Soho Rep Extends Zawe Ashton's FOR ALL THE WOMEN WHO THOUGHT THEY WERE MAD
Soho Rep, responding to popular demand, announces a one-week extension 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). The production, which began previews October 14 and was previously set to close November 17, now runs through November 24. In for all the women who thought they were Mad, multigenerational African diasporic voices, with a cast ranging from ages 8 to 65, gather around a woman, Joy. Ashton crafts a biting, raw, and unflinchingly experimental fever dream of a play about the forces that push a woman from the everyday into free fall.
With for all the women who thought they were Mad, Ashton explores the impact of work, expectations around childlessness and motherhood, and the chasm between the healthcare system and the mental and physical wellness of women of color. WNYC reporter Veralyn Williams will moderate a free, open-to-the-public panel with Whitney White and author and professor Dána-Ain Davis, on November 7 immediately following the performance, discussing Davis' 2019 book, Reproductive Injustice: Racism, Pregnancy, and Premature Birth (NYU Press), which is a "troubling study of the role that medical racism plays in the lives of black women," and the ways this issue is explored in the play.
The cast 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.
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."
With Ashton's trenchant, irreverent, and lyrical work, 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 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."
Tickets-$35 general/$65 premium through November 17, and $50 general/$90 premium from November 19-24-can be purchased by visiting sohorep.org or calling 212.352.3101. $30 general rush and $20 student rush (with a valid school ID) tickets are available at the box office 30 minutes prior to curtain for each performance. $0.99 Sunday tickets will be offered November 3 and 10, and 17 at 7:30pm. They are available first come, first served at the box office only. There are no advance sales for Rush or $0.99 Sunday tickets.