is trying to keep the peace within his own household and yet showing his vulnerability by wanting to be the best he can be when he steps into what is considered to be some big shoes. I come from a church background. My father was the chairman of the Deacon Board, and my grandfather Reverand Orell Lewis was a preacher. I can also say the two pastors that I grew up with, Reverand P.L. Lias and Reverand Willie C. Barnes, were definitely major influences in my spiritual journey as a child and young adult. I will be invoking their spirits every night and bringing as much of my “Black Baptist” Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church experience as I can.
Michael, you play Logan, the character who is sort of the outsider of this Black family. How do you connect with this character?
MU: Logan is a fish out of water in this situation. I think anyone watching, whether they’re used to being in families like this or not, would relate to Logan as the outsider joining a new family — I know I do! One of Logan’s lines is “I’m Jewish and I haven’t even been to a synagogue, much less a church,” so to spend a day in a church with a churchgoing family is different. He’s also this white guy dating a Black man, and being brought into this space he’s never been to. He’s just going so far in. I remember the first time I went to church with my partner’s family — I was very nervous. All I could think was, “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know the rules. I don’t know the traditions. I don’t know when to stand, or when to kneel.” The way Logan deals with being in church is hilarious, and at times very sweet.
After the year and a half we’ve had, why is Chicken & Biscuits the show people need to see now that Broadway is reopening?
NL: This has definitely been a very challenging year — socially, politically, spiritually, emotionally, and too many more lys to name. Chicken & Biscuits is a fun escape that many people will be able to relate to, no matter what your background. You will immediately see someone who reminds you of a family member or friend who is in your world. And in the middle of all the chaos, there is hope and resolve. You will definitely leave the theatre with a smile on your face.
MU: Broadway needs Chicken & Biscuits because this play is about family, warts and all. Broadway needs to remember that it’s a family, warts and all. I think that’s why this year of being shut down and looking inward is going to make Broadway better. I believe in it, because I believe that Broadway intends to be, and can be, a fair and equitable place. This play will help remind us all that we’re in this together, and that we don’t have to be the same to be in a family. We don’t have to agree to be in a family, but we do have to support each other in a family. This play really does that. You’ll go from laughing hysterically to nearly crying within seconds, watching this play. That, to me, makes our play so special.
DL: If you’ve lost someone, if you loved someone, if you need to laugh, if you just need to be in space and in communion with other people, this is the play for you.
Finally, the people want to know, will chicken and biscuits actually be served?
DL: It’s definitely something that we’ve discussed! Zhailon and I are dreaming up possibilities. We are aware of the chatter, and we’re listening!
Information We Collect
Information we collect directly from you: Your provision of your personal information to Us is completely voluntary; it is not a statutory or contractual requirement. Personally Identifiable Information (“PII”) is information that is uniquely identifiable to you, such as your name, address, email address, phone number, credit card number and other personal information that is not otherwise publicly available. Certain features of Our website may require that you provide Us with your personal information, including:
Mobile Alert Sign-Up (SMS)
Contact Us (email)
Public forums (e.g. message boards)
E-commerce (ticket purchases)
Your use of any of the features above;
New content on Our website;
News that We think may interest you about Us;
Responses to your questions/comments to us; and
Information relating to a ticket purchase.
We may use your demographic information for in house statistics, advertising and marketing target information. Our processing of your personal information is necessary for the performance and fulfillment of the contract between us and to provide you with Our services. We will also process, transfer, disclose and preserve personal information when We have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary, to resolve disputes, enforce our agreements and otherwise required by law. You can always opt-out of receiving future promotional communications from Us; see the Choice/Opt-out section below.Information We Collect Automatically: Even if you don’t use any of the features above, when you visit Our website, We may collect certain information about you.
From your Browser. For example, Our servers keep an activity log that tracks all visitors to the website. The information in the activity log does not identify you individually. The information collected may include among other data: your IP address, your registered domain or home server, time of access, date of access, web page(s) visited, number of clicks, software crash reports, type of browser used, session identification number, search terms, search results, access times and referring website’s address. We use your IP address to help diagnose problems with Our server and to administer Our website. Your IP address is also used to gather broad demographic information, such as country of origin and geographic location. We use such data in the aggregate to run internal analyses to improve upon your experience on Our website.
Tracking Tags (also known as “web beacons,” “action tags” or “single-pixel gifs”). Our website may also use tracking tags. Tracking tags are invisible graphics embedded in the pages of Our website that are programmed to collect non-personal information about your use of Our website. Like cookies, tracking tags provide overall usage patterns for Our website that We use for analysis and to provide personalized services and advertising content.
