Pearl Sun, Kristine Nielsen & More to Star in REGRETFULLY, SO THE BIRDS ARE World Premiere at Playwrights Horizons

The production runs March 22 - April 30 (opening April 11) in the Peter Jay Sharp Theater at Playwrights Horizons.

By: Jan. 30, 2023
Pearl Sun, Kristine Nielsen & More to Star in REGRETFULLY, SO THE BIRDS ARE World Premiere at Playwrights Horizons
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Playwrights Horizons and WP Theater will present the world premiere of Julia Izumi's Regretfully, So the Birds Are, directed by Jenny Koons. Izumi's farcical play reshapes the theatrical family drama, so often confined to living rooms, setting the story of three adopted Asian American siblings across fantastical searches for pieces of their fractured identities-as the stage becomes an airport in Guangzhou, China, Nebraska, the sky, a prison, a front yard where a snowman lists grim historical facts. In Regretfully, So the Birds Are, the fantastical and the everyday coexist in the lives of characters navigating the unhinged world of contemporary American life. The production runs March 22 - April 30 (opening April 11) in the Peter Jay Sharp Theater at Playwrights Horizons (416 West 42nd Street, New York).

Arson, affairs, incest, and murder are only the beginning of problems for the Whistler siblings. Mora's got to find her birth mother, Neel's got to find himself, and Illy's got to keep her piece of the sky-but the birds have other plans. Regretfully, So the Birds Are is a wild, farcical tragedy that gleefully flips the human quest for self-discovery on its head.

A cast of comedic actors-all experienced in understanding and grounding the omnipresence of the absurd in society and human relationships-bring the family's dreamlike dysfunctionality, and the siblings' grasping searches for self in an unrooted existence, to flesh and blood life. Regretfully, So the Birds Are features Sasha Diamond (Illy), Gibson Frazier (Cam the Snowman), Kristine Nielsen (Elinore), Sky Smith (Neel), Pearl Sun (Srey), and Shannon Tyo (Mora).

The creative team includes You-Shin Chen (Scenic Designer), Alicia J. Austin (Costume Designer), Stacey Derosier (Lighting Designer), and Megumi Katayama (Sound Designer). Jenny Kennedy is the Production Stage Manager, and Jessie Moore is the Assistant Stage Manager.

Izumi describes the mutability of setting and space in the world she created: "When I was writing this, I was thinking how many family plays surround a couch, and the amount that center around white families and the ways they talk to each other. My family just doesn't function like that - we've never sat on the couch together as a family and talk about our feelings, and it's not a world I can relate to. I started from a place of 'what if I tried to write a couch play? What would that entail?' And then in my attempt to write one, it became clear it had to go beyond the couch. It had to move based on the people I populated it with-three people on a self-isolating quest trying to 'figure out who they are' with big air quotes around it. It had to break through into so many spaces."

Koons says, "It feels like we are actively living through a time right now where what is happening to us is not logical. One moment you're paying your ConEd bill and the next you can't leave your house because of an invisible virus. Our feelings can't fit into the timeline that we imagine for ourselves, and Julia's storytelling that's simultaneously super real and very surreal struck me as very relatable in how we watch three characters make sense of this moment they're in-puzzling together a pivotal moment and a world that makes little sense with humor. It's refreshing. I want to be there with these characters. I know them."

Izumi adds, "I was feeling like a lot of plays being produced were positing, 'what if the consequence of being a marginalized voice or body in this country is the worst thing that happens to you?' I wanted to write characters for whom that's not the worst thing that happens - what if there are also other things on top of that, as often many people have? What if, yes, you live in this body, but also your mom killed your dad and your siblings are in love with each other and your dad is kind of a gross person? I wanted to give my characters room to be messy-which I don't think is often granted particularly to Asian American women characters-as well as charismatic, strange, funny."

Playwrights Horizons Artistic Director Adam Greenfield says of Izumi, who previously contributed the audio play His Chest Is Only Skeleton to Playwrights Horizons' Soundstage anthological fiction podcast, "I've been marveling at Julia's writing for years, since I first encountered her plays while she was in grad school. Her writing is endlessly surprising, like traveling through a funhouse, where events, plot turns, characters, or even a simple turn of phrase are lurking around every corner. I read Regretfully, So the Birds Are for the first time in the middle of the pandemic. It felt like the first time I'd laughed in months, like a rush of serotonin. Her writing is meticulous but liberated, and high-weird but grounded in the emotional urgency of its characters. When we say that Playwrights Horizons is in pursuit of an original, authentic, idiosyncratic voice, a writer who's potency is undeniable, this is what we mean: Julia's work is distinct, it's really funny, and it defies expectation at every turn. This is unlike any other play I know."

