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PlayCo to Present U.S. Premiere of WILL YOU COME WITH ME?

Umut and Janina meet and fall in love in a chance encounter on an Istanbul street in 2013, where rebellion simmers amongst queer and displaced youth.

PlayCo to Present U.S. Premiere of WILL YOU COME WITH ME?

PlayCo will present the U.S. premiere of Ebru Nihan Celkan's Will You Come With Me?, directed by Keenan Tyler Oliphant, May 4-June 5 at MITU580 (580 Sackett St Unit A - Ground Fl, Brooklyn). Hurtling between dates across the mid-2010s and back and forth between Berlin and Istanbul, Will You Come With Me? collides the temporal and emotional disorientation-and the hope, despair, and adrenaline-of uprising with a long-distance relationship set across disparate cultural and political contexts.

Umut and Janina meet and fall in love in a chance encounter on an Istanbul street in 2013, where rebellion simmers amongst queer and displaced youth. Using video recordings and phone calls in the fight against physical and emotional distance, Umut is caught between the momentum of sociopolitical change in Istanbul and the promise of a quieter life in Berlin with Janina.

Will You Come With Me seeks to theatrically replicate the emotional state of uprising. The playwright describes shaping considerations of Istanbul's recent past, as well as the fraught relationship between the EU (and particularly Germany) and Turkey, until she found "the individuals within them," rather than the politics. Celkan juxtaposes the complex interiorities and circumstances of two characters possessing vastly different lenses: viewing life from within an uprising-with all the responsibilities and vulnerabilities that come with it-versus from afar, with the anxiety of trying to understand the life of a loved one through a cloud of chaos. The playwright scrambles time as intimate moments between lovers shatter into distance, with these characters speaking to each other with thousands of miles-and even more unknowns-between them.

Celkan says, "Mathematically, we're seeing them over five years-but what does this mean for a person living in Istanbul from 2013-2018 and what does this mean for a person in Berlin, and how does this differ? Umut is always thinking backwards or forward-back to disappointment, forward to hope. And love complicates that, because love needs the present. We need now to love."

The play's title, as director Keenan Tyler Oliphant notes, asks whether its characters can step over a threshold that parts their experiences. In this production, he wants to evoke the sense-deeply felt in Celkan's pages-"that a void could swallow them, at any given moment."

While bearing the specifics of Istanbul and Berlin, the play resonates anywhere activist movements have been met with force and setbacks-and among anyone who has found love tested by a profound gap in experience. Subverting the tendency for stories surrounding authoritarianism to center, or even name, those who wield power, Will You Come With Me gives voice to those who resist, even after vast swaths of a movement have been suppressed or disappointed into submission. The play examines the emotional toll relentless struggle takes, and the sense of unity it brings to those whose bodies, sexualities, and gender presentations have been made into battle grounds.

Keenan Tyler Oliphant, who is an immigrant artist from South Africa and participated in #FeesMustFall protest movements, and similarly took to the streets amidst Black Lives Matter protests in New York in 2020, says of the play, "I consider my body to be very much inside of the wake of colonization and existing at the point of conflict between Europe and Africa. What unlocked this play for me was realizing it's about one's body being at war, and how that state of being collapses time and space-because nothing can exist that is concrete and logical and chronological when you're constantly understanding yourself in relationship to oppression. I have often felt that when this experience is framed as political, the audience can easily distance themselves to a place of analysis and surveying without really considering the lived experience. But this play, instead, is visceral: it's felt in skin, in body, in time."

Kate Loewald, PlayCo's Founding Producer, and Annie Jin Wang, Associate DIrector for Programming & Communications, add, "We are absolutely delighted to bring Ebru and Keenan together to collaborate on our first in-person production in over two years. They represent the vibrancy and innovation that can emerge from the cross-cultural collaboration so central to PlayCo's mission."

Tickets will go on sale March 15, 2022.

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