MacArthur Geniuses of the Rep

Sam Hunter headshot

Playwright Samuel D. Hunter, 2014 MacArthur Genius.

Yesterday playwright Samuel D. Hunter was named a MacArthur Genius. (Go Sam, go!) Sam wrote A Great Wilderness, which we workshopped in our 2013 inaugural New Play Festival and premiered last season. When we heard the exciting news, we started to wonder: which other MacArthur fellows have come through the Rep? Here are the playwrights, directors, and actors that came up:

Tarell Alvin McCraney: The Brothers Size (2011); The Breach (2008)

  • Called “an heir to August Wilson” by some, McCraney is known for exploring the diversity of the African American experience. His rich language transforms intentionally minimalist stages into worlds marked by metaphor and imagery.

Sarah Ruhl: Dear Elizabeth (2014-coming up in February!); The Clean House (2003)

  • Originally a poetry student, Ruhl was persuaded to try playwriting in college. Her love for language definitely comes through in her versatile, fresh plays and stage adaptations. The Clean House was workshopped as part of our Women Playwrights Festival.

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7 Reasons We Recommend The Mountaintop

The Mountaintop show image

Are you planning on seeing All the Way and The Great Society? Last night, Rep staffers Rose and Megan went to the opening performance of Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop (now playing at ArtsWest through October 5). The play reimagines the evening before MLK’s assassination, and picks up where The Great Society leaves off. We think The Mountaintop is the perfect prequel to our LBJ plays. Here’s why:

1. The Mountaintop centers on MLK, a huge character in the LBJ plays.

2. Like the LBJ plays, The Mountaintop is timely and relevant (sometimes chillingly so).

3. Valerie Curtis-Newton directed it. Last seen at the Rep on our panel for Artistic Freedom and Artistic Responsibility, Valerie is the current Head of Performance at the University of Washington School of Drama. She also oversees The Hansberry Project, a professional African American theatre lab.

4. Seattle-based Reginald Andre Jackson (aka Reggie) is excellent as MLK. He was last seen at the Rep in Inspecting Carol (2012) and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2005).

5. You’ll get to see Reggie again in the The Great Society! (He doesn’t play MLK though.)

6. Brianne A. Hill makes a strong Seattle stage debut as Camae. (We won’t give away any more than that!)

7. In 2010, playwright Katori Hall won the Oliver Award for Best New Play for The Mountaintop, making her the first-ever black woman to do so.

Tickets to The Mountaintop at ArtsWest are available here (adult prices are capped at $35, and people under 25 tix are only $15). Tickets to All the Way and The Great Society are available here.

Braden’s Edward Albee Story

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WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? cast! From left: R. Hamilton Wright, Amy Hill, Pamela Reed, Aaron Blakely. Photo: Alabastro Photography.

When we made our decades inserts for our 50th Anniversary season, we asked Associate Artistic Director Braden Abraham to recount his fondest, funniest, and most disastrous memories of the Rep. In the third category he shared a story about an encounter with playwright Edward Albee. With Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? closing this weekend, we thought we’d share it again with you all:

When Edward Albee was in town for The Lady from Dubuque, we set up a special pre-show event for him and [then Artistic Director and show director] David Esbjornson to discuss the play and all things Edward Albee. About an hour and a half before the event, David casually walked by my desk and asked me to come up with a few questions to ask him and Edward. I said, “No problem,” but of course I panicked, thinking, “What the hell do you ask Edward Albee?” I hurriedly made a list of questions and brought them over to Ten Mercer for Edward to review while they were having dinner.  While I stood there next to the table, likely sweating, Edward looked them over carefully and handed them back to me.  “Those will be fine,” he said without expression.  After dinner, David asked me to host the interview, and the three of us settled into our chairs on the Leo K stage.  I asked Edward the first question on my list, to which he replied, “now, why would you ask me a question like that?”  The audience burst into laughter, I turned beet red.  Edward looked at me impishly…I guess there are worse things in the world than being publicly humiliated by Edward Albee.

To read more of Braden’s memories at the Rep, visit Decades Insert Five.

An August Wilson Weekend: The Highlights

First trip to Times Square!

First trip to Times Square!

The following post was written by one of our chaperones to the 2014 August Wilson Monologue Competition, Communications Assistant Rose Woodbury.

Wow! What an amazing whirlwind of a weekend we just had in New York City. I had the joy of accompanying Seattle’s August Wilson Monologue Competition finalists Alexis Baldridge, Josiah Townsend, and Jazzy Ducay to nationals with co-chaperone Zoe Wilson. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many places, met so many famous and talented artists, and been so inspired in a 72-hour period. (And I wasn’t even performing!)

Our weekend started when we met at the airport last Saturday at 5:30 a.m. and flew to a small boutique hotel in Times Square. The 45 minute ride from JFK airport to the hotel was full of oohs and aahs and “Oh.My.God!”; it was our students’ first time in the Big Apple!

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Wilsonian Soldiers Ship Off

AWMC send off

Our finalists performed for the staff and Board at our send off event last Friday! Clockwise from left: Alexis Baldridge, Josiah Townsend, Jazzy Ducay.

By this time tomorrow Alexis Baldridge, Josiah Townsend, and Jazzy Ducay will be flying to New York to compete in the national August Wilson Monologue Competition on Broadway. They are beyond thrilled to be representing Seattle and one of the most influential playwrights of the 20th century. (They’re also really excited to see Central Park—none of them has been to New York before!)

Alexis, Josiah, and Jazzy (ages 17, 16, and 18 respectively) were chosen by a panel of judges out of 10 semi-finalists at our regional competition in February. Since then they’ve worked and reworked their monologues extensively. Acclaimed actor and August Wilson enthusiast G. Valmont Thomas (aka “G. Val”) coached the students several times. Former Rep Casting Director Peggy Scales also spent time privately coaching Alexis.

In one of G. Val’s first coaching sessions, he shared Wilson’s preface to King Hedley II. The group spent a special amount of time unpacking one particular line: “Art is beholden to the kiln in which the artist was fired.” Wilson’s experience as an African American man growing up in Pittsburgh had a huge effect on his work and his dream to portray real black experiences onstage.

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The Man Behind the Living Room

Woolf tech

Tech rehearsal! Scenic Designer Matt Smucker (center) with Director Braden Abraham (right) and Producing Director Elisabeth Farwell-Moreland (left). Photo: Alabastro Photography.

Coming over to George and Martha’s house for an evening of fun and games? Here’s a glimpse into our scenic designer’s process of figuring out exactly how that iconic living room should look.

Matthew Smucker designed the set for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, his second Edward Albee show at the Rep. (His first was Three Tall Women  in 2010.) When asked about what it’s like to design an Albee play, he said, “I find Albee’s writing to be utterly real and utterly absurd simultaneously. The best designs respond to this tension.”

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What Did You Think of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Martha-in-chair

Pamela Reed plays Martha. Photo: Alabastro Photography.

We want to know what you thought of Edward Albee’s American classic! Had you seen Virginia Woolf before? Did you enjoy seeing Pamela Reed and R. Hamilton Wright tackle the iconic roles of George and Martha? What about the set design? Please leave your comment below!