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Source: InterAct Theatre
Date: January 2007
Byline: Press Release

Interact Premieres Groundbreaking Drama Inspired By Philadelphia History

InterAct Theatre Company and the National New Play Network Present the World Premiere of
A HOUSE WITH NO WALLS
by Thomas Gibbons
January 19 — February 18, 2007

Philadelphia, PA — Wednesday, January 24, 2007, 7:00 p.m., marks Opening Night of a groundbreaking new drama making its World Premiere in InterAct Theatre Company's continuing 2006/2007 Season. Written by Philadelphia playwright Thomas Gibbons, A HOUSE WITH NO WALLS dramatizes a fictionalized conflict between liberal and conservative African-Americans who clash over the location of a new American Museum of Liberty which is scheduled to be built on the grounds of the slave quarters of George Washington's Philadelphia home. The play will be a featured production in the first Philadelphia New Play Festival (running from February 8-18, 2007) and is also a sponsored project of the National New Play Network's Continued Life of New Plays Fund, through which the play will be produced in two subsequent "rolling" World Premiere productions at Curious Theatre Company (Denver, CO) and Florida Stage (West Palm Beach, FL).

ABOUT THE PLAY

Following the extraordinary success of Thomas Gibbons' Bee-Luther-Hatchee and Permanent Collection, Gibbons' newest play, A HOUSE WITH NO WALLS, represents the third and final installment in his "race" trilogy. A HOUSE WITH NO WALLS presents a conflict between two African-Americans: Cadence Lane, a rising star in the world of academia who has just published a startlingly conservative book, and Salif Camara, an ultra-liberal, Afro-centric political activist. The battleground for these two opposing forces is the proposed site for the new American Museum of Liberty, which happens to be on the grounds of George Washington's Philadelphia home, including its slave quarters. This dramatic controversy — inspired by real-life events in Philadelphia (see below) — serves as a springboard for a complex and volatile debate over whether or not African Americans should embrace the legacy of slavery as their primary identity or discard this mantle of "victimhood."

A HOUSE WITH NO WALLS juxtaposes the present-day conflict between Cadence and Salif with the factually true story of two of George Washington's slaves, Oney Judge and her brother, Austin. The action of the play bounces between past and present, sometimes straddling a moment when the two times coexist. As we watch Cadence subtly being wooed by the Republican Party in the present, we see Oney Judge being tempted by a white abolitionist in the past. The lure of a place at the table, a voice on the inside, compels Cadence toward conservatism while the lure of freedom compels Oney toward an act of defiance.

INSPIRED BY PHILADELPHIA HISTORY

The central conflict of A HOUSE WITH NO WALLS is inspired by the controversy that arose in Philadelphia in 2002 over the construction of the new Liberty Bell Center on the site of the former President's house, including the slave quarters used to house the nine slaves owned by George Washington during his presidency. When pressed about the irony of the proposed location, the National Park Service, which oversaw the design and construction of the center, said that it had no intention of exploring the issue, and that no mention would be made of America's legacy of slavery on the site of one of the world's most renowned symbols of freedom and hope. Following an outcry from the African-American and historical communities, as well as Congressional intervention, the Park Service agreed to a center dedicated to the history of the President's House, including a site dedicated to the slaves living at the house and to the history of slavery in America in general. The process is still ongoing, with the memorial not expected to be completed until July 2007, more than five years after ignition of the debate.

For more on the Liberty Bell Center controversy, visit www.ushistory.org/presidentshouse.

EXPLORING THE ISSUES

During the run of A HOUSE WITH NO WALLS, InterAct will present a panel discussion exploring the controversy that surrounded the building of the Liberty Bell Center, incorporating perspectives from several of the key players. The panel will be held on Saturday, February 3, 2007, 4:00 — 6:00 p.m., on the mainstage at The Adrienne, 2030 Sansom Street, Philadelphia. Scheduled to sit on the panel (in alphabetical order): Michael Coard, Esq., founder of Avenging The Ancestors Coalition, a community based group that honors exploited African-Americans; Thomas Gibbons, playwright of A HOUSE WITH NO WALLS; Edward Lawler, Philadelphia historian and archaeologist who has written extensively on the nine slaves kept by George and Martha Washington, as well as the history of the President's House; and Bruce Schimmel, founder, editor emeritus, and current columnist for Philadelphia City Paper, who extensively reported on the controversy. The discussion is free and open to the public.

