Arena Stage to Produce RUINED In-the-Round, 4/22-6/5


Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater will produce the first in-the-round staging of Ruined, the 2009 Pulitzer Prize winner for drama by Arena Stage Project Resident Lynn Nottage and directed by Resident Playwright Charles Randolph-Wright (Director of Arena Stage's Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies). Ruined is the stirring tale of Mama Nadi, a mother figure loosely based on Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children, who provides refuge for women affected by civil war ravaging the Democratic Republic of Congo. The production features an expanded company with cast members playing live music and additional ensemble roles featuring University of Maryland students. Ruined runs April 22-June 5, 2011 in the Fichandler Stage.

"Lynn Nottage is one of this country's fiercest playwrights, and we are so fortunate to work with her on this and future productions," says Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith. "Ruined takes us into the heart of the Congo, and the heart of Mama Nadi, and will resonate in the hearts of our audiences. I am especially pleased that the gifted Charles Randolph-Wright will direct this stunning play."

In war-torn Congo, Mama Nadi keeps the peace between customers on both sides of the civil war by serving everything from cold beers to warm beds. This shrewd matriarch both protects and profits from the women whose bodies have become battlegrounds "ruined" by the brutality of government soldiers and rebel forces alike. Inspired by interviews conducted in Africa, this searing play is an engrossing and uncommonly human story told with humor and song, revealing the immeasurable loss and hopelessness of war, yet finding affirmation in life and hope. Winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for drama, Ruined has been hailed as "a remarkable theatrical accomplishment ... sincere, passionate, courageous!" (Chicago Tribune).

"To me, Ruined is the greatest play of the decade," says Randolph-Wright. "Lynn's words take you on a journey that is surprising, important, funny, devastating and joyous. I am eager to stage this play in the Fichandler because one cannot hide in the round-it's raw and in-your-face, and the audience will be right there in Mama Nadi's place."

"When I was interviewing the Congolese women, they could easily access their smiles," recalls Nottage. "One moment they could tell these absolutely horrific stories, but then they resurrected themselves by finding happiness and accessing their resilience. Hopefully the play will get people to do something to help the Congo."

Randolph-Wright has assembled a strong team of designers for Ruined, several of whom he has worked with on previous productions. Lighting Designer Michael Gilliam has collaborated on nearly every production with Randolph-Wright, and Set Designer Alexander V. Nichols returns after designing the set for Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies. Costume Designer ESosa, best known as a finalist from Season 7 of Project Runway and who last designed Cuttin' Up for Arena Stage, is simultaneously designing costumes for Nottage's upcoming play in New York, By the Way, Meet Vera Stark.

Arena Stage continues its commitment to outreach in the community by exploring the issues and themes raised in Ruined through a series of partnerships and discussion panels.The Humanities Council of Washington, D.C., has selected Ruined as the reading material for Live to Read this spring, a citywide celebration of literature and literacy. More than 200 11th graders are reading the play through Live to Read, and many of them will see the production at Arena Stage. See below for more information, or visit Arena Stage is also hosting weekly panel discussions on Fridays during the run of the show to further explore the topics range addressed in Ruined, such as women's advocacy, refugees, sex trafficking and playwriting. See below for the schedule.

Lynn Nottage's (Playwright) Pulitzer Prize-winning play Ruined has also received Obie, Lucille Lortel, N.Y. Drama Critics' Circle, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards for Best Play (MTC, Goodman). Other plays include Intimate Apparel (N.Y. Drama Critics' Circle Award for best play; Roundabout, CenterStage, South Coast Rep); Fabulation, or The Re-Education of Undine (Obie Award; Playwrights Horizons, London's Tricycle); Crumbs from the Table of Joy; Las Meninas; Mud, River, Stone; Por'knockers and Poof! Ms. Nottage is recipient of numerous awards, including the 2007 MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant," National Black Theatre Festival's August Wilson Playwriting Award, 2004 PEN/Laura Pels Award for drama, 2005 Guggenheim Grant for playwriting, as well as fellowships from the Lucille Lortel Foundation, MTC, New Dramatists and N.Y. Foundation for the Arts. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild, alumna of New Dramatists and graduate oF Brown Univ. and Yale School of Drama, where she is a visiting lecturer.

Charles Randolph-Wright (Director) directed Sophisticated Ladies, Guys and Dolls, Oak and Ivy, Anthems, and Señor Discretion Himself and wrote Blue and Cuttin' Up at Arena Stage. Other theater credits include productions at Roundabout Theatre, Lincoln Center, Williamstown, New York Shakespeare Festival, New York Theater Workshop, Manhattan Theatre Club, Carnegie Hall, Mark Taper Forum, Geffen Playhouse, Pasadena Playhouse and ACT. Charles directed the award-winning film Preaching to the Choir and has written screenplays for HBO, Showtime, Disney, Castle Rock and Fox. Television credits include directing the series Lincoln Heights (ABC Family) and South of Nowhere (The N), the "Freestyle" soccer campaign for Nike and producing and writing the series Linc's (Showtime). A Duke University honors graduate, Charles is honored to be a resident playwright at Arena and this year's recipient of the Paul Robeson Award from Actors' Equity.

