Sound Theatre Company Reveals Cast and Dates For the Seattle Premiere of COST OF LIVING

Performances run June 8-July 1.

By: May. 10, 2023
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Sound Theatre Company Reveals Cast and Dates For the Seattle Premiere of COST OF LIVING

Seven years after its U.S. premiere, the Pulitzer-winning, Tony Award-nominated play Cost of Living finally makes its way to Emerald City. Sound Theatre will produce the Seattle premiere, with a first performance on June 8 and official opening June 10 at 12th Avenue Arts. In Martyna Majok's play, four utterly distinct worlds collide in New Jersey resulting in a parallel journey of two caregivers, two disabled characters - all trying, all in trying circumstances. Teresa Thuman will direct.

Last week, the Broadway run of Cost of Living cinched five Tony Award nominations: Best Direction of a Play, Best Play, and Best Performance nods for several cast members.

Rehearsal are underway for the Seattle cast: Viviana Garza (Jess), Drew Hobson (Eddie), Gerald Waters (John), and Teal Sherer, who will reprise her role of Ani for the second time since Cost of Living's Canadian premiere at at Arts Club Theatre Company (2019) and Citadel Theatre (2020).

For Sherer, it's a bittersweet return - she had been cast in Seattle Public Theatre's canceled 2020 Cost of Living. "In many ways, this play feels more relevant now. The themes of isolation, loneliness, giving care, and the importance of connection were all brought to the forefront during the pandemic."

With its caregiving scenes, production challenges include two on-stage bathing scenes, fully accessible backstage/onstage spaces and consultation in areas of care work and intimacy direction.

"Because of how intimate the theater is, it's going to feel like the audience is right there in those bathrooms with us," Sherer said, referring to bathing and showering scenes. "There are not only the logistics of staging those, but they require a lot of trust and care between the actors."

The directing team of Teresa Thuman and assistant directors Andrea Kovich and Clark Matthews all identify as disabled. By examining Cost of Living through lived experiences and disability lens, the trio aims to go beyond straightforward interpretations of the script's text. Set drafting by Brian Boyd (scenic designer) is designed for the paths of mobility required for a large number of wheelchair users in a shared space. That includes at least five wheelchair users during rehearsals - the director, two assistant directors, and two actors.

To wit, Kovich quips: "Only five wheelchairs? Opportunities to work on a production like this - especially with disabled-led creative teams - are rare and significant. Usually when I work on a production, I'm the only visibly disabled person in the room. It's significant that we're introducing a play that has created so much buzz, but it remains to be seen how Seattle will react. Will theatregoers decide to write this off as a disability play that doesn't appeal to them? Will this play start conversations among those who do attend? Will it spark meaningful change?"

"Cost of Living is a start - and maybe it will widen the opening of the door cracked open by Ali Stroker's historic Tony win four years ago," added Kovich, who is also the production's dramaturg.

Doors have continued to open - surely, but slowly. There are scant few known instances of disabled directing teams associated with this play (aside from its Midwest premiere). Overseas productions of Cost of Living outnumber those in the U.S.: Canadian companies like Citadel Theatre, Coal Mine Theatre (canceled due to the pandemic), and the Arts Club Theatre Company, plus Teatre Slaski, Katowice, Poland (the playwright's homeland), and UK-based Hampstead Theatre have mounted premieres overseas.

Playwright Martyna Majok, who was inspired by her life experiences as an immigrant caregiver, attributes this to her rule for the characters John (who lives with cerebral palsy) and Ani (who has a spinal cord injury): "please cast disabled actors."

Cost of Living has reaped major mainstream successes: a 2022 Broadway run, a 2018 Pulitzer win, two Lucille Lortel awards (including one for Outstanding Play), and five nominations for the 2023 Tony Awards, coinciding with Sound Theatre's Sunday June 11 performance. But ultimately, disabled artists like Kovich and Sherer hope Cost of Living sparks a meaningful and lasting local conversation about disability - which Sound Theatre initiated with productions like RULES OF CHARITY (2018), PEELING (2019), and ASL MIDSUMMER (2018).

"Seattle audiences can expect a thoughtful, complex approach with a penetrating disability lens. You'll see vital conversations about representation, caregiving, and how disability, class, social privilege, and economic status interact," said Kovich. "It's pretty much inevitable that a play with two disabled characters will be labeled as being 'about disability'. But I challenge anyone to watch the final scene of this play and then explain to me how it's about disability."

Sound Theatre also received the rights to stream Cost of Living during the run - at dates to be announced.

COST OF LIVING opens June 8 at 12th Avenue Arts. Tickets are now on sale here. For updates, visit Sound Theatre's COST OF LIVING page.