STAGE TUBE: Behind the Scenes of every tongue confess
Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater presents the world premiere of Marcus Gardley's every tongue confess, which opens the new Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle, the third theater space in the Mead Center. Director Kenny Leon (Broadway's Fences and last season's Stick Fly at Arena Stage) leads an ensemble cast featuring talent from across the country, including Tony Award-winner Phylicia Rashad teamed up with Jason Dirden, CrystAl Fox, Autumn Hurlbert, Jim Ireland, Leslie Kritzer, Eugene Lee, E. Roger Mitchell and Jonathan Earl Peck. every tongue confess runs November 9, 2010-January 2, 2011 in the Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle.
"The birth of a new theater space is cause for major celebration," says Artistic Director Molly Smith. "The inauguration of the Kogod Cradle, as a theater created for new works, needed to be a premiere. Marcus Gardley is a young writer who is a theater poet, who writes plays that are epic and intimate at the same time. The first project that is created in a new theater will be always remembered, and every tongue confess is that play."
In the backwater town of Boligee, Alabama, the summer heat is rising higher, driving the townsfolk to distraction and conjuring the spirits of the past to walk the earth. Wrapped in the combustible music of a Deep South juke joint and the sweat-soaked gospel of a revivalist church tent, intergenerational stories of loss and redemption collide. Gardley blends ancient myth with magical realism, Biblical allegory with the local TV news to create a fiery theatrical furnace in which some will be saved, some will be purged and the truth cannot escape.
Growing up in a family of ministers, Playwright Marcus Gardley always felt at home when he was at church. "Theater is church for me because it's the place where souls are moved," says Gardley, whose play is based on the church burnings that happened in 1996 Alabama. "My characters make a home in my mind and speak to me until I put them onstage, and now, these characters get to speak to D.C. in a new home. This is the story I want to share with the world."
Director Kenny Leon returns to Arena Stage for his fourth production with every tongue confess. "I knew I had to do every tongue confess," says Leon. "It's earthy, epic, contains rich poetry and song with intriguing characters. This play is the perfect play to open the Kogod Cradle and this incredible cast will make Marcus' words really speak to people."
Marcus Gardley (Playwright) is a multiple award-winning poet-playwright who won the prestigious 2008 Helen Merrill Award and a Kesselring honor. His most recent play On the Levee was produced at Lincoln Center Theater and has been nominated for seven AUDELCO awards including outstanding playwright 2010. His most produced work, And Jesus Moonwalks the Mississippi, was performed at the Cutting Ball Theater and received both critical acclaim and two sold-out extensions. His Bay Area plays This World in a Woman's Hands (October 2009) and Love is a Dream House in Lorin (March 2007) have been hailed as the best in Bay Area theater. The latter was nominated for the National Critics Steinberg New Play Award. He has had six plays produced including: dance of the holy ghosts at Yale Repertory Theatre (now under a commercial Broadway option). He is the recipient of the SF Bay Area's Gerbode Emerging Playwright Award, the National Alliance for Musical Theatre Award, the Eugene O'Neill Memorial Scholarship and the ASCAP Cole Porter Prize. He holds an MFA in Playwriting from the Yale Drama School and is a member of New Dramatists, The Dramatists Guild and the Lark Play Development Center. Gardley, a native of West Oakland, teaches Playwriting and African-American studies at Umass Amherst.
Kenny Leon (Director), named one of Financial Times' Top 20 Southerners to Watch, is one of the most exciting and acclaimed directors in American theater today. In July 2010, his hit Tony-winning Broadway show Fences garnered 10 Tony nominations, including Best Director. Past Tony nominations include his Broadway productions of Radio Golf, Gem of the Ocean and A Raisin in the Sun, starring Sean Combs, Phylicia Rashad and Audra McDonald. Mr. Leon was nominated for Best Director by the Directors Guild of America for the film version of A Raisin in the Sun, which received Emmy and Golden Globe nominations and won three NAACP Image Awards. Mr. Leon's awards include the Drama League Julia Hansen Award for lifetime of excellence in theater, MIT Eugene McDermott Humanitarian Award, as well as the ABBY and Christopher awards. He's been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, CNN, NBC, Charlie Rose and PBS and was featured as People magazine's 50 Most Beautiful and the Face of Martell's national and international advertising campaign. While directing every tongue confess, Mr. Leon crisscrosses the country directing Private Practice for ABC. Mr. Leon's upcoming Broadway work includes Katori Hall's The Mountaintop, winner of London's Olivier Award for Best New Play. Formerly Artistic Director of Atlanta's ALLIANCE THEATRE, Mr. Leon is presently Founding Artistic Director of Kenny Leon's True Colors Theatre Company. His directorial credits include classic theater, drama, comedy, opera, musicals, musical revues and film. He's directed extensively around the country, including Chicago's Goodman Theater, Boston's Huntington Theater, Connecticut's Long Wharf Theater, Hartford Stage, Baltimore's Center Stage, Los Angeles' Center Theater Group, Milwaukee Repertory, New York's Public Theater, Atlanta's Fox Theater, Seattle Repertory, Georgia Shakespeare, San Jose Repertory, Dallas Theater Center and Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Mr. Leon was artistic director of the 10-play August Wilson Century Cycle at the Kennedy Center, marking the first time all 10 plays were produced in repertory under one roof. Other directorial credits include Swimming Upstream, Breaking the Silence, Flashdance, which toured the UK through May 2009, and was stage director on Alicia Keys' As I Am worldwide tour, which launched in the UK, toured Europe and finished in North America. He staged the world premiere of Toni Morrison's opera Margaret Garner, featuring mezzo soprano Denyce Graves, at Michigan Opera House and the Auditorium in Chicago. He's produced works including Disney and Elton John's Elaborate Lives: The Legend of Aida, Alfred Uhry's The Last Night of Ballyhoo, Pearl Cleage's Flying West and Blues for an Alabama Sky, among others. He produces the August Wilson Monologue Competition, and is currently producing a documentary film about the importance of the arts in our lives. With honorary doctorates from Roosevelt Univ., among others, Mr. Leon is a graduate of Clark Atlanta Univ.
The Creative Team of every tongue confess includes Dramaturg Nakissa Etemad, Set Designer Tom Lynch, Costume Designer Ilona Somogyi, Lighting Designer Allen Lee Hughes, Composer Dwight Andrews, Sound Designer Tim Thompson, New York Casting Director Alaine Alldaffer, Arena Stage Casting Director Daniel Pruksarnukul, Stage Manager Kurt Hall, Assistant Stage Manager Keri Schultz and Assistant Director Jamil Jude.