Surviving centuries of slavery, revolts and The Trail of Tears, a community of self-proclaimed Freedmen (Black Seminoles and people of mixed origins) incorporate the first all-black U.S. town in Wewoka, Oklahoma. But the very foundations of the town are rocked when the new religion and the old way come head to head, their former enslavers arrive to imprison them and the leader of the Freedmen makes use of his brilliant, ‘burning’ immortality. Based on historical facts and written in gorgeously cadenced language, the road weeps, the well runs dry merges myth, folklore and history of Black and Indigenous people.
the road weeps, the well runs dry is the second installment in a trilogy about the migration of Black Seminoles (African and Native American people) from Florida to Oklahoma. The first act of the road weeps traces events leading up to the Civil War in Wewoka, Oklahoma and the second act follows the war. At its core, the play is about a group of people whose faith and identity are put to test when their water well runs dry.
Led by the Lark Play Development Center, Launching New Plays into the Repertoire is a national initiative to transform the American theater repertoire to reflect shifting demographics and emerging issues of local, national and global concern. This is accomplished by “creating a movement” around a single playwright’s vision by a consortium of five theaters that commit to developing and producing what many consider “risky” plays and to engage in local and national conversations about each play’s relevance and potential impact. The first three pilot rounds of this program, involving 12 individual theaters and three playwrights, will be completed by June 2014.
Playwright Marcus Gardley and his play the road weeps, the well runs dry is the centerpiece of Cycle II. The consortium of theaters producing this play consists of the Perseverance Theatre, Pillsbury House Theatre, Los Angeles Theatre Center, and the University of South Florida School of Theatre and Dance. In advance of each production, conversations around the play’s themes of spirituality, migration, identity, education, sexuality and myth are facilitated locally by Donna Walker-Kuhne, the project’s community engagement consultant. The first production has now begun rehearsals at the Perseverance Theatre in Alaska!
Please join us in saluting our Tampa community partners:USF Institute for Humanities
Marcus Gardley (playwright of the road weeps, the well runs dry)
Marcus is a Bay Area-born poet-playwright who is the recent 2012 USA James Baldwin Fellow in Theatre Arts. He is also the 2011 PEN/ Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award for a Playwright in Mid-Career recipient and a Mellon Foundation grantee for a playwriting residency with Victory Gardens in Chicago. The New Yorker describes Marcus as “the heir to Garcia Lorca, Pirandello and Tennessee Williams.” His epic trilogy the road weeps, the well runs dry about the migration of African American and indigenous people from Florida to Oklahoma completes its Launching New Plays into the Repertoire national tour here at University of South Florida. Recent productions of his plays include the House that will not Stand in co-production at Berkeley Rep and at Yale Repertory Theatre, black odyssey at Denver Center Theatre Co., and dance of the holy ghosts at Center Stage in Baltimore, all to critical acclaim. His play every tongue confess closed last fall in Atlanta at Horizon Theatre Company after premiering at Arena Stage starring Phylicia Rashad and directed by Kenny Leon. It was nominated for the Harold and Mimi Steinberg/ American Theatre Critics New Play Award, the Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play, and was the recipient of the Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award. His musical, On the Levee premiered in 2010 at LCT3/Lincoln Center Theater and was nominated for 11 AUDELCO Awards including outstanding playwright. He is the recipient of the 2011 Aetna New Voices Fellowship at Hartford Stage, the Helen Merrill Award, a Kellsering Honor, the Gerbode Emerging Playwright Award, the National Alliance for Musical Theatre Award, a Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation grant, the Eugene O’Neill Memorial Scholarship, and the ASCAP Foundation Cole Porter Award, and he participated in the NEA/TCG Theatre Residency Program for Playwrights. He holds an MFA in playwriting from the Yale Drama School and is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America and the Lark Play Development Center. Marcus is a professor of theatre and performance studies at Brown University.
Nakissa Etemad (dramaturg for the road weeps, the well runs dry) is a professional dramaturg, producer, French translator, editor and writer based in San Francisco, CA. The Executive VP Freelance and Regional VP of Metro Bay Area for Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA), she has worked in the field of dramaturgy for over twenty years, including full-time posts as Dramaturg & Literary Manager for Philadelphia’s The Wilma Theater, San Jose Repertory Theatre, and Resident Dramaturg & Artistic Associate for San Diego Rep. Ms. Etemad has fostered 22 professional world premiere plays & musicals and dramaturged over 75 productions & staged readings with such writers as Tom Stoppard, Arthur Miller, Lynn Nottage, Polly Pen, Marcus Gardley, Charles L. Mee, Luis Valdez, Octavio Solis, Doug Wright, Julie Hébert, Dael Orlandersmith, Chay Yew, Katori Hall, Lillian Groag, Culture Clash, D.W. Jacobs, Ray Leslee, Heather McDonald, Steven Dietz, Lauren Yee, David Adjmi, Stephanie Fleischmann, Garret Jon Groenveld, and Marisela Treviño Orta.
