People’s Light Presents Dominique Morisseau’s Mud Row, a new play inspired by West Chester, PA

By Dominique Morisseau

Directed by Steve H. Broadnax III 
June 26 – July 28, 2019

Steinbright Stage

People’s Light presents Mud Row, a world premiere play by recent Tony Award nominee Dominique Morisseau (Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations). Two generations of sisters navigate class, race, love, and family on “Mud Row,” an area in the East End of West Chester, Pennsylvania. Elsie hopes to move up in the world by marrying into “the talented tenth,” while her sister Frances joins the fight for Civil Rights. Decades later, estranged sisters Regine and Toshi are forced to reckon with their shared heritage, and each other, when Regine inherits granny Elsie’s house. In this funny, heart-wrenching, and ultimately hopeful comedy-drama, Morisseau deftly shifts between past and present West Chester to paint a living portrait of family legacy. Tickets start at $35, including fees. To purchase, call 610.644.3500 or visit www.peopleslight.org. People’s Light is located at 39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, PA 19355. Mud Row is sponsored by West Chester LLC.

Mud Row is the second production to emerge from the New Play Frontiers (NPF) Residency & Commission Program at People’s Light. Through NPF, the Malvern theatre invites nationally renowned playwrights to Greater Philadelphia to immerse themselves in neighboring communities, in collaboration with partner organizations, and develop new plays that explore American identity through the stories and concerns of our region. “People’s Light stands at a unique crossroads of rural, urban, and suburban populations,” says People’s Light Producing Director Zak Berkman. “Through our New Play Frontiers program, our theatre seeks to better represent, reflect, and respond to the diverse communities in this distinctive part of our country.”

Dominique Morisseau — now a Tony Award nominee, MacArthur Genius Grant Fellow, and one of the most sought-after voices in American theatre — was among the first group of NPF writers commissioned in 2012. During her initial research, Morisseau was inspired by the people and places surrounding the Charles A. Melton Arts & Education Center, a community beacon that has served generations of West Chester, PA residents. As Morisseau developed Mud Row, the Melton Center’s staff, board, and community stakeholders served as her gateway to the layered realities of the town’s East End, where the Center is based. “It is always encouraging to be in the presence of the people who call the Melton Center home,” she says. “Their hearts move with the passion of people who are excited about building up the next generation. Our conversations served as much background food for Mud Row.

“I remember an area by a railroad … sort of a swampy area, and I was told in passing, ‘Oh yeah, they call that Mud Row.’ That was my entry point,” Morisseau explains. “I’ve made a fictional story that’s a fusion of my own family history and oral histories of what I heard from the people that live in West Chester. I imagined those grandchildren, these young people today, [who inherit] these homes. I thought about how African American communities are set up, how things are passed down, sustained, or deconstructed, or gentrified externally and internally. For me, now, this play has also become about family and what ties bind us, regardless.”

The cast of Mud Row features six newcomers to People’s Light – Tiffany Rachelle Stewart as Elsie, Gillian Glasco as Frances, Nikkole Salter as Regine, Bjorn DuPaty as Davin, Renika Williams as Toshi, and Eric Robinson Jr. as Tyriek.

Steve H. Broadnax III (Skeleton Crew, The Mountaintop) directs the productionMichael Carnahan makes his People’s Light debut as scenic designer, as does costume designer Shilla Benning. Returning guest artist Kathy Perkins (Skeleton Crew) serves as lighting designer and Curtis Craig (Skeleton Crew) designs sound. Resident Dramaturg Gina Pisasale dramaturgs the production and Resident Stage Manager Kate McSorley Fossner stage manages. West Chester resident Penny Washington generously shares her time and passion as historical consultant on the production.

Mud Row is the recipient of an Edgerton Foundation New Play Award. The New Play Frontiers program is made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This project is supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.