Lisa McNulty, Producing Artistic Director of WP Theater, explains, "Back in the pre-pandemic 'before times,' we had the good fortune to host Julia in a year-long residency working on her play (An Audio Guide For) Unsung Snails and Heroes during her last year of graduate school. We had the most fun spending a year with that mythic, wild, and emotionally truthful play, so when Adam Greenfield called to invite WP to join Playwrights Horizons on Regretfully, So The Birds Are, we didn't hesitate. Who could say no to a year filled with Julia's magical, iconoclastic, deeply felt theater making? And getting to dive in with the fiercely talented and visionary Jenny Koons as well? It was a no-brainer. In this time of screens, screens, and more screens, it feels transformative to work on something so completely, beautifully, and utterly theatrical. Whimsical, even. I'm so grateful right now to be working on something so filled with the joy of invention, to be telling a story that could only live on stage, and finding the funny bone that lives within every horrible family story."

Playwrights Horizons' Commitment to Health

To best protect artists, audiences and staff, wearing face masks will continue to be required during performances at Playwrights Horizons. The company has outlined all current updates in their health and safety policy.

The theater's ventilation system complies with the CDC's standards (MERV-13 filters), high-touch surfaces are being cleaned regularly, and paperless ticketing is offered for all performances.

Performance Schedule and Ticketing

Regretfully, So the Birds Are runs March 22-April 30, in Playwrights Horizons' Peter Jay Sharp Theater and officially opens on April 11.

Tickets go on sale to the general public on February 21.

About Julia Izumi (Playwright)

Playwrights and WP Theater debut. Julia's work has been developed and presented at MTC, Clubbed Thumb, New Georges, WP Theater, Berkeley Rep's Ground Floor, SPACE on Ryder Farm, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ojai Playwrights Conference, Seattle Rep, The COOP, NNPN/Kennedy Center MFA Playwrights' Workshop, Great Plains Theatre Conference, CAATA's National Asian-American Theatre ConFest, Rorschach Theater, and ArtsWest. Awards and honors: OPC Dr. Kerry English Award, O'Neill's National Playwriting Conference Finalist, Kilroys List Honorable Mention, Theater Masters' Visionary Playwright Award, and KCACTF's Darrell Ayers Playwriting Award. She is a current New Dramatists Resident, LMCC Workspace Resident, and The Civilians R&D Group Member. Current commissions: True Love Productions, MTC/Sloan, Playwrights Horizons, Seattle Rep 20x30. MFA: Brown University

About Jenny Koons (Director)

Playwrights and WP Theater debut. Credits: Oedipus (Deaf West Theatre), Head Over Heels (with Sam Pinkleton, Pasadena Playhouse), Hurricane Diane (Huntington Theatre), Now Becomes Then (Actors Theatre of Louisville), Men on Boats (Baltimore Center Stage), Speechless (New Blue Man Group North American Tour), The Tempest (The Juilliard School), Between Us: The Deck of Cards (Denver Center for the Performing Arts), A Midsummer Night's Dream (The Public Theater Mobile Unit), Burn All Night (American Repertory Theatre), Instant SPKRBOX (SPKRBOX Festival commission, Norway), Gimme Shelter (Why Not Theatre, Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games commission), Theatre for One: I'm Not the Stranger You Think I Am (Arts Brookfield), A Sucker Emcee (National Black Theatre, LAByrinth Theater Company), Queen of the Night (Diamond Horseshoe Nightclub, Drama Desk Award), The Odyssey Project 2012 (site-specific NYC). She has been an artist in residence at Philadelphia School of Circus Arts, SPACE on Ryder Farm, and The Invisible Dog Art Center, and has developed new work at Steppenwolf, Roundabout, and New Black Fest, among others. Jenny is a Lilly Award recipient and proud member of the SDC.

About the Cast

Sasha Diamond

(Illy). Playwrights Horizons and WP Theater debut. New York theater credits include Significant Other (Broadway), Peerless (Primary Stages), Once Upon a (Korean) Time (Ma-Yi), Teenage Dick (Ma-Yi & The Public), Bobbie Clearly (Roundabout), Kentucky (Ensemble Studio Theatre). Television credits include The Equalizer (CBS, upcoming), Bull (CBS), New Amsterdam (NBC), NCIS: New Orleans (CBS), Magnum: PI (CBS), Tommy (CBS).

Gibson Frazier

(Cam the Snowman). Playwrights Horizons: Mr. Burns. WP Theater debut. Off-Broadway: Tumacho (Clubbed Thumb); Small Mouth Sounds (Signature); Telephone (Cherry Lane); God's Ear (Vineyard, New Georges); The Internationalist (Vineyard, 13P). Regionally: Rough Crossing (w/ Tony Randall); Death of a Salesman (w/ Jack Klugman). Film: Unsane; Frances Ha; Illusion (w/ Kirk Douglas); Man of the Century (also co-writer/producer); Almost Love; Doppelbanger. Television: Bull; Madam Secretary; The Knick; Blue Bloods; The Path; The Good Wife; Hunters; Girls5Eva; Damn Michael Che; Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (upcoming).

