Washington Stage Guild Closes Season with World Premiere of AN UNBUILT LIFE

Performances run April 11 to May 5, 2024, with four Pay-What-You-Can previews April 11 to 13 at the Washington Stage Guild's home, The Undercroft Theatre.

By: Apr. 12, 2024
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The Washington Stage Guild's 2023-2024 season comes to a close with an exciting new work examing themes of art and legacy – the world premiere of An Unbuilt Life by Elizabeth DeSchryver, directed by WSG Associate Artistic Director Steven Carpenter (Major Barbara, Sam & Dede).

NOTE: Because of unforeseen personal responsibilities, WSG Artistic Director Bill Largess has had to step away from the production.

The cast includes WSG regular David Bryan Jackson, along with Susan Holliday and JC Payne. Performances run April 11 to May 5, 2024, with four Pay-What-You-Can previews April 11 to 13 at the Washington Stage Guild's home, The Undercroft Theatre in the Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church, 900 Massachusetts Avenue, NW. Opening/Press performance is Sunday, April 14 at 2:30pm.


When Agatha Ganner discovers a mystery painting in her deceased husband's art collection, she engages an energetic graduate student to research it for her. As disturbing crimes of the past are unearthed, Agatha must decide to either right the wrong – and possibly ruin lives – or leave the past in the past. Is doing the right thing always the right thing to do? World Premiere.


“Working on a new play brings a special kind of satisfaction to theatre artists," states director Steven Carpenter. “Helping a playwright realize their vision and introduce their ideas to an audience for the first time can be scary, fun, and oh so rewarding. When I first read Elizabeth DeSchryver's An Unbuilt Life, I realized that, although set in the early 2000s, it has a lot to say about the present moment as well, and was excited about helping to bring this story to light. The play mines the world of classical art dealing to address issues of personal ethics, and societal responsibility to the past and its victims. Now more than ever, we need to ask whether we're willing to make a difficult, but right, decision at the cost of personal gain and comfort. I'm honored to bring that question to DC audiences with Elizabeth's smart, tough and important play.”


Elizabeth DeSchryver is an award-winning playwright, short story author and poet. She earned her PhD at Northwestern University, specializing in Victorian Literature with a Shakespeare chaser. Logically, she then spent 24 years working for a technology consulting firm before leaving to write full-time. Her short plays have been produced at Chicago Dramatists, 2nd Act Players, and most recently at the 8x10 Eileen Moushey TheatreFest (Weathervane Playhouse). She is a member of the Dramatists Guild, a Network Playwright with Chicago Dramatists, and a founding member of the Telling Humans Playwright Studio. She is thrilled to be having her world premiere at the Washington Stage Guild, and grateful that they were willing to take a chance on a newbie.


The cast of An Unbuilt Life includes David Bryan Jackson, Susan Holliday, JC Payne.

David Bryan Jackson appeared with WSG in last season's Endgame, as well as Candida, The Old Masters, Magic, The Best of Friends, and Lord Arthur Savile's Crime. He has also performed with the Shakespeare Theatre Company, Studio Theatre, Folger Theatre, Signature Theatre, The Hub, Spooky Action Theater, and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, as well as Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre, among others. He received a Theatre Lobby award for his performances in Intimate Exchanges at Source Theatre and Via Dolorosa at Theater J (the latter of which he reprised in Los Angeles and Boston, as well as more recently as part of Mosaic Theatre's Voices from a Changing Middle East tour). Susan Holliday joins Washington Stage Guild for the first time, though she worked earlier under Steven Carpenter's direction in The Cripple of Inishmaan at 1st Stage, where she also appeared in By the Bog of Cats and The Suicide. Young audiences saw Sue in several shows at Adventure Theatre, most notably Clara Barton: The Courage Within and she toured synagogues and schools with the one-woman show, Anna Shulman, the Queen of H Street. She worked at several D.C.-area stages now sadly closed or on hiatus, including Doorway Arts Ensemble, theHegira, The Inkwell, Peace Mountain Theatre Company, Quotidian Theatre Company and the Source Festival. JC Payne makes his DC theatre debut at Washington Stage Guild. A professional magician and educator who teaches with the School of Magic Arts, some of his career highlights so far include performing in two productions with the Hip-Hop Shakespeare collective, Julius Caesar, and Much Ado About Nothing, as well as performing in The Seagull (Gamut Theatre), Stick Fly (Fells Point Corner Theatre), and In the Cotton (Farm Theatre Project).

An Unbuilt Life is directed by Steven Carpenter, the Associate Artistic Director of the Washington Stage Guild, where his directing credits include Major Barbara, Sam & Dede, Resolving Hedda, Red Herring, Opus, and The Underpants, among others. Other area productions include God of Carnage at Compass Rose, The Cripple of Inishmaan at 1st Stage, The Price, and ART at Bay Theatre, Barrymore, Hysteria, and Trumbo for Rep Stage, and The Chosen at Theater J. He received a Helen Hayes Award nomination for his production of Thief River at Theatre Alliance and was a recipient of the Mary Goldwater Award for Directing. Steven appeared on stage at WSG earlier this season as the men in The Victorian Ladies' Detective Collective and was also seen here in Memoirs of a Forgotten Man, Bloomsday, Hard Times, Pygmalion, and The Philanderer (Helen Hayes nomination) along with numerous others. A third Helen Hayes nomination came for providing the onstage sound effects for the Guild's It's A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play.

The production team includes Joseph B. Musumeci, Jr. (Scenic Design), Marianne Meadows (Resident Lighting Design), Sigrid Johannesdottir (Resident Costume Design), David Bryan Jackson (Sound Designer), Bess Kaye (Fight Choreographer), and Elaine Randolph (Production Stage Manager).


An Unbuilt Life by Elizabeth DeSchryver runs April 11 to May 5, 2024, with performances Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2:30pm & 8pm, and Sunday at 2:30pm. The run begins with four Pay-What-You-Can performances Thursday, April 11 at 7:30pm, Friday, April 12 at 8pm, and Saturday, April 13 at 2:30pm & 8pm (Pay What You Can tickets can be purchased for any cash price at the door beginning one hour prior to curtain). Opening/Press performance is Sunday, April 14 at 2:30pm.

All tickets are General Admission and are $50 Thursday & Saturday/Sunday matinees, $60 Friday & Saturday evenings. Student Admission is half-price with a valid Student ID. Senior Citizens 65 years and up get $10 OFF General Admission Prices. Groups of 10 or more get half-price tickets. 


Founded in 1986 by a professional company of theatre artists dedicated to producing literate, challenging works in a collegial and supportive atmosphere, The Washington Stage Guild quickly established itself as an indispensable component of the D.C. area theatre scene; recognized as early as the end of the first season (1987) by The Washington Post. The ensemble theatre company's acclaimed repertoire of neglected classics, unfamiliar works by familiar playwrights, and stimulating new plays from around the world is presented in a style that is the Guild's own—direct and clear, with a strong commitment to adhering to the author's intent.


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