Long Wharf Theatre Names Jacob G. Padrón Artistic Director

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jacob G. Padrón, 38, has been named the new Artistic Director of Long Wharf Theatre and will begin his role February 1, 2019.

“Long Wharf Theatre is one of the most important companies in the American theatre. I am overjoyed to join the board, staff, and New Haven community as we embark on new journey and aim to build a boundary breaking future together ” Padrón said.

The Board of Trustees unanimously voted in favor of Padrón at a meeting Tuesday night, completing a lengthy and competitive executive search process guided by Arts Consulting Group. The board received over 160 applications from individuals interested in becoming the institution’s fifth artistic director.

“Jacob Padrón is the future of American theatre. He represents an exciting new generation of theatre leaders – people who are humble, creative, curious, dynamic – and who have an ear for the fresh voices and ideas that make live theatre so relevant and necessary,” said Laura Pappano, chair of the Board of Trustees. “He comes to Long Wharf Theatre at an ideal moment as we refresh and reset the theatre for a new era, one that respects the past but also seizes on the role theatre can have in public life. Jacob accentuates all the best things Long Wharf has always stood for, including a passion for new work, and a dedication to nurturing talent. While, of course, bringing our audiences compelling, high quality theatre (and a first peek at tomorrow’s stars).”

Padrón combines extensive industry experience – posts at The Public Theater, Steppenwolf Theatre and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival – with a vision for what’s possible and what’s next. In 2016, he founded The Sol Project, a national theatre initiative that showcases Latinx playwrights and artists of color through collaborative partnerships with leading theaters in New York and across the country, most recently with Yale Rep (EL HURACÁN).

“The board has made a perfect choice. Jacob is the total package. He will continue to make Long Wharf an artistic home for the country’s most exciting theatre artists. By living here, he will be attuned to the tastes and interests of our community. Also, he is a kind, generous, and thoughtful individual, who will make a terrific partner and leader. I am greatly looking forward to our work in the coming years,” said Managing Director Joshua Borenstein.

Padrón is an artistic producer by training, making his background different than Long Wharf Theatre’s previous artistic leaders, who were all directors. Through The Sol Project, Padrón has championed the work of Hilary Bettis (Alligator), Martín Zimmerman (Seven Spots on the Sun), Luis Alfaro (Oedipus El Rey), and Charise Castro Smith (El Huracán). At Steppenwolf and Public Theater he supported new work by Tarell Alvin McCraney (Head of Passes), Ike Holter (Hit the Wall), Janine Nabers (Annie Bosh is Missing), Edith Freni (Buena Vista), A. Zell Williams (The Urban Retreat), Mary Kathryn Nagle (Manahatta), Universes (Party People), Stew & Heidi Rodewald (The Total Bent), Tracey Scott Wilson (Buzzer), Lemon Andersen (Toast), and Suzan-Lori Parks (Father Comes Home from the Wars, Parts 1, 2 and 3)among many others.

In addition to his consistently high level of artistic achievement, Padrón prides himself as a theatrical generalist, someone who is as comfortable reviewing a budget or a marketing plan as he is giving notes to artists and reading scripts.

“The American theater has a powerful promise to deliver on: it can be a space to hold all our stories. But we, the theater makers, are the architects of fulfilling that promise and I feel blessed to continue this work at Long Wharf,” Padrón said. “I am committed to supporting stories that are in conversation with the world – stories that are brave, inclusive, intersectional, and reflect the glorious kaleidoscope of our city and our country.”

Upon graduating from Loyola Marymount University in 2003, Padrón spent time volunteering with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, providing care for those living with HIV/AIDS in North Carolina. He thought for a time that he might pursue a career in social work. “On its best days, theater is social work – a catalyzing force that can do good in the world,” he said. “Our stages must illuminate our shared joys and struggles as we work in community and create the path towards liberation and imagine the impossible for our artform. I have a life in the theater because of El Teatro Campensino, a company that taught me that we must dream today, dream tomorrow, and keep using the American theater for our very best days ahead.”

Some of the most innovative theatre artists in North America praised Padrón’s appointment.

“Jacob Padrón is one of the most dedicated, passionate, articulate, and thoughtful leaders in our field. He creates theater that is an invitation to see one another and to be seen.  Working with him has changed the way I approach making space for artists and audiences of color and I know countless of other theater leaders and artists who he has similarly influenced. Long Wharf’s future is big, bold, and beautiful with Jacob Padrón as its new Artistic Director,” said Daniella Topol, artistic director of Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in New York City.

“As a vital part of the artistic team, Jacob helped launch my tenure at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. He will bring the same generosity of spirit, passionate commitment to diversity, and excellent taste to bear as artistic director of Long Wharf. His appointment is a thrilling development for greater New Haven, a community which I know and love dearly, as well as our national field,” said Bill Rauch, the artistic director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

“Hearing the news of Jacob’s appointment absolutely thrilled me. He is the kind of arts leader that will inspire many perspectives to come to the creative table. His work with The Sol Project was instrumental in me making my New York debut as a director. He is a brilliant mind who creates spaces where artists feel empowered to do their best work. I have no doubt he will make an incredibly positive impact on our theatre ecology in this role,” said Weyni Mengesha, Artistic Director of Soulpepper Theatre Company in Toronto, Canada.

For more information, visit longwharf.org or call 203-787-4282.

About Jacob G. Padrón

Padrón began his life in the theater with El Teatro Campesino in San Juan Bautista, California.