Highlights include serving as Dramaturg for the East Coast Premiere/2nd Production of Arthur Miller’s penultimate play Resurrection Blues at The Wilma; The Philadelphia Orchestra & The Wilma Theater’s Every Good Boy Deserves Favor by Tom Stoppard & André Previn, starring David Strathairn and Richard Easton; the inaugural world premiere production of Marcus Gardley’s every tongue confess in the Kogod Cradle for Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater; the world premiere Wilma- commissioned musical Embarrassments by Polly Pen and Laurence Klavan; the world premiere of The Doors musical Celebration of the Lizard at San Diego Rep, including workshops starring Billy Zane and Grace Jones; producing the San Jose Rep’s 5th Annual New America Playwrights Festival in 2001, featuring writers Lynn Nottage, Polly Pen, James Milton, and Naomi Iizuka; and dramaturging & assistant directing Othello 11 for the French Consulate of SF and Z Space. Ms. Etemad has also provided dramaturgy for Alliance Theatre, The Cu ting Ball Theater – having served as its Resident Dramaturg (Marcus Gardley’s …and Jesus Moonwalks the Mississippi, Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano and Victims of Duty), Arizona Theatre Company, O’Neill Music Theater Conference, La Jolla Playhouse, George Street Playhouse, Bay Area Playwrights Festival & Playwrights Foundation, Crowded Fire, Alter Theater, Diversionary Theatre, Austin Script Works, and the inaugural season of Berkeley Rep’s The Ground Floor, among others.
Upcoming & current projects: Dramaturg for the multi-city world premieres of Marcus Gardley’s the road weeps, the well runs dry in the LARK’s Launching New Plays into the Repertoire initiative, which opened May 2013 at Perseverance Theatre, with unique partner productions at Pillsbury House Theatre in MN, LATC, and next spring at Univ. of South Florida’s School of Theatre & Dance; Dramaturg & writer in collaboration with Margo Hall & composer Marcus Shelby on the world premiere Be Bop Baby: A Musical Memoir at Z Space this November, and working with Gardley on several upcoming plays. Ms. Etemad’s translations include Jean-Paul Sartre’s The Sequestered of Altona and Closed Hearing (No Exit), both published by UC San Diego; and serving as Editor of Rob Melrose’s produced translation of Eugène Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano. She served as 2011’s VIP Dramaturgy Respondent for Kennedy Center’s Amer. College Theatre Fest, has been a Dramaturgy Instructor for Playwrights Foundation’s New Play Institute, Guest Lecturer at Temple University, Judge & Panelist for Philadelphia Theatre Initiative, and served as Co-Chair for the 2004 LMDA Conference in Philadelphia. She studied at the Université de Paris III and holds an MFA in Dramaturgy from UCSD & certificates from Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute, London.
What is a dramaturg....
by Nakissa Etemad
Dramaturgs focus on plays as literature, by studying their structure, language, themes, characters—much like an English teacher analyzes a novel or short story, to fully understand the play and the writer’s intentions.
1 – We place plays into their historical & cultural contexts. Examples are compiling and distributing succinct background research to actors and creative teams, including the director and designers; etc.
2 – We aid in the development process of new plays. We work with playwrights to shape their work, and with directors to honorably interpret that work. I like to think of us as midwives in the birthing process, serving as right-hand person to the writers in all aspects and supporting them so that they express themselves as best they can.
3 – We communicate about plays to audiences and other theatre patrons, and also to cast members, creative teams, and theatre staff. Examples include writing newsletter articles and program notes for the theatres that are producing the play, hosting audience talkbacks before or after the show, and interviewing playwrights for special events, such as artists’ salons; etc. (In talking to our theatre staffs about the plays and our process, we help the various departments brainstorm to find the best language to describe the plays and strategies to do our jobs more informatively, such as helping the marketing department sell the play, the education department teach the play; etc.)
4 – We keep close watch over the storytelling. We serve as a sounding board for both writers and directors in the process of bringing the play to life (before and during rehearsal), sometimes reminding the artists of their original intentions and goals. And we represent the writer in his or her absence by offering feedback to directors on the production before the audience arrives. We also represent the audience before they
arrive, by acting as a ―third eye‖ and offering objective feedback to the director to reveal any issues of non-clarity or inconsistency in the production, all in an effort to be sure that the play is being represented with authenticity and integrity.