We comply with the Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising set forth by the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA). You can opt-out of targeted advertising from certain providers at www.aboutads.info/consumers.
How We Use Your Personal Information
The personal information We collect allows Us to keep you posted on updates to Broadway Direct. It also helps Us to improve Our services, content, and advertising. If you don’t want to be on Our email list, you can opt out anytime by clicking the “unsubscribe” button or sending an unsubscribe email to [email protected]. From time to time, We may use your personal information to send transactional emails, such as communications about purchases and changes to Our terms, conditions, and policies. Because this information is important to your interaction with Broadway Direct, you may not opt out of receiving these communications. We may also use personal information for internal purposes such as auditing, data analysis, and research to improve Broadway Direct’s services, and customer communications. If you enter into a sweepstakes, contest, or similar promotion We may use the information you provide to administer those programs.
Information Collected By/Shared With Third Parties
Third Parties Doing Work for Us. Third parties have no rights to use any data We have collected on your behalf. However, We may employ other companies or individuals to perform functions on Our behalf, such as sending postal mail, email, and text messages, conducting sweepstakes/contests, prize fulfillment and promotional activities, analyzing data, providing marketing assistance, processing credit card payments and providing customer service. These outside suppliers, agents and vendors have access to your personal information only as needed to perform their functions.
Third Parties with Links from Our Website. From our website, you may be able to click on links to third party sites to buy tickets and merchandise and for other purposes. These third party sites may collect information, including personal information. We are not responsible for, nor do we have access to the information they collect. The collection of this information is governed by the privacy policies on the applicable third party sites.
Social Networking Services. Our website may integrate with social networking services. We do not control such services and are not liable for the manner in which they operate. While we may provide you with the ability to use such services in connection with our website, we are doing so merely as an accommodation and, like you, are relying upon those third party services to operate properly and fairly.
When necessary. We may also release personal information when we believe, in good faith, that such release is reasonably necessary to protect the rights, property or safety of Ourselves, Our clients, Our users, or others. We may disclose personal information about you to law enforcement, other government officials, or other third parties, as We, in our sole discretion, believe necessary or appropriate, in connection with an investigation of fraud, intellectual property infringement, or other activity that is illegal or may expose Us to legal liability.
Transactions With Third Party E-commerce Partners, Vendors and Advertisers
Delivery of Advertising and Other Content
In addition to ads and content that We may serve you directly, We use third-party advertising companies and marketing services companies to serve ads and other content when you visit Broadway Direct and elsewhere on the internet and in other media. Both We and these companies may use information about your visits to Broadway Direct and elsewhere to serve ads and other content to you. In the course of doing so, a unique third-party cookie may be placed or recognized on your browser by such companies. In addition, We and these companies may use Web beacons to help manage Our online advertising and content. These Web beacons enable Us and the third-party companies to recognize a browser’s cookie when a browser visits this Site and to learn which banner ads bring users to our website and to serve you ads that you may find of interest elsewhere on the internet and in other media. Both Broadway Direct and these companies may use information obtained from your visits to Broadway Direct or other websites, and information received from you offline in order to provide advertisements about goods and services and other content of interest to you across the internet and in other media. If you would like more information about this practice and to know your choices about not having this information used in this manner by Our third party advertising companies, please visit http://www.networkadvertising.org/optout_nonppii.asp and/or www.aboutads.info/choices. European users may opt out of receiving targeted advertising by visiting http://www.youronlinechoices.eu/. In addition, we may provide PII and Anonymous Information to marketing services companies. This may include information we received from you offline or online. These companies may combine information we provide (including PII and Anonymous Information) with personal and anonymous information they may have about you, using cookies they place or that We place on their behalf, as described in the section regarding “Cookies and Tracking Tags”. We require these companies to delete the PII we provide them. These companies may use the resulting non-personal information and such cookies for their own marketing purposes, and they may provide the same to their customers for their customer’s marketing purposes. Some of Our emails may contain tags that allow Us and Our advertisers and other partners to determine the types of content that may be of interest to you. Those tags may contain PII and may be shared with others to the same extent indicated in the section regarding “Cookies and Tracking Tags”. Those tags may not be deleted but you can opt out of receiving the emails.
Use of This Site by Children
The Site is not directed to individuals under the age of thirteen (13), and We request that such individuals do not provide personal information through the Site. If a parent or guardian becomes aware that his or her child has provided Us with PII without the parent or guardian’s consent by, for example, misrepresenting his or her age, that parent or guardian should contact us at [email protected]. If Broadway Direct determines that it has collected personal information of children under the age of 13, Broadway Direct will immediately delete such information and any accounts believed to be held by children under 13. In addition, we may not collect or process information from a citizen of an EU member state under the age of sixteen (16) without such person’s parental consent. If you are a citizen of an EU member state under the age of 16, please tell your parents that you are using the Site and have your parents email Us at [email protected] so that We may delete any information We may have collected about you.