In addition, InterAct will host several post-performance talk-backs to encourage further discussion on the issues raised in the play. Speaker Sundays, a series featuring invited scholars, community leaders and artists, are scheduled to follow matinee performances on January 28 and February 4 and 11. For a schedule of guest speakers, call InterAct at 215-568-8079. Coffee Conversations, informal discussions with the production's artists and designers, sponsored by Whole Foods, are scheduled to follow performances on January 30 and 31, as well as February 6, 7, 13 and 14. Scheduled to participate in one of the post-performance talk-backs is John McWhorter, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of New York Times best seller Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America. Mr. McWhorter's work on race and cultural issues has appeared in leading publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post; he also does regular commentaries for NPR's All Things Considered.

DATES, TICKETS & SUBSCRIPTIONS

A HOUSE WITH NO WALLS runs for 27 performances, January 19-February 18, 2007, with Opening Night on Wednesday, January 24. Performances are Tuesday and Wednesday evenings at 7:00 p.m., Thursday through Saturday evenings at 8:00 p.m., and Sunday matinees at 2:00 p.m. Individual tickets are available. Tickets for preview performances are $15.00; Tuesday through Thursday performances are $22.00; Friday & Saturday evenings and Sunday matinees are $25.00. InterAct offers discounts for senior citizens and full-time students (with valid I.D.). Group rates are available, and students with proper I.D. may purchase Rush Tickets for $8.00 five minutes before curtain (based on availability). All performances take place at The Adrienne, 2030 Sansom Street, Philadelphia.

Partial Season Subscriptions are now available for the remaining shows in InterAct's 19th Season, ranging from $28 — $48 for a 2-Show Subscription and $41 — $71 for a 3-Show Subscription. Reservations or more information can be obtained by calling 215-568-8079, by dropping by the InterAct Theatre Company box office at The Adrienne, 2030 Sansom St., Philadelphia, PA, or by visiting InterAct Theatre Company's website at www.InterActTheatre.org.

NATIONAL NEW PLAY NETWORK'S CONTINUED LIFE OF NEW PLAYS FUND

In addition to premiering at InterAct Theatre Company, A HOUSE WITH NO WALLS will also be featured in at least two other professional regional theatre productions as part of the National New Play Network (NNPN)'s Continued Life of New Plays Fund. Founded in 1998 with InterAct as one of its founding members, NNPN is an alliance of twenty-one not-for-profit professional theatres across the United States that champions the development, production, and continued life of new plays for the American theatre. The flagship program of the NNPN is the Continued Life of New Plays Fund, which is a cooperative venture designed to ensure that new plays will see future productions beyond the initial world premiere. Partnerships of three or more theatres, including at least two NNPN members, are eligible to receive funding that supports multiple productions of the same new play. Because all of the partners commit to producing the play prior to the opening of the initial production, thus reducing the negative impact of critical reviews, each theatre takes part in a "rolling" world premiere that guarantees an opportunity for the play to grow and flourish through contact with a wide national audience.

NNPN established the Continued Life of New Plays Fund in 2003 with InterAct Theatre Company's production of Thomas Gibbons' Permanent Collection kicking off the pilot project. Five NNPN theatres committed to producing the play prior to the official opening of its first production: InterAct Theatre Company, Florida Stage (West Palm Beach, FL), Kitchen Dog Theater (Dallas, TX), Mixed Blood Theater (Minneapolis, MN) and Unicorn Theatre (Kansas City, MO). Since the initial five productions by NNPN member theatres Permanent Collection has gone on to over 16 productions nationwide, becoming one of the most produced new plays in recent years despite never having received a New York run. For more information about the National New Play Network visit www.nnpn.org.

