Metro Arts' THE JOY Director Uniquely Qualified
"As a theatre artist, I have always been drawn to work that explores issues of social justice, often featuring strong and vibrant female characters," Pamela Sterling said.
Sterling has been engaged to direct the week-long workshop and staged reading, January 14-19, of Jeanmarie (Simpson) Bishop's internationally celebrated one-woman show, The Joy.
"I am also interested in history," Sterling continued, "with a particular fascination with early American figures. I was born in the Portsmouth Naval Hospital, located just across the river bordering Kittery, Maine, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Although I grew up in Portland, Oregon, I have spent a lot of time in my mother's beloved New England and inherited her attachment to Boston and the history of the colonial states. My current writing and performing project is a solo play about Louisa May Alcott and her activism around women's rights and the abolition of slavery."
"All of these are reasons why I am drawn to the story of Mary Dyer so powerfully portrayed in Jeanmarie (Simpson) Bishop's solo play The Joy. I am excited to learn more about this fascinating woman as I delve into directing the workshop production featuring the talented team of performer Laurelann Porter, dramaturg John Perovich and producer Cody Goulder," Sterling said.
What is the point of a workshop production of a play that has been presented hundreds of times over the past seven years?
The playwright is adamant.
"When a play and/or character is singularly identified with one actor, that work is going to know only a very limited life. When a work has a subversive message (which The Joy very intentionally has), and when it's the kind of work that seeks to illuminate truths and turn over and nourish the ground in the sick garden of a society, that work needs to be universally accessible to audiences AND artists," Bishop said. "The Joy MUST BE a script that can be taken on and mastered by myriad artists - hopefully hundreds and thousands, in the years to come," Bishop asserted.
"My job as director," Sterling interjected, "is to collaborate with the author, actor and dramaturg to create a performance that will allow the author to hear her words and see her work in the clearest possible light. As someone who is working on my own solo play and currently focusing on ways that meld myself with the character I am portraying, I am excited to support Jeanmarie in making new discoveries about her play when it is performed with another actor and with a new creative team. My hope is to introduce others, who like myself may not be familiar with the life and work of Mary Dyer, to her fascinating story, and to be one of other midwives to help in the birth of a long life to this equally fascinating play," Sterling said.
Pamela Sterling is an associate professor of theatre at Arizona State University. She holds a BFA degree from the Professional Actor Training Program and an MFA degree in Child Drama from the University of Washington in Seattle. As Artistic Director she has been at the helm of such theatres as The Muny/Student Theatre Project in St. Louis, The Coterie in Kansas City, MO, Honolulu Theatre for Youth and Idaho Theatre for Youth. As a freelance director her work includes The Grapes of Wrath for the Fulton Theatre in Lancaster, PA, All My Sons and Talley's Folly for Profile Theatre in Portland, Oregon, The Diary of Anne Frank for Northwest Children's Theatre and To Kill a Mockingbird for Theatre Project Company in St. Louis., Her work as a director and/or dramaturge for new play development includes The Incredible Disappearing Lady by Maria Headely for the Kennedy Center's New Visions/New Voices program, Tomato Plant Girl by Wesley Middleton with the University of Texas-Austin and Metro Theater Company, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park's Little Medea written by Melissa Cooper, and Metro Theater Company's The People Keep Comin' written by Eileen Cherry.
Sterling is also a published playwright. Her published plays include The Secret Garden, winner of the American Alliance for Theatre and Education's Distinguished Play Award, The Adventures of Nate the Great and Friday's Child. Her collaborations with composer and lyricist Chris Limber include Kabuki Ugly Duckling, published by New Playscripts, Inc. and Scrapbooks, both winners of AATE's Unpublished Play Reading Project. Her most recently produced script is an adaptation of Doris Gates novel, Blue Willow, produced by California State University-Fresno in May 2016. From 2008- 20016 Sterling collaborated with students to devise (Dis)Orientation, incorporating each year's new cast's personal stories of university life to create a production for incoming freshmen during ASU's annual Fall Welcome Week.
A great history buff, Sterling was commissioned by Historyonics Theatre in St. Louis to write several plays with dialogue created through strictly primary source material. These plays focused on such historical figures as Catherine of Aragon and Henry the Eighth (Court of Two Queens, the First Divorce O. Henry the Eighth), Theodore Roosevelt and his daughter, Alice Longworth (Bully Pulpit) and the Bronte Family (Children of the Moors). Her most recent project; Louisa May Alcott; The Power of a Woman began as a commission from Historyonics about the Alcott family but had to be abandoned when the company was dissolved in 2010. Several years later Power of a Woman is now a solo play written and performed by Sterling that has had several workshop readings and is tentatively scheduled for a full production at the Open Eye Theatre in Margaretville, NY for their 2018-19 season.
Sterling teaches courses in Theatre for Young Audiences, Theatre for Social Change, playwriting and acting to graduate and undergraduate students at Arizona State. She has directed several new play readings and workshop productions by MFA graduate student writers and Mainstage productions such as Thornton Wilder's Our Town, Alicia in Wonder Tierra by Silvia Gonzales, and The Ashgirl by Timberlake Wertenbaker.
Early Bird tickets are available for $8.24 (includes service fee) until January 5. All seats are subsequently available online for $11.34 or at the door for $10.
Metropolitan Arts Institute is an accessible performance space, 1700 N. 7th Ave Phoenix, AZ 85007. For more information, visit the Now & Then Creative Company website.