UW Drama to Open New Season with BY THE WAY, MEET VERA STARK
The University of Washington School of Drama's season opener is Lynn Nottage's sharp, irreverent look at racism and Black female ambition in Hollywood, By the Way, Meet Vera Stark.
Nottage's biting comedy charts 70 years in the life of its title character, beginning with her unlikely ascendance from maid to screen star and ending with a 2003 graduate school colloquium, where scholars get heated as they attempt to parse her complicated legacy. Nottage's sly cultural critique provides gravity for a funny, buoyant script that deeply mines the relationship between Stark and her employer, colleague, friend, and adversary, "America's Sweetie Pie," Gloria Mitchell.
The production is directed by Tim Bond, a faculty member who is also the new Head of the Professional Actor Training Program (MFA in Acting).
Tim Bond has a long association with Lynn Nottage and her work. He has directed three separate productions of Nottage's Intimate Apparel for four different theatres (The Guthrie, Actor's Theatre of Louisville, Cleveland Playhouse, and Oregon Shakespeare Festival), and a production of her Crumbs from the Table of Joy at Indiana Repertory Theatre. When Tim was the Lorraine Hansberry Professor of Theatre at the University of Wisconsin, he produced a colloquium on Black female playwrights with Nottage and playwright/novelist Kia Corthron.
The cast includes 3rd year MFA actors André Brown (Hoodoo Love, Sound Theatre Company), Tamsen Glaser (Iphigenia and Other Daughters, UW Drama), Bria Henderson (Fucking A, UW Drama), Porscha Shaw (Hoodoo Love, Sound Theatre Company), and 2nd year MFA actors Phillip Ray Guevara (I Am Modern, Seagull Project), Tricia Castañeda-Gonzales (Cock, UW Drama), and Adrian Tafesh (Sueño, UW Drama). Costumes will be designed by 2nd year MFA designer Jordan Fell (Hoodoo Love, Sound Theatre Company), lights will be designed by 2nd year MFA designer Ranleigh Starling (American Archipelago, Pony World Theatre), guest designer Shawn Ketchum Johnson (Daisy, ACT Theatre) will design the set.
The production makes extensive use of film clips from Vera's career, including the fictional antebellum epic that drives the first act, The Belle of New Orleans, and an uproarious 1973 sequence from a Merv Griffin-esque talkshow. The film work is being produced by School of Drama lecturer Kwame Braun, a filmmaker specializing in performance documentary and theatre projections.
Nottage was inspired to write By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, after seeing '30s film actress Theresa Harris' convention-breaking performance alongside Barbara Stanwyck in 1933's Baby Face. She felt that Harris asserted her presence in her films in a way that confounded the strictures of the day, and she wanted to learn more. This play is an imagined history that fills in the blanks in a story like Harris', and asks us to consider the ways that racism continues to proscribe whose stories we tell, and who gets to tell them.
Tuesday, October 24th at 7:30 PM (PREVIEW)
Thursday, October 26th at 7:30 PM (PREVIEW)
Friday, October 27th at 7:30 PM (OPENING NIGHT)
Saturday, October 28th at 7:30 PM
Sunday, October 29th at 2:00 PM (plus pre-show lobby talk at 1:00 PM)
Wednesday, November 1st at 7:30 PM (Pay-What-You-Can, day of show only)
Thursday, November 2nd at 7:30 PM
Friday, November 3rd at 7:30 PM
Saturday, November 4th at 7:30 PM
Sunday, November 5th at 2:00 PM
$14 UW employee or retiree, senior (62+), UWAA member
Pay-What-You-Can, day of show only, Wednesday November 1st at 7:30
Available at drama.uw.edu or by calling the ArtsUW ticket office at 206.543.4880
PLAYWRIGHT: Lynn Nottage
DIRECTOR: Tim Bond, School of Drama faculty
Vera Stark Porscha Shaw (3rd year MFA actor)
Gloria Mitchell Tamsen Glaser (3rd year MFA actor)
Leroy Barksdale/Herb Forrester André Brown (3rd year MFA actor)
Lottie McBride/Carmen Levy-Green Bria Henderson (3rd year MFA actor)
Anna Mae Simkins/Afua Assata Ejobo Tricia Castañeda-Gonzales (2nd year MFA actor)
Mr. Slasvick/Brad Donovan Adrian Tafesh (2nd year MFA actor)
Maximillian Von Oster/Peter Rhys-Davies Phillip Ray Guevara (2nd year MFA actor)
Costume Designer Jordan Fell (2nd year MFA designer)
Lighting Designer Ranleigh Starling (2nd year MFA designer)
Set Designer Shawn Ketchum Johnson (guest designer)
Filmmaker Kwame Braun (School of Drama faculty)
Sound Designer Bob Leigh (School of Drama alumnus)
MORE ABOUT TIM BOND
Tim Bond is considered one of the foremost interpreters of the work of his late colleague, August Wilson. He has directed seven of the ten plays in Wilson's Century Cycle, and has committed to directing all ten. Local audiences may have seen Bond's Seattle Repertory Theatre productions of The Piano Lesson (2015) and Fences (2010). Locals may also remember Bond as one of the driving forces behind Seattle's The Group Theatre, for which he directed over 20 productions prior to its closing in 1997. He also served as Artistic Director for The Group, stewarding its mission to produce multicultural theatre, for five seasons.