He is the Founder and Artistic Director of The Sol Project, a national theater initiative that works in partnership with leading theater companies to amplify the voices of Latinx playwrights and build artistic homes for artists of color in New York City and beyond. Under his leadership, The Sol Project cultivated a network of Off-Broadway and regional theaters committed to building a body of work by Latinx writers for the new American theater. Since its launch, The Sol Project has championed four writers with productions of their work: Hilary Bettis (Alligator), Martín Zimmerman (Seven Spots on the Sun), Luis Alfaro (Oedipus El Rey), and Charise Castro Smith (El Huracán). The Sol Project also launched a new summer play festival, SolFest, in partnership with Pregones Theater/Puerto Rican Traveling Theater.

Prior to The Sol Project, Padrón held senior-level artistic positions at theater companies across the country. He was the Senior Line Producer at The Public Theater where he worked on new plays, new musicals, Shakespeare in the Park, and Public Works. During his tenure at The Public he supported new work by Tarell Alvin McCraney (Head of Passes), Scott Z. Burns (The Library), A. Zell Williams (The Urban Retreat), Mary Kathryn Nagle (Manahatta), Universes (Party People), Stew & Heidi Rodewald (The Total Bent), Tracey Scott Wilson (Buzzer), Lemon Andersen (Toast), Richard Nelson (The Gabriels), Suzan-Lori Parks (Father Comes Home from the Wars, Parts 1, 2 and 3), Kwame Kwei-Armah and Shaina Taub (Twelfth Night), among many others.

Padrón was formerly the Producer at Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago where he oversaw the artistic programming in the Garage – Steppenwolf’s dedicated space for new work, new artists, and new audiences. From 2008 to 2011, he was an Associate Producer at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival where he was instrumental in producing all shows in the 11-play repertory. In addition, he was a part of the producing team that transferred OSF productions to Seattle Repertory Theatre, Arena Stage, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music (Next Wave Festival). In 2006, he was the producer of Suzan-Lori Parks’ 365 Days/365 Plays for Center Theatre Group, a collaboration that included 50 theaters to launch Festival 365 in Los Angeles.

He was an inaugural recipient of the SPARK Leadership Program administered by Theatre Communications Group (TCG) and has adjudicated on grant panels for TCG, Network of Ensemble Theaters, The Drama League, SDC Foundation, United States Artists, and American Theatre Wing.

Padrón was most recently on staff at WarnerMedia (HBO, Warner Bros., and Turner) where he helped lead the company’s philanthropy in theater and film. He is on the faculty at Yale School of Drama where he teaches artistic producing in the graduate theater management program. He also sits on the board of directors for People’s Theatre Project based in Washington Heights, NYC.

A graduate of Loyola Marymount University (BA) and Yale School of Drama (MFA), Padrón is a co-founder of Tilted Field Productions and the Artists’ Anti-Racism Coalition. He is an alumnus of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, a volunteer program committed to social justice around the world.

 

 

ABOUT LONG WHARF THEATRE

Long Wharf Theatre is an organization of international renown producing an annual season of six plays on its two stages, along with children’s programming, new play workshops and a variety of special events for an annual audience exceeding 60,000.

Under the watch of Arvin Brown and Edgar Rosenblum for over 30 years, Long Wharf Theatre established itself as an important force in the regional theatre movement. Under the current leadership of Artistic Director Jacob G. Padrón and Managing Director Joshua Borenstein, Long Wharf Theatre continues to be a leader in American theatre, revitalizing classic and modern plays for a contemporary audience, discovering new resonance in neglected works and premiering new plays by new voices that both investigate and celebrate the unique circumstances of our time.

Throughout its history, Long Wharf Theatre has created a unique home in New Haven for theatre artists from around the world, resulting in the transfer of more than 30 Long Wharf productions to Broadway or Off-Broadway, some of which include The Glass Menagerie, My Name is Asher Lev, Satchmo at the Waldorf, Wit (Pulitzer Prize), The Shadow Box (Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award/Best Play), Hughie, American Buffalo, Requiem for a Heavyweight, Quartermaine’s Terms (Obie Award/Best Play), The Gin Game (Pulitzer Prize), The Changing Room, The Contractor and Streamers.

Long Wharf Theatre has received New York Drama Critics Awards, Obie Awards, the Margo Jefferson Award for Production of New Works, a Special Citation from the Outer Critics Circle and the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre in 1978.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment.

Black Bottom and Paradise Valley:
 A Glorious History Cut Short

 

 

 

 

By Christine Scarfuto, Literary Manager

Dominique Morisseau’s Paradise Blue is set in the heart of Paradise Valley in Black Bottom—a thriving, predominantly black neighborhood that was once the epicenter of African American life and culture in Detroit. In the early part of the Twentieth Century, the city’s booming automobile industry attracted a flood of workers from around the country, and the African American population in the city exploded. Since Black Bottom was one of the few neighborhoods where African Americans were legally permitted to reside and own businesses, people flocked to the area to pursue a wealth of personal and professional opportunities. By the mid-1920s, Black Bottom contained over 350 African American-owned businesses, including hospitals, drug stores, shops, restaurants, nightclubs, bowling alleys, a movie theater, and the Gotham hotel, which was known as the best African American hotel in the world.

Paradise Valley was the central entertainment district of Black Bottom. It became a real mecca in the glory days of jazz, known for its significant contributions to American music. The number of nightclubs and theaters in Paradise Valley doubled in the post-Prohibition years, and as the city recovered from the Great Depression, it was the go-to place in Detroit to hear big band, jazz, and blues.

