Wednesday, December 15, 2010

British Production of LIDLESS Transfers to London's West End



Once again, InterAct Theatre has shown a knack for producing plays prior to their "big break." We did it last season with both Kristoffer Diaz's THE ELABORATE ENTRANCE OF CHAD DEITY, which went on to become a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize, and Lee Blessing's WHEN WE GO UPON THE SEA, which moved to New York for a sucessful Off-Broadway run. Now we can add Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig's LIDLESS, which InterAct will produce January 21 - February 13, 2011, to that list...

We were very pleased to learn this week that HighTide Theatre's production of LIDLESS will transfer for a limited run at Trafalgar Studios in London's prestigious West End. Directed by Steven Atkinson, HighTide’s Artistic Director, the play will run March 10 - April 2, 2011. This production represents the first time one of the company's shows moved to England's most famous theatre district. Early this year, the play had sold-out runs as part of the HighTide Theatre Festival and the Edinburgh Festival, where it was named the winner of the 2010 Fringe First Award.

Congratulations to both Frances and HighTide!


Links to More information about LIDLESS:

Read HighTide's Announcement About the West End Run

Watch the Promotional Video for HighTide's Production

Find Out More About InterAct's Production

Purchase Tickets to InterAct's LIDLESS



Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Philly Weekly: "Celebrate SILVERHILL... A Great New Play"



Check out these excerpts from J. Cooper Robb’s review of SILVERHILL from this week's Philadelphia Weekly:


Great new plays are rare — all the more reason to celebrate Philadelphia playwright Thomas Gibbons’ new work Silverhill, which is making its world premiere in an effectively straightforward production by InterAct Theatre Company...

The ensuing conflict between Frank and Alden sets up a debate between diametrically opposed economic systems — but what ultimately leads to blows is a woman...

In [Christopher] Coucill’s portrayal, Alden isn’t a fiery, charismatic leader with soaring rhetoric. The other members are attracted by his conviction, and his unwavering certainty that God speaks directly to him. The quietly effective performance is appropriately sincere, and we can easily understand why the elder members of the group are unquestioning in their allegiance to him.

[Dan] Hodge’s Frank doesn’t have the same sense of spiritual conviction that Coucill brings to Alden, but he makes up for it with ambition and salesmanship. Frank takes three younger members of Silverhill in a game of shopping; it's the first time they've seen currency. Seductively, Hodge rubs a dollar bill between his fingers and proclaims, “It feels like America.”

In America, monogamy is regarded as the standard of success in marriage, and wealth as the standard of success in life. In Silverhill, Gibbons asks us to examine these beliefs... If you like a play that prompts questions rather than providing answers, Silverhill leaves you with plenty of food for thought.

Links to more information about SILVERHILL:

Purchase Tickets

Read J. Cooper Robb's Entire Philadelphia Weekly Review

Read Mark Cofta’s Philadelphia City Paper Review

Read John Dowlin’s Weekly Press Review in the Nov. 3 Issue

Read Ellen Wilson Dilks’ Stage Magazine Review

Read Toby Zinman's Inquirer Review

An Interview with Playwright Thomas Gibbons

An Interview with Director Seth Rozin

Watch the Video Trailer of SILVERHILL



Tuesday, November 9, 2010

InterAct Invites Academics to Respond to SILVERHILL



InterAct invited David Cregan, Assistant Professor of Theatre at Villanova, and  Elliott Shore, Chief Information Officer, Director of Libraries, & Professor of History at Bryn Mawr College, to attend SILVERHILL and write down some of their thoughts on the play. Cregan's piece explores how SILVERHILL follows a long, theatrical tradition of using historical events to comment on current day issues, while Shore puts SILVERHILL into a historical context that shows how many utopian societies struggled to pass their founders' ideals on to subsequent generations...

David Cregan, Assistant Professor of Theatre at Villanova:

SILVERHILL is an intriguing play inspired by the nineteenth century Oneida Community in upstate New York. Its allure is partially based on the prospect that the audience will be privy to the secrets of a hidden and defensively private community. The allure of this play is further compounded by the potential romance of entering a simpler time and by the notion that we will get a glimpse of foundational Americana. What one discovers in this production, however, is the reality that the past is not that different from the present, and that there are fundamental similarities in the drives and the passions of people who make choices that seem far away from our own. SILVERHILL employs the historical in plot and design to awaken curiosity and to draw its audiences away from the chaos of contemporary multi-media distractions, but not in an attempt to pain an anthropological portrait of a community built on the rejection of more cosmopolitan virtues.

Theatre has long used the facts of the past as the inspiration for playwriting and production, but engages history in a markedly unique fashion: it brings traditional historical memory out of the past and into the present through the immediacy of live performance. This practice of the proximity of history through actor, set, design, and playwriting allows contemporary audiences to engage critical historic moments and make connections with modern political, cultural, social, and personal issues. In this sense the theatre decisively connects the past and the present in a fashion unachievable by textual academic discourse or static media such as photographs or film. The audience finds themselves between light down and lights up, living in another place and another time. Theatre that mediates the past creates shared experiences and moments of cultural continuity that permit insight into how we have become who we are.

The Israeli theatre scholar Freddie Rokem offers useful insight into the theatre’s general contribution to historical consciousness and its impact on contemporary thinking, at time revealing the root what has become accepted as conventional wisdom:
By performing history the theatre, at times even more forcefully than other discourses about the past like historiographic writing or novels about historical events, engages in such ideological debates, frequently intervening in them directly. What may be seen as specific to the theatre in dealing directly with the historical past is its ability to create an awareness of the complex interaction between the destructiveness and the failures of history, on the one hand, and the efforts to create a viable and meaningful work of art, trying to confront these painful failures on the other.
Rokem’s insight reveals how SILVERHILL engages in historical debate in its ideas while simultaneously illuminating how the play connects with InterAct’s artistic mission to educate and provoke audiences. This mission has the potential pitfall to become overtly obvious in its political agenda, thus draining the interpretive and aesthetic qualities necessary for good theatre. In other words, InterAct is faced with the challenge of being provocative politically or culturally without reducing the theatrical practice of its mission to mere propaganda. SILVERHILL successfully combines the allure of drama through its historically voyeuristic glimpse of this otherwise closed community, with the culture tension which dominates our modern experience: free market capitalism. Thus SILVERHILL functions as both history and art as it reveals aesthetic in design and cultural failure in plot and character. Its primitive story of an isolated and peaceful community is aesthetically appealing while the conflict of its plot reveals just how similar issues of great and money are then and now.