BIOS

Dominique Morisseau Playwright
Author of The Detroit Project (A 3-Play Cycle) which includes the following plays: Skeleton Crew (Atlantic Theater Company), Paradise Blue (Signature Theatre), and Detroit ’67 (Public Theater, Classical Theatre of Harlem and NBT). Additional plays include: Pipeline (Lincoln Center Theatre), Sunset Baby (LAByrinth Theatre); Blood at the Root (National Black Theatre) and Follow Me to Nellie’s (Premiere Stages). She is also the Tony-nominated book writer on the new Broadway musical Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations (Imperial Theatre). Dominique is an alumna of The Public Theater Emerging Writer’s Group, Women’s Project Lab, and Lark Playwrights Workshop and has developed work at Sundance Lab, Williamstown Theatre Festival and Eugene O’Neil Playwrights Conference. She most recently served as Co-Producer on the Showtime series Shameless (3 seasons). Additional awards include: Spirit of Detroit Award, PoNY Fellowship, Sky-Cooper Prize, TEER Trailblazer Award, Steinberg Playwright Award, Audelco Awards, NBFT August Wilson Playwriting Award, Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama, OBIE Award (2), Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellowship, Variety’s Women of Impact for 2017-18, and a recent MacArthur Genius Grant Fellow.

Steve H. Broadnax III Director
People’s Light: Skeleton Crew, The Mountaintop, Bayard Rustin: Inside Ashland (Spring 2020). Theatre Includes: Actors’ Theatre of Louisville, Hattiloo Theatre, Ensemble Studio Theatre Company, Chautauqua Theatre Company, Apollo Theatre NYC, Classical Theatre of Harlem, Atlantic Theatre NYC, Detroit Public Theatre, Baltimore Center Stage, The Black Theatre Troupe in Phoenix, AZ, Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Moore Theatre in Seattle, Market Theatre in Johannesburg, The Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, National Arts Festival in South Africa, and The Adelaide Arts Festival Australia. The Hip Hop Project, an award-winning, full-length, original play directed, choreographed, and conceived by Steve, has toured nationally and was showcased at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival in Washington, D.C. Other writings include the award-winning American Taboo, and Camouflage (Eugene O’Neill semi-finalist). Training: Conservatory of Fine Arts Webster University (BFA), Penn State University (MFA). Steve is currently a Professor of Theatre and Associate Artistic Director for Outreach at Penn State University.

Bjorn DuPaty  Davin
People’s Light debut. Theatre Includes: Off-Broadway: Mlima’s Tale (Public Theater), Two Mile Hollow (Women’s Project Theater), Travisville (Ensemble Studio Theater). National Tour: Julius Caesar, Comedy of Errors (The Acting Co.). Regional: Do You Feel Anger (Humana Festival), A Raisin in the Sun (Crossroads Theater), Clybourne Park (Pittsburgh Public Theater), Fairfield (Cleveland Playhouse). Film/Television Includes: Film: Demolition. TV: Alpha House, Sleepy Hollow, The Blacklist, Person of Interest, Zero Hour, All My Children. Training: MFA (Rutgers University, Mason Gross School of the Arts). Website: www.bjorndupaty.com

Gillian Glasco  Frances
People’s Light debut. Theatre Includes: Pipeline (American Stage Theatre Company), Disgraced (Syracuse Stage), Doubt (Hangar Theatre), Sunset Baby (Kitchen Theatre Company), Knock Me A Kiss (New Federal Theatre/Crossroads Theatre Company), Ain’t Supposed To Die A Natural Death (Classical Theatre of Harlem), Court Martial at Ft. Devens (New Federal Theatre), and The Waiting Room (Billie Holiday Theatre). Film/Television Includes: TV: Jessica Jones, Law and Order: SVU, The Black List, Madam Secretary, The Good Fight, Maniac, The Following, Louie, Taxi: Brooklyn South. Feature Films: Men In Black: International, Going in Style, Hannah Has A Ho Phase. Short Films: Tough, Moths and Butterflies (HBO). She’s a native of North Little Rock, Arkansas. Training: BFA in Acting (Ithaca College).

