Playwrights Horizons Announces Live For Five Lottery For A STRANGE LOOP

Playwrights Horizons (Artistic Director Tim Sanford, Managing Director Leslie Marcus), will, from today, May 13, through Thursday, May 16, accept entries for the Live for Five online lottery, giving out $5 tickets to the world premiere production of 2019 Whiting Award Winner Michael R. Jackson's A Strange Loop, (May 24-July 7), presented in association with Page 73 (Producing Artistic Director Michael Walkup, Managing Director Amanda Feldman). Directed by Stephen Brackett (Be More Chill, Buyer and Cellar) and choreographed by Raja Feather Kelly (Playwrights: If Pretty Hurts Ugly Must Be a Muhfucka; Ugly (Black Queer Zoo), Fairview), A Strange Loop explores the thoughts of Usher, a black, queer writer working a job he hates while writing his original musical: a piece about a black, queer writer, working a job he hates while writing his original musical. Michael R. Jackson's blistering, momentous new musical (and his professional debut) follows a young artist at war with a host of demons-not least of which are the punishing thoughts in his own head-in an attempt to capture and understand his own strange loop.

Playwrights Horizons created Live for Five in 2007 as part of their Arts Access program to reach out to those who may not be able to afford the cost of a full-price theater ticket. Since its inception, thousands of theatergoers have been able to attend the theater thanks to the initiative. Live for Five makes a limited number of $5 tickets available for the first preview performance of each Playwrights Horizons production through a lottery via the company's website (www.phnyc.org).

The Live for Five lottery for A Strange Loop will be for tickets to the first preview on Friday evening, May 24 at 8pm in the Mainstage Theater at Playwrights Horizons (416 West 42nd Street). The production has an Opening Night set for Monday, June 17 and will play through Sunday, July 7. Details for the Live for Five lottery are as follows: beginning today, May 13 at 12 Noon, theatergoers can enter the lottery by filling out an entry form at www.phnyc.org/L45. For the first time, hopeful audiences can also enter this lottery via Instagram: by following @phnyc and tagging one friend on the account's #LiveForFive post on Monday. Entries will be accepted until Thursday, May 16 at 12 Noon. Winners of the lottery will be notified via email no later than 3pm on Thursday, May 16 with instructions on how to book their $5 tickets; they will have until Friday, May 17 at 12 Noon to book tickets. Unclaimed tickets will be offered via email to a limited standby list starting Friday, May 17 at 3pm on a first-come, first-served basis. One or two tickets may be purchased by winners for $5 each.

The cast, applying the high drama and hilarity of musical theater to the minutiae of one character's innermost thoughts, includes, in alphabetical order, Antwayn Hopper (Broadway: Hair; Off-Broadway: The Loophole, A Civil War Christmas) as Thought #6; James Jackson, Jr. (Off-Broadway: The Black-Ups, Radio City Christmas Spectacular) as Thought #2; L Morgan Lee (Off-Broadway: Defiant, Majestic, and Beautiful, Ludo's Broken Bride; Tour: Jesus Christ Superstar) as Thought #1; John-Michael Lyles (Off-Broadway: This Ain't No Disco, Sweeney Todd, The Flick) as Thought #3; John-Andrew Morrison (Off-Broadway: The Tooth of Crime, The Greenwich Village Follies; Regional: Marley, The Musical) as Thought #4; Larry Owens (Off-Broadway: Gigantic; Regional: Grease, Dreamgirls) as Usher; and Jason Veasey (Broadway: The Lion King; Off-Broadway: The Loophole, For the Last Time) as Thought #5. The creative team includes Arnulfo Maldonado (Scenic Designer), Montana Levi Blanco (Costume Designer), Jen Schriever (Lighting Designer), Alex Hawthorn (Sound Designer), Cookie Jordan (Hair and Wig Design), Charlie A. Rosen (Orchestrator), Rona Siddiqui (Music Director), Michael R. Jackson (Vocal Arrangements), Tomoko Akaboshi (Music Coordinator), and Erin Gioia Albrecht (Production Stage Manager).

Jackson's musical plays with content and form in the subversive tradition of other personal and/or concept-driven musicals-such as Company, A Chorus Line, The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin, Ain't Supposed To Die A Natural Death, and Passing Strange-in addition to the raw, unfiltered "candor and humor" of 90s indie rocker Liz Phair. Jackson also looked into Douglas Hofstadter's concept of "a strange loop"-the idea that selfhood is essentially a recursive loop in which, as Hofstadter explains in his 2007 book I Am a Strange Loop, "despite one's sense of departing ever further from one's origin, one winds up, to one's shock, exactly where one had started out."

A nascent version of A Strange Loop took form as a personal monologue, but through a number of performances and development labs across the city, the solo piece evolved into a multi-character musical about a character called Usher and his black, queer self-perception. After Stephen Brackett began collaborating with Jackson, he further honed this idea by explicitly recalibrating the piece for a sextet of black and queer-identified performers who would play Usher's "Thoughts"-his perceptions of everyone from patrons of the theater where Usher ushers, to indifferent yet fetishizing white gays, to black historical figures scolding him for having reservations about ghostwriting a Tyler Perry gospel play, to his loving but religious mother, calling to express, via song, that she doesn't "want [his] soul to be wasted" because "hell is real/sinners burning/sinners churning in rivers of fire/'cause o' filthy unholy desire."

Jackson says, "I've shied away from using the word 'autobiographical' to describe A Strange Loop, because that connotes a linear form that I'm actually not working in. The description I prefer is 'self-referential,' because while I do draw from some personal experiences, those experiences are only props to help illustrate the specificity of what it can feel like to be a 'self' in general and a black queer self in particular."

Brackett says, "This is a piece about a person lost in his thoughts-and yet we're hoping to show a complicated and grounded portrait of the people these Thoughts portray, particularly Usher's family. For instance, we're showing a compassionate portrait of Usher's mother, but there's no single person cast in this play as his mother; it takes six people at the beginning of this piece to embody this woman, because she's such a presence in Usher's life. Through seeing character presented this way, Michael and I are hoping that there's always a questioning of perception and reality in this piece."



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