Bond succeeds Professor Valerie Curtis-Newton in his new role as Head of the Professional Actor Training Program. Professor Curtis-Newton, who has helmed both the Acting and Directing MFAs for a decade, will continue to lead the Professional Director Training Program (MFA in Directing).
MORE ABOUT Lynn Nottage
Lynn Nottage is a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and a screenwriter. Her plays have been produced widely in the United States and throughout the world. Sweat (Pulitzer Prize, Obie Award, Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, Tony Nomination, Drama Desk Nomination) moved to Broadway after a sold out run at The Public Theater. It premiered and was commissioned by Oregon Shakespeare Festival American Revolutions History Cycle/Arena Stage.
Her other plays include By The Way, Meet Vera Stark (Lilly Award, Drama Desk Nomination), Ruined (Pulitzer Prize, OBIE, Lucille Lortel, New York Drama Critics' Circle, Audelco, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Award), Intimate Apparel (American Theatre Critics and New York Drama Critics' Circle Awards for Best Play), Fabulation, or The Re-Education of Undine (OBIE Award), Crumbs from the Table of Joy, Las Meninas, Mud, River, Stone, Por'knockers, and POOF!. In addition, she is working with composer Ricky Ian Gordon on adapting her play Intimate Apparel into an opera (commissioned by The Met/LCT). She is currently an artist-in-residence at the Park Avenue Armory.
She is the co-founder of the Production Company, Market Road Films, whose most recent projects include The Notorious Mr. Bout directed by Tony Gerber and Maxim Pozdorovkin (Premiere/Sundance 2014), First to Fall directed by Rachel Beth Anderson (Premiere/ IDFA, 2013) and Remote Control (Premiere/Busan 2013- New Currents Award). Over the years, she has developed original projects for HBO, Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, Showtime, This is That and Harpo. She is writer/producer on the Netflix series She's Gotta Have It, directed by Spike Lee.
Nottage is the recipient of a MacArthur "Genius Grant" Fellowship, Steinberg "Mimi" Distinguished Playwright Award, PEN/Laura Pels Master Playwright Award, Merit and Literature Award from The Academy of Arts and Letters, Columbia University Provost Grant, Doris Duke Artist Award, The Joyce Foundation Commission Project & Grant, Madge Evans-Sidney Kingsley Award, Nelson A. Rockefeller Award for Creativity, The Dramatists Guild Hull-Warriner Award, the inaugural Horton Foote Prize, Helen Hayes Award, the Lee Reynolds Award, and the Jewish World Watch iWitness Award. Her other honors include the National Black Theatre Fest's August Wilson Playwriting Award, a Guggenheim Grant, Lucille Lortel Fellowship and Visiting Research Fellowship at Princeton University. She is a graduate oF Brown University and the Yale School of Drama. She is also an Associate Professor in the Theatre Department at Columbia School of the Arts.
ABOUT THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON SCHOOL OF DRAMA
The UW School of Drama develops innovative and courageous artists and scholars poised to be the creative leaders of tomorrow.
For 76 years it has served as one of this country's leading training institutions for theatre artists and scholars. The School of Drama offers MFA degrees in acting, design, and directing, a four-year undergraduate liberal arts education in Drama, and a PhD in theatre history and criticism. Faculty and alumni have founded theatres such as ACT Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The Empty Space Theatre, Jet City Improv, and more recently, the Washington Ensemble Theatre, Azeotrope, and The Horse in Motion. The School of Drama is a laboratory for leading-edge performance research, attracting internationally renowned guest artists like Anne Washburn, Daniel Alexander Jones, Erik Ehn, Meiyin Wang, Chay Yew, Whit MacLaughlin, and PearlDamour, offering students the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from masters in their field and forge critical connections to the world of professional theatre.
Photo Credit: Melanie Wang