Azuka's Pay What You Decide Season Continues with World Premiere of SH_THEADS

Following a record, at-capacity run of How We Got On, Azuka Theatre continues their 2016-2017 "pay what you decide" season with the world premiere of Sh_theads. Developed in partnership with PlayPenn, playwright Douglas Williams and director Kevin Glaccum examine a down-and-out bike shop in lower Manhattan and the lives of the people who love to work there. Stuck between facing their own arrogance and bankruptcy, this group of scrappy cyclists fight to save the only home they've ever known - their bike shop.

Presented in the Proscenium Theatre at The Drake, Sh_theads previews begin Wednesday, February 22, opens on Saturday, February 25 and runs through March 12, 2017. Information about ticket reservations and the pay what you decide policy can be found at azukatheatre.org.

Staged in a modern urban style, Sh_theads captures the beauty and tragedy of these cycling communities through poignant dialogue and dynamic characters. Set in Bert's Bikes and Sports, this run down bike shop is on its last leg. Customers have vanished, the shop across the street is poaching their best mechanics, and the new guy they just hired doesn't even own a bike. It will take scheming, stealing - and a little smoking - to save the shop they love.

"It's about passion for the bikes and that lifestyle. There's a character that says, 'I spend all day on my bike, what could be better than that,'" director Kevin Glaccum says of the play, "It really is a life choice, not just a transportation choice." With this cast of passionate and eccentric characters, Azuka aims to maintain their vibrant audience.

"I just feel like this show is just good for getting young people in the theater to see a bunch of young people on stage," says playwright Douglas Williams, "I'll say just how excited I am for Azuka's pay what you decide for this show specifically, well for the whole season."

Azuka Theatre continues this new approach to the box office after a stunning 'sold-out' run of the season's first show, How We Got On. Audience members make a reservation for a show, see the production first and then pay what they decide based on the value of the experience. Pay what you decide is designed to bring in new audiences and remove financial barriers to theater. The program is supported by a $55,000 grant from The Barra Foundation. However, ticketing is not the only innovative element of this production.

"We got this development opportunity through PlayPenn, and we started talking more realistically about how to make it more a producible and more of an Azuka show," explains Williams. Glaccum and Williams applied for the PlayPenn Collaborated Extended Workshop, a program designed to workshop new plays with the promise of a full production.

"It's like all these things kind of circling around and you go through it and at the end you have a finished project. It's so great because we can use the resources of PlayPenn and also get a production. Having that through line was really important to the play and really important to our process," says Williams.

This dedication to developing new plays and supporting local playwrights is a cornerstone of Azuka's process.

"This is our second show that we'll be doing with Doug, a resident playwright, so it underlines our commitment to Philadelphia playwrights. I knew we needed to be doing his work. This is a voice that I'm interested in getting out there, and this was a playwright that I was very interested in collaborating with," Glaccum says of Williams.

The partnership between Glaccum and Williams for Sh_theads has been a central point to this production. Sh_theads marks William's second collaboration with Glaccum, previously developing and producing Moon Cave in 2015.

The admiration is mutual as Williams says of Glaccum, "He has a commitment to the development of a single piece that I have not heard of or experienced before."

With the help of Fairmount Bicycles and Neighborhood Bike Works, Sh_theads actors have trained in bicycle repair, and are ready to handle the reality of the script. Led by Akeem Davis, an actor involved with both PlayPenn development and production, the cast includes the Azuka premiere performances of Harry Watermeier, Charlotte Northeast and David Pica.

Glaccum and William's vision comes to fruition with a realistic bike shop set designed by Apollo Mark Weaver, in partnership with Fairmount Bicycles. The production team is rounded out by a talented crew including J. Dominic Chacon (Lighting Design), Natalia de la Torre (Costume Design), Larry D. Fowler Jr. (Sound Design), Joe Daniels (Technical Director), Avista Custom Theatrical LLC (Properties), Terry Mittelman (Stage Manager), Ben Levan (Production Manager), and Michele Volansky (Dramaturg).

Sh_theads runs from February 22 through March 12. Ticket reservations and pay what you decide information is available at azukatheatre.org or by phone at (215) 563-1100. Performances for Sh_theads take place at the Proscenium Theatre at The Drake, 302 S. Hicks Street.

Azuka Theatre concludes its 2016/17 season with another world premiere production by Playwright-In-Residence Jacqueline Goldfinger, The Arsonists, from May 3-21, 2017. The Arsonists will be directed by Allison Heishman.

For more information about Azuka Theatre, please call (215) 563-1100 or visit azukatheatre.org.


ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT
Douglas Williams is a Playwright-In-Residence at Azuka Theatre and a founding member of Orbiter 3, a playwrights producing collective. Plays include Moon Cave (Azuka Theatre), Breathe Smoke (Orbiter 3) and Waterboarding, But Fun.