People from all over the city would gather in nightclubs and theaters to hear jazz greats such as Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Dinah Washington, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, and Ethel Waters perform.

However, institutionalized racism, discrimination, and poverty made life far from blissful in Black Bottom and Paradise Valley. Black Bottom contained some of the oldest architectural infrastructure in the city, and it began to deteriorate during the Great Depression. Simultaneously, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt passed the National Housing Act of 1934, which established the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), an agency designed to facilitate home financing and improve housing standards in the wake of the Great Depression. The FHA promised to provide guaranteed mortgages for low- and middle-income families. While the organization succeeded and was celebrated for making home ownership accessible for white people living in predominantly white neighborhoods, it refused to back housing loans to black people or to anyone living in or near a predominantly African American neighborhood. And so while the white neighborhoods and suburbs of Detroit were thriving with the help of government financing, home owners in Black Bottom and Paradise Valley were systematically prevented from getting loans to repair and rebuild rapidly deteriorating housing. Racial tensions in the city rose as overcrowding in the neighborhood worsened, until a riot broke out in June of 1943, killing 34 people and injuring 433.

Paradise Blue is set in 1949, the same year that President Harry Truman passed the Housing Act of 1949 as part of his Fair Deal legislation. The policy set aside federal financing for so-called “slum clearance” under the justification that outdated housing was a safety risk and therefore needed to be updated. Although the Act was supposed to ensure affordable housing through urban renewal projects, it often called for the demolishment of fractured neighborhoods and disproportionally affected African American and immigrant communities. The year 1949 also marked Albert Cobo’s divisive mayoral campaign in Detroit. Cobo promised to protect white neighborhoods from what he called the “negro invasion,” and to level the “slums” and sell that land to private developers. Paradise Blue is set in the months following Cobo’s election for mayor, when there was a real uncertainty in the air regarding what would happen to Paradise Valley. Cobo served as the mayor of Detroit from 1950-1957. On his watch, the most densely populated African American neighborhoods in Detroit—Black Bottom and Paradise Valley—were leveled to make way for Interstate 75 and Lafayette Park, a residential neighborhood. This “urban renewal project” wiped out 400 businesses and put 7,000 families out of their homes, and since more than 90 percent of the residents of Black Bottom were tenants, they were displaced with nowhere to go.

The federal and local policies of the 1940s and 50s had a massive effect on the city in the latter half of the Twentieth Century. Detroit lost over 60 percent of its population between 1950 and 2010, and the city has become notorious for its urban blight: over half of the residential lots in the city are abandoned today. But for the first time since the 1950s, Detroit is growing. As of 2017, the median household income is rising, criminal activity is decreasing by five percent annually, and the city’s blight removal project is well underway. In 2017, the New York Times pointed to a cultural and economic resurgence starting to happen in the city. Detroit’s current mayor, Mike Duggan, is doing everything he can to make sure the city champions inclusivity, diversity, and the hope of revitalization. Perhaps most significantly, Duggan publicly acknowledges that the choices the city’s administration made in the 1940s and 50s are at the root of the city’s problems today. Paradise Valley and Black Bottom may no longer exist, but hopefully a thorough understanding of their history will keep Detroit and other American cities from repeating the horrific actions of the past.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment.

An Interview with Playwright Jen Silverman

By LWT Literary Manager Christine Scarfuto

The Roommate navigates territory that we typically ascribe to college freshman and twentysomethings. You meet a relative stranger and have to negotiate the intimate, absurd territory of sharing a living space, from strange food in the pantry and odd boxes in the corner to determining what your relationship will be (Good friends? Acquaintances? Silent sharers of the kitchen in the wee hours?). It’s not a narrative we think of when we imagine divorced women in their fifties suffering from empty nest syndrome. And yet, in The Roommate, Jen Silverman writes a play in which these two disparate realities come together, forcing us to look at middle aged womanhood in a whole new light.

Silverman is no stranger to New Haven—her play The Moors, an absurdist comedy inspired by the world of the Brontë sisters, was presented at Yale Rep in 2016, and her play with music All The Roads Home, about three generations of women fighting to find their way in the world, was presented at Long Wharf’s New Works Festival last year. Long Wharf is thrilled to welcome her back to New Haven, along with longtime collaborator Mike Donahue. The two premiered The Roommate at the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville in 2015. Since then, the play has had a robust life nationally, with productions at South Coast Repertory, Williamstown Theatre Festival, and Steppenwolf Theatre among others. Literary Manager Christine Scarfuto recently sat down with Silverman to ask her a few questions about The Roommate.

Q: Can you talk about where the play came from?
A: It’s rare for us to see exciting, provocative, complicated, morally ambiguous portraits of older women onstage or on screen. There’s something so sanitized about the images we receive of women who are, say, over thirty-five—and that image doesn’t actually mesh with the fifty- and sixty-year old women I know, who are hilarious and complex and fascinating. I wanted to write a play that gave two female characters the same due that older male characters receive much more often.

The origin point of the play is that my partner’s mother was, briefly, living with a roommate her age. Hearing her stories, I was fascinated by what it means for two adult women to navigate living together, and my imagination took off from there.