Kristine Nielsen

(Elinore). Playwrights Horizons: Gus and Al, Betty's Summer Vacation, Miss Witherspoon, Crazy Mary, Hir. WP Theater debut. Broadway: Gary, Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike, Present Laughter, and You Can't Take It with You, among others. Nielsen has performed in numerous Off Broadway and regional theater productions, and has appeared on many TV series. She is currently in HBO's The Gilded Age and just finished shooting Coup!, an independent film.

Sky Smith

(Neel). Playwrights and WP Theater debut. Off-Broadway: The Lucky Star (59E59 Theaters).Regional: The Chinese Lady (Denver Center); Twelfth Night, The Book of Will (Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival); Love's Labour's Lost (The Acting Company, Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis). TV: The Blacklist (NBC). Sky was a performer in the ABC Discovers: Talent Showcase. BFA NYU Tisch School of the Arts and Atlantic Theater Company.

Pearl Sun

(Srey). Playwrights Horizons and WP Theater debut. debut. Broadway: Come From Away, If/Then, Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch... Off-Broadway: Plays for the Plague Year (The Public Theater); Assassins, Merrily We Roll Along (Encores!); Happiness (Lincoln Center); The Seven (NYTW).National tours/regional: Next to Normal (First National),The Price (Arena Stage),Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (La Jolla). TV: Fleishman Is in Trouble (Hulu); New Amsterdam, The Blacklist (NBC); Orange Is the New Black (Netflix); Gotham (FOX); The Good Wife (CBS).

Shannon Tyo

(Mora). Playwrights Horizons: The MS Phoenix Rising (Soundstage). WP Theater debut. New York: The Far Country (Atlantic), peerless (Primary Stages), The Chinese Lady (Ma-Yi at The Public; Lortel Award, Theater World Award, Drama Desk nom), Kentucky (EST), Bikeman (Tribeca PAC). Select regional: The Good Book (Berkeley Rep), Fun Home (Baltimore Center Stage), Broadway Bounty Hunter (Barrington Stage), Bright Half Life (Kitchen Theatre), The White Snake (Old Globe), Miss Saigon (Pioneer Theatre, MT Wichita). TV: 30 Rock (NBC), The Last O.G. (TBS), Rediscovering Christmas (Lifetime).

About the Creative Team

You-Shin Chen

(Scenic Designer) is an award-winning Taiwanese scenic designer based in the USA. Playwrights Horizons: set design for the feath3r theory's The KILL ONE Race, associate/assistant design for Marjorie Prime, A Life, The Light Years, and Miles for Mary. WP Theater debut. As a theater practitioner and collaborator, Chen is committed to diversity and humanity. Her hope is to uplift other people's stories through her design work. She centers humans-the characters and the viewers, and their experiences-in her process of creating a three-dimensional space. She is an assistant professor at Muhlenberg College. Local USA829, IASTE.

Alicia J. Austin

(Costume Designer) is a Brooklyn-based costume designer who designs for both theater and film and television. Playwrights and WP Theater debut. Recent projects include You Will Get Sick Roundabout Theatre Company, Happy Life at Walker Space, Bupkis airing on Peacock, and season 3 of Only Murders in the Building for Hulu. She is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama and the recipient of the Princess Grace Theater Award, Pierre Cardin Honor.

Stacey Derosier

(Lighting Designer). Playwrights debut. WP Theater: Weightless. Additional credits include Cornelia Street (Atlantic Theater Company), Where the Mountain meets the Sea (Manhattan Theatre Club), This Beautiful Future (Cherry Lane), Fat Ham (Public Theater & National Black Theater), Wedding Band (Theatre for a New Audience), sandblasted (Vineyard Theatre/WP Theater), The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe (The Shed), The Last of the Love Letters (Atlantic Theater Company). Derosier is a 2018 Lilly Award Daryl Roth Prize recipient.

Megumi Katayama

(Sound Designer). Playwrights Horizons: Tambo & Bones (Associate Sound Designer). WP Theater debut. Other New York credits: LCT3 at Lincoln Center, Encores! at NY City Center, The Public Theater, Signature, Ping Chong and Company at New Victory, Rattlestick Theater. Regional: Alley Theatre, Arena Stage, Everyman Theatre, Geva Theatre Center, Long Wharf, Yale Rep, Studio Theatre, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Berkeley Rep, Kansas City Rep, Two River Theater, Virginia Stage Company, Dorset Theatre Festival, Chautauqua Theater Company, Skylight Music Theatre, and more.