InterAct’s production of SILVERHILL provokes a connection with the past that goes beyond wanting to trace through history a clear pathway of events that have delivered us into the present reality in which we find ourselves. Instead of simply viewing archaic events of the past, we are presented with virtues and vices that are timeless and continue to shape cultural discourse. But what is history if not a series of events that have happened in the past?

The French philosopher Michele Foucault theorizes history in order to uncover how ideas or even ideology are past from one generation to another. Foucault’s accounts juxtapose ‘traditional history’ and, what he describes as ‘effective history’ in order to provide insight into the process of the formation of history itself, thus contributing greatly to an analysis of this dramatic historical engagement:
The former transposes the relationship ordinarily established between eruption of an event and necessary continuity. An entire historical tradition (theological or rationalistic) aims at dissolving the singular event into an ideal continuity – as a teleological movement or a natural process. “Effective” history, however, deals with events in terms of their most unique characteristics, their most acute manifestations. An event, consequently, is not a decision, a reign, or a battle, but the reversal of a relationship of forces, the usurpation of power, the appropriation of vocabulary turned against those who had once used it, a feeble domination which poisons itself as it grows lax, the entry of a masked “other.”
 The most unique characteristic that SILVERHILL manifests is the influence of money and material possessions in shaping peoples values and choices. The play offers a much more complex argument between good and bad, religious and secular, and thus focuses on the seductive power of the desire for possession. While many desire a return to the values of the past, this play stands as a recognition that the insatiability of human possessiveness continues to pull us apart, perhaps at the expense of our communities.

Ultimately theatre is grounded in a series of relationships between actor and script, performance and audience and society. It combines both the events of the past and the ideas that continue long after the actual moment has passed. SILVERHILL is not a glimpse at the past but, instead, a criticism of the present. The initial distance established between audience and play is bridged through ideas and their living impact of recognizing our world in the theatrical experience. This recognition, under the best of circumstances, allows us to glimpse in the mirror. Theatre and history together in practice dissolves difference into similarity, allowing politics and cultural criticism to emerge through theatrical artistry, this aspiration is the impulse that drives theatre to awaken that which is asleep and have an impact in the moment.

[1] Rokem, Freddie, Performing History: Theatrical Representations of the Past in Contemporary Theatre.  Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2000p.3.

[2] Michel Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History” in Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow.  New York: Pantheon Books, 1984, p.88.


Elliott Shore, CIO, Director of Libraries, & Professor of History at Bryn Mawr College:

The urge to perfectionism is an old one in the history of Europeans on this continent -- it seems to be present from the start and it still inspires and haunts this country today. Want and the lack of opportunity induced desperate people to leave their homes and this flight was intertwined with successive outbreaks in Northern Europe and North America of messianic Christianity. Poverty and the promise of the holy land beckoned some to the place where, they thought, one could start from scratch. Religious revivals repeatedly fanned flames that burned bright with the desire to build the city on the hill, to create on earth that ideal world and bequeath it to future generations. Women and men were told or believed or were led to understand that the city was corrupt, that the virgin land, where no one had ever lived or farmed before, was the last best place to re-create the Biblical Eden from which humankind had been banished, where all could live together as one family. Keeping the garden safe often meant forbidding any and all of the corrupting influences of civilization.

All of the pieces of this narrative show up in the drama SILVERHILL, based on one of the most prominent of the utopian experiments of the 19th century. The play demonstrates the difficulties that all of these experiments had in passing on to the children the ideals of the generation which experienced the alienation that had led to the founding moment.

Those who had been shielded from living in the world, of course, did not have the fire of the parents' experience: the Puritans had trouble with their children and the Oneidans with theirs. This is all in SILVERHILL, with the added fillip that not all utopia experiments included: freedom of choice in sexual partners. But, in spite of excellent actresses and actors, a handsome set and fluent writing, the play doesn't take us far enough. The deeper issues are left on the table; one hopes that the author meant the audience to contemplate them afterward, but maybe it is the power of simple dualities and rigid solutions that are built into this way of looking at life that has so captured the American spirit that the author himself can only think within those inherited categories. Why do we all seem so stuck in the same flat view of the world, one where evil and good seem crystal clear, where solutions are absolute? Either withdraw from the world, or be engulfed by commercialism, either possess nothing--not even love for one's mate -- or wallow in the need to possess everything and everyone. The search for simple answers to simple questions -- witness the just completed national elections -- is reflected in mainstream American politics, its view of the world outside its own doors, and its religious fervor. This version of one utopian experiment is caught in the same reduction of the complexity of life into the shallow categories that it seems to condemn.

Links to more information about SILVERHILL:

Purchase Tickets

An Interview with Playwright Thomas Gibbons

An Interview with Director Seth Rozin



Thursday, November 4, 2010

Watch the SILVERHILL Speaker Sunday Talk-Back ft. Rev. Nate Walker



Watch the SILVERHILL Speaker Sunday talk-back on October 31, 2010 featuring Rev. Nathan C. Walker from the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia...

