ArtsWest Playhouse and Gallery Announces Three Directors Joining the 2017-18 Season

ArtsWest Playhouse and Gallery Announces Three Directors Joining the 2017-18 SeasonArtsWest has announced three young, celebrated Seattle directors who will bring their talent and vision to the 2017-2018 I AM Season - Samip Raval will direct Ayad Akhtar's THE WHO & THE WHAT, Sara Porkalob will direct Jiehae Park's PEERLESS, and Brandon J. Simmons will direct Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' AN OCTOROON.

Samip Raval steps into the director's chair for THE WHO & THE WHAT with an intimate knowledge of Ayad Akhtar's work, having previously starred in three separate productions of Akhtar's Pulitzer prize-winning play DISGRACED. "You can't get comfortable with what you think you know," says Raval about Akhtar's work. "You have to keep your eyes peeled and your ears open. In that way, his writing never lets you rest. Just when you think you have something figured out, there's another layer of possibilities to dive into." Raval, who discovered Ayad Akhtar's work in college, is now eager to continue the journey with THE WHO & THE WHAT - "What I look forward to in directing this piece is that every time you read or see the play, you learn something different about one of the characters that makes you dive a little bit deeper." Ayad Akhtar's THE WHO & THE WHAT, a funny and heartfelt story of a Muslim family confronting modernity - and each other - opens the 2017-18 ArtsWest Season on September 7, 2017.

Sara Porkalob, an award-winning solo performer, director, and theatre theorist/activist, calls herself "a huge fan of Jiehae Park's work." Park's PEERLESS, an irreverent re-imagining of Shakespeare's monumental classic MACBETH, is described by Porkalob as "hilarious, frightening, and driven by strong, Asian American leads." In PEERLESS, two Asian-American high school students - twin sisters M and L - compete for a coveted affirmative action spot at "The College", only to be thwarted by D, a white male colleague who is 1/16th Native American. "I am beyond thrilled to be collaborating on this script with an organization whose mission and people are very close to my heart," says Porkalob, who also serves as Intiman Theatre's 2017 co-curator, where her original musical DRAGON LADY will be premiering this fall. "ArtsWest has provided me with two of my favorite ever acting experiences here in Seattle, (HAIR, 2014 and 4000 Miles, 2015) and I am so excited to be working with them in a different capacity." Jiehae Park's PEERLESS, the third production in ArtsWest's 2017-18 Season, opens on January 18, 2018.

Brandon J. Simmons arrives at ArtsWest with a long list of theater credits, including a 2015 Gregory Award (Outstanding New Play) for his original play Is She Dead Yet? and leading roles in The Seagull and The Cherry Orchard, both staged by The Seagull Project, which he co-founded with Julie Briskman in 2011. He will now take the helm as director for the ArtsWest production of AN OCTOROON, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' genre-defying 2014 play. "An Octoroon is a profoundly funny and unsettling play, and that's because it is all about the performance of race," says Simmons. "It's a melodrama in the realest sense: it throws people into a pressure cooker, and then wrings out of them every last drop of their humanity, and this is both funny and tragic, and ultimately hopeful." The inclusion of AN OCTOROON in the 2017-18 I AM Season, which explores the theme of Identity, is meaningful to Simmons, a self-identified "queer mixed-race person, who code-switches on a dime." Simmons explains that he sees "a real commitment on the part of Mathew Wright [Artistic Director], Laura Lee [Managing Director], and the rest of the leadership at ArtsWest to produce new, relevant theater, and to build an audience that looks more like the America most of us live in." Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' AN OCTOON, the fifth production in ArtsWest's 2017-18 Season, opens on April 19, 2018.

More information about THE WHO & THE WHAT, PEERLESS, AN OCTOROON, and the entire ArtsWest 2017-18 I AM Season is available at artswest.org.

ArtsWest is a vibrant center for both performing and visual arts located in the West Seattle Junction. This 149-seat theatre provides a unique setting for audiences and artists as stories of human emotion unfold in an intimate space. Winner of the American Theatre Wing's 2012 National Theatre Company Award, ArtsWest has produced such diverse work as Evil Dead: The Musical, Little Women, this fall's critically acclaimed production of Henrik Ibsen's Ghosts and the smash hit Peter and the Starcatcher. ArtsWest produces artistic events that provoke conversation, incite the imagination and use live theater as a powerful agent of change.




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