Simpatico Theatre Announces 15th Season: No Place/Like Home

Highlights of the season, which examines the impact of gun violence, include World Premiere of Philadelphia playwright Stephanie Kyung Sun Walters’ play ESTHER CHOI AND THE FISH THAT DROWNED and Barrymore Award winning actress Amanda Schoonover in NATURAL SHOCKS by nationally renowned playwright Lauren Gunderson.


For Simpatico Theatre in Philadelphia, their 15th season No Place/Like Home looks at how and where we live, especially in the face of gun violence. The season asks the question: what happens when we find ourselves a stranger in our own home or neighborhood? All productions will take place at The Louis Bluver Theatre at The Drake, Philadelphia.


Simpatico’s 2019-20 season begins with NATURAL SHOCKS by Lauren Gunderson. Based on Hamlet’s “To be or not to be,” NATURAL SHOCKS is a new 65-minute, one-woman tour-de-force play that bursts to life when we meet a woman waiting out an imminent tornado in her basement. She overflows with quirks, stories, and a final secret that puts the reality of guns in America in the audience’s lap. The play is part confessional, part stand up, and part reckoning. The New York Times raved, “Gunderson’s Natural Shocks raises important points about the need to take action in times of crises.”


Simpatico’s production will star Philadelphia favorite award winning actress Amanda Schoonover and will be directed by Elise D’Avella of Svaha Theatre Collective. The production will run from December 4-22, 2019.


The season continues with the World Premiere of rising star Philadelphia playwright Stephanie Kyung Sun Walter’s ESTHER CHOI AND THE FISH THAT DROWNED.  Esther Choi is a favorite all-American, overachieving-Asian teen except she has a ghost. Anthony Gibson is Esther’s best friend and (spoiler alert) he’s dead. Mr. Choi is Esther’s grandfather and he owns a haunted dry cleaner on Cheltenham Ave. In an (un)likely turn of events, Esther must grapple with grief, loneliness, and winning first chair in high school orchestra, all while living up to her grandfather’s new expectations. Shaun Leisher of the New Play Exchange wrote that ESTHER CHOI is “an absolutely haunting memory play and fascinating character study.”


ESTHER CHOI AND THE FISH THAT DROWNED was developed through PlayPenn via The Foundry and will be directed by Cat Ramirez of Philadelphia Asian Performing Artists.  The production will feature performances by Claris Park and Aaron Bell and will run March 25 – April 12, 2020.


“These plays look at the lives of Americans struggling to find their place in a country that has in many ways abandoned them,” says Artistic Director Allison Heishman. “Gunderson and Walters bring humor and heart to the struggle we face as a nation to  feel safe in our own homes.”


Additionally, Simpatico Theatre is thrilled to support the development of Jouska PlayWorks. Jouska PlayWorks is an assembly of playwrights of color conceived by lead artist and founder Teresa Miller and co founders Keenya Jackson and Quinn Eli, all of whom are committed to creating works for the stage that will shift perceptions and inaccuracies about the African Diaspora by bringing to the foreground stories and experiences that have too long been untold. The goal is to use theatre as a means to enrich, entertain, empower and awaken the moral conscience, and to provide a lab/development setting for playwrights of the African Diaspora to hone their craft and achieve excellence through readings and workshops.


Also, don’t miss Simpatico Welcomes Our Robot Overlords – Holiday Edition. This comedy favorite is back again, just in time to get the Robot Overlord take on the holidays! Join us Tuesday, December 10 at the Louis Bluver Theatre at The Drake for a night of comedy brought to you by the best comedians artificial intelligence can provide. From the folks at Botnik Studios and the best and worst corners of the internet, Philly’s funniest actors will make you laugh ‘til you cry, and – at least momentarily – forget the impending robot take-over…


The Pay What You Decide ticketing program will continue for all performances in the 2019/2020 Season. After the performance, audience members decide what to pay for their experience. This removes the financial barriers associated with attending theater and provides an opportunity for new audience members to try something new.


For more information and to make your Pay What You Decide reservations, visit Simpatico Theatre at or call (267)437-7529.


Artist Bios

Elise D’Avella (Director, Natural Shocks) Elise D’Avella received her Masters in Theatre from Villanova University in 2016. Since graduating she has directed for Inis Nua Theatre Company, Juniper Productions, Svaha Theatre Collective, ReVamp Collective, and Tieline Theatre. She has assistant directed with the Wilma Theatre, Arden Theatre Company, Theatre Horizon, and the Lantern Theatre. She founded the company, Svaha Theatre Collective that produces theatre that explores the darker sides of the human soul and is a company member of Tieine Theatre, a New England based ensemble Shakespeare company. She is a member of Directors Gathering and participated as a Fellow during their Pilot Fellows program.