THE PHILADELPHIA NEW PLAY FESTIVAL

A HOUSE WITH NO WALLS will be featured in the first annual Philadelphia New Play Festival: Where Theatre Begins. Piloted by the Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia, the festival will be held February 8-18, 2007. The festival is a multi-organizational celebration of new work, featuring fully-mounted world premiere productions by eight of Philadelphia's leading theatre companies, plus a variety of readings, symposia, discussions, and more. In addition to InterAct's A HOUSE WITH NO WALLS, this year's line-up will also feature Arden Theatre Company's Dex and Julie Sittin' in a Tree by Bruce Graham; The People's Light & Theatre Company's Anne of Green Gables adapted by Peter DeLaurier from the novel by Lucy Maud Montgomery; Philadelphia Theatre Company's Nerds://A Musical Software Satire with book and lyrics by Jordan Allen-Dutton and Erik Weiner and music by Hal Goldberg; Prince Music Theater's Stormy Weather with book by Sharleen Cooper Cohen and including songs by Harold Arlen, Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn; Theatre Exile's Philly Originals by Bruce Graham, Michael Hollinger and Arden Kasswalnut; Walnut Street Theatre's Bookends by M.J. Feely; and The Wilma Theater's Enemies, A Love Story adapted by Sarah Schulman from the novel by Isaac Bashevis Singer. For more information visit www.TheatreAlliance.org.

RELEVENT BIOGRAPHIES

Thomas Gibbons (Playwright), a Philadelphia native and current resident, has been InterAct Theatre Company's playwright-in-residence since 1993. InterAct has premiered six of his plays, including two that have gone on to rank among the most produced plays of the past few seasons in the United States. Permanent Collection, a searing examination of racial politics inspired by the controversy surrounding Philadelphia's Barnes Museum, set box office records during its 2003 premiere at InterAct. It has since been named by Playbill.com as one of the Top Plays of 2005, as well as winning the 2004 Barrymore Award for Best New Play in Philadelphia, the 2004 Critics' Circle Carbonell Award for Best New Play in West Palm Beach, Florida, and a 2004 nominee for the Leon Rabin Award for Best New Play in Dallas, TX. Bee-Luther-Hatchee, the story of an African-American book editor who publishes what she thinks is the autobiography of a black woman's account of living as a former slave in the deep south, only to ultimately discover that it was actually written by a white man, premiered at InterAct in 1999 and has since gone on to 35 other productions across the United States. InterAct also produced the World Premiere productions of Gibbons' 6221: Prophecy and Tragedy, a docu-drama taken from actual court transcripts and other public records relating to the 1985 MOVE bombing in Philadelphia, as well as Pretending to America, Axis Sally and Black Russian. Gibbon's other plays include The Exhibition and Homer. His plays have been seen at the National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center, off-off-Broadway at Blue Heron Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Florida Stage, Unicorn Theatre, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, New Repertory Theatre, Arizona Theatre Company, Center Stage, Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, Kirk Douglas Theatre, Aurora Theatre, Robey Theatre Company and others. He is the recipient of six playwriting fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a Roger L. Stevens Award from The Fund for New American Plays, two Barrymore Awards for Outstanding New Play, a NAACP Theatre Award, a Barrie and Bernice Stavis Playwriting Award, and a Pew Fellowship in the Arts.

Seth Rozin (Director) co-founded InterAct Theatre Company in 1988 and has since served as Producing Artistic Director. He has directed over 30 productions for InterAct, including this season's critically-acclaimed opener, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Israel Horovitz's Lebensraum (1999 Barrymore Awards for Outstanding Direction of a Play, Outstanding Overall Production of a Play, and Outstanding Ensemble), It's All True (2001 Barrymore nominations for Outstanding Director and Outstanding Overall Production) and Permanent Collection (nominated for Outstanding Overall Production). He has twice been named "Best Director" by the Philadelphia Inquirer for both the world premiere of Thomas Gibbons' 6221 and for Lebensraum. Other favorite productions with InterAct include the Philadelphia premieres of Blue/Orange, Nixon's Nixon, Aunt Dan and Lemon, Lonely Planet, Seascape, and God's Country. Seth has also directed for the Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles, Blue Heron Theatre and the 45th Street Theatre in New York. His regional credits include work with Act II Playhouse, Venture Theatre, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Philadelphia Young Playwrights Festival, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Johnnie Hobbs, Jr. (playing Salif Camara) has appeared on InterAct's stage in Since Africa and Black Russian. Mr. Hobbs was also in the East Coast Premiere of Joe Sutton's Restoring the Sun (Contemporary Stage Company). The three-time Barrymore nominee is proud of his thirty plus year affiliation with the critically-acclaimed Freedom Theatre. Film and television credits include, Up Close and Personal, 12 Monkeys, Snipes, "Hack," "The Wire," Train Ride, and the recently released Rocky Balboa. At present, Mr. Hobbs is a tenured associate professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia as the Head of Acting in the School of Theater Arts and serves as advisor to the African-American Student Union.