Part One features Rev. Nate's introduction:



Part Two features the first part of the Q&A:



Part Three features the last part of the Q&A:




Links to more information about SILVERHILL:

Purchase Tickets

An Interview with Playwright Thomas Gibbons

An Interview with Director Seth Rozin



City Paper: SILVERHILL "Fascinates" & "Soars"



Check out these excerpts from Mark Cofta’s review of SILVERHILL from today's Philadelphia City Paper:

Philly playwright Thomas Gibbons' eighth premiĆ©re with InterAct Theatre Co. harks back to an obscure bit of American history in a drama that's surprisingly meaningful today… Nick Embree's handsome set features huge gates - do they lock out the corrupt outside, or imprison Silverhill's citizens? Christopher Coucill makes leader Alden a fiery prophet, tall and lean with an Old Testament white beard… In Alden's perfect community, rebellion is, conveniently, a sin… Soon, philosophies clash: communism vs. capitalism, monogamy vs. free love, dictatorship vs. democracy, with fascinating modern parallels. A great cast brings the debate to life in personal, intimate, often humorous performances… The lively debate about divinity and human perfection, and ideas about charismatic leaders and the inevitable lure of anything forbidden, resonate powerfully. SILVERHILL fascinates with its glimpse of pre-1960s American social experiments, but soars through its fresh exploration of eternal - and, thus, contemporary - issues.

Links to more information about SILVERHILL:

Purchase Tickets

Read Mark Cofta’s Entire Philadelphia City Paper Review

Read John Dowlin’s Weekly Press Review in the Nov. 3 Issue

Read Ellen Wilson Dilks’ Stage Magazine Review

Read Toby Zinman's Inquirer Review

An Interview with Playwright Thomas Gibbons

An Interview with Director Seth Rozin

Watch the Video Trailer of SILVERHILL



Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Weekly Press: SILVERHILL is "A Gem Of A Play... Fresh... Engaging... Smart"



Check out these excerpts from John Dowlin’s review of SILVERHILL from this week's issue of Weekly Press:

In 1848, John Humphrey Noyes founded the Oneida settlement in upstate New York... This was also the year Marx and Engels published the Communist Manifesto. Three years later, Herman Melville would publish Moby Dick, perhaps the epic poem of capitalism. Heady times. ... vividly portrayed in Thomas Gibbons' well-grafted new play, SILVERHILL, produced by InterAct... Director Seth Rozin has carefully coached seven talented, accomplished actors to present a fresh look at mid-19th century communal America. ... SILVERHILL is a gem of a play, engaging us in a political/Biblical debate while relieving with Shaker songs and incidental music. It's a smart course on how our troubled, often confused nation has grown and continues to grow. To borrow and extend a thought from William Penn... 'Let us now see what a little history can do.'

Links to more information about SILVERHILL:

Purchase Tickets

Read John Dowlin’s Entire Weekly Press Review in the Nov. 3 Issue

Read Ellen Wilson Dilks’ Stage Magazine Review

Read Toby Zinman's Inquirer Review

An Interview with Playwright Thomas Gibbons

An Interview with Director Seth Rozin

Watch the Video Trailer of SILVERHILL



Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Stage Magazine: SILVERHILL is a “Powerful Production...I was in Heaven for Two Hours”



Check out these excerpts from Ellen Wilson Dilks’ review of SILVERHILL on Stage Magazine’s website:

I count myself among those in the theatre community who feel theatre should provoke conversations about life and important issues, as well as entertain. Some of my favorite moments as an audience member have been when a production has forced me to question my views on something. When it reaches into my id... When I can’t stop talking about it and analyzing it on the way home. InterAct’s current production, SILVERHILL, onstage at the Adrienne’s main space, is such a play... SILVERHILL definitely has parallels to today’s world. It was the love of money and material things that created the current economic meltdown. We can hopefully fix our future by not forgetting our past.

Director Seth Rozin has hit every note of the script perfectly; my companion and I were totally drawn in to the world of SILVERHILL and its inhabitants. Rozin has balanced the comic moments of the script beautifully with the emotionally charged ones, getting wonderfully nuanced performances out of each member of this solid ensemble of actors. Nick Embree’s scenic design, which starts out showing us the gates to the commune, is deceptively simple and uses the small space of The Adrienne to full effect, moving the action smoothly along. The actors deftly shift the few furniture pieces as needed to create the various locales of the commune. Lightning designer Peter Whinnery and Sound Designer Kevin Francis bring just the right mix to the production, helping to put the viewer totally into the “spirit.” Obviously inspired by the Amish and the polygamy cults of Utah, Rosemarie McKelvey works her usual costume magic, ably assisted by the properties designers. Props to Avista Custom Theatrical Services.

I strongly urge everyone to see this powerful production - you will be talking about it for hours afterwards. Questions are still reeling around in my head…. Add to that the joy of seeing truly gifted actors bring a wonderful script to life under the guidance of an exceedingly talented director and I was in heaven for two hours and 10 minutes.

Links to more information about SILVERHILL:

Purchase Tickets

Read Ellen Wilson Dilks’ Entire Stage Magazine Review

Read Toby Zinman's Inquirer Review

An Interview with Playwright Thomas Gibbons

An Interview with Director Seth Rozin

Watch the Video Trailer of SILVERHILL



Friday, October 29, 2010

Video Trailer for SILVERHILL...



Watch the video trailer for InterAct's SILVERHILL...



Links to more information about SILVERHILL:

Purchase Tickets

Read Toby Zinman's Philadelphia Inquirer Review

An Interview with Playwright Thomas Gibbons

An Interview with Director Seth Rozin



Philadelphia Inquirer: SILVERHILL is an "Impassioned" "Fine New Play..."




Check out these excerpts from Toby Zinman's review of SILVERHILL in today's Inquirer:

A Utopia Beset by Lust and Conflict


By Toby Zinman
Friday, October 29, 2010


... Silverhill is the name of Thomas Gibbons' fine new play at InterAct Theatre Company and it's also the name of a 19th-century utopian religious community, based on the Oneida community in upstate New York. The very word utopia means "no place" - but that doesn't seem to stop anybody from hoping this time will be different.

Begin with the set... a huge metal gate, the name emblazoned across it. The question is, does the gate lock the world out or the community in?

... The pleasures of a good historical drama are many... their problems are our problems, and their solutions shed light on ours, since Gibbons gives each point of view an impassioned monologue.

