HOME By George Saunders Will Be Performed By Word For Word at Z Below Next Month

Performances run April 8 - 29.

By: Mar. 09, 2023
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Word for Word's 30th Season opens with HOME by George Saunders, April 8 - 29 at Z Below. Word for Word has a long history of adapting stories by George Saunders. HOME is about a war veteran returning to a home that is increasingly cruel and absurd, and his quest for understanding and compassion. HOME is directed by Word for Word core company member Sheila Balter with a cast that features Robert Ernst*, Norman Gee*, Lisa Hori-Garcia*, Brennan Pickman-Thoon*, Brian Rivera*and JoAnne Winter*. (*AEA)

"It is hard not to be drawn to Saunders' writing, at least for me, because it is so full of empathy for all of humankind. His love and concern for those who are suffering, no matter the cause, seem boundless." Remarks director Sheila Balter

"This season we're thinking a lot about belonging. Whether it be home, country, family or self - where do we belong? How do we belong?" remarks Word for Word artistic Director JoAnne Winter, continuing, "George Saunders's character Mikey, returning from fighting for the U.S. is returning to a home that doesn't trust him and which he can't quite trust."

George Saunders' subtle yet absurdist humor brings a unique slant to otherwise dark topics. Of his story "Home", George Saunders says, "If you send four hundred thousand people into a shitstorm, don't expect everybody to come back smelling like roses. Some of them are going to come back damaged. To show ourselves to be an honorable culture, we have to step up and deal with them with all the generosity and love we can summon, or shame on us."


George Saunders is the author of twelve books, including Lincoln in the Bardo, which won the 2017 Man Booker Prize for best work of fiction in English, and was a finalist for the Golden Man Booker, in which one Booker winner was selected to represent each decade, from the fifty years since the Prize's inception. The audiobook for Lincoln in the Bardo, which featured a cast of 166 actors, was the 2018 Audie Award for best audiobook. His stories have appeared regularly in The New Yorker since 1992. The short story collection Tenth of December was a finalist for the National Book Award, and won the inaugural Folio Prize in 2013 (for the best work of fiction in English) and the Story Prize (best short story collection).

He has received MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellowships, the PEN/Malamud Prize for excellence in the short story, and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2013, he was named one of the world's 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine. In support of his work, he has appeared on The Colbert Report, Late Night with David Letterman, All Things Considered, and The Diane Rehm Show. He was born in Amarillo, Texas and raised in Oak Forest, Illinois. He has a degree in Geophysics from the Colorado School of Mines and has worked as a geophysical prospector in Indonesia, a roofer in Chicago, a doorman in Beverly Hills, and a technical writer in Rochester, New York. He has taught, since 1997, in the Creative Writing Program at Syracuse University.

Sheila Balter (Director) is a Word for Word Core Company member whose last directing credit for the company was Holiday HIgh Jinx: Stories by Damon Runyon, E.B. White, and Joseph Mitchell. Other directing credits with the company include In the Garden of the North American Martyrs by Tobias Wolff, 4 Adverbs by Daniel Handler (selected chapters from his book Adverbs), The Islanders by Andrew Sean Greer (LitQuake & a tour of France), The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (selected chapters for a school tour), and The Kugelmass Episode by Woody Allen (City Arts & Lectures). She has also directed for Encore Theatre Company, Brava for Women in the Arts, and California Shakespeare Theater. Sheila also works as a Bay Area actress, teacher and coach.

Creative Team: Director: Sheila Balter, Dramaturg: John M. Meyer, Ph.D., Scenic Design: Mikiko Uesugi**, Lighting Design: Jim Cave, Sound Design: Cliff Caruthers**, Costume Design: Callie Floor** and Choreography: Christy Funsch

*Member, Actors' Equity Association **Member, United Scenic Artists


Tre'Vonne Bell is an Oakland based actor rooted from the sunny coast of Long Beach, CA. He is ecstatic to be working with the illustrious Word for Word company for his second stint! Known more commonly as Tre', his most recent works have been Boys go to Jupiter with Word for Word, In the Red and Brown Water at UC Berkeley, as well as understudying for Lear at California Shakespeare Theatre and for Berkeley Repertory Theatre's production of Wintertime. He has also appeared in Exit Strategy (Aurora Theatre Company); Kill, Move, Paradise (Shotgun Players); and American Prom (Colorado Springs Theatreworks).

Jim Cave has worked with Word for Word for over 20 years as lighting designer, stage manager, director and production manager. Most recently, he co-directed Rime of the Ancient Mariner with Delia MacDougall and Retablos with Sheila Balter. Jim is a Core Company Member of Word for Word.

