Photo Flash: Azuka Theatre Presents The World Premiere Of MRS. HARRISON

Azuka Theatre ends the 2017-2018 season with the world premiere of Mrs. Harrison, by R. Eric Thomas, from May 2 to20, 2018. Mrs.Harrison is the third and final show of the season that celebrated Azuka's commitment to notable Philadelphia playwrights and unique Philadelphia voices. Producing Artistic Director Kevin Glaccum directs this suspenseful dark comedy and drama about two women, one story and their very different memories about their relationship in college. The show runs through May 20, 2018, for a total of 18 performances. All performances will take place at the Louis Bluver Theatre at The Drake, 302 S. Hicks Street. Tickets for shows this season are Pay What You Decide, whereas audience members see a show first, and pay what they decide after the performance. For reservations, visit azukatheatre.org. This production is produced with support from Honorary Producers Robin and Patrick Tracy.

"Mrs. Harrison wraps a season that celebrated three Philadelphia voices and new works," said Glaccum. "Eric's play is wonderfully creepy at the beginning. One woman has an agenda and you have no idea what it is. It is intriguing and the breadcrumbs are dropped along the way - and I find the payoff at the end packs a punch. You dig deeper as the story evolves - and Mrs. Harrison has amazing things to say about who gets to tell a story and why. It is interesting how one person's perspective can seem so correct when in fact its not. It works on so many levels for a two handed play."

Mrs. Harrison is a world premiere that centers around two women and one story. At their 10-year college reunion, Aisha and Holly meet by chance. Is this the first time or has it just been a long time? They can't agree. Aisha is a black, successful playwright; she's on the cover of the alumni magazine. Holly is a white, struggling stand-up comedian; she's here for the free drinks. Aisha's most successful play bears a striking resemblance to a tragic event in Holly's life. Is it a coincidence or is it theft? As a rainstorm interrupts the outdoor reunion, they find themselves trapped inside, together. They both have a story that they've been telling themselves about what happened all those years ago and they're both willing to fight for the truth in the present.

R. Eric Thomas is a Barrymore Award-winning playwright and humorist. He is also the long running host of The Moth in Philadelphia. He is also well known for writing a regular column for Elle.com in which he "reads" the news. His writing has also appeared in the New York Times, Elle Magazine, W Magazine, Marie Claire, Man Repeller, Philadelphia Inquirer and others.

His most recent play, Time Is On Our Side, was commissioned by Simpatico Theater Project and developed with PlayPenn. It was the recipient of two 2016 Barrymore Awards, including Best New Play, and was named one of six finalists for the Harold and Mimi Steinberg American Theater Critics Association New Play Award. Of the play, The Philadelphia Inquirer raved, "it's a superbly crafted two-hour mystery... Thomas creates and entire world with seeming room for all of humanity's hopes and dreams, foibles and longings."

Thomas describes the play as a suspenseful dark comedy and drama that is very different than his humorous writing online. Thomas started writing Mrs. Harrison during the rehearsal process for above mentioned Time Is On Our Side. He had been following the trajectory of a successful black playwright, and while its not based on real life, the wheels started turning and a story developed. He was fascinated with the process of crafting a story and how it means something to someone personally and everyone involved vs. how the story plays out to an audience on stage. "I have been to many plays where actors on stage are doing one thing and the audience was perceiving something completely different. That is fascinating and I wanted to play with that a little be. I wanted to craft a play that was aware it was being watched on stage and who it is being watched by - it is as much as a simple story about two women, as well as being a conversation about a play about race and gender, and certain demographic categories."

Mrs. Harrison is directed by Glaccum, who attended a reading of Thomas' at the William Way Center for Time Is On Our Side in 2015, and he attended the full performance of the same show when it was produced on the main stage by Simpatico. Glaccum then began to follow his writing online, which he calls "hilarious." Several years later, Azuka's Dramaturg at the time, Sally Ollove, introduced Kevin to the play Mrs. Harrison and he fell in love with the work.