... Strife, both economic and sexual, ensues, raising questions about human nature: Is love always possessive? Is male competition always sexual? Is innocence good or foolish? Is capitalism inevitably soul-destroying? Is private ownership a function of individuality? Does leadership always become tyranny? Do the young always rebel against the rules of their society? Good stuff to think about.

Seth Rozin directs the strong cast.


Links to more information about SILVERHILL:

Purchase Tickets

Read Toby Zinman's Entire Inquirer Review

An Interview with Playwright Thomas Gibbons

An Interview with Director Seth Rozin

Watch the Video Trailer of SILVERHILL



Thursday, October 28, 2010

SILVERHILL On Rep Radio





Rep Radio's Kristen Scatton interviews playwright Thomas Gibbons, director Seth Rozin and actor Nancy Boykin on the inspiration behind SILVERHILL and what it takes to put a world premiere play on stage...



Tuesday, October 26, 2010

SILVERHILL Featured at Examiner.com



InterAct's good friend Samantha Clarke, who was featured in the cast of last season's THE ELABORATE ENTRANCE OF CHAD DEITY, writes about the Philadelphia theatre scene at Examiner.com. Her latest column features several quotes from playwright Thomas Gibbons about his inspiration behind writing SILVERHILL.

Read Her Latest Column Here




Monday, October 25, 2010

SILVERHILL Director Interview with DCTheatreScene.com



In the second of a series of interviews with Philadelphia theatre directors, Joel Markowitz of DCTheatreScene.com interviewed Seth Rozin, director of InterAct's production of SILVERHILL, about the world premiere of the new play, his long-standing working relationship with playwright Thomas Gibbons, and what makes InterAct a unique theatre on the Philadelphia scene.

Before I plan a trip to Philadelphia, I always check to see if InterAct has a show running. This weekend, 6 members of The Ushers and Broadway Bound Meetup will be heading to Philly with me for a theatre-filled weekend. I can’t wait to introduce them to the brilliance of InterAct’s productions by attended their new production of Silverhill. I asked Director Seth Rozin to tell us about the production...



InterAct & Mural Arts on the Red Carpet at the Barrymores

Check out this interview with Seth Rozin, InterAct Producing Artistic Director, and Jane Golden, Mural Arts' Executive Director, during the Actors' Equity Association Red Carpet pre-show at the 2010 Barrymore Awards ceremony. InterAct and Mural Arts went on to win the award for New Approaches to Collaborations Award for CITY OF NUMBERS by Sean Christopher Lewis:





Tuesday, October 5, 2010

InterAct Wins Three 2010 Barrymore Awards

On Monday, October 4, the Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia celebrated the 2009/2010 theatre sSeason by announcing the 2010 Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre at a gala ceremony held at the Walnut Street Theatre. InterAct was the recipients of three Barrymore Awards (out of five nominations). InterAct extends a big "Congratulations!" and "Thank You!" to the artists, designers and everyone who worked on these productions:


The Brown Martin Philadelphia Award
BLACK PEARL SINGS!

The Ted and Stevie Wolf Award for New Approaches to Collaborations
InterAct Theatre Company & City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program for CITY OF NUMBERS: mixtape of a city...

Outstanding Choreography/Movement
John Bellomo & Tony “Hitman” Stetson for
THE ELABORATE ENTRANCE OF CHAD DEITY


Now in its 16th year, the Barrymore Awards are the Greater Philadelphia region's only comprehensive theatre awards program, recognizing artists for excellence and innovation while serving to increase awareness of the richness of the local theatre community. The Barrymore Awards are a nationally recognized symbol of excellence for theatre in this region, raising the bar for the work produced by local theatres and individual artists, and generating significant coverage in all the local newspapers and in national trade publications. Each year, over 120 shows produced by the region's professional theatres are reviewed by the Barrymore Voters. This year, 24 of Theatre Alliance's 76 member theatres received nominations for a total of 40 productions.
 
For a complete list of nominees and winners, check out these links:
 
Theatre Alliance's Complete List of Recipients & Nominees
 
Philadelphia Inquirer's Coverage of the Ceremony



Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Read InterAct's 2010/2011 Brochure Online

Below is the online version of InterAct's 2010/2011 season brochure, designed by the fine folks at Lorel Marketing Group. The season begins Friday, October 22 with SILVERHILL, the new play by renowned Philadelphia playwright Thomas Gibbons, author of InterAct hits PERMANENT COLLECTION, BEE-LUTHER-HATCHEE and A HOUSE WITH NO WALLS. Subscribe now so you don't miss the oppurtunity to see all five fantastic new plays in this season's line-up. Subscriptions range from $61-$129 (still the best value in town!)...








Tuesday, August 3, 2010

InterAct's Entire 2009/2010 Season Receives Barrymore Recognition

On Monday, August 2, the Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia announced the nominations for the 2010 Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre. The announcements were made as part of the Theatre Alliance's members meeting at New Freedom Theatre. InterAct received five nominations in all, with each of the four shows in InterAct's 2009/2010 Season receiving recognition. InterAct extends a big "Congratulations!" and "Thank You!" to our nominated artists, designers and everyone who worked on the productions:


Independence Foundation Award for Outstanding New Play
WHEN WE GO UPON THE SEA by Lee Blessing

The Brown Martin Philadelphia Award
BLACK PEARL SINGS!

The Ted and Stevie Wolf Award for New Approaches to Collaborations
InterAct Theatre Company & City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program for CITY OF NUMBERS: mixtape of a city...

The Charlotte Cushman Award for Outstanding Leading Actress in a Play
C. Kelly Wright as Pearl Johnson in BLACK PEARL SINGS!

