Announcing Quotidian’s 2016-17 Season!

QTC’s 2016-17 Season of 3 Plays Comprises…

13221722_1148066648547609_1983080169193235724_nConor McPherson’s THE NIGHT ALIVE
21 October – 20 November 2016

“Something bright and beautiful pulses in the shadows of The Night Alive,” wrote New York Times reviewer Ben Brantley about McPherson’s most recent play, winner of the New York Drama Critics Circle Award. Brantley praised McPherson’s “singular gift for making the ordinary glow with an extra dimension, like a gentle phosphorescence waiting to be coaxed into radiance.” The often dark, at times violent, drama about the relationship among five highly imperfect people is also infused with black comedy as these sad souls fumble in the darkness toward the light. Directed by Jack Sbarbori and featuring David Dubov, David Mavricos, Chelsea Mayo, Joe Palka, and Matthew Vaky.

13248511_1148065925214348_1797984930077769523_oJohn Patrick Shanley’s DOUBT: A PARABLE
7 April – 7 May 2017

This Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning drama, set in 1964, pits Catholic school principal Sister Aloysius against the new, charismatic priest, Father Flynn, when his relationship with the school’s first African American student is perceived to be suspicious. Armed with only her moral certitude, Sister Aloysius sets off on a personal crusade to unearth the truth. Featuring Chelsea Mayo and Stephanie Mumford.

THE HABITATION OF DRAGONS
14 July13 August 2017

Quotidian life assumes Biblical proportions in this devastating family drama by Pulitzer Prize and Academy Award-winning playwright/sceenwriter Horton Foote. In 1935 Harrison, Texas, Leonard Tolliver’s successful life is dismantled to the point where he realizes the axioms by which he lives are false. Directed by Jack Sbarbori and featuring QTC favorites and talented newcomers.

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Working on a Dream Project

by Addison Switzer

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Addison Switzer (Steve)

I’ve always wanted to do an Athol Fugard play. I’m interested in the fact that his characters are often in the most extreme of circumstances–circumstances that test their humanity and their very spirit. Fugard uses the system of apartheid as a powerful antagonist, with the characters being the protagonists. Many things are sacrificed in the struggle–love, friendship and trust are replaced by anger, doubt and mistrust.

In preparing to rehearse A Lesson From Aloes, I knew I needed to do some research. We gathered as a very caring cast and director and watched documentaries, listened to audio clips and had group discussions to try to really understand each of our individual situations as well as that of the group. I thought I already knew a lot about Fugard’s work and South Africa at that time, but the research really opened my eyes. As much as I’d read about and heard about the atrocities, there’s nothing like seeing them to give them depth and to gain an understanding of what a character is thinking or feeling at a given time. I’m so glad to be able to cross one of the plays off my wish list in doing this show, and I’m really glad to be doing it with such a great group of people.

A LESSON FROM ALOES April 29 – May 29, 2016 at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, where Quotidian is the Resident Theatre Company.  Tickets
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What’s in a Name?

Laura Russell

Laura Russell (Gladys)

by Laura Russell

When I was a little girl, I wanted a nickname.  Laura seemed too staid, too responsible.  I wanted to be Laurie (or even Lori!), so much cooler than the skinny, well behaved, studious child I was.  My parents and teachers did not comply, however, and I remained Laura.  Nicknames did come and go, none lasting more than a few years, and now my adult self loves being Laura.  It is my real name, the one I identify as me. I have come to understand the importance of naming things true. Your true name is the name that matches your essential self.