Williams has had two plays developed at PlayPenn (Moon Cave, Sh_theads) both under the direction of Kevin Glaccum. He was a finalist for the Lark's Playwrights Week, the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, and InterAct's 20/20 Commission. His plays have also been developed at Bristol Riverside Theatre, New York Theatre Experiment, Act II Playhouse, Distilled Theatre Company, and the Philadelphia New Play Initiative.

Williams' experimental and collaborative work has been produced in the SoLow Fest (Four's the Floor, Solstice) and the FringeArts Festival (Holly's Dead Soldiers, Safe Space). Playwright Sam Shepard presented him with the Silver Award from the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts.

Williams is a former member of the Foundry, a lab for new plays, and a company member of the Apocalypse Club. He is a graduate of Temple University.

ABOUT THE DIRECTOR
Kevin Glaccum has been a member of Azuka Theatre since he created the role of Guillaume in Azuka's inaugural production of La Rue des Faux. For Azuka he has directed productions of Whisky Neat, Greek Active, Kid Simple, Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Barrymore Nomination; Best Director of a Musical, Philadelphia Weekly), Azuka One-Acts, Four, The Boys and Sincerity Forever. Other credits include Say Goodnight, Gracie (Act II Playhouse) The Rocky Horror Show (Arcadia University) Iron Kisses (Philadelphia Gay and Lesbian Theater Festival) and The Shoes (Philadelphia Fringe Festival). Before turning to directing he appeared in Azuka's productions of Metamorphosis, Friends and An Artist's Workshop. Kevin is a member The Lincoln Center Directors Lab.

ABOUT THE CAST

Akeem Davis (Alex) - Akeem is from Miami, FL, and is a graduate of Florida State University. Based in Philadelphia, Akeem has regional credits with the Folger Shakespeare Library: District Merchants; South Coast Repertory Theatre: District Merchants; People's Light and Theatre Company: All My Sons; InterAct Theatre Company: Dangerous House of Pretty Mbane, Marcus/Emma; Theatre Horizon: In The Blood, Lobby Hero; Simpatico Theatre Project: The Brothers Size. Akeem is a proud man of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. and is the 2015 F. Otto Haas Emerging Theatre Artist Award winner.

Harry Watermeier (Brandon) - After graduating from Indiana University, where he studied theatre and film, Harry participated in the Arden Theatre Company's Professional Apprentice Program. After completing said program, Harry headed back to his home state of Indiana, where he worked with the Indiana Repertory Theatre as a Production Assistant, Young Actor Liaison, and, finally, Conservatory Coordinator. Harry then returned to Philadelphia to pursue acting, and has since worked with the Simpatico Theatre Project, Tiny Dynamite, The Lantern Theatre Company, and Commonwealth Classic Theatre Company. Harry is thrilled and honored to work with Azuka, and would like to thank his friends, family, and Sarah -- for their support and encouragement.

Charlotte Northeast (Izzy) - Graduate: Circle in the Square Theatre School. Azuka Debut! Charlotte has worked with: Act II Playhouse, CCTC, Theatre Exile, New City Stage, Passage Theatre, Luna Theatre, Swim Pony, Gas & Electric Arts, Montgomery Theatre and Walnut Street Theatre. She is an Artistic Associate for the Philadelphia Artists' Collective ("PAC") and has performed in Duchess of Malfi, Changes of Heart, Timon of Athens, and Mary Stuart and directed Creditors and Fair Maid of the West. Barrymore Awards: Skin in Flames (InterAct) and Emma (Lantern). Love to Damon, Julian and the fur-children. Up next: White Devil with PAC, Coriolanus with Shakespeare in Clark Park and other adventures to be announced. Visit: www.charlottenortheast.com

David Pica (Spider) - Pica has most recently been seen in Revolution Shakespeare's King John, Commonwealth Classic's The Lion in Winter, Greenfield Collective's The Magnus Effect, Lantern Theater's 36 Views, and Inis Nua's The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning. He trained at Millikin University, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and in London with The Factory. He rides a Brompton.

ABOUT THE PRODUCTION TEAM

Apollo Mark Weaver (Scenic Designer) - Apollo has spent the past 16 years as a professional scenic artist and freelance set designer. He is currently completing his final semester in Temple's MFA program, where he is designing their forthcoming productions (yes, productions) of Caryl Churchill's Love and Information. Other recent designs include Azuka's Moth, Merrimack Rep's The Making of a Great Moment, Geva Theatre Center's Tinker to Evers to Chance and No Child..., and Son of a Dog at the Walnut's Studio 5. Please visit him on the web at apolloweaver.com.

J. Dominic Chacon (Lighting Designer) - Dominic is very happy to be back at Azuka this season! Thanks to the entire Artistic and Production team for everything. A graduate of The University of Iowa and Temple University, he currently teaches at Drexel University and is the Lighting Coordinator at the Lang Performance Arts Center. Favorites: Peter and the Starcatcher, Red, Proof, The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (WST); Ordinary Days (11th Hour); Aladdin (People's Light); Dave and Aaron Go to Work (1812).