"I have always loved the work that Azuka has done," said Thomas about working with Azuka and Glaccum. "In terms of new plays and world premieres in Philadelphia, Azuka is the first company and the company I think of most fondly in terms of seeing work that is well produced, is invigorating and is new. My story was safe with Azuka. I have had a range of experiences in terms of developing new plays, and I was excited to experience that with Azuka and Kevin."

In Mrs. Harrison, Glaccum will direct Danielle Leneé as Aisha and Brandi Burgess as Holly. The production team features Meghan Jones (Scenic Design), Alyssandra Docherty (Lighting Design), Shelby Kay (Costume Design), Melissa Dunphy (Sound Design), Terry Mittelman (Stage Manager), Kasual Owens-Fields (Assistant Director), Paige Conway (Assistant Stage Manager), Joe Daniels (Technical Director), Avista Custom Theatrical LLC (Properties), Lauren Tracy (Production Manager) and Michele Volansky (Dramaturg).

Leneé proudly makes her Azuka debut. Her theatre credits include: Off-Broadway: White Guy on a Bus (59E59ST Theatre). Regional credits: The Diary of Anne Frank (People's Light), As You Like It, Pericles, Comedy of Errors (Delaware Shakespeare) White Guy on a Bus (Delaware Theatre Company & Passage Theatre; Barrymore Award nomination for Outstanding Leading Actress), A Knee That Can Bend (Orbiter 3; Barrymore Award Nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress), Milk Like Sugar (Simpatico Theatre Company), Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (Syracuse Stage). She is a graduate of Syracuse University in the BFA Acting Program.

Burgess is thrilled to be back home with Azuka, especially to work on another world premiere with her favorite playwright, R. Eric Thomas. Favorite theater credits she sites are: Coriolanus (Shakespeare in Clark Park); Barrymore winner Time is on Our Side (Simpatico Theatre); This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, This Girl Does Nothing (Prague Fringe); I Never Saw Another Butterfly (PIFA); Pookie Goes Grenading (Azuka Theatre); Hazard County (Azuka); Love/Stories (Philly Fringe); and No Talent Hacks (Philly Fringe). She recieved her BFA from the University of the Arts.

Mrs. Harrison runs for 70 minutes with no intermission. The show is appropriate for audiences 12 and up, with strong language and content. Performances run from May 2 to May 20, 2018 at Louis Bluver Theatre at The Drake, 302 S. Hicks Street. Parking is available in nearby garages and at meter spots in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood.

Mrs. Harrison is one of three world premieres this season by three recognized, award-winning Philadelphia playwrights. The production follows The Gap by Emma Goidel and Ready Steady Yeti Go! by David Jacobi.

Look for Azuka's 2018-2019 season to be announced in the upcoming weeks. For more information, visit http://www.azukatheatre.org.

PAY WHAT YOU DECIDE TICKET RESERVATIONS

Azuka continues its commitment to the community by extending the innovative Pay What You Decide box office initiative for the 2017-2018 season. A city that celebrates so many historic "firsts" is the perfect place to launch the only full-season model of this kind in the United States. The program, that debuted during the 2016-2017, now enters its second season.

Audience members will 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.

No money is exchanged before the show. Tickets will be available to reserve in advance as usual, but there is no obligation to pay until after the show. Patrons can then decide on a price which they think is suitable based on their experience. Ticket payment can be made after the performance by cash, check or credit card. Patrons can also make a payment after the show on the Azuka website. All money collected helps to pay Azuka artists and further support future productions.

For more information and ticket reservations, please visit azukatheatre.org or call (215) 563-1100.

ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT - EXTENDED

R. Eric Thomas is a Barrymore Award-winning playwright and humorist. He is also the long running host of The Moth in Philadelphia. He is also well known for writing a regular column for Elle.com in which he "reads" the news. His writing has also appeared in the New York Times, Elle Magazine, W Magazine, Marie Claire, Man Repeller, Philadelphia Inquirer and others.