In reading and preparing for my role in A Lesson From Aloes, I became fascinated by the importance given to names. When we first meet Piet Bezuidenhout, he is obsessed with naming an unidentified species of aloe, as if getting the name right will reveal the true nature of the plant. It is no accident that Piet’s wife, Gladys, calls him Peter.  She anglicizes his name to fit her worldview. Early in the play, Piet, in a moment both tender and anxious, asks his wife Gladys what she thought of his name when they first met.  Her reply reveals much about their marriage. Piet’s friend, Steve, is the descendant of indigenous African peoples and Dutch and British colonists, yet his name, and his father’s, reflect only the white colonial cultures.  In a painful reminiscence, Steve recalls the nickname his father was given by white South Africans, a diminutive that dismisses and emasculates him.
Fugard’s use of names in the play – what people and things are called, when they’re named and by whom – gives us insight into the characters’ motives, their personalities, and the environment in which they live.  It becomes apparent that the right name is powerful because it captures one’s soul.
A LESSON FROM ALOES April 29 – May 29, 2016 at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, where Quotidian is the Resident Theatre Company. Tickets are available now
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A Lesson for Me

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David Dubov (Piet)

by David Dubov

I came to Athol Fugard’s A Lesson From Aloes early, having seen it in London not long after it premiered. It was at a small theater, in the round, making for a very intimate evening. Apartheid was still very much in force in South Africa at that time, and it seemed that news items about it were on the BBC every night. But I was a naive American, living abroad in my little ex-pat bubble, and I went into the theater not knowing what was coming.

I was floored. I can remember being stunned by the interplay of the three characters, the play unreeling in a flash. I felt the weight of the oppressive system on them, the full force of which – happening to real people in a real country halfway around the world – was finally driven into my soul.

Needless to say, the piece stuck with me, and, when the opportunity came 35 years later to be lucky enough to perform it, I jumped at the chance to tell this story. And Quotidian was the place to do so, with its continuing mission to present works that give us a glimpse of people just over the garden fence.

Of course, that’s particularly relevant to Aloes, and it allows performers and audience alike to experience the stifling narrowness of a world that is cut off from the rest of humanity by an unjust system of oppression.

Listen for the point where Gladys berates her Afrikaner husband Piet, telling him: “This is what a conversation with you has become… a catalogue of South African disasters.”

A Lesson from Aloes

Pictured: James Earl Jones, Maria Tucci, and Harris Yulin in A LESSON FROM ALOES, written and directed by Athol Fugard, 1980. American Premiere. Photo by Gerry Goodstein.

These characters, representing three aspects of apartheid society, English, Afrikaner, and Coloured, are trapped in an endless loop of self-loathing, able to talk of nothing else. But, we realize with descending despair, that this prison is man-made, that the repression has shackled everyone, black and white, with its indiscriminate brutality. 

And, in turn through Fugard’s genius, we are drawn into how each character reacts to that confinement.

I won’t spoil your experience by spelling it out, but I think, like me, that you’ll be floored as you watch over that garden fence.

A LESSON FROM ALOES April 29 – May 29, 2016 at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda. Tickets are available now

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A LESSON FROM ALOES in Today’s World

by Laura Giannarelli

_DSC8425-EditLauraGMasterI am so excited to be working with such a great cast to bring Athol Fugard’s A LESSON FROM ALOES to life in 2016. When I was approached by Artistic Director Jack Sbarbori about directing again at Quotidian, and he suggested this play, I went to my bookshelves to re-read it. It had been years since I had seen the play or read it. I recalled Arena Stage’s wonderful production of it many years ago, and how moved I was at the time by the story of the play and the playwright’s ability to shine a light on the horrors of apartheid. All these years later, I was concerned that, as apartheid has officially ended in South Africa (even if the country still struggles with the aftermath of so many years of corrosive bigotry), the play might be less relevant than when Fugard first wrote it. On the contrary! It is heartfelt and as engrossing as it was when first produced in the United States in 1980.

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Director Laura Giannarelli

Athol Fugard’s A LESSON FROM ALOES is a play that stands the test of time. In fact, it feels to me as if it could have been written yesterday. While it is set in a very specific time and place, Port Elizabeth, South Africa in 1963, its themes transcend the circumstances of life in that time period. The three characters wrestle with very human tensions and emotions, the same feelings that affect people all over the world: friendship, trust, love….betrayal, fear, doubt. The Afrikaner Piet and his friend Steve are brought together for a farewell dinner Piet and his wife have prepared, before Steve emigrates to England, never to return to South Africa. Their friendship is challenged in ways both specific to the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa at the time and universal. Piet no longer sees his former colleagues in the movement, and Steve has been imprisoned and tormented while in custody. Piet’s wife Gladys has suffered collateral damage because of her husband’s participation in the movement; their marriage is profoundly affected by what happened prior to the start of the play. As the play unfolds, we learn just how deeply all three individuals have been hurt.