The Cast of Ruined:
Segun Akande (Soldier) is making his debut at Arena Stage. He has appeared Off-Broadway in Blue Eyed Cats Are Always Deaf, Chakalaka and earned Honorable Mention distinctions for Outstanding Actor for his performance in The Poet. Other regional credits include Arkansas Repertory Theatre (Asagai in A Raisin in the Sun) and Florida Studio Theatre (Simon in Ruined). Mr. Akande was recently seen on film in the blockbuster Sex and the City 2 with Sarah Jessica Parker. In addition, he is currently featured in national commercial roles for Under Armour, BET and as the voice for a Gatorade campaign.

Jeremiah W. Birkett (Christian) is a veteran of the stage, screen and TV, whose notable performances include Grapes of Wrath and Topdog/Underdog on Broadway, as well as several appearances at regional theaters across the country. His screen and TV credits include L.A. Confidential, Evan Almighty, Seinfeld (as the Jamaican marathon runner), Monk and many others.

Clifton Duncan (Jerome Kisembe) is making his Arena Stage debut. Locally, he cut his teeth working at Signature Theatre, Washington Shakespeare Company and Shakespeare Theatre Company. He's appeared Off-Broadway at City Center (Lost in the Stars), The Public Theater (Twelfth Night) and as a featured artist in Ars Nova's 2010 ANT Fest (the uniVERSE project, his hip-hop solo piece). Regional credits include Williamstown, Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey, O'Neill, Kansas City Rep, Hangar Theater, Chautauqua and Georgia Shakespeare Festival. Mr. Duncan has an M.F.A. from NYU's Graduate Acting Program, under the tutelage of Zelda Fichandler.

JaBen A. Early (Simon) is a Washington, D.C., native and has been performing for local audiences for the past three years. This is his first performance at Arena, though he grew up watching theater here. He trained at both Morehouse College and Sarah Lawrence, where he received his M.F.A. Among his favorite roles: Bigger Thomas in Native Son and Aaron the Moor in Titus Andronicus. He would like to thank his parents and extended family for their support.

Donnetta Lavinia Grays (Salima). Broadway: In the Next Room, or the vibrator play; Well. Off-Broadway: Shipwrecked! (Primary Stages). Regional: No Child (Hartford TheaterWorks), Joe Turner's Come and Gone (Baltimore CenterStage), A Raisin in the Sun and The Royal Family (Oregon Shakespeare), Well (Arena Stage), Twelfth Night (L.A. Women's Shakespeare), Much Ado About Nothing (Charleston Shakespeare) and Well (Huntington Theatre). Film: The Wrestler. TV: Mercy, The Sopranos, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Law & Order: SVU. B.A., College of Charleston; M.F.A., UC Irvine. Artistic director of New York-based Coyote Rep, founded in 2005.

Rachael Holmes (Sophie) is making her Arena Stage debut. Ms. Holmes was most recently seen playing Osha in Marcus, or The Secret of Sweet at Studio Theatre. She made her D.C. debut last season as Queen Isabel and Princess Katharine in Richard II and Henry V at Shakespeare Theatre. Other stage credits include the MTC production of Ruined, Widowers' Houses with Epic Theatre Ensemble (AUDELCO nom for best lead actress) and No Child... at both the Hangar and Capital Rep theaters. Her TV credits include The Good Wife, Dirt, Guiding Light, All My Children and national commercials. A master teaching artist, Ms. Holmes works for New Victory Theatre in New York and just joined Shakespeare Theatre's education team. M.F.A.: NYU.

James J. Johnson (Soldier; Aid Worker) is making his Arena Stage debut. MR. Johnson's D.C. performances include Honey Brown in A Member of the Wedding (Ford's Theatre), Soldier in The Unmentionables (Woolly Mammoth Theatre), James in Teddy Roosevelt and the Ghostly Mistletoe (Kennedy Center) and Ricky-Trey in the world premiere of Kingdom (African Continuum Theatre Company). He also appeared in the premiere of Zomo the Rabbit (Imagination Stage/D.C. and N.Y. Hip-Hop Theater Festivals), which was written and directed by fellow cast member Psalmayene 24 (Helen Hayes Award nom, Outstanding Production, Theatre for Young Audiences). MR. Johnson has also appeared in regional productions of Anna Lucasta (Rep Stage), Macbeth (Theatre at Lime Kiln), The Taming of the Shrew and Twelfth Night (Maryland Shakespeare Festival).

