Photo Flash: Matrix Theatre Releases NEIGHBORS Production Shots
Subtitled "A Play with Cartoons," Neighbors is guaranteed to be the most provocative play you'll see this year. Following on the heels of last season's multiple award-winning production of Stick Fly, Joseph Stern's Matrix Theatre Company is back with Brenden Jacobs-Jenkins' shocking, explosive, and wildly theatrical new play that examines race relations in post-racial America. Nataki Garrett directs the West Coast premiere at The Matrix Theatre, August 28 through October 24, with previews beginning August 19.
Have you seen the new neighbors? Richard Patterson is an upwardly mobile African-American academic. The family of black actors who has moved in next door is rowdy, tacky, shameless, and uncouth. They are not just invading his neighborhood - they're infiltrating his family, his sanity, and his entire post-racial lifestyle.
"Branden is a part of a growing group of New York-based writers of color who have started a previously taboo conversation about identity politics in America," says Garrett. "In the play, Richard has cut himself off from major aspects of his identity. The family who moves in next door embodies his worst nightmare. They represent everything he's tried to deny in himself."
"I see Neighbors as the continuation of the dialogue about race in America," asserts Stern, who first workshopped Neighbors at the Matrix last December, before it went on to premiere in New York as part of The Public Theatre's LAB series in February.
In an unusual move, The Public opened its LAB production up for review. "Jacobs-Jenkins invents a theatrical conceit sure to baffle and enrage... messy, audacious, fitfully stunning," wrote David Cote in Time Out. In his Back Stage Critic's Pick review, Erik Haagensen raved: "Jacobs-Jenkins has arrived with a big old bang with 'Neighbors,' a grandly theatrical, highly subversive, and immensely intelligent play."
"It's not my intention to shock, just to put these ideas into constellation," explains Jacobs-Jenkins. "What is the value, or lack of value, of 'blackness'? Aren't we past this? Well no, because we still recognize these images. If we were really past it, you wouldn't feel anything. I'm tired of the idea that these issues of race are no longer with us."
At the Matrix, Neighbors will feature an ensemble cast including Baadja-Lyne (Flatliners, The Lady Killers, The Blue Hour); Keith Arthur Bolden (Fences and Gem of the Ocean at The Fountain Theatre); Leith Burke (Judgment at Nuremberg, with Maximillian Schell on Broadway; three seasons with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival; The Tempest with David Strathairn at A.C.T.); Julia Campbell (original company member at The Matrix, including LA Drama Critic's Circle award for Best Actress in Bitter Women); James Edward Shippy (Off Broadway's Another Man's Poison); Rachae Thomas (Musical Theatre of LA's Ragtime, A Midsummer Night's Dream at Theatricum Botanicum); Daniele Watts (Cornerstone Theatre's Demeter in the City, Ken Roht's 99 Cents Only Show: The Calendar Girl Competition); and Derek Webster (regular on Mental, recurring on Kville).
Branden Jacobs-Jenkins is a Brooklyn-based playwright, dramaturg, and performer currently living in Berlin. His work has been seen at The Public Theatre, New York Theatre Workshop, PS122, Soho Rep, New Dramatists, Theater Bielefeld in Bielefeld, Germany and the National Theatre in London. He is a former New York Theatre Workshop Playwriting fellow, an alum of the Soho Rep Writers/Directors Lab and Public Theater Emerging Writers Group, and a member of the Ars Nova Playgroup. His honors include a Princess Grace Award, the Dorothy Strelsin Playwriting Fellowship, and a fellowship in playwriting from the New York Foundation for the Arts. He also holds an M.A. in Performance Studies from NYU.
Nataki Garrett is co-artistic director of BLANK-THE-DOG PRODUCTIONS (BTD); a Los Angeles/New York based ensemble theater company. Most recent BTD projects: currently developing Carolyn Bryant, a project about Emmett Till (REDCAT); LA premiere of Strom Thurmond is Not a Racist by Thomas Bradshaw (Open Space); Week #29 of 365 Plays/Days by Suzan-Lori Parks (Celebration Theatre.) Additional productions: June and Jean in Concert (CalArts); Ochre and Onyx: The Langston Hughes Project (Watts Village Theatre Co.); Black Women State of the Union: An Evening of Plays by Black Women (Company of Angels - 2010 NAACP Theater Award nomination for Best Director with co-director Ayana Cahrr); world premiere of Smoke Lilies and Jade (Center for New Performance); Sucktion (REDCAT NOW FEST); They Call Me Wanjiku (in development at NY's Martin E. Segal Theatre Center); Coffee Will Make You Black (Celebration Theatre); Las Meninas (CalArts); world premiere of Wet (REDCAT). For L.A. Theatre Works radio theater series: Biloxi Blues by Neil Simon; Tape by Steven Belber; 16 Wounded by Eliam Kraiem; and The Living Room by Graham Greene.