His most recent play, Time Is On Our Side, was commissioned by Simpatico Theater Project and developed with PlayPenn. It was the recipient of two 2016 Barrymore Awards, including Best New Play, and was named one of six finalists for the Harold and Mimi Steinberg American Theater Critics Association New Play Award. Of the play, The Philadelphia Inquirer raved, "it's a superbly crafted two-hour mystery... Thomas creates and entire world with seeming room for all of humanity's hopes and dreams, foibles and longings."

Other plays include Human Resources (City Theatre Summer Shorts, 2015, 2015 City Theatre National Award for Short Playwrighting, published: City Theatre Anthology 2015), the wordless puppet play Frieda The Invisible Woman (developed with Aaron Cromie, FringeArts 2015), When You Put It That Way It Just Sounds Ridiculous (2014 City Theatre National Award for Short Playwrighting).

With over a million social media shares, Eric's Elle.com column "Eric Reads the News" has quickly become an online humor staple. Covering pop culture, politics and current events, the column is a sardonic and sassy take on our world. Since its inception, it has been praised by such disparate personalities as Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mariah Carey, Maxine Waters, Tamron Hall, and Tituss Burgess.

Eric has appeared on the podcasts RISK! and The Soundtrack Series multiple times; he gave a talk at the 2011 TEDxPhily conference. Since 2014 he has also worked with TED to coach TEDx speakers. He is a second year member of The Foundry, a Philadelphia playwrights lab, and a first year member of InterAct Theatre Company's CORE Playwrights program.

ABOUT THE DIRECTOR

Azuka's Producing Artistic Director Kevin Glaccum has been a member of Azuka Theatre since their inaugural production of La Rue des Faux. For Azuka he has directed 18 productions including 9 World Premieres (Shitheads, Lights Rise on Grace, Moon Cave, Pookie Goes Grenading, Everyone and I, Hope Street and Other Lonely Places, Whisky Neat, Azuka One-Acts, The Boys) and one musical (Hedwig and the Angry Inch- Best Director Barrymore Nomination; Best Director of a Musical, Philadelphia Weekly). Other credits include: Say Goodnight, Gracie (Act II Playhouse); Iron Kisses (Philadelphia Gay & Lesbian Theater Festival); The Shoes (Philadelphia Fringe Festival); and The Rocky Horror Show, Club California, Proof and The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon at Arcadia University where he's also an adjunct professor. He is a member of Lincoln Center's Directors Lab and the Board of Directors of Theatre Philadelphia.

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 41 productions, 20 world premieres, 17 Philadelphia premieres. Azuka is a Resident Partner at The Drake and an Associate Member of the National New Play Network.

All images by Johanna Austin/AustinArt.org

high res photos

Photo Flash: Azuka Theatre Presents The World Premiere Of MRS. HARRISON
Brandi Burgess and Danielle Lenee

Photo Flash: Azuka Theatre Presents The World Premiere Of MRS. HARRISON
Brandi Burgess and Danielle Lenee

Photo Flash: Azuka Theatre Presents The World Premiere Of MRS. HARRISON
Brandi Burgess and Danielle Leneé

Photo Flash: Azuka Theatre Presents The World Premiere Of MRS. HARRISON
Brandi Burgess and Danielle Lenee

Photo Flash: Azuka Theatre Presents The World Premiere Of MRS. HARRISON
Brandi Burgess and Danielle Lenee

Photo Flash: Azuka Theatre Presents The World Premiere Of MRS. HARRISON
Brandi Burgess and Danielle Lenee

Photo Flash: Azuka Theatre Presents The World Premiere Of MRS. HARRISON
Brandi Burgess and Danielle Lenee

Photo Flash: Azuka Theatre Presents The World Premiere Of MRS. HARRISON
Brandi Burgess and Danielle Lenee

Photo Flash: Azuka Theatre Presents The World Premiere Of MRS. HARRISON
Danielle Leneé and Brandi Burgess

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