Outstanding Choreography/Movement
John Bellomo & Tony “Hitman” Stetson for THE ELABORATE ENTRANCE OF CHAD DEITY


Now in its 16th year, the Barrymore Awards are the premiere annual event in Philadelphia theatre. Each year, over 100 productions, produced by local professional theatres, are reviewed by the Barrymore voting committee. This year, 24 of Theatre Alliance's 76 member theatres received nominations for a total of 40 productions. The winners of the 2010 Barrymore Awards will be announced at a formal ceremony held on Monday, October 2, 7:00 p.m., at the Walnut Street Theatre. Tickets to attend the ceremony are $75 for theatre artists and $150 for the general public and can be purchased by calling 215.413.7150 or visiting PhillyTheatreTix.com.
 
For a complete list of nominations or for media coverage of the announcements, check out these links:
 
Theatre Alliance's Complete List of Nominees
 
Philadelphia Inquirer's Coverage of the Nominations
 
BroadwayWorld.com Coverage of the Nominations
 
TheatreMania.com Coverage of the Nominations





Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Philly Weekly Includes CHAD DEITY in Season's Top 10


If you're a regular follower of InterAct, you already know that Kristoffer Diaz's THE ELABORATE ENTRANCE OF CHAD DEITY was last season's biggest hit, eventually becoming the 5th best-selling show in our history. You may also know that the play was named as one of the finalists for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Drama and was shortly thereafter received a critically-acclaimed run Off-Broadway in New York, produced by Victory Gardens Theatre out of Chicago. (And if you're not a regular follower of InterAct, you should be... and you can read more about CHAD DEITY's accolades here.) Well, in this week's edition of Philadelphia Weekly, J. Cooper Robb named InterAct's production of the ground-breaking new play one of Philadelphia's Top 10 Productions of the 2009/2010 Season. Seth Rozin was also named as the season's Best Director of a Play for his work on the production. Check out our honors and see what else made the list here.





Friday, June 25, 2010

Philly Bloggers Love BLACK PEARL SINGS!

Several local writers have blogged about how much they enjoyed BLACK PEARL SINGS! Take a look at a few of their comments:

"I read this play ... and am thrilled to have had the opportunity to see this spare and powerful piece expertly cast, deftly dressed (set and actors), simply lit, elegantly directed, and superbly acted. InterAct Theatre Company is doing something special ... Do yourself a favor and catch this special production ... A powerful and evocative story ..."
- Martha Wade Steketee, Urban Excavations Blog


"... C. Kelly Wright (Pearl) and Catharine Slusar (Susannah) are marvelous. ... The entire production, the scenery, costumes and lighting, is wonderfully crafted. There are more laughs than you might expect from the storyline. A capella songs underscore the heart and tensions of the plot. They're so affecting you may find yourself inclined to sing along."
- Deni Kasrel, UWishUNu Blog


"With their current production, Black Pearl Sings!, InterAct Theatre brings a powerful story to the Mainstage of Philadelphia’s Adrienne. The intimate performance space, where third row is a mere six feet from the floor-level stage, helps one feel immersed in the story ... the greatest beauty of this show lay in the voice of C. Kelly Wright as she sang a cappella spirituals and folk songs, and her visceral expression of emotions throughout the performance. Her rich voice brought tears to my eyes multiple times, and manifested great power and strength. I felt her voice not only in my ears but in my bones. ... [an] excellent production ..."
- Lisa Rand, Feminist Review Blog


"Do NOT miss this play at the InterAct Theatre ... The ancestors live, breathe and intoxicate through Ms. Wright in Black Pearl Sings!, and you owe it to yourself, ... to see what she can bring forth in you as you sit helpless in the audience."
- Dr. Niama L. Williams, BlowingUpBarriers.com


Links to more information about BLACK PEARL SINGS!:

Purchase Tickets Now

Read Wendy Rosenfield's Philadelphia Inquirer Review

Read Kimberly Roberts' Philadelphia Tribune Review

Read J. Cooper Robb's Philadelphia Weekly Review

Read Bonnie Squires' Mainline Times Review

Read Naila Francis' Intelligencer Article

Listen to Music Featured in BLACK PEARL SINGS!

Play Description, Artist Bios & Performance Calendar

An Interview with Playwright Frank Higgins

Watch a video trailer of BLACK PEARL SINGS! at Ford's Theatre in Washington D.C.





Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mainline Times: BLACK PEARL SINGS! is "A Magnificent Play"



BLACK PEARL SINGS really strikes a chord in Bonnie Squires at Mainline Times.  Check out these excerpts to see why she loved the show:

Village View: A play, a book and the reality of our race relations

By Bonnie Squires
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Ever since my husband and I went to see “Black Pearl Sings!” at the InterAct Theater, we can’t stop thinking about the play and its many levels of meaning. The Frank Higgins play is a springboard for resuming something really important which has been submerged in the outcry against British Petroleum Oil and the disaster occurring in the Gulf of Mexico: the national conversation on race relations. Which almost had its jump-start with the election of our first African-American president.

But the recession, Afghanistan and now BP all intervened and interrupted what should have been an ongoing discussion of race relations in America. And inequality in its many forms. And what has — and has not — been done to ameliorate the racism and prejudice which shows its ugly head at every opportunity.

“Black Pearl Sings!” puts everything into focus. The action takes place in 1935 but it could easily have taken place today.

... Frank Higgins, who is white, has created a magnificent play which is guaranteed to make every theatergoer, black or white, uncomfortable. And rightfully so.

... And Seth Rozin, the director and co-founder of InterAct Theater Company, has a special knack for bringing out compassion and empathy, even in characters who are not the most appealing to begin with.

... the compelling, cynical character of Pearl (C. Kelly Wright), with her amazing voice and repertoire of songs to comfort her as she drags her ball and chain into the visitors’ room of the jail, is designed to move us.

... You really need to see “Black Pearl Sings,” which is here through Sunday. And then sit down with “The Other Wes Moore” and think on race relations in America today.

Links to more information about BLACK PEARL SINGS!:

Read Bonnie Squires' Full Mainline Times Review

Purchase Tickets Now

Read J. Cooper Robb's Philadelphia Weekly Review

Read Kimberly Roberts' Philadelphia Tribune Review

Read Wendy Rosenfield's Philadelphia Inquirer Review

Listen to Music Featured in BLACK PEARL SINGS!