Edris Cooper-Anifowoshe is an accomplished actor, director, writer, working in the Bay Area for almost 40 years. The founding artistic director of the award-winning ensemble Black Artists Contemporary Cultural Experience (BACCE), she has directed and produced 10 critically acclaimed productions for the company. She is a former acting and directing member of the San Francisco Mime Troupe. She has directed at Trinity Rep, Capitol Rep, Southern Rep, Carpetbag Theatre, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, WaterTower Theatre, Curious Theater, SF Playhouse, Magic Theatre, TheatreWorks, and Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, receiving accolades from Dallas' Rabin Awards and Backstage's Dean Goodman Award for Excellence. Edris has appeared as an actor in productions throughout California, and in Nigeria. She was a core member of Rhodessa Jones' Medea Project: Theater for Incarcerated Women. Her plays Adventures of A Black Girl In Search of Academic Clarity and Inclusion and There are Women Waiting are published in the anthologies solo/ black/woman, and Black Medea. She holds an MFA in Theater from the University of Iowa and is a member of the Goddard College faculty.

Robert Ernst is co-founder of the Blake Street Hawkeyes and the Iowa Theater Lab. He has performed on stages big and small in his 51 years in the Bay area and started performing original solo-works in 1973 in the Hawkeye Warehouse-space in Berkeley. Selected shows include: Road at Eureka Theater, The Time of Your Life at ACT/Seattle Rep, Speed of Darkness and People's Temple at Berkeley Rep, Red State at San Francisco Mime Troupe, Play Land and The Joy of Going Somewhere Definite at Magic Theatre.

His original work, Catherine's Care, was nominated for a Critics' Circle Award for Best Play and his pocket opera, The John, was on the Bay Guardian's Best of the Year list. He received Dramalogue awards for Best Director and Best Production for Tokens. Bob also performed non-stop, according to The Guinness Book of World Records rules, for 24 hours and one minute. Previous credits with Word for Word include the full production Rime of the Ancient Mariner, podcasts of 14 Mission and Home and the 2019 Short-Story Festival. With students at Tamalpais High, they built the original piece, 'currently,' in a collective process. He is currently creating several projects for Fall '23.

Norman Gee is thrilled to join the Word for Word crew yet again. A Bay Area stalwart, he recently performed with the San Jose Stage Company, and last summer with the San Francisco Mime Troupe. Founder of Oakland Public Theater, Norman creates a "different kind of Black Theater," expanding cultural notions to encompass often invisible roles of African-Americans. Next up is The Baldwin Centennial Project, premiering August 2024.

Lisa Hori-Garcia is thrilled to be back in San Francisco performing with one of her favorite theater companies with whom she is a company member, Word for Word. Most recently, Lisa was in the world premiere, immersive theatrical production of David Byrne's "Theater of the Mind" at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts in Colorado. She is an actress, director, and teaching artist and for the last 20 years has been a collective member with the Tony-award winning, political theater company, the San Francisco Mime Troupe (it does not perform silent mime). Lisa has also worked with many other theater companies in the bay, most recently: Monument, Or Four Sisters and The Gangster of Love (Magic Theatre), As You Like It (California Shakespeare Theater), and Men on Boats and The Great Leap (American Conservatory Theater).Lisa received her BA from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts and MFA in Acting from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California. She is a member of AEA and SAG/AFTRA and is proud to be a core company member of Word for Word. www.lisahorigarcia.com

Brennan Pickman-Thoon is thrilled to return to Word For Word! Recent credits include Boys Go To Jupiter (Word For Word), A Christmas Carol (A.C.T.), Mother of the Maid (Marin Theater Company), The Gentleman Caller (NCTC), Metamorphoses and The Good Book (Berkeley Repertory Theatre, u/s). For more, please visit brennanpickmanthoon.com.

Brian Rivera is proud to be back performing with Word for Word, and as a company member. He has previously performed in Word for Word's sold out, extended run of Amy Tan's Immortal Heart and the school tour of The Master Maid. Other Bay Area credits include The Orphan of Zhao at A.C.T. & La Jolla Playhouse, Berkeley Rep's Yellow Jacket, Cal Shakes' American Night, and many tours with the San Francisco Mime Troupe, including Posibilidad, or Death of a Worker. Brian made his Broadway debut in the Tony Award winning revival of The King & I at Lincoln Center, playing The King of Siam several times. He can be heard in Tales of Resistance, a series of San Francisco Mime Troupe radio play episodes (available at sfmt.org). Brian is pleased to announce his first audiobook co-narration, Jennifer J. Coldwater's Holland, My Heart on Audible. He is a member of Campo Santo Theater and an associate of the San Francisco Mime Troupe. Brian recently won The Charles Dean Award for Excellence in Bay Area Theater Performance. He is a proud member of AEA and SAG/AFTRA. IG: @brianmrivera

JoAnne Winter (Word for Word Artistic Director) co-founded Word for Word Performing Arts Company with Susan Harloe in 1993. Since then, she has had the pleasure of helping to produce many, many productions, readings, and student projects with Word for Word. In addition, she is an actor and director with the company and has also worked at many local theaters including Marin Theatre Company, San Francisco Mime Troupe, Magic Theatre, and California Shakespeare Theater. Winter also oversees Word for Word's Youth Arts Program, which brings the love of language and performance into schools all over Northern California.


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