Lauren Gunderson (Playwright, Natural Shocks) Lauren M. Gunderson is the most produced playwright in America of 2017, the winner of the Lanford Wilson Award, the Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award and the Otis Guernsey New Voices Award, she is also a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and John Gassner Award for Playwriting, and a recipient of the Mellon Foundation’s 3-Year Residency with Marin Theatre Company. She studied Southern Literature and Drama at Emory University, and Dramatic Writing at NYU’s Tisch School where she was a Reynolds Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship. Her work has been commissioned, produced and developed at companies across the US including South Coast Rep (Emilie, Silent Sky), The Kennedy Center (The Amazing Adventures of Dr. Wonderful And Her Dog!), Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The O’Neill, The Denver Center, San Francisco Playhouse, Marin Theatre, Synchronicity, Berkeley Rep, Shotgun Players, TheatreWorks, Crowded Fire and more.  She co-authored Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley with Margot Melcon, which was one of the most produced plays in America in 2017. Her work is published at Playscripts (I and You, Exit Pursued By A Bear, The Taming, and Toil And Trouble), Dramatists (The Revolutionists, The Book of Will, Silent Sky, Bauer, Miss Bennet) and Samuel French (Emilie). Her picture book Dr Wonderful: Blast Off to the Moon was be released from Two Lions / Amazon in May 2017. and @LalaTellsAStory


Amanda Schoonover (Performer, Natural Shocks) Amanda Schoonover is a two-time Barrymore Award recipient and 9-time nominee, as well as being a Jilline Ringle Solo Performance Program Artist in Residence at 1812 Productions and an F. Otto Haas Emerging Artist Finalist. Regional: Arden; Exile; Azuka; Theatre Horizon; Pig Iron; Lantern, EgoPo and Simpatico. Film/Television: Do No Harm opposite Phylicia Rashad and We Need to Talk with James Maslow. Look for her in AMC’s upcoming Dispatches from Elsewhere with Jason Segel and Sally Field. Follow her on Instagram @amandabethschoonover


Aaron Bell (Performer, Esther Choi and the Fish That Drowned) Stoked for this play and Simpatico debut!  Regional: Holiday Inn (Walnut), A People (Orbiter 3), West Side Story (Media), Thirst, Penny Candy, Welcome to Fear City (PlayPenn), Urinetown (11th Hour), Rodgers’ Romance (East Lynne), A Single Shard (People’s Light), An Octoroon (Wilma), Hands Up (Flashpoint), Miz Martha Washington (Flashpoint).  Peace and love!


Stephanie Kyung Sun Walters (Playwright, Esther Choi and the Fish That Drowned) Stephanie Kyung Sun Walters is an emerging playwright and Barrymore nominated actor. She’s a member of The Foundry at PlayPenn and Lead Artist on the Philly Asian Performing Artists’ Playwrights Project. Esther Choi and the Fish that Drowned will receive a world premiere with Simpatico Theatre in spring 2020. Esther Choi… was recently presented at the PlayPenn Conference and the Philadelphia Women’s Theatre Festival 2019. Keep Me Posted received a staged reading at the 2018 Philly Asian American Film Festival. Her play, Are You My Father or the dream ballet of north korea, received a workshop and reading with PlayPenn and HBMG Foundation’s National Writers Retreat, as well as a residency with Philadelphia Asian Performing Artists/Asian Arts Initiative. Are You My Father… was also a finalist for Unicorn Theatre’s 2019-2020 In-Progress New Play Reading Series. Additional plays have been produced and developed with Dragon’s Eye Theatre, Revamp Collective, Asian Arts Initiative, Philadelphia Women’s Theatre Festival, and Philadelphia’s Future is Female Festival. She is a graduate of Bucknell University, the London Dramatic Academy, and CAP21.


Claris Park (Performer, Esther Choi and the Fish That Drowned) Claris Park is a Philadelphia based actor and theater maker. Recent credits include Philly Asian Histories (PAPA), The Merry Wives of Windsor (Delaware Shakespeare), Among the Dead (Theatre Exile), Bob: A Life in Five Acts (Azuka Theatre), and The Monster in the Hall (Inis Nua Theatre). She was a part of the inaugural cohort of the Philadelphia Asian Performing Artists (PAPA) collective and the Asian Arts Initiative Mini Residency Program to develop the interactive piece, The DJZ. They are also currently a member of the PAPA Playwrights Project and a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania.


Cat Ramirez (Director, Esther Choi and the Fish That Drowned) Cat Ramirez directs and produces new theatre works and community events that subvert societal norms.  They have directed with Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival, Arcadia University, Power Street Theatre Company, Lxs Primxs, and Philadelphia Young Playwrights (among others) and worked as an administor with Orbiter 3, Lightning Rod Special and InterAct Theatre Company.  Cat currently serves as the Creative Director for Philadelphia Asian Performing Artists and the Public Programs Producer for Asian Arts Initiative. Cat is a two-time Suraya Award Recipient and was honored by Governor Wolf’s Advisory Committee on Asian Pacific American Affairs for their work furthering Asian American Theatre in Philadelphia.

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