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The world premiere of Jonathan Payne's The Revolving Cycles Truly and Steadily Roll'd opens tonight, on September 19 at The Duke on 42nd Street, a New 42nd Street Project. Presented by The Playwrights Realm (Katherine Kovner, Founding Artistic Director; Roberta Pereira, Producing Director) and directed by Awoye Timpo, this is the first full production from the mordantly funny and unsparing voice of Jonathan Payne.

Karma (Kara Young), a black teenager in the foster care system, is looking for her foster brother Terrell, who has gone missing within the Oblong-a fictional inner city that Payne describes as "an island isolated by poverty." Maybe he's run away; maybe it's drugs; maybe he's dead; or maybe he's simply lost somewhere in the depths of an uncaring society. As Karma sleuths, she pries clues from a wide variety of characters: an undertaker who profits from abundant death (Lynda Gravátt), a veteran teacher with a poor recollection of his students (Kenneth Tigar), and several others, all of whom tend to be quick to disregard her.

Joining Young, Gravátt and Tigar in the cast are Deonna Bouye, Toni Ann DeNoble, Donnell E Smith, Keith Randolph Smith and James Udom. The creative team includes Kara Kaufman (Stage Manager), Kimie Nishikawa (Set Designer), Andrea Hood (Costume Designer), Stacey Derosier (Lighting Designer), Luqman Brown (Sound Designer), and Alexander Wylie (Prop Designer).

Payne, who by day is a social worker for the housing nonprofit Community Access, submitted Revolving Cycles to Playwrights Realm in 2015-and soon became a 2015/2016 Writing Fellow. With a background in acting, Payne recalls being consistently cast in character roles-a fact that's now reflected in his work as a playwright. He says, "I found that I was putting those characters front and center-the ones who otherwise would just come in and leave. Karma, the protagonist of Revolving Cycles, would be that wacky character on the corner that no one's curious about-so I felt like giving her that space was important to me. There's a racial context as well-there are people who have these needs, who are shouting in the streets and no one is listening. I knew I wanted to write a play that would grab people; out of all of the plays I've written, this is the one I'm most curious to see in how the audience grasps it."

Awoye Timpo (The Homecoming Queen-Atlantic Theater Company; Carnaval-National Black Theatre) says, "Each of the characters that Karma encounters lives in a very fixed way-'These are the terms in which I exist in this world, and I protect myself inside of them so I know how I can make it through.' And as they become trapped in different systems, the isolation becomes so real... The tragedy of the conversation of people not 'having a voice' is that it's about the voice not being heard, and not about the power of the actual voice. Karma has an exceptionally powerful and vivid and focused and loud voice-what does it mean for that to be ignored?"

The stories that have pervaded mainstream American culture and ongoing news stories regarding missing minors almost exclusively appeal to the anxieties of the white nuclear family. When young people in the margins disappear, the absence of a trustworthy governmental system willing to help-not to mention of a cultural system of collective concern and action-heightens the danger that they will never be found. In 2016, around 38% of the more than 400,000 juveniles recorded as missing by the FBI were black (Time, 2017) despite black people making up approximately 14% of the U.S. population. More than 60,000 children in the foster care system have remained missing since 2000 (Washington Post, 2018). InThe Revolving Cycles Truly and Steadily Roll'd, Payne interplays pricking humor, social commentary, and devastation, often, as inspired by Brecht, finding mischievous ways to disrupt his own play before the audience can find total emotional catharsis. Throughout, the playwright presents a string of charged questions and refuses emotionally gratifying answers.

The Revolving Cycles Truly and Steadily Roll'dwill run from September 7 to October 6 (see above schedule) at The Duke on 42nd Street (229 W 42nd Street, Manhattan). Critics are welcome as of September 17 at 8pm for an official opening on September 19 at 7:30pm. General tickets priced at $15-$60 go on sale today, August 14; tickets for students with valid ID are $15, and group tickets are $25 per seat for groups of six or more. To purchase, please visit or call 646-223-3010. For more details, please visit

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