Natalia de la Torre (Costume Designer) - Natalia is a freelance costume designer, crafts artisan and scenic painter based in Philadelphia. Natalia is one of five Resident Designers at the Philadelphia Design Center for the 2016/17 season. She previously served as costume shop manager for the Lantern Theater Company and has designed for Ohio University, Drexel University, Lantern Theater Company, Azuka, Interact, EgoPo, Almanac Dance Theater, Team Sunshine, Revolution Shakespeare, Simpatico Theater Company, MIRO Dance Theater, Flashpoint Theater Company, Shakespeare in Clark Park, Commonwealth Classic Theater Company, BRAT Productions, Philadelphia Shakespeare Company, Johnny Showcase, Tribe of Fools, and Upper Darby Summer Stage. Education: M.F.A. in Production Design, Ohio University.

Larry D. Fowler, Jr. (Sound Designer) - Larry is honored to be part of the production team on Sh_theads. He has been sound designing in Philadelphia and neighboring counties for a number of years. His most recent work includes Informed Consent (Lantern Theater), Notes of a Native Song (Wilma/Fringe Arts), The Elementary Space Time Show (UArts/Fringe Arts), In My Body (Flying Bulldog Prods), and Carols In Color (Eleon Dance). Larry is a producer for online radio programming and is currently the Master Sound Design Lecturer at The University of the Arts. Thanks to Kevin, Azuka, and his ladies Maureen, Olivia, and Lupita.

Avista Custom Theatrical, LLC (Properties) - Owned by Jennifer Burkhart and Amanda Hatch, Avista was founded in 2007 as a properties design and construction firm. Avista specializes in period paper goods and newspapers, custom prop construction, upholstery, soft goods construction, and maintains a 7,000 square foot rental warehouse in Norristown. This season Avista will be working with Opera Philadelphia, Azuka Theatre, 1812 Productions, InterAct Theatre, Delaware Theatre Co, Inis Nua Theatre, Mauckingbird, Temple University, and Drexel University.

Terry Mittelman (Stage Manager) - Terry is a recent graduate of the Directing, Playwriting, and Production program with a focus in Stage Management and Production Management at University of the Arts. Recent credits; Annie Wilson: At Home With the Humorless Bastard, Applied Mechanics: FEED, Azuka Theatre: Moth, Simpatico Theatre Project: Watership Down, Sam Tower + Ensemble: Nowhere Fast Cabaret, 901 Nowhere Street, Philadelphia Young Playwrights: Paula Vogel Mentor Program Festival, 1219 Project, UArts: Polyphone.

Ben Levan (Production Manager) - Ben is happy to be back at Azuka for another season! He is a freelance Production Manager, Master Electrician, Lighting Designer, and Playwright living in Philadelphia. Recent PM credits include: I Am Not My Motherland (Orbiter 3), Brewers Fayre (Tiny Dynamite), Local Girls (Azuka). Recent ME credits include: 36 Views (Lantern Theater Company), Invisible Hand (Theatre Exile), A Fierce Kind of Love (Temple University Institute on Disabilities.) He is also a proud new member of The Foundry, a Philadelphia based playwriting workshop.

Michele Volansky (Dramaturg) - Michele Volansky is Chair and Associate Professor of Theatre at Washington College and an Associate Artist for PlayPenn. She has worked on over one-hundred and fifty new and established plays in her professional career and has served on the artistic staffs at Actors Theatre of Louisville (1992-95), Steppenwolf Theatre Company (1995-2000) and Philadelphia Theatre Company (2000-2004). She has served as an artistic consultant for the TCG playwright residency program, a reader for the Eugene O'Neill Center's National Playwrights Conference and the New York Shakespeare Festival/The Joseph Papp Public Theatre's Emerging Voices Program and is the 1999 inaugural co-recipient of the Elliot Hayes Award for Dramaturgy. She is a past president of LMDA, the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (2002-2004). Her book on playwriting and collaboration with Bruce Graham entitled The Collaborative Playwright was published in March, 2007 by Heinemann Press. She holds a B.A. in English from Washington College, an M.A. from Villanova University and a PhD from the University of Hull (England); her dissertation explores the politics and advocacy of the critics Kenneth Tynan and Frank Rich.

ABOUT AZUKA THEATRE

Azuka Theatre strengthens the connection and shared humanity among its diverse audiences by giving voice to the people whose stories go unheard.

Located in Philadelphia, Azuka was founded in 1999 by a group of young artists participating in the Arden Theatre Company's nationally recognized Professional Apprentice Program. Azuka Theatre has built a reputation for accessible, thought-provoking and socially conscious theater and been hailed as "a company to watch" and a "major player on the Philadelphia alterNative Theatre scene'" by Philadelphia Weekly. Azuka is currently at are currently at 37 productions, 16 world premieres, 17 Philadelphia premieres. We are a Resident Partner at The Drake and Associate Members of the National New Play Network.

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