Tracey Conyer Lee (playing Cadence Lane) is excited for the opportunity to be challenged by another of Gibbons' characters, having performed the role of Kanika in the Florida Stage production of Permanent Collection. A HOUSE WITH NO WALLS marks her debut at InterAct. A New York based actor, Ms. Lee has performed throughout the country and abroad. Favorite theatre credits include seven productions of Constant Star, including the DE Theatre Company production that received 7 Barrymore awards and the Laguna Playhouse (5 NAACP Awards) and Florida Stage (2 Carbonell Awards) productions; Mayme in Lynn Nottage's Intimate Apparel at TheatreWorks (Palo Alto, CA) and Merrimack Rep (Lowell, MA); the Gypsy/Acid Queen in The Who's Tommy both regionally (Pittsburgh CLO) and on U.S. tour; and various roles in the musical Hair regionally (Actors Theatre of Louisville) and on European tour. Television credits include roles on "Ed," "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," "All My Children" and "Guiding Light."

Lavita Shaurice (playing Oney Judge) makes her InterAct Theatre debut in A HOUSE WITH NO WALLS. Ms. Shaurice is a native of Philadelphia where she received her Bachelor of Arts in theater at Temple University. While attending Temple she interned with and performed in works for the Philadelphia Young Playwrights Festival. Favorite roles at Temple include the Apothecary (Romeo & Juliet), Nicole (Spin Cycle) and Little Timoune (Once on This Island).

Seth Reichgott (playing Allen Rosen/Tobias Humphreys) is a Philadelphia-based actor, director, and writer. He is pleased to be returning to Interact where he has appeared in Reinventing Eden, Missing Link, and God of Desire. Other Philadelphia-area credits include The Foocy (Lantern Theatre), Tuesday (Amaryllis Theatre), The Ballad of John Wesley Reed (Theatre Catalyst), Wintertime (Wilma Theater), Stones in His Pockets (Cape May Stage), Interview (Belligerent Muse), The Baker's Wife (Arden Theatre), and Equus (Mum Puppettheatre). He has twice been a co-recipient of the Barrymore Award for Outstanding Ensemble in a Play. Mr. Reichgott tours his solo Greek mythology show, Chariot of the Sun, to hundreds of elementary and middle schools each year in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New England. He is also an associate member of the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble.

Bowman Wright (playing Austin Judge/Jacob Easton) made a stellar debut at InterAct last summer when he starred in Since Africa. Prior to that Mr. Wright also appeared as Cory in Arden Theatre's production of Fences. He is a graduate of the University of the Arts.

Tim Moyer (playing Steven Gardner/"George Washington") marks his fourth collaboration with Tom Gibbons with this production of A HOUSE WITH NO WALLS — he also appeared in Gibbons' Black Russian, Bee-Luther-Hatchee and Permanent Collection. Previously at InterAct he was featured in last season's Reinventing Eden, as well as Nixon's Nixon (also at Act II), and directed Man Measures Man. Mr. Moyer has appeared in an episode of "Hack," worked on the film The Village, and appeared in The Philadelphia Story at Walnut Street Theatre.

The design team for A HOUSE WITH NO WALLS includes Set & Lighting Design by Peter Whinnery, Sound Design by Kevin Francis and Costume Design by Andre Harrington. The production will be Stage Managed by Michele Traub. Andy Campbell will serve as Technical Director.

ABOUT INTERACT THEATRE COMPANY

Founded in 1988, InterAct is a theatre for today's world, producing new and contemporary plays that explore the social, political, and cultural issues of our time. InterAct's aim is to educate as well as entertain its audiences by producing world-class, thought-provoking productions, and by using theatre as a tool to foster positive social change. Through its artistic and educational programs InterAct seeks to make a significant contribution to the cultural life of Philadelphia and to the American theatre.

WHAT'S COMING UP NEXT AT INTERACT

InterAct continues its season in April 2007 with the World Premiere of WHEN SOMETHING WONDERFUL ENDS, written by Sherry Kramer, and concludes with the May/June run of the East Coast Premiere of SKIN IN FLAMES, written by Guillem Clua and translated by DJ Sanders.


Due to the nature of live theatre, play selection, performance and casting are subject to change.

 

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