Play Description, Artist Bios & Performance Calendar

An Interview with Playwright Frank Higgins

Watch a video trailer of BLACK PEARL SINGS! at Ford's Theatre in Washington D.C.





Philly Weekly: BLACK PEARL SINGS! is "Compelling" & "High Caliber"


J. Cooper Robb raves about BLACK PEARL SINGS! in this week's Philadelphia Weekly! Check out these excerpts:

Black Pearl Sings

By J. Cooper Robb
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Ownership of culture is at the heart of Frank Higgins’ Black Pearl Sings, a compelling drama in a thoughtful production from InterAct Theater Company. Higgins’ play, inspired by the real-life association between musicologist John Lomax and singer/guitarist Leadbelly, focuses on the relationship between two disparate women in Depression-era America.

... Susannah is likeable but naive, at one point announcing that she is an “expert in oppressed people.” While she’s clearly not a bigot, questions of whether she’s particularly qualified to be a curator of African-American culture lie close to the heart of the play.

... Wright has considerable musical-theater experience belied by the singing style she uses in her performance as Pearl. Sounding like a woman who needs to sing rather than a woman trained to sing, Wright’s vocals are soulful, painful, joyful and spiritual.

... The costuming choices, sound design and high caliber of acting are reflective of the care given to all elements of Rozin’s meticulously mounted production. In a play that could be one-sided (the role of Pearl clearly being the meatier and flashier of the two leads) this is an evenhanded affair that leaves us questioning whether an outsider can ever “present” another culture accurately and with empathy.


Links to more information about BLACK PEARL SINGS!:

Read J. Cooper Robb's Full Philadelphia Weekly Review

Purchase Tickets Now

Read Kimberly Roberts' Philadelphia Tribune Review

Read Wendy Rosenfield's Philadelphia Inquirer Review

Listen to Music Featured in BLACK PEARL SINGS!

Play Description, Artist Bios & Performance Calendar

An Interview with Playwright Frank Higgins

Watch a video trailer of BLACK PEARL SINGS! at Ford's Theatre in Washington D.C.





Wednesday, June 9, 2010

BLACK PEARL SINGS Actresses Interviewed in The Intelligencer



Naila Franics has written a great article about BLACK PEARL SINGS for The Intelligencer, including interviews with both actresses in the show. Take a look...

Songs For The Journey

By Naila Franicis
The Intelligencer
Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ultimately, it’s often reflected upon as a story of unlikely friendship.

But “Black Pearl Sings!,” Frank Higgins’ critically acclaimed drama about two women confronted by race and gender biases during the Great Depression, packs a much more compelling complexity. ...

“What’s easy to do with the play is to make it about people connecting and I think the story has more to do with them not connecting,” says Catharine K. Slusar, the Philadelphia-based actress who plays Susannah. “By the end of the play, they respect each other deeply in a way that wasn’t possible in the beginning. In the beginning, Susannah just needs to make the next big discovery so she can get a teaching job at Harvard and Pearl just needs to get out so she can see her daughter.

“You think these two women are never going to see eye to eye. They are so stubborn and single-minded, but the interesting thing is it comes when you don’t expect it. … I don’t know that they’re friends but they love each other, which is more than that in a way.”

For both Slusar, also director of the theater department at Bryn Mawr College, and C. Kelly Wright, who is making her Philadelphia debut in the role of Pearl, the play is a powerful meditation on survival, the preservation of cultural heritage — and the slippery slope to define what’s authentic and what isn’t — and the similarities that bind us, often more deeply than any initial differences and misperceptions may suggest.

“It’s about the common ground among human beings and women and really just coming to a point where I can appreciate that (Susannah) is not so different from me,” says Wright, who recently relocated to New York after years in the San Francisco Bay Area. “Susannah’s not alone in having her misconceptions. Pearl has a boatload of them herself based on her experience. She has to form a new world order, I think, and she gets that from Susannah. The ways in which they’re different — the things the other person possesses — many of these are things that they could use.”

While Pearl definitely believes herself to bear a greater burden of injustice and degradation based on her race, Higgins handily juxtaposes her oppression with that of Susannah’s own gender struggles.

“It’s easy to see what Pearl is fighting against because of the history of slavery in our country and segregation, etc., and she’s in prison. You think that white people had all the power, but I think what Frank does that’s interesting is he makes the struggle of women deeply important,” says Slusar, a Barrymore Award-winning actress who has appeared in several InterAct Theatre productions ...

Still, Pearl and Susannah forge a delicate trust as they begin to dismantle their preconceived notions about each other. That bond is further enriched by the 20 or so songs that they share in the play. Though most of them are in the public domain and several may sound familiar, even the most well-known ones — “Kum Ba Yah” and “This Little Light of Mine,” for instance — are rendered in live, little-heard a cappella versions.

“Most of the songs, the way they’re placed in the piece, they have a dual meaning,” says Wright, whose recent credits include the off-Broadway production of “Langston In Harlem” and Playwrights Horizons’ “Red Clay,” in which she portrayed Rosa Parks. “Many of them start off as one experience and end up as another. They serve to place the piece time-wise and to ground it in the earthiness that it’s coming from. [‘Black Pearl Sings!’] is about the songs, but it’s also about the life that these songs sing about.”
The songs also underscore the importance of preserving the past. Slusar says that her character doesn’t want the past to get lost within all the tumult and change of the Great Depression; in reaching back to protect what she believes is important, she also hopes to prove the power of song as both a survival and communication skill.

For Wright, the play is preserving something that strikes a little closer to home.

“There are actors who don’t want to portray certain periods of time — they don’t want to do another slave show or Civil War show — but I feel very protective of those voices because they didn’t get their opportunity to speak,” says Wright. “Sometimes in the retelling of their stories, they’re not fully thought through, but Frank has written Pearl to be strong and knowledgeable. She’s not a caricature. She has hopes and dreams and fears and prayers, very much like me. I find a full place to start with her and that feels good.”