About the Stage Managers

Jenny Kennedy

(Production Stage Manager). Playwrights Horizons: Heroes of the Fourth Turning, The Thanksgiving Play. WP Theater debut. Kennedy has worked on Broadway (The King and I, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Red) and at theaters throughout NYC, including The Public, Manhattan Theatre Club, Notch Theatre, and Fault Line Theater; and regionally at Chautauqua Theatre Company (15 seasons), A.R.T, Two River Theatre, and in Buffalo, NY.

Jessie Moore

(Assistant Stage Manager). Playwrights Horizons and WP Theater debut. Off Broadway credits include Suffs (NY Premiere), Miss You Like Hell, Buzzer, Public Works 2014-2018 (The Public Theater); Disney's Hercules and As You Like It (Delacorte). Joe's Pub: Artist Relations and Operations Manager, Bridget Everett's Rock Bottom, Kiki & Herb and IFC A Holiday Special. Regional: Alien/Nation (Williamstown Theater Festival) and The Mile Long Opera. Company member @forestofardenco.

About Playwrights Horizons

Playwrights Horizons is a writer's theater dedicated to the development of contemporary American Playwrights, and to the production of innovative new work. In a city rich with cultural offerings, Playwrights Horizons' 51-year-old mission is unique among theaters of its size; the organization has distinguished itself by a steadfast commitment to centering and advancing the voice of the playwright. It's a mission that is always timely, and one that's necessary in the ongoing evolution of theater in this country.

Playwrights Horizons believes that playwrights are the great storytellers of our time, offering essential contributions to civic discourse and illuminating life's greatest paradoxes. And they believe in the singularity of a writer's voice, valuing the broad, eclectic spectrum and diversity of American writers. At Playwrights Horizons, writers are supported in every stage of their growth through commissions (engaging several of today's most imaginative playwrights each year), New Works Lab, POP Master Class series, Soundstage audio program, the Lighthouse Project, and Almanac, the organization's digital magazine.

Playwrights Horizons presents a season of productions annually on their two stages, each of which is a world, American, or New York premiere. Much like Playwrights Horizons' work, their audience is risk-taking and adventurous; and the organization is committed to strengthening their engagement and feeding their curiosity through all of its programming, onsite and online.

About WP Theater

WP Theater, now in its 45th Season, is the nation's oldest and largest theater company dedicated to developing, producing, and promoting the work of Women+ at every stage of their careers. For over four decades, WP has served as leaders of a global movement towards gender parity - and the artists fostered have grown into a robust, thriving community in theater and beyond. WP empowers Women+ artists of all kinds to reach their full potential, challenging preconceptions about the kinds of plays they write and the stories they tell.

Founded in 1978 by Julia Miles, WP Theater has earned acclaim as a home for Women+ theatermakers, historically marginalized in the field, to hone their craft while becoming leaders, change-makers, and advocates in the industry. To date, the company has produced more than 700 Mainstage productions and developmental projects and published 11 anthologies of plays by Women+ artists, and continues to forge forward in making a difference in the artistic landscape of New York and beyond, by offering these artists a platform to develop and present their stories.

Today, WP accomplishes its mission through several fundamental programs, including: the WP Lab, a celebrated two-year mentorship and new play development program for Women+ playwrights, directors, and producers; the Space Program, providing inexpensive performance space to mission aligned small theater companies and individual artists; the Developmental series of workshops and readings; the Commissioning program, and the Mainstage series, which features a full season of Off-Broadway productions written and directed by extraordinary Women+ theater artists. Current artists under commission are: Donnetta Lavinia Grays, Emily Kaczmarek, MJ Kaufman, Sylvia Khoury, Zoe Sarnak, and Leah Nanako Winkler.

WP Theater received a 2018 Lucille Lortel Award and an 2019 Obie Award, both for Outstanding Body of Work; and a 2020 Special Drama Desk Award recognizing WP and its founder, Julia Miles. As the premier launching pad for some of the most influential artists in theater, television, and film, WP's work has a significant impact on the field. Nearly every notable female theater artist has been through its doors, including: 2019 Tony Winner Rachel Chavkin; two-time Pulitzer Prize Winner Lynn Nottage, 2018 Pulitzer Prize Winner Martyna Majok; MacArthur "Genius" Grant Winner & Tony Award Nominee Dominique Morisseau; Tony Winner Pam MacKinnon; and Tony Winner Diane Paulus. At WP, these powerful women found an early artistic home and are a testament to the organization's role as a driving cultural force.

*When we say Women+, we mean people who are cis women, trans, non-binary, or gender nonconforming people, and all gender identities which have been systematically oppressed throughout history in the theater and beyond.




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