California Civil Code § 1798.83 permits California residents to request information about whether we have disclosed personal information to any third parties for the third parties’ direct marketing purposes. California residents have the right to request in writing: (a) a list of the categories of Personal Information, such as name, email address and mailing address and the type of services provided to the customer that a business has disclosed to third parties (including affiliates that are separate legal entities) during the immediately preceding calendar year for the third parties’ direct marketing purposes and (b) the names and addresses of all such third parties. To make a request, please contact Us at the following email address: [email protected].
Rights of EU Data Subjects
If you are a resident of the European Union, under the GDPR, European Union residents, as data subjects, have the following rights:
Right to access – This right allows individuals to obtain confirmation as to whether or not personal information concerning him or her is being processed and provide access to such personal information. It also allows individuals to request details of the processing of his or her personal information, including, without limitation, categories of recipients to whom the personal information have been or will be disclosed and purposes of processing.
Right to rectify – This right allows individuals to rectify any inaccurate personal information about him or her.
Right to restrict processing – This right allows individuals to block or suppress processing of personal data under certain circumstances.
Right to be forgotten – This right is also known as the “right to erasure”. It is an individual’s right to have personal data erased or to prevent processing in specific circumstances.
Right of data portability – This right allows individuals to move, copy or transfer personal data from one place to another in a secure manner without interrupting the integrity and usability of the information.
Right to object to processing – This right allows individuals to object to certain types of processing, including direct marketing, profiling and providing for purposes of scientific or historical research and statistics.
An EU resident has the right to access his or her personal data that We hold and to ask that their personal data be corrected or erased and to port their data. An EU resident may also have the right to object to, or request that We restrict certain processing or to withdraw consent previously provided. If you would like to exercise your rights under the GDPR, please contact us at [email protected]. If you are an EU resident and have a concern about our processing of your personal data that we are not able to resolve, you have the right to lodge a complaint with the Data Protection Authority where you reside. For contact details of your relevant local Data Protection Authority, please see http://ec.europa.eu/newsroom/article29/item-detail.cfm?item_id=612080
Security of Your Personal Information
Broadway Direct employs reasonable security measures consistent with standard industry practice, for personal information collected through this Site, including physical, electronic and operational measures to maintain security and prevent unauthorized access. While Broadway Direct takes all appropriate steps to safeguard personal information under Our control, unfortunately, no data transmission over the Internet or method of storing data can be guaranteed to be 100% secure. As such, We cannot guarantee that personal information supplied by users will not be accessed on Our servers, or intercepted while being transmitted to Us over the Internet. We assume no liability for any damages you may suffer as a result of interception, alteration or misuse of information during such transfers.
We will retain your information for as long as your account or inquiry is active and for a reasonable time thereafter in accordance with Our standard procedures or as necessary to comply with Our legal obligations, to resolve disputes, and to enforce Our agreements. Even if We delete some or all of your Personal Information, We may continue to retain and use aggregate or anonymous data previously collected and/or anonymize or aggregate your Personal Information. Please note that We will not be liable for disclosures of your data due to errors or unauthorized acts of third parties.
This Site provides users the opportunity to opt-out of receiving communications from Us, at any time, by email at [email protected], or by clicking the unsubscribe link in any email communication. The Site gives users the following options for removing their information from our database, to not receive future communications or to no longer receive our service, at any time.
Users can send mail to the following postal address: Broadway Direct 1501 Broadway 14th floor New York, NY 10036
Users can call the following telephone number: (800) 223-6715.
Users can opt-out of receiving future newsletter emails from Us by selecting the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of our email. However, We are not responsible for removing your information from the lists of any third party who has previously been provided with your information or is collecting your information through their cookies. You have the right to withdraw your consent for Our processing for your personal information by contacting us at [email protected].
This website gives users the following options for changing and modifying information previously provided, at any time.
Users can send mail to the following postal address: Broadway Direct 1501 Broadway 14th floor New York, NY 10036
Users can call the following telephone number: (800) 223-6715
In the event that We are, or any component of our operations is, merged with, or is acquired by, another entity, then any such successor or acquiring entity may become the successor to Our obligations with respect to the personal information that you have provided to Us, which would be necessary for the entity to effectively continue our business. By using this website, you consent to any transfer and use of such personal information by an entity assuming control of Our operations as a result of a merger, purchase of assets, or liquidation in bankruptcy or insolvency.