Eric Robinson Jr. Tyriek
People’s Light debut. Theatre Includes: Barbecue (Pavilion Theatre, Penn State), Your Blues Ain’t Sweet Like Mine (Downtown Theatre, Penn State), Clybourne Park (Playhouse Theatre, Penn State). Film/Television Includes: It’s a Mann’s World (BET). Training: MFA in Acting (The Pennsylvania State University). Website: Instagram @ericbrobinsonjr

Nikkole Salter  Regine
People’s Light debut. Theatre Includes: The Royale (Cleveland Playhouse, Lincoln Center Theater), The Christians(Baltimore Center Stage), Macbeth (Shakespeare Theatre, DC), Head of Passes (Berkeley Repertory Theatre), Luck of the Irish (Huntington Theatre, IRNE nomination), Gee’s Bend (Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Acclaim Award; Kansas City Rep), Stick Fly (Arena Stage, Huntington Theatre), Inked Baby (Playwright’s Horizons), In the Continuum (Primary Stages), Goodman Theatre, Kirk Douglas Theatre, Woolly Mammoth Theatre, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Yale Repertory Theatre, Market Theatre, Baxter Theatre, Edinburgh Theatre Festival, Grahamstown Theatre Festival (OBIE, Helen Hayes, Drama League nominations, et al.). Film/Television Includes: the upcoming Godfather of Harlem (with Forest Whitaker, EPIX), The Architect (CBS), Love & CommunicationLast Night (American Black Film Festival Best Film). Training: MFA (NYU), BFA (Howard University). Website: www.nikkolesalter.com

Tiffany Rachelle Stewart Elsie
People’s Light debut. Broadway: The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-Time. Off-Broadway: Sugar In Our Wounds (Manhattan Theatre Club), Pericles (Public Theatre), Julius Caesar (Theatre For A New Audience), The Vagina Monologues (Cherry Lane). Regional: The House That Will Not Stand (Berkeley Repertory, Yale Repertory), Animal Farm (Baltimore Center Stage, Milwaukee Repertory), By The Way, Meet Vera Stark (The Alliance), Love’s Labour’s Lost & The African Company Presents Richard III (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), Conference of the Birds (Folger Shakespeare Theatre). Choreography: World Premiere of The Unfortunates (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), Obama Drama (45th Street Theatre), Midsummer Night’s Dream (Lyceum Theater), Camino Real (NYU Tisch MFA Acting), Fun Home (NYU Tisch NSB). Film/Television Includes: Black Rose, All My Children, Royal Pains, Hotel Pennsylvania. Awards: Best Actress in a Drama, Black Rose (New York Television Festival); Outstanding Ensemble, Sugar In Our Wounds (AUDELCO). Training: MFA in Acting (The Yale School of Drama).

Renika Williams Toshi
People’s Light debut. Theatre Includes: Off-Broadway: The Climb (Cherry Lane Theatre), Sweet (The National Black Theatre). Regional: Dominique Morisseau’s Pipeline (Actor’s Theatre of Louisville and Indiana Repertory Theatre), The Bluest Eye (Arden Theatre Company), A Raisin in the Sun (Cincinnati Shakespeare Company), AntigoneTo Kill A Mockingbird, and A Christmas Carol (Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park). Awards: The 2018 Fresh Fruit Festival’s Best Actress in a Short Play (Damn Fool). Training: BFA in Acting (Wright State University), Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park Acting Apprenticeship. Website: www.renikawilliams1.com


TICKET INFORMATION
Mud Row previews Wednesday, June 26; Thursday, June 27; and Friday, June 28 at 7:30pm; as well as Saturday, June 29 at 8pm. The play opens on Sunday, June 30 at 7pm and runs through Sunday, July 28. Standard tickets start at $45, including fees. $35 preview tickets are available June 26-28. For tickets, call the Box Office at 610.644.3500.

Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more. For more information or to purchase group tickets, call Group Sales Associate Kelly Benedict at 610.647.1900 x111 or email benedict@peopleslight.org.

Subscription packages are now available for the 2019/2020 Season at People’s Light. Productions include Dot (September 18 – October 20); Little Red Robin Hood (November 13 – January 5); The Children (January 15 – February 9); Shakespeare in Love (February 26 – March 29); Hold These Truths (March 18 – April 19); Bayard Rustin: Inside Ashland (May 13 – June 7); Mary Jane (June 24 – July 19)and an eighth production in August 2020 still to be announced. Visit www.peopleslight.org or call 610.644.3500 for more information.

Actors, prices, productions, performance dates and times are subject to change. Additional service charges will apply. Contact the Box Office for more details.

 

ACCESSIBILITY & ENGAGEMENT
Arrive early for Drinks & Dramaturgy. Explore our dramaturgy lobby display that provides context to enhance your experience of the production, as you enjoy a glass of wine or beer from concessions. During Mud Row, in collaboration with historical consultant Penny Washington and the Chester County Historical Society, People’s Light will host a curated display that features images of residents of West Chester’s East End.

Join Resident Dramaturg Gina Pisasale and members of the Mud Row cast at Scoop on Wednesdays, a lively pre-performance discussion with light snacks. Learn more about the context of the play and get behind-the-scenes info. Scoop starts at 6pm at the Congdon Center Conference Room (inside the Steinbright Stage lobby) before 7:30pm performances on July 3, July 10, July 17, and July 24. Now only $5 and available online. Tiffany Rachelle Stewart will be Gina’s guest on July 10 and 17, and both Bjorn DuPaty and Eric Robinson Jr. will join Gina on July 3 and 24.

Stay for AfterWORDS, informal post-show Q&As immediately following Thursday evening performances on July 11, July 18, and July 25.

Open Caption performances of Mud Row are July 16, 17, 18, and 19 at 7:30pm; July 20 at 2pm & 8pm; July 21 at 2pm & 7pm; July 23 at 7:30pm; and July 24 at 2pm & 7:30pm. During these performances, the actors’ lines appear on a small LED screen near the stage as they speak.

Throughout the season, we offer half-priced Access Nights as part of our accessibility initiatives. Mud Row Access Nights are Wednesday, July 24 at 7:30pm and Friday, July 26 at 7:30pm.

Service animals are welcome at all performances at People’s Light. The theatre offers a designated relief area and water bowl for their comfort.

 

 

BISTRO & FARMHOUSE
Enjoy Dinner & A Show packages at the Farmhouse Bistro prior to select Wednesday through Sunday performances. Wednesday, Thursday, or Sunday evening dinner packages start at $82. Friday and Saturday packages start at $91. That’s a savings of up to 15% off the single ticket price. We also offer Brunch Packages that include brunch at The Bistro paired with tickets to Sunday matinee performancesCall the Box Office at 610.644.3500.

Located next to The Bistro is a full-service catering venue, The Farmhouse at People’s Light, perfect for weddings, corporate events, and special celebrations. Contact the Farmhouse Sales Team at 610.647.1631 x156 or thefarmhouse@peopleslight.org.

ABOUT PEOPLE’S LIGHT
Now in its 44th seasonPeople’s Light, a professional, not-for-profit theatre in Chester County, Pennsylvania, makes plays drawn from many sources to entertain, inspire, and engage our community. We extend our mission of making and experiencing theatre through arts education programs that excite curiosity about, and deepen understanding of, the world around us. These plays and programs bring people together and provide opportunities for reflection, discovery, and celebration. Founded in 1974, we produce eight to nine plays each season, in two black box theatres with 340 and 160 seats respectively, mixing world premieres, contemporary plays, and fresh approaches to classic texts. Through two new play initiatives, New Play Frontiers and the Harmony Lab, People’s Light currently has seven active play commissions. Of our 444 productions, over a third (167) have been world or regional premieres.

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