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Zawe Ashton's FOR ALL THE WOMEN WHO THOUGHT THEY WERE MAD Announced At Soho Rep

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Soho Rep. kicks off its 2019-20 season with the U.S. Premiere of Zawe Ashton's for all the women who thought they were Mad. Directed by Whitney White (What to Send Up When It Goes Down), Ashton's play is a feverish inquiry and exposé. In it, multigenerational African diasporic voices gather around a woman, Joy. With Ashton's trenchant, irreverent, and lyrical writing, Soho Rep. continues its tradition of presenting works by playwrights whose experimentation with language, social commentary, and piercing wit turn the theater into a space that brims with possibility and danger.

Soho Rep. Artistic Director Sarah Benson says, "I could not be more thrilled to be sharing the projects by Zawe Ashton and Hansol Jung this season, especially in such exciting productions directed by artists Whitney White and Dustin Wills. I first read Zawe's play in transit from London and was floored by the intense brilliance of her writing, which instantly felt in vivid conversation with Sarah Kane, Debbie Tucker Green, Alice Birch, Aleshea Harris, and Caryl Churchill. Whitney is an extraordinary director; with a practice encompassing composition, performance and design, she embodies a holistic vision in everything she makes. I cannot wait to share this play, which includes an acting company of children and elders side by side, with New York audiences. Wolf Play uses puppetry to explore the experience of abject alienation through a brilliant intersection of object theater and wild visual imagination. I am very excited to share both these plays this season and also to be partnering on Hansol's play with the incredible company Ma-Yi, of whom I have long been an adoring fan."

The cast of for all the women... includes Stephanie Berry (Gloria: A Life at the Daryl Roth Theatre, Sugar in Our Wounds at Manhattan Theatre Club, The Bluest Eye at The Guthrie) as Ruth, Gibson Frazier (10 out of 12, Mr. Burns) as Boss/Doctor/Tom, Sharon Hope (Two Sentence Horror Stories, Daredevil, Orange Is the New Black) as Margaret, Nicole Lewis (Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, Hair and Rent on Broadway; Atlantic Theater Company's Blue Ridge) as Angela, Blasina Olowe (Off-Broadway debut; Outgrown) as Nambi, Cherene Snow (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof on Broadway, The Rolling Stone at Lincoln Center Theater, Familiar at The Old Globe) as Rose, Bisserat Tseggai (The Jungle at St. Ann's Warehouse, "Succession") as Joy, Shay Vawn (The Gods of Comedy at The McCarter Theatre Center and The Old Globe, soot and spit at The New Ohio Theatre) as Kim, and Kat Williams (Off-Broadway debut) as Nambi.

Though she's been writing plays for over a decade (and, at 17, won the London Poetry Slam Championship), Ashton is known in England for her celebrated acting career in theater, TV and film. In April, Penguin imprint Chatto & Windus published her debut novel, Character Breakdown, to acclaim. She has had a momentous year in the U.S. with her breakout role in Velvet Buzzsaw and her current starring role on Broadway in Harold Pinter's Betrayal. for all the women who thought they were Mad marks an equally explosive moment for Ashton as a playwriting force.

Ashton's biting, raw, and unflinchingly experimental play explores the impact of work, expectations around childlessness and motherhood, and the chasm between the healthcare system and the mental wellness of women of color. With for all the women...Ashton turns the very institutions we live within inside out. Whitney White's production is set in the U.S. and will feature an intergenerational cast of women from ages 8-65 and soaring interludes of Lugandan song.

Zawe Ashton, who grew up in London and whose mother moved from Uganda to England as a teenager, wrote the first draft of for all the woman who thought they were Mad, after having spent months researching how health services in the U.K. were failing Black women. She encountered countless stories, especially through the (now defunct) Black Women's Mental Health Project, of women who sought medical and psychiatric help and had various aspects of their lives fall into crisis when they were either misunderstood, overprescribed, or ignored.

As Ashton describes, the play had been treated as a "dangerous document" for over a decade. She explains, "I'd almost been persuaded that the nuances of it weren't fit for public consumption, that it wasn't going to fit this mask or box that so many theatrical institutions want it to fit. I think part of the reason this play has been resisted for such a long time is because it's Black and abstract. In my experience, when you're writing something that has a narrative driven by women from the African diaspora, the powers that be want you to serve it up in a very linear way; they are convinced that theatrical audiences want a photograph of these women's pain, not something more conceptual, like a sculpture. That might involve too much empathy. They want Black women's pain to be framed and neatly hung on a wall to be observed, moved on from-quickly. An academic exercise. I knew I was writing something that was an impressionistic, metaphysical piece of art and therefore more challenging, but I had no idea the struggles I would face getting it produced. I have made a sculpture of these women and that, for whatever reason, has terrified people."

Performances take place October 14 - November 17, 2019, at Soho Rep. (46 Walker Street). Tickets ($35 general admission tickets, $65 premium seats) can be purchased at sohorep.org or 212.352.3101.



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