Q: The play does a marvelous job of playing on our assumptions about Sharon: she’s a woman in her fifties, an empty-nester, a recent divorcee whose only social obligation is her Thursday night reading group, and so we assume she is lonely, feeling a loss of purpose, and set in her ways. But the play quickly turns all of that on its head. Why are we so quick to think of women of a certain age in this light? Why did you want to subvert that image?
A: I think there are so few nuanced images of women in general in our society. Even younger women, in a different way—the Madonna-Whore dichotomy is alive and well in 2018. I think there are deeply-rooted reasons for this: there’s a deep-seated cultural fear or unease around female sexuality, female leadership. Stories about women have, for so long, taken a back seat to stories about men. A lot of artists and writers are working to change that, which I think is so important.

Q: The play is ultimately about change—about embracing the new, the next big adventure, even when it feels too late to do so. What makes this transformation so exciting for Sharon? For Robyn?
A: I think we all reach moments in our lives where we feel trapped by the accumulated decisions we’ve made, by the things we’ve become accustomed to. We may not even be aware that we’re unhappy—we’re just mired in the status quo. Sharon’s status quo is her loneliness and her feeling of being invisible; similarly, Robyn has been moving through the world as a lone wolf of sorts, although in much different circumstances. The two of them create a combustible energy together—they can imagine themselves differently, because they create a new space of imagining together. Once you can see a new life for yourself, the natural next step is to reach for it.

Q: This play is very different from a lot of your other work, which tends to be less realistic in nature. And yet, The Roommate shares the same dark, comedic, absurd tone of some of your more obviously theatrical plays. Did you set out to write a realistic play? And, how do you think The Roommate is in conversation with your other plays? How is it not?
A: I’d never written a true two-hander before, nor had I ever written a play that masqueraded as American realism (unit set, etc.). I was interested to explore and then subvert that particular set of conventions. For all that, The Roommate isn’t quite what I’d call realism—it exists in a liminal space, where it makes use of the conventions of American realism without staying true to them all the way.

A lot of my plays are about people seeking or finding transformation—people who are either succeeding or failing at pursuing a different vision of themselves or their lives. In this way The Roommate is in direct conversation with plays that are stylistically very different, like Collective Rage: A Play In 5 Betties (Woolly Mammoth, MCC Theater), or The Moors (Yale Rep, Playwrights Realm).

Q: What has your development process been like for the play, and why are you excited to revisit The Roommate at Long Wharf?
A: Mike Donahue and I developed and premiered the play at the Humana Festival in 2015, with Actors Theatre of Louisville. The play went on to have a fairly active life after that in other theatres, but I’d always wanted to re-examine the ending—but wanted to wait until there was an opportunity to reunite with Mike. Mandy Greenfield offered us that chance last summer at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, and during our two weeks of rehearsal, I rewrote the last few scenes. Williamstown is a beautiful whirlwind of a process, and I’m so excited for the version of The Roommate that emerged to have its next life at Long Wharf. Mike and I feel that there is still more to learn about the thing we’ve built, and we’re looking forward to learning it together with Long Wharf audiences.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment.

The play explores recovery from addiction and alcoholism: Playwright Torrey Townsend

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AN INTERVIEW WITH TORREY TOWNSEND, playwright, Night Workers

What is the genesis of Night Workers?
Though it’s always difficult to describe the linear journey of writing, the beginning of Night Workers essentially sprang from conversations Knud Adams and I had during the rehearsals for our last play, The Workshop. One of the concerns of The Workshop was with the role of art in contemporary American culture. The Workshop interrogated certain ideas our culture has inherited from the past about what it means to be an artist and the kinds of relationships artists have with the public. The Workshop was a dissection of long-standing aesthetic concepts that I think we tend to take for granted and overlook. There is a streak of nihilism and grandiosity that runs through much of the art that we make and consume, and through the identities that we forge around being “artists”, but that’s not something people talk about very much. The notion that artists are these superior, extraordinary individuals is something that’s been passed down to us from the 19th century. It’s a historically fabricated myth that you can trace back to Flaubert and Baudelaire, and then all the way up through T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound to the hostile nihilists of the theater: Sam Shepard, David Mamet, Edward Albee, etc. In the romantic cult that surrounds artists like these lurk some very negative and very destructive ideas not just about what it means to be an artist but about what it means to be a human being.

So, that was something Knud and I were discussing constantly with everyone who collaborated with us on The Workshop, and at some point during the course of putting up that play I shared a story with Knud and our producers, Fern Diaz and Matt Kagen, about a formative relationship I’d had with an artist when I was young. Basically, an older, well-established theater-maker talked me into trying to write plays when I was 19 years old. I met this person, by chance, at a point in my life when my outlook and perspective toward theater was for lack of a better word confused. I suffered back then under the unfortunate illusion that writing is some grand, sacrosanct art form accessible to only an elite few. I believed that the theater was the exclusive terrain of exalted “geniuses” like Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller, and therefore an ordinary, limited human being like me could never write plays. This person convinced me I was totally wrong, and not only that I could do it but that I should do it. Without a doubt, my life changed because this person made me believe in myself. Over the years, he became a kind of teacher and guide. He instilled in me a sustained faith in the miraculous power of the theater, and he showed me the falseness of the image of the artist as someone who exists in some other realm above that of ordinary people living ordinary lives. This person died a few years ago from a struggle with alcoholism and addiction. I was deeply shaken by his death, and looking back at it now this is probably why I was talking to Knud, Fern, and Matt about it during The Workshop. Eventually, Knud said that he thought I should write a play about that relationship — a play that explores in some way recovery from addiction and alcoholism — and I took his suggestion. Night Workers is the play that emerged. The writing process led me in a hundred different, surprising, and unexpected directions, but the way it began was with that conversation with my friends, and then Knud’s prompting.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment.