Links to more information about BLACK PEARL SINGS!:

Read Naila Francis' Full Intelligencer Article

Purchase Tickets

Read Wendy Rosenfield's Philadelphia Inquirer Review

Read Kimberly Roberts' Philadelphia Tribune Review

Listen to Music Featured in BLACK PEARL SINGS!

Play Description, Artist Bios & Performance Calendar

An Interview with Playwright Frank Higgins

Watch a video trailer of BLACK PEARL SINGS!
at Ford's Theatre in Washington D.C.






Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tribune: BLACK PEARL SINGS is "Lively" & "Profound"


BLACK PEARL SINGS received an excellent review from Kimberly Roberts at The Philadelphia Tribune! Check out some of what she had to say:

‘Black Pearl Sings!’ is a lively character study

By Kimberly Roberts
Tribune Entertainment Writer
Friday, June 4, 2010

Interact Theatre Company, known for its small but profound productions, has done it again with “Black Pearl Sings!” ...

Both Wright and Slusar have a gift for comedy, and Higgins’ earthy, dialogue driven piece is filled with zany one-line zingers, delivered with plenty of attitude by both characters, along with some inconvenient truths that are often painful to hear.

The cozy intimate atmosphere of The Adrienne is conducive to the interactive nature of “Black Pearl Sings!" In her InterAct Theatre debut, Wright, who should be a strong contender for a Barrymore Award after this performance, fully engaged the audience with her expressive facial features, inner angst and compelling delivery of the traditional hymns and spirituals.

Barrymore winner Catharine Slusar, ... consistently shines a bright light on Pearl’s “authentic” heritage, while refusing to address, or even acknowledge, the problems in her own ... the two women form a sisterhood, though not quite a friendship, that was engrossing.

Based on the age-old story of exploitation (for the sake of art, of course), “Black Pearl Sings!” is a provocative production that demonstrates, once again, how deeply stereotypes, racism, and prejudice are woven into the fabric of America. ...

Links to more information about BLACK PEARL SINGS!:

Read Kimberly Roberts' Full Review

Purchase Tickets

Read Wendy Rosenfield's Philadelphia Inquirer Review

Listen to Music Featured in
BLACK PEARL SINGS!


Play Description, Artist Bios & Performance Calendar

An Interview with Playwright Frank Higgins

Watch a video trailer of BLACK
PEARL SINGS! at Ford's Theatre
in Washington D.C.






Friday, June 4, 2010

Inquirer: BLACK PEARL SINGS is "The Real Deal"


Check out these excerpts from Wendy Rosenfield's review of BLACK PEARL SINGS! in today's Inquirer:

Black, White Women Bond Musically and Winningly

By Wendy Rosenfield
Friday, June 4, 2010

... In Seth Rozin's hands, Black Pearl sings, all right, and women wasting their girls-night-out money on faux female-bonding shows like Respect or Menopause: The Musical ought to demand refunds, link arms, and head straight to the Adrienne Theatre for the real deal, courtesy of InterAct Theatre Company.

There's music here too, both spiritual and playful, albeit from the Depression era and earlier. Higgins' drama is modeled after the relationship between bluesman Leadbelly and musicologist John Lomax, but the women make it their own, with tunes devastatingly bellowed by C. Kelly Wright as Pearl Johnson, and sung with a self-conscious reserve by Catherine Slusar as Susannah Mullally.

Rozin carefully calibrates the women's intellectual and emotional balance. He allows them dignity, silliness, and secrets in equal measure without forcing them to wallow too deeply for too long in the type of unbridled pathos and sentimentality that could drown this play.

... Wright and Slusar are strong enough to resist the script's baser instincts. The play's success lies in its characters' friendship, not their surroundings - though Shannon Zura's set ... allows the women to stretch out and explore the space between them. ...

There may be some irony in the fact that this endearing examination of women and race was written and directed by a pair of white men, but then again maybe that's just Higgins' point. Just as Susannah's search for "authenticity" led her to expand the definition, this production asks its audience to do the same.

Links to more information about BLACK PEARL SINGS!:

Read Wendy Rosenfield's Full Review

Purchase Tickets

Listen to Music Featured in
BLACK PEARL SINGS!


Play Description, Artist Bios & Performance Calendar

An Interview with Playwright Frank Higgins

Watch a video trailer of BLACK
PEARL SINGS! at Ford's Theatre
in Washington D.C.






Thursday, May 6, 2010

Central Record Hails WHEN WE GO UPON THE SEA as "Impressive" and "Imaginative"

Here's another great review that was posted today on The Central Record by Sally Friedman:



"In the line at the parking lot across from the Adrienne Theatre in Philadelphia, the debate still raged. Those of us in that line who had just come from the InterAct Theatre’s production of "When We Go Upon The Sea" were not yet finished with analyzing the play we’d seen, a play that left us at once confounded - and also impressed. ... Bush [is] wonderfully wrought by Conan McCarty ... But it’s the “why” ... that is at the heart of this intriguing semi-comedy ... Issues of war and peace, responsibility and indifference, and surely the key issue of what actually is a President’s responsibility, keep the moral issues flowing. Director Paul Meshejian manages to combine the sharpest Blessing wit ... in just the right doses, and then he can turn on a dime to weighty issues and imponderables. This play moves! ... the script is imaginative and perfectly rendered by this small, gifted cast. ... The play is already commissioned to play off-Broadway in June, surely a feather in the cap - and a first - for InterAct. For that reason alone - along with plenty of others - this provocative play is worth your time ..."

Read Sally Friedman's Full Central Record Review


Links to more information about WHEN WE GO UPON THE SEA:

WHEN WE GO UPON THE SEA Moves to Off-Broadway!

