Playwright’s Personal Experiences Part of Hudson Stage Production

Playwright Joshua Allen, left, who wrote “The October Storm,” which will be presented by Hudson Stage for nine performances starting this weekend at Whippoorwill Hall in Armonk. Cezar Williams is directing the show.

Playwright Joshua Allen relies on his experiences of growing up in an apartment building on the South Side of Chicago for a thoughtful, yet humorous look at the characters who call it home.

“The October Storm,” which will be presented by Hudson Stage over the next three weekends at Whippoorwill Hall in Armonk, is actually part of a trilogy of plays that Allen wrote that focuses on his own family and other families who came northward during The Great Migration, where millions of Black families escaped the Jim Crow South to cities in the north from World War I until about 1970.

Allen, a fourth-generation Chicagoan, said many of his descendants were part of The Great Migration.

“I’ve always been fascinated by it,” said Allen, who has also directed “In Treatment” on HBO and “From Scratch” on Netflix. “We don’t have a whole lot in my family. We don’t have a whole lot in terms of diaries and first-hand accounts, and things like that, to have the kind of stuff that you can find on ancestry.com. So I would let my imagination go and see where it took me and where it led me.”

The trilogy takes place on different floors of the building, and there are some glancing references to characters between the different plays. In “The October Storm,” which takes place in the early 1960s, a troubled war veteran moves in and other residents become caught in an emotional whirlwind that threatens to change their lives forever.

Directing the play is Greenburgh native and current Yonkers resident Cezar Williams, who said he is thrilled to be back in the theater after about a year-and-a-half of live performances being shelved. “The October Storm” is an excellent choice to resume live theater, he said.

Having grown up in an apartment building as well, Williams said Allen’s story reminds him of many of his neighbors as well.

“The play has been a joy, it’s an incredibly enjoyable play to participate in,” said Williams said. “It’s funny, the people are relatable and humorous and it’s just a good time. It’s a lot of fun. We spent a lot of time rehearsing, so that’s always a good sign.”

Neither Allen nor Williams thought much about a career in theater and television growing up. While Allen always loved to write, he was a pre-med student at USC when he realized that he wasn’t as strong in many of the more difficult science courses that are needed to become a doctor, at least compared to high school.

Instead, he had friends who were theater majors and decided to go in that direction. He moved to New York for five years and enrolled in the playwright program at Juilliard, which put him in contact with impressively talented people.

Allen moved back to Los Angeles about 10 years ago to also write for television.

“Writing is a more solitary process, which I like, but you collaborate, which is why I love working in theater, you get both,” he said. “You get to be by yourself at the desk and work your things out and write it and you get to invite other people to collaborate with you. I love both of them equally.”

For Williams, who has had acting credits on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” “The Hudson Tribes” and “Shades of Blue,” music was his passion growing up. But he switched to the theater while attending NYU as a business major after being disillusioned with what he described as drama in the recording industry.

Williams’ wife also writes plays, and she asked him to direct one of her works, which he did and that sparked his interest in directing. He is the artistic director of The Fire This Time Festival and directed an off-Broadway production of “Dancing on Eggshells.”

Hudson Stage will present nine performances of “The October Storm” starting this Friday evening at 8 p.m. There will also be performances on Oct. 9, 15, 16, 22 and 23 at 8 p.m. and matinees on Oct. 10, 17 and 23 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $40; $35 for students and seniors. Student tickets are $10 within 30 minutes of a performance, if available.

For more information and tickets, call 914-271-2811 or visit www.hudsonstage.com.

All audience members must show proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test at the door to gain admittance.

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