To write Sheepdog, I had to be willing to go to an ugly place, but hopefully an honest one: Playwright Kevin Artigue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AN INTERVIEW WITH KEVIN ARTIGUE, playwright, Sheepdog

What is the genesis of Sheepdog?
It started from an emotional place. I was responding to what I was seeing and witnessing and the cascade of videos of police shootings and subsequent lack of indictments and the lack of accountability and justice. Then I did a little more of my own digging and reading, and saw that the underlying causes and systemic issues were layered and complicated. I read a couple of pieces that were impactful early on. One of them was a New Yorker profile of the officer Darren Wilson – the officer who killed Michael Brown. There was something powerful and disturbing about his inability to articulate what he had done. Partly it’s because he’s not a well-educated articulate guy. He’s working class. So when he’s forced to put words to his actions, he fails. He trips over himself and reveals an underlying racist bias that he’s blind to, that despite his good intentions he can’t overcome. That blindness is at the core of the character of Ryan in Sheepdog. The other piece of writing that greatly influenced my thinking is Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me. His description of officers as an apparatus of state power resonated with me.

How did you create Amina, such an interesting protagonist?
One important inspiration for Amina as a character is an officer named Nakia Jones. She was an active police officer in Cleveland and is now an author and speaker. On the heels of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling and the shooting of the officers in Dallas she posted a Facebook Live video in which she became incredibly emotional and gave voice to her pain and frustration in a very brave and forthright way. She was speaking from the complicated perspective of both an African-American police officer witnessing these shootings and an African-American woman whose heart was breaking. Her message is, if you are a white officer and you are racist, take off the uniform. If you are a white officer and you are not comfortable policing the communities you are assigned to police, take off the uniform. Take it off. Don’t do this job.

She was so brave for speaking out. At that time there were few officers speaking out publicly against what we were seeing. They were mute, as they usually are. What stuck with me was her courage and the conflict that she was living everyday, the divided loyalty she and other officers like her must feel and struggle to reconcile.

When did you write the play?
I’ve written two other versions of this play that I’ve thrown out completely. This goes back to 2016. Again, I was writing from an emotional place and stepping back I could see I wasn’t ready. I didn’t know what I – a white male – had to say that would move the conversation around police violence forward or shed new light on it. It took a while to figure that out.

And once I discovered the structure and characters, it took a long time to research the piece. I interviewed a number of police officers, focusing on officers of color and women. I remain grateful to those willing to be interviewed.

Are there common themes that run through your work?
Most of my plays come from a personal place, which is also political. I’m interested in the ways larger systems of power affect our humanity, how they corrupt and disfigure it, and how this corruption seems inevitable in our economic system. I hope that in all my work you see personal relationships embedded in larger conflicts that exist outside of the world of the characters. We watch them resist and resist facing the truth, until it comes crashing down on their heads. A story starts from a real question that I’m asking myself – an ethical conflict I can’t figure out – and I interrogate myself. Writing the play is the process of that interrogation, of trying to prove myself wrong. In this case, the question of Sheepdog is: “In spite of footage and body cams, why does this keep happening? And what does it say about me that it keeps happening?” To write Sheepdog I had to examine my own whiteness, my own biases and upbringing, and be willing to go to an ugly place, but hopefully an honest one.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment.

I am fascinated by Love, Loss and Regret: Playwright Angella Emurwon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AN INTERVIEW WITH ANGELLA EMURWON, playwright, Strings

Could you talk a little bit about the genesis of Strings?
Strings began, really, with a friend’s request to borrow my father. Not for anything in particular, she had a father of her own but wanted to borrow mine. On the surface I understood the request. My father was not perfect, but he was special.

This request got me thinking about what fatherhood meant; who got to be called father; and how fathers are made. Of course Strings evolved to be about a lot more than that, but this is where the journey began.

Also, my plays up to that point had been mostly comedies. I am now accepting of the fact that my work will always contain humor because that is an important part of how I tell stories but at the time I wanted to write a drama, an ensemble drama to be exact, and I felt that spending time with the Lororibor family in Strings would be a good start to writing drama.

What writers do you find yourself going back to for inspiration and why?
So many many writers. I love Ugandan author Doreen Baingana (Tropical Fish). Her use of language is evocative, visceral and immersive. Reading her around the time I was deciding to become a full time writer helped me to understand and discover my voice as a Ugandan writer and director. I read everything she writes.

I love August Wilson (Two Trains Running), Tennessee Williams (The Glass Menagerie), and Arthur Miller (Broken Glass) who create ordinary people with such power – breathing, sweating, complex people. I want to read everything they’ve written.

I will never forget how completely overwhelmed I was after reading Arundhati Roy’s God of Small Things. Completely overwhelmed – by the story, by how it is written, by the lives lived in it – overwhelmed! I reread chapters from it every now and then.

I read Wole Soyinka a lot, Death and the King’s Horseman and his other plays. I like how he is able to hold together the reality, the poetic, and the spiritual of life, setting, and people without incongruence.

Over the course of your career, do you find there are common themes running through all your work?
Yes. I’m fascinated by the often “small” choices people make everyday – who to become, how to show themselves to others, how to hide themselves from others, what they choose, what they feel was chosen for them, how we choose each other, and so on.

I’m fascinated by people (especially in my country) who may elicit quick judgments from the outside about their internal lives without any attempt at investigation – coffin makers, petrol attendants, cattle herds, women (many times), young people drifting, and so on.