Jenny Jules (Mama Nadi) is an English actress closely linked with Tricycle Theatre, appearing there in August Wilson's Two Trains Running and Gem of the Ocean (both dir. Paulette Randall), Richard Norton-Taylor's reconstruction of Stephen Lawrence Enquiry's The Colour of Justice and Lynn Nottage's Fabulation (dir. Indhu Rubasingham). She appeared in Debbie Tucker Green's Born Bad (dir. Kathy Burke) at Hampstead Theatre and in Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues over 100 times in the West End and elsewhere. She's performed leading roles at Manchester Royal Exchange, National Theatre and Almeida Theatre, notably in Theodore Ward's Big White Fog and Harold Pinter's The Homecoming (both dir. Michael Attenborough). In 2010, Ms. Rubasingham directed her in Ruined, earning her the 2011 Critics' Circle Theatre Award for best actress. She's also won the Manchester Evening News' best supporting actress award for A Raisin in the Sun (Manchester Royal Exchange) and a Time Out Award for Pecong (Tricycle). Her screen work includes dramas such as Skins and Prime Suspect and films such as A Short Stay in Switzerland (BBC) and Wit (HBO).

Jamairais Malone (Josephine) making her Arena Stage debut. Some of her credits include In The Red and Brown Water at Studio Theatre, Cymbeline at Shakespeare's Globe in London, Junkanoo at the Lincoln Theatre and Antigone at the Levin Theatre. She trained under the late Israel Hicks at Rutgers Univ., where she received her B.F.A. in theater arts. She also received classical training at Shakespeare's Globe in London.

Babs (Babatunde) Olusanmokun (Commander Osembenga) has performed at New York theaters such as La MaMa, La Mama Annex, Ensemble Studio Theater, HERE Arts Center and the New York Fringe Festival. He was last seen on stage in Mike Batistick's critically acclaimed Ponies (opposite Michael Imperioli of The Sopranos) at Michael Imperioli's Studio Dante. TV credits include Law & Order: SVU, Life on Mars, The Unit, multiple episodes of Law & Order: Criminal Intent andVeronica Mars. Mr. Olusanmokun can be seen in director Andrew Dosunmu's debut feature film Restless City (Official Sundance Selection 2011).

Psalmayene 24 (Fortune), a.k.a. Greg Morrison, is an actor, playwright and director. His one-man show Free Jujube Brown! is published in the anthology Plays from the Boom-Box Galaxy (TCG). He has received playwriting commissions from African Continuum Theater Company, Arena Stage and Imagination Stage. Mr. 24 wrote and directed Zomo the Rabbit: A Hip-Hop Creation Myth (Helen Hayes nom, Outstanding Production, Theatre for Young Audiences) and has appeared on HBO's critically acclaimed series The Wire. His adaptation of Pinocchio, P.Nokio, will receive its world premiere production at Imagination Stage during the 2011/12 season. Also a singer-songwriter, his music with the band PS24 is available on iTunes.

Lawrence Redmond (Mr. Harari). At Arena Stage: Christmas Carol 1941; Damn Yankees; Passion Play, a cycle; South Pacific; The Misanthrope; A Streetcar Named Desire; The Great White Hope; Guys & Dolls; Animal Crackers; Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; Sunday in the Park with George; Of Thee I Sing; Merrily We Roll Along. Previously this season: The Trip to Bountiful (Round House Theatre/Cleveland Play House), Henry VIII (Folger Theatre) and Travels with My Aunt (Rep Stage). Other D.C. area credits include: As You Like It, Romeo and Juliet, Richard III (Shakespeare Theatre Company); Rock 'n' Roll (The Studio Theatre); Jerry Springer: The Opera, Reefer Madness: The Musical (Studio 2ndstage); Permanent Collection, A Lesson Before Dying, A Prayer for Owen Meany (Round House Theatre). Mr. Redmond is an 11-time nominee and two-time recipient of the Helen Hayes Award.

Jude Tibeau (Soldier) is making his Arena Stage debut. His recent theatre credits include Jackie Robinson in Black Diamond at Discovery Theatre, Pepper White in Golden Boy at Keegan Theatre, and a part of the ensemble in Twelfth Night at Shakespeare Theatre. He also has had the opportunity to work on HBO's The Wire as an extra.

The Cast of Ruined also includes cast members playing live music with David Foreman (Percussionist), Mongezi Chris Ntaka (Guitarist 1), Waldo (Guitarist 2) and Daniel Ssuuna (Traditional African Instrumentalist); and student ensemble members from the University of Maryland Jamar Brown, Ellentinya I. Dodd, Thony Mena, David Samuel, Anastasia Stewart and Hectorlyne P. Wuor, with student coordinator Renee Nyack.

The Creative Team of Ruined includes Set Designer Alexander V. Nichols, Costume Designer ESosa, Lighting Designer Michael Gilliam, Sound Designer Lindsay Jones, Dramaturg Amrita Mangus, Musical Coordinator Mongezi Chris Ntaka, Fight Director Robb Hunter, Movement Consultant Keith LaMelle Thomas,Dialect Coach Kim J. Bey, Stage Manager Kurt Hall and Assistant Stage Manager Jenna Henderson.



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