Read the Philadelphia Inquirer Review

Read Audience Reactions to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Review


Read J. Cooper Robb's Philadelphia Weekly Review

Read Alaina Mabaso's EdgePhiladelphia.com Review

Read Robert Zaller's BroadstreetReview.com Review

Purchase Tickets

Play Description, Artist Bios & Performance Calendar
(including a talk-back with playwright Lee Blessing)


An Interview with Playwright Lee Blessing

Actor Conan McCarty on Playing George W. Bush

InterAct's 20/20 New Play Commission Program

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Philly Weekly Calls UPON THE SEA "Daring ... Thoroughly Compelling"!

Another outstanding review for WHEN WE GO UPON THE SEA from J. Cooper Robb in Philadelphia Weekly:


"Whether you love George W. Bush or hate him, you’ll be fascinated by the portrait of the ex-president in Lee Blessing’s daring political drama WHEN WE GO UPON THE SEA, which is receiving a thoroughly compelling world-premiere production from InterAct Theater Company. ... Bush is joined by Piet (an enigmatic Peter Schmitz) ... [and] Anna-Lisa (Kim Carson in a terrific performance) ... Under Paul Meshejian’s exacting direction, McCarty portrays Bush as a punk, but not necessarily a monster. He’s aggressive and frighteningly assured ... In this dark and disquieting play, Blessing isn’t concerned with simple Bush bashing. His purpose in SEA is to investigate the relationship between rulers and those they rule. ... At the end of Blessing’s drama, we are left with the uneasy feeling that perhaps America doesn’t want a man of the people in the Oval Office, but rather an omnipotent ruler with an insatiable thirst for power."

Read J. Cooper Robb's Full Philadelphia Weekly Review



Links to more information about WHEN WE GO UPON THE SEA:

WHEN WE GO UPON THE SEA Moves to Off-Broadway!

Read the Philadelphia Inquirer Review

Read Audience Reactions to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Review

Read Alaina Mabaso's Full EdgePhiladelphia.com Review

Read the BroadstreetReview.com Review

Purchase Tickets

Play Description, Artist Bios & Performance Calendar
(including a talk-back with playwright Lee Blessing)


An Interview with Playwright Lee Blessing

Actor Conan McCarty on Playing George W. Bush

InterAct's 20/20 New Play Commission Program



Monday, May 3, 2010

The Raves Keep Coming for WHEN WE GO UPON THE SEA

Check out a few excerpts from Alaina Mabaso's outstanding review of WHEN WE GO UPON THE SEA:




"... Blessing’s play is by no means a vehicle for easy shots on the former President. Blessing, Director Paul Meshejian, and a superb cast (Conan McCarty, Peter Schmitz and Kim Carson) have much more important things to unearth ... Blessing does deftly reveal a man with all the foibles, gaffes and indefatigable pride we might expect to see in an onstage W. Yes, we’re going to discuss the "terrorists" and an almost megalomaniacal certainty ... But Conan McCarty’s Bush is an intensely human, grounded performance, and the dialogue Blessing fashions through Bush’s mouth on supremacy, justice, annihilation, and even the indignity of a corporate jet over the pomp of Air Force One is less a meditation on a single character receding from world politics, and more an uncomfortably recognizable journey through universal human qualities destined to repeat in any leader of the future. ... McCarty is a native of Bush’s own home county in Texas, and his performance is not an impersonation, but an embodiment of a real piece of American life, and a reminder that understanding our leaders might just be best done with a hard look at ourselves. ... Peter Schmitz’s eminently sleek Piet lucidly echoes Bush’s blunt sentiments ... Kim Carson as enigmatic "relaxationist" Anna-Lisa brings sensual sparks as well as a poignant, intelligent depth. Blessing helps to make another incisive comment on the American public ... Having seen the play once, I would welcome the opportunity to listen to this timeless and well-characterized piece again. ..."

Read Alaina Mabaso's Full EdgePhiladelphia.com Review



Links to more information about WHEN WE GO UPON THE SEA:

WHEN WE GO UPON THE SEA Moves to Off-Broadway!

Read the Philadelphia Inquirer Review

Read Audience Reactions to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Review

Read the BroadstreetReview.com Review

Purchase Tickets

Play Description, Artist Bios & Performance Calendar
(including a talk-back with playwright Lee Blessing)


An Interview with Playwright Lee Blessing

Actor Conan McCarty on Playing George W. Bush

InterAct's 20/20 New Play Commission Program




Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Inquirer Raves About WHEN WE GO UPON THE SEA


Check out these excerpts from Wendy Rosenfield's review of WHEN WE GO UPON THE SEA in today's Inquirer:

A Comedy About Issues
Bigger Than Bush


By Wendy Rosenfield
Friday, April 16, 2010

In this world-premiere production of Lee Blessing's When We Go Upon the Sea, commissioned by InterAct Theatre Company, George W. Bush ... will get his comeuppance and be exposed as the evildoer we knew he was all along. ... Wrong ... this isn't even really a drama about Bush, though it riffs on the former president's administration and personal history ... Instead, it's about power and servitude, God and his absence, and what we allow to step in and fill the void. ...
Blessing's parable owes much of its success to Paul Meshejian's direction - orchestration, really - which places the apostle Piet [(Peter Schmitz)] and his Mary Magdalen-like associate Anna-Lisa (Kim Carson) amid a metaphoric tide that rages and recedes according to George's humor. ... If [actor Conan] McCarty's blunt force powers the production, and Schmitz's steady unflappability anchors it, Carson provides its depth as a refugee seeking shelter from the global storm ...

Blessing (A Walk in the Woods, Thief River) raises more questions than he answers ... but that's OK. With the help of InterAct and its tireless advocacy for an audience of soul-searchers, the playwright implores Americans to take to the helm while our own shores are still relatively calm.

Links to more information about WHEN WE GO UPON THE SEA:

Read Audience Reactions in This Entry's Comments Section

Read Wendy Rosenfield's Full Review

Purchase Tickets

Play Description, Artist Bios & Performance Calendar
(including a talk-back with playwright Lee Blessing)


An Interview with Playwright Lee Blessing

Actor Conan McCarty on Playing George W. Bush

InterAct's 20/20 New Play Commission Program