As a result, I am fascinated by Love, Loss, and Regret. How do these identity rich feelings come about? How to respond when different ideas and realities find space and expression within the same person? And how can I create space in my work for people to see each other?

Your career is so varied and interesting – moving from stage to film, from directing and writing, all while teaching throughout. How do these things inform each other?
I love storytelling and I love people. I think everything I’ve learned, truly learned in life, has been as a story. And I suppose I’m always trying to be in projects and places where I can tell stories to learn about things and to share what I’ve learned.

Writing is quite solitary. And I think for the most part I write to investigate and understand whatever it is I am mulling on at the time.

Directing is exhilarating. I am able to get out of my head, the intensity of creating on my own, and welcome other creators into a collaborating storytelling space. It is challenging but exciting and it pushes me to have a wider view of life and work and myself as a person.

I love love teaching. For me, it is 50% sharing my knowledge and experience and 50% making creative inquiry, the work, the dream, exciting and inspiring! The education system that was left over from colonial times emphasizes learning by rote; often emphasizing the ‘what’ of the subject at the expense of the ‘why’ or sometimes even the ‘how’. And so while what is it to make art and what are the accomplishments of making art are important conversations and often the starting point, I love getting into the conversations that tackle the why of making art and how can we expand the ways to make art. And then seeing how this makes a difference for all of us collectively, for my students, and in my own work. Then the cycle begins again as I take this experience back to the solitary work of writing, then into how I engage with my collaborators as a director, then back to my students, and on and on.

What is your favorite story in any form?
Oh my! It would be just as hard to pick a favorite meal. At the time I am experiencing a wonderful story, it is my favorite story in that particular form.

I will say I absolutely love being told stories. I love to sit down with family or friends and be told a story – real or fiction. Or eavesdropping on stories in public transportation.

This is probably because most of my family are amazing storytellers. And the best stories are when 2 or 3 of them experience something and then tell the story together. It’s wonderful.

My mom has a very dry wit, my sister has a memory for details and can invent vocabulary, one of my brothers can make up an epic journey with you as a character in the center of it (my dad could do this too), and my other brother is the best incentive for anyone to learn Swahili. He tells the best stories and the best of these are in Swahili.
I guess that’s my favorite. I love to be told stories.

– Steve Scarpa

This entry was posted in New Works Festival 2018 | Leave a comment.

Long Wharf Theatre Announces Titles for 2018 New Works Festival

Long Wharf Theatre’s New Works Festival, the theatre’s fourth annual celebration of adventurous, innovative new plays, will take place September 21-22 on Stage II.

Tickets are $10 or all three readings for $24. Reservations can be made by calling 203-787-4282 or visiting longwharf.org. There will be a happy hour with half off drinks an hour before each reading.

“The purpose of the festival is to introduce our audience to exciting new plays and playwrights and to create a pipeline for future productions at Long Wharf Theatre,” said Literary Manager Christine Scarfuto, curator of the festival.

This year’s festival will include plays by Kevin Artigue, Angella Emurwon, and Torrey Townsend.

Strings by Angella Emurwon, directed by Leah C. Gardiner, will be presented Friday, September 21 at 7 pm. “Strings is a gorgeous, rich family drama set in small village in Uganda about the return of the family patriarch after 20 years. It’s a beautifully wrought universal story that asks how you reckon with the choices you’ve made in your life,” Scarfuto said.

Kevin Artigue’s Sheepdog, also directed by Gardiner, will take place on Saturday, September 22 at 5:30 pm. “This play speaks to a lot of the issues America is facing right now surrounding police violence in the black community, both from an intellectual and emotional perspective,” Scarfuto said. “It’s also a riveting story. It really pulls you in.”

Night Workers by Torrey Townsend, directed by Knud Adams, will take place on Saturday, September 22 at 8 pm. “People from all walks of life find a communal strength in each other in this play. It’s a raw, funny, and moving tribute to people on the road to recovery from addiction. It’s about the resilience of the human spirit and how we find the will to go on when there isn’t a reason to,” Scarfuto said.

Scarfuto believes that not only will the audience be engaged and moved by the work, but that they will also have access to perspectives that are not ordinarily seen on Long Wharf Theatre’s stage. “New work is the lifeblood of the theatre, it’s what keeps the art form vital and alive. We’re thrilled to bring these new voices to our audience. It’s a great opportunity for people in the community to meet and mingle with artists and fellow theatregoers, to see great work and have a good time. That’s the energy we want to cultivate at the festival,” she said.

The festival is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Burry Fredrik Foundation.

For more information, visit longwharf.org or call 203-787-4282.

 

FESTIVAL SCHEDULE

STRINGS
by Angella Emurwon
Directed by Leah C. Gardiner
Friday, Sept 21 at 7pm

In a small village in Uganda, Maama has ruled her home with a firm hand for 20 years in her husband’s absence. But when she discovers his return is imminent, she and her two grown children must confront a whirlwind of love, loss, and regret. A richly satisfying family drama about the stories we tell ourselves in order to accept the life we’ve chosen.

 

SHEEPDOG
by Kevin Artigue
Directed by Leah C. Gardiner
Saturday, Sept 22 at 5:30pm

Amina, a black police officer, falls hard for her white partner Ryan—until he shoots a young black man in the line of duty. Sheepdog is a riveting drama that asks whether you can trust your heart if the story keeps changing and you don’t know who or what to believe.

