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Photos: First Look at the World Premiere of HELP at The Shed

Help stars April Matthis (Toni Stone, Roundabout Theatre; Fairview, Soho Rep).

After closing during previews two years ago due to the pandemic, this March The Shed will present the world premiere of Help, a new play by acclaimed author and poet Claudia Rankine (Just Us, Citizen: An American Lyric), directed by Obie Award-winner Taibi Magar (Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, Signature Theater; Is God Is, Soho Rep). Help stars April Matthis (Toni Stone, Roundabout Theatre; Fairview, Soho Rep).

Check out photos below!

Derived from Rankine's deep inquiry and ongoing investigation into white dominance, Help consciously centers whiteness in order to address, engage, and ultimately confront it. The Narrator (Matthis), a Black woman, recounts Rankine's real-life conversations with white people about their privilege that take place in transitional spaces like airports. The stories unfold through a set of monologues and staged scenarios, with Matthis supported by a cast of actors including nine white men and two white women. With intentional and thought-provoking words, music, and movement, Help brings to life Rankine's encounters in her travels and in everyday life that have gone right, wrong, or raise new questions about our fragile democracy.

"The play, Help, is a collage of encounters our Black narrator has with various white people, some ordinary citizens, some historical, some political. These conversations center around contemporary America's continued commitment to the tenets of white supremacy," said Claudia Rankine. "The play is an attempt to think about the fragility of our democracy in a moment when we seem to be doubling down on anti-Black racism and to have lost our hold on an aspirational vision of 'we.' This kaleidoscopic, fast-paced inquiry allowed me to touch upon many facets of society, moving through spaces both liminal and historical."

Rankine's body of work, for which she has been awarded MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships, crosses lyric poetry and prose essays to navigate questions of race, healthcare, loneliness, and what it means for a life to matter in American society today.

Commissioned by The Shed and performed in its Griffin Theater, this production of Help also includes movement choreography by Shamel Pitts, set design by Mimi Lien, costume design by Dede Ayite, lighting design by John Torres, sound design by Lee Kinney, and original music composition by Jerome Ellis and James Monaco, along with Robert Duffley, Dramaturg, and David Lurie-Perret, Production Stage Manager.

"It has been our honor to commission one of America's most renowned poets, Claudia Rankine, to write a new play," said Alex Poots, Artistic Director and CEO of The Shed. "Despite the premature closure at the onset of the pandemic, we are proud to be back in the theater to tell this story germane to the times in which we are living. As we move through each new chapter of these ongoing health and racial crises, the themes in Help are a reflection of what it still means to exist in America today through the lenses of race, identity, and social interaction. I'm deeply appreciative of Claudia's intentional examination of white dominance in this critical work."

Tickets for Help are on sale now at theshed.org.

Photo credit: Kate Glicksberg

Photos: First Look at the World Premiere of HELP at The Shed
Tom Oa??Keefe, Nick Wyman, Jess Barbagallo, April Matthis, and David Beach

Photos: First Look at the World Premiere of HELP at The Shed
Help cast

Photos: First Look at the World Premiere of HELP at The Shed
April Matthis and Joseph Medeiros

Photos: First Look at the World Premiere of HELP at The Shed
Help cast

Photos: First Look at the World Premiere of HELP at The Shed
April Matthis and Help cast

Photos: First Look at the World Premiere of HELP at The Shed
April Matthis

Photos: First Look at the World Premiere of HELP at The Shed
April Matthis



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