On Her Shoulders to Stage Reading of Zora Neal Hurston's SPUNK, 4/15

On Her Shoulders is pleased to present a FREE staged reading (by donation) of SPUNK (1926) by Zora Neale Hurston, directed by Aneesha Kudtarkar on Wednesday, April 15, 2015. Doors open at 6:30pm; The Play in Context, which situates the script in its historical time and place, kicks off the evening at 6:45pm with an Introduction by dramaturg Sadah "Espii" Proctor. Running time, including a post-performance Q&A is 2 hours. The performance is at The New School, Wollman Hall, 65 West 11th Street. R.S.V.P to OnHerShouldersReservations@gmail.com.

ZORA NEALE HURSTON (January 7, 1891- January 28, 1960) was an American folklorist, anthropologist, and author. Of Hurston's four novels and more than 50 published short stories, plays, and essays, she is best known for her 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. In addition to new editions of her work being published after a revival of interest in her in 1975, her manuscript Every Tongue Got to Confess (2001), a collection of folktales gathered in the 1920s, was published posthumously after being discovered in the Smithsonian archives.

SPUNK is an adaptation of Hurston's short story by the same name. The play takes place in a rural, all-black Southern town, much like Hurston's home of Eatonville, Florida, the first incorporated African American township in the United States. The action centers on Spunk Banks, who comes to town and tames the big blade at the local sawmill while stealing another man's wife, Lena. Like many of Hurston's tales, it deals with the nature of marriage and with a struggle between a strong man and a weak one. The play differs from the short story in that Hurston gives the theatrical protagonist a happy ending and the audience is offered the vision of a confident and supremely "manly" man also able to be a good and loving husband. The adultery at its core is negated as a serious offense by the implication that Lena's father-in-law-the local conjure man-won a wife for his son through his dark magic. In the end, the conjure man is shown to be impotent against the power of true love; his hate is no match for Spunk and Lena's belief in each other. Of special note is that the characters speak in a Southern African-American dialect with rich, figurative language. Early critics of Hurston's work were divided on her use of this dialect: some were delighted that she was celebrating the language she had heard first-hand; others, and Richard Wright in particular, felt she was advancing her career by presenting demeaning black stereotypes to a white audience. With a renewed interest in her work and the rediscovery of several plays housed at the Library of Congress, a new generation of literary and theatrical critics are embracing the lyrical and poetic speech of Hurston's characters, and rejecting the notion of her work as "simplistic".

ANEESHA KUDTARKAR (Director) is a Dallas native and graduate of Southern Methodist University's BFA program. Previous directing credits include: Sex by Mae West (On Her Shoulders), One Universal You (Alvin Ailey Auditorium), Happy Hanukah (INTAR's American Nightcap), Gruesome Playground Injuries (Studio @ 620), Living Out, Animals Out of Paper, and Ninety (SMU) She has assistant directed at various institutions including, The Juilliard School, Signature Theatre Company, Westport Country Playhouse, and Studio Theatre in DC. Aneesha is so pleased to be a part of the producing body of On Her Shoulders.

SADAH "ESPII" PROCTOR (Dramaturg) is a writer, dramaturg and performer. Focusing on new play development, devised theatre and intermedia performance, her work explores themes of womanism, social justice, rhythm and movement, and cultural aspects of the African Diaspora. She recently served as dramaturg during the developmental lab of Project Unspeakable (Convergences Theatre Collective) and a staged reading of The Cherry Orchard (Zeitgeist Reads). She is a member of the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA), the Literary Committee for Urban Stages, and Downtown Art as a singer in the Bowery Birds. Espii is also the Founder/Editor-in-Chief of hep.beat.zine, an online blog dedicated to artists of color.

ON HER SHOULDERS was founded in 2012 to present monthly staged readings of plays by women from across the spectrum of time, with contemporary dramaturgs contextualizing--and in some cases adapting--them for modern audiences. The program seeks to make it impossible to deny or ignore the great tradition and value of women's contribution to the theatrical canon. OHS became a program of NPTC in November 2013.

NEW PERSPECTIVES THEATRE COMPANY (NPTC) is an award-winning, multi-racial company now in its 23rd season. The Company's mission is to develop and produce new plays and playwrights, especially women and people of color; to present classic plays in a style that addresses contemporary issues; and to extend the benefits of theatre to young people and communities in need. Our aim is not to exclude, but to cast a wider net. www.nptnyc.org

THE NEW SCHOOL FOR DRAMA: The creative home for the future of performing arts. Agile. Engaged. Innovative. Multi-disciplinary. The New School for Drama is home to a dynamic group of young directors, writers, actors, creative technologists, and award-winning faculty. With a core belief in rigorous creativity and collaborative learning, our programs embrace civic awareness across performance disciplines to create work imbued with professionalism, imagination and social context. For more information, visit www.newschool.edu/drama

The Play in Context, the dramaturgical and scholarly presentation component to the program, is sponsored in part by the League of Professional Theatre Women, a non-profit organization promoting visibility and increasing opportunities for women in theatre since 1982. www.theatrewomen.org



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