 

NIGHT WORKERS
by Torrey Townsend
Directed by Knud Adams
Saturday, Sept 22 at 8pm

Set in an old bar-turned-Alcoholics Anonymous clubhouse in Brooklyn, Night Workers tells the story of a disparate group of people that cling to each other for hope.  This raw, funny story details the heartbreak, joy, and transcendence they find on the road to recovery.

 

PLAYWRIGHT BIOS

Kevin Artigue (Sheepdog) writes plays, TV, and film. He was raised in Redlands, CA and lives in Brooklyn. His plays have been developed with Page 73, the Public Theater, South Coast Rep, the National New Play Network, New York Theater Workshop, Portland Center Stage, Golden Thread, Theatre of NOTE, the Playwrights Foundation, SPACE on Ryder Farm, Great Plains Theatre Conference, University of Iowa, and the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis. He’s formerly a member of Interstate 73 Writers Group and the Public Theater’s Emerging Writers Group. MFA: Iowa Playwrights Workshop.

Angella Emurwon (Strings) is a Ugandan award winning Playwright, a Stage Director, Filmmaker, and writing mentor. She has written two BBC awarded radio plays The Cow Needs a Wife (2010) and Sunflowers behind a Dirty Fence (2012), and two short plays for Climate Change Theater Action, Prayer (2015) and Bare Spaces (2017) that have been performed in Lithuania, USA, and Canada. She wrote a short film How to kill a Cockroach (2010) directed by David Tosh Gitonga and has just completed post production on Sunday (2018) a short film she wrote and directed. She has been mentoring screenwriters in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda, as part of the Maisha Film Lab Mentor Team since 2014. Angella is passionate about storytelling as a means of learning about and from each other. Her play Strings was developed at the 2013 Sundance East Africa Theater Initiative, and workshoped at the 2014 Kampala International Theatre Festival. Strings was also selected for a reading at the 2015 PEN World Voices International Play Festival, as well as the opening play at the 2017 Kampala International Theatre Festival.

Torrey Townsend’s (Night Workers) most recent play THE WORKSHOP was produced by theater incubator SoftFocus, directed by Knud Adams, and starred Austin Pendleton. The play was received positively by critics. A New York Times “Critic’s Pick”, THE WORKSHOP is described as “an incisive and insightful tale of ambition and envy, inspiration and mediocrity.” Sarah Holdren of Vulture.com says the play’s “combustion of frustration and exhilaration makes for one hell of an evening of theater.” Torrey holds an MFA in Playwriting from Columbia University. Other works include A NIGHT OUT and HOME UNIVERSE (Knud Adams, director).

 

This entry was posted in New Works Festival 2018 | Leave a comment.

Crowns: Juicy Questions for Conversation and Reflection

Leah Andelsmith

 

It’s astonishing how many layers of meaning can fit underneath a hat. Crowns delves deep into the ways in which we care for ourselves and find connections, and my juicy questions do the same:

1. What is a “hat” in your life? Is there any article of clothing that holds a deeper meaning for you, beyond the surface of its fabric?
2. What are your personal “hat queen rules”?
3. Over the course of your life, have you found a place you can go “to see where you fit in”?

Though I mean it in earnest, my answer for the first question will seem very flippant. That’s because my equivalent of a hat is…pajama pants. My wife and I try to make our apartment as warm and nurturing as possible, a safe haven from the everyday grind. And for me, these comfy, fuzzy pants are like being able to put on my home in the form of a garment.
As might be expected, the rules that go along with pajama pants are pretty simple and unfussy: 1. PJ pants are for inside only—no wearing them out on the city sidewalk. 2. Put your PJ pants on as soon as possible after coming home. 3. You know you have a real friend coming over when you don’t bother to put your jeans back on.
In Crowns, Yolanda (Gabrielle Beckford) is sent Down South to stay with her Grandmother (Shari Addison) in order to ground her “vexed spirit.” She is at odds with Grandma Shaw’s world of hat queens as she struggles to work through her past difficulties in the spiritual context of church. But she discovers who she is and what she has to offer.
The ocean is where I go when, like Yolanda, I need to “see where I fit in,” when I need to deepen my connection to the divine. The waves are a source of comfort, the vastness an indicator of my place in the world.

Crowns is a fitting finish to the season because it reminds me of how far we’ve come since September: Six stories uncovered. Six windows into the world. Six small journeys sharing a wider arc.
The South for Yolanda is like the moor in Baskerville: an unfamiliar place, removed from her everyday experience, where she can face her wild pain and fragile humanity.
The violence explored in Office Hour is revisited in a hopeful way with Crowns: taking a chance on someone, reaching out across the abyss created by trauma—this time with a happy ending.
As Grandma Shaw advises, “what starts out as an awful thing can force a change.” It’s the same lesson that both Danny and Reuven learn through painful silence in The Chosen. In both plays, the connections forged across generations drive the characters’ growth.
Crowns also echoes The Chosen by highlighting the differences that exist within a shared culture. Though Yolanda and Grandma Shaw come from the same family, their lives in the North and the South have been so different. But like Danny and Reuven, they depend on their common ground to help them navigate a difficult world.
As Eleanor does in Fireflies, Yolanda struggles to trust others. Grandma Shaw and the hat queens work hard to prove themselves worthy of her trust, and because of that, Yolanda finds out that there are many others who share her pain. I could just hear the teacher from Small Mouth Sounds explaining again that, even if you think you’re by yourself in an ocean of sorrow, “you are not alone.”
Just as in Small Mouth Sounds, there is the symbol of water as a means of touching the divine, touching that which is greater than ourselves, and Yolanda ends the play with an ocean of new possibilities stretching out before her.

