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Public Studio's THE URBAN RETREAT & MANAHATTA Begin Performances Tonight


The Public Theater will begin performances for Public Studio's two inaugural plays, THE URBAN RETREAT by A. Zell Williams, and MANAHATTA, by Mary Kathryn Nagle, tonight, May 15. The two plays will be presented as pared-down productions and run in repertory through Sunday, May 25 in The Public's Shiva Theater.

All tickets for Public Studio are only $10 and are available by calling (212) 967-7555,, or in person at the Taub Box Office at The Public Theater at Astor Place at 425 Lafayette Street.

Following in the footsteps of the acclaimed Public Lab series, Public Studio is conceived as a way to build on The Public's mission to support new and emerging artists and to continue making new work accessible to all audiences. In this inaugural year, Public Studio will present THE URBAN RETREAT by A. Zell Williams, directed by Liesl Tommy, in repertory with MANAHATTA, written by Public Theater Emerging Writers Group alumni Mary Kathryn Nagle and directed by Kate Whoriskey.

The complete cast of THE URBAN RETREAT features Jeremie Harris (Trench Deep); Jennifer Lim (Maggie); Christopher Livingston (Setty Rexpin, Zack); Chris McKinney (Chaucer); Postell Pringle (Pooh Butt); and Meaghan Sloane (Angie).

The complete cast of MANAHATTA features Kimberly Guerrero (Debra, Toosh-Ki-Pa-Kwis-I); Neal Huff (Assistant, Joe); Brandon Oakes (Soldier, Se-Ket-Tu-May-Qua); Daniel Oreskes (Peter Minuit, Peter Stuyvesant, Dick Fuld); Tanis Parenteau (Jane, Le-Le-Wa-You); Andrew Weems (Jonas Michaelius); and Albert Ybarra (Robert, Tamanend).

Tonight, May 15 the first performance of Manahatta will commence with an opening prayer in Lenape from the Delaware Tribe's Tribal Operations Manager and former Chief, Curtis Zunigha. The Public will also host panel discussions following select performances of Manahatta. On Sunday, May 18 a post-show panel featuring Spiderwoman Theater titled Violence-The Next Generation-Ending the Silence: Women's Stories of Healing and Renewal, moderated by Murielle Borst Tarrant (Director of "Safe Harbors" - Indigenous Arts/Theatre Collective at La MaMa Theater) and including Muriel Miguel (Artistic Director of Spiderwoman Theater), Gloria Miguel (Co-founder of Spiderwoman Theater) and Donna Couteau (Found of the Leaf Arrow Theater).

On Wednesday, May 21 a post-show panel featuring The Eagle Project entitled Stereotypes and Misconceptions of Native Americans in the Arts and Media moderated by Ryan Victor Pierce (Founder and Artistic Director of Eagle Project) and including Kimberly Guerrero (actress in Manahatta), Mary Kathryn Nagle (author of Manahatta), and Reverend John Norwood (Councilman and Principal Justice of the Tribal Supreme Court).

Public Studio is made possible with the generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Time Warner Foundation.

Last year, The Tow Foundation launched a new Playwright Residency program designed to provide an annual salary and benefits to an emerging playwright. A. Zell Williams has been awarded this one-year residency to provide him with the time and resources to write generally as well as develop THE URBAN RETREAT.

PUBLIC STUDIO is a new performance series dedicated exclusively to developing the work of emerging writers. In a laboratory environment, writers will be in rehearsal with actors and a director, incorporate bare bones design elements, and open the process to an audience over a series of performances. More than a reading or workshop, but not a full production, this middle step affords early career writers the important opportunity to deepen their experience of working collaboratively over an extended rehearsal period and to see their work staged in front of an audience.

Fiercely funny, gripping and raw, A. Zell William's THE URBAN RETREAT is a powerful new American play about Chaucher Mosley, an English teacher and long-rejected writer, hired by a publisher of Urban Lit to turn the grandiose ramblings of a rap superstar into a compelling memoir. Unimpressed by the material but desperate for money, Mosley takes on the assignment. But when the rapper turns out to be a former student that Mosley unknowingly failed, the writing process becomes a surprising and deeply honest exchange about survival, selling out and what it means to be a black man in America today. United by the power of their words and a shared need to face the past, Mosley and Trench discover a brotherhood that transforms them both. Liesl Tommy, Associate Artistic Director of Berkeley Rep, directs this bold drama about the clashing experiences and beliefs of two men of the same race from very different worlds, both fighting to tell their own story.

A. ZELL WILLIAMS holds the Tow Foundation Emerging Playwright Residency at New York's Public Theater. His productions include In A Daughter's Eyes and Down Past Passyunk (InterAct Theatre, Philadelphia). His awards include the Marin Theatre Company Emerging American Playwright Prize, The Terrence McNally New Play Award, NYU's Goldberg Playwriting Award, National New Play Network's Smith Prize. He has been nominated for the Williamstown Theatre Festival's L. Arnold Weissberger Award, The Playwright of New York (PoNY) Fellowship, and was a finalist for the Yale Drama Series for Emerging Playwrights and Kitchen Dog Theatre's New Works Festival. His plays include The Audacity, The Biggest Valley, and Carroll Gardens.

LIESL TOMMY (The Urban Retreat Director) has directed The Good Negro at The Public. As a director, her world premieres include Party People; The White Man - A Complex Declaration of Love; Peggy Picket Sees the Face of God; Eclipsed; A History of Light; Angela's Mixtape; A Stone's Throw; Bus and Family Ties; and Misterioso 119. Tommy's other directing credits include Hamlet (California Shakespeare Theater); A Raisin in the Sun, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (Huntington Theatre Company); American Buffalo (CenterStage in Baltimore); He is Here He Says I Say (Sundance East Africa, Manda Island, Kenya); The Piano Lesson (Yale Repertory Theatre); Ruined (Berkeley Repertory Theatre); Crimes of the Heart (McCarter Theatre Center); Book of Life (Sundance Institute East Africa); Yankee Tavern, Stick Fly (Contemporary American Theater Festival); and A Christmas Carol (Trinity Repertory Company).

A gripping journey from the fur trade of the 1600s to the stock trade of today, Mary Kathryn Nagle's MANAHATTA tells the story of Jane Snake, a brilliant young Native American woman with a Stanford MBA. Jane reconnects with her ancestral homeland, known as Manahatta, when she moves from her home with the Delaware Nation in Anadarko, Oklahoma to New York for a job at a major investment bank just before the financial crisis of 2008. Jane's struggle to reconcile her new life with the expectations and traditions of the family she left behind is powerfully interwoven with the heartbreaking history of how the Lenape were forced from their land. Both old and new Manahatta converge in a brutal lesson about the dangers of living in a society where there's no such thing as enough. Written in The Public Theater's Emerging Writers Group, Mary Kathryn Nagle's MANAHATTA is a stunning new play about the discovery that the only thing you can truly own is who you are and where you come from. Kate Whoriskey (The Miracle Worker, Ruined) directs. MANAHATTA is made possible, in part, by a grant from the Association of American Indian Affairs.

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