It’s been a year of trust, connection, change and possibility, and I appreciated the chances to learn, to question, to grow. See you all next season.

 

—Leah Andelsmith

****

Leah Andelsmith is a writer living in New Haven. She loves the arts and finding magic in the everyday. This was her first season as a community ambassador for Long Wharf Theatre. You can find her on Facebook: facebook.com/leahandelsmith

This entry was posted in Audience Reactions, Community Engagement and Tagged , , , | Leave a comment.

New Haven’s First Time at National August Wilson Monologue Competition

Finalists in the 2018 National August Monologue Competition meet Hailey Kilgore, star of Once on This Island

“As of tonight, you are all Wilsonian soldiers.”

This was the rallying cry of Kenny Leon, Artistic Director of Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company. He was speaking to 24 high-school students from all over the country who had gathered to perform Wilson’s monologues at the tenth annual August Wilson Monologue Competition, a program which Leon co-founded. He and the students stood in front of an eager audience of parents, students, educators, and artists at the August Wilson Theatre on Broadway.

“I want you all to go back to your schools and demand that August Wilson’s plays be in your libraries and on your stages.”

The audience erupted in applause at Leon’s words.

The 2017 – 2018 academic year was New Haven’s first foray into this competition. Co-produced by Long Wharf and Yale Repertory Theatres, New Haven’s chapter of the August Wilson Monologue Competition brought teaching artists into four local schools: Cooperative Arts & Humanities, Wilbur Cross, Regional Center for the Arts, and Educational Center for the Arts. Dozens of students were exposed to Wilson’s work for the first time as they read and performed monologues from Wilson’s American Century Cycle.

Lauren Dardyn and Chloé Lomax-Blackwell (left), both students at Cooperative Arts & Humanities High School, took first and second place (respectively) in New Haven’s regional competition. They spent a weekend in New York City with finalists from eleven other regions. Together, this group saw two Broadway plays, attended master classes and

talkbacks with professional actors, and competed for the National title. The first, second, and third

place winners received cash prizes while all 24 participants received a boxed set of Wilson’s

American Century Cycle.

“Congratulations on making your Broadway debuts,” Leon concluded.

Our staff could not be more proud of Lauren, Chloé, and all of the students who engaged with the program this year.

If you are a student or educator interested in participating in the August Wilson Monologue Competition, please contact Madelyn Newman at madelyn.newman@longwharf.org or 203.772.8272.

 

-Eliza Orleans

This entry was posted in LWT Education and Tagged , | Leave a comment.

BASKERVILLE: Juicy Questions for Conversation and Reflection


After two fairly heavy shows at Long Wharf, it felt good to laugh through “Baskerville.” To let go. To relax in the darkness of the theater and the imagined danger of a legendary hound. I was drawn in by the wild, windswept moor, something of a staple of British literature, and my juicy questions all center around myth and mystery:

  1. Urban legends and mythical monsters: Are you a skeptic, like Henry? Or are you intrigued by the mystery like Sherlock? Do you have a favorite mythical monster?
  2. Do you feel that everything in the world has a rational explanation?
  3. Like the moor, what is a place that you are afraid of, but also drawn to?

The Loch Ness Monster, Yeti, La Chupacabra, the Hound of Baskerville. I don’t believe in mythical monsters, but it is fun to think about them. Having a soft spot for all cephalopods—the animal family that includes squids, nautiluses, and octopuses—I would place the Kraken at top of my list of these creatures. Why? Like many cephalopods, which are actually incredibly smart and sensitive, the Kraken gets a bad wrap and is often depicted crushing ships with its mighty arms. But Kraken is really just the human fear of the deep, dark ocean personified.

During the play, Watson struggles with the legend of the hound, saying, “I’ve lived my life believing in the rational world.” As for me, I don’t turn to the supernatural, whether religion or ghosts or urban legends, in cases where rational explanations exist. But neither do I think the world is an entirely rational place. How cold it would be if it were. In other words, I don’t seek supernatural answers, but where the rational ones fail, I’m happy to let there be a little mystery. The magic of life is in between.

The moor is a powerful symbol of wild darkness. When Beryl and Henry are out on the moor, she asks him “Why live here if it is a place of danger?” He answers, “Because it is a place of danger.” As in Fireflies, with the struggle between certainty and freedom represented by Eleanor and Abel, this is also a question of personality. Which do you value more: safety or adventure? (Or as Mrs. Barrymore would say, “adwentuwe.”) When push comes to shove, I choose adventure over safety. But that doesn’t mean I’m not also a scaredy cat!

The “moor” in my own life is camping. Living in the city so long has taught me to distrust a world without cars and people and sidewalks and buildings. Those things feel safe to me. But when I am away from all of the exhaust and noise, I feel like I can actually breathe. I can feel my parasympathetic nervous system unwinding, letting go, turning to a puddle of mush. And that feels good. Until night falls and there are no streetlights, that is.

Baskerville allows us to explore the wild moor of human nature and experience—murder, jealousy, deceit, love, salvation—from the safe vessel of comedy. It’s like driving through on a tour bus with a witty guide. And at this point in the season, that is just what this scaredy cat needed.

—Leah Andelsmith

****

Leah Andelsmith is a writer living in New Haven. She loves the arts and finding magic in the everyday. This is her first season as a community ambassador for Long Wharf Theatre. You can find her on Facebook: facebook.com/leahandelsmith.

This entry was posted in Community Engagement and Tagged , , | Leave a comment.