We can all identify with these three characters. Who has not had the seeds of doubt and fear planted in his/her mind, and never been able to totally neutralize the acidic effect on a relationship? Fugard’s play is more intense, perhaps, than what we are used to in our more peaceful day to day lives in America, but the playwright’s brilliance allows us to empathize with the plight of these three fragile yet resilient souls and experience along with them for a couple of hours the tragedy of South Africa’s divisive past.

I am confident that our wonderful cast and I will bring A LESSON FROM ALOES to vibrant life in the Quotidian Theatre Company production.

A LESSON FROM ALOES April 29 – May 29, 2016 at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda. Tickets are available now

Giannarelli most recently directed QTC’s remarkable 2014 production of Brian Friel’s FAITH HEALER, another three-actor drama that also featured company member Laura Russell.

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South Africa and A LESSON FROM ALOES

by Steve LaRocque

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Athol Fugard

With Maytag Virgin sadly receding in the rear-view mirror (a lot of people liked that show, for very good reasons), we move on to Quotidian’s second offering in the 2015-16 season, Athol Fugard’s A Lesson from Aloes, directed by Laura Giannarelli and featuring David Dubov, Laura Russell, and Addison Switzer.  I have seen several Fugard plays, and every time I have I felt that I wanted to know a lot more about the South African society that is so integral to Fugard’s work. 

So, when we were lining up people to lead the pre-show dramaturg sessions that we offer to our subscribers, I signed up for A Lesson from Aloes.  I figured that if I undertook an earnest effort to assimilate South African history and culture, I could wrap my arms around the whole thing in, say, three months, tops.  Wrong.  I have been reading history, watching Fugard on YouTube, downloading and devouring articles, maps and pictures, and I still feel I have gotten nowhere.  It’s like trying to drink from an overachieving water fountain, getting a faceful, swearing you’re never going to do it again – and going back for more.  I’m not done, not nearly, but I do have a lot of material. 

Let’s start with the big beast: the Republic of South Africa, the name we give to the conflation of the Cape Colony, the Transvaal, the Karoo, Natal, the homelands, the townships and much more – an immense country, much of it beautiful, some of it as harsh as any place on the planet, with a history that takes us back to the earliest traces of our species on the planet.  A country, in many ways, like our own United States – but, I would maintain, a lot more complicated. 

Let’s compare: how many capitals do we have?  Well, one, of course; doesn’t everybody?  South Africa has three. 

How about official languages?  We have one – English – and a de facto second language, Spanish. How many does South Africa have?  Eleven.  Ethnic groups?  Don’t even start.  To simplify things, let’s say that South Africa has whites, of English and Afrikaner (Dutch) origin; mixed-race people who speak Afrikaans (in South African terminology: Colored); Indians (from India, or their descendants); and native Africans, descended from a multitude of tribes, some more or less intact, some gone.

In A Lesson from Aloes, each of Fugard’s three main characters is from one of the major groups: an Afrikaner, an Englishwoman, and a Colored man.

Let’s note here which group Fugard identifies himself with.  He has stated many times that he considers himself an Afrikaner – a white man whose native language is that variant of Dutch called Afrikaans and whose forebears go back to the 1600’s.  And his characters – the main ones, anyway – are also Afrikaners.  Almost without exception, he says every principal male character in his plays has an Afrikaans name.  As he puts it, “I am an Afrikaner writing in the English language.”  (In case you’re wondering, he does speak perfectly fluent Afrikaans, which prompted a friend of his to joke that Fugard translates his plays before he writes them.)

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David Dubov (Piet)

A Lesson from Aloes provides us with a perfect example.  At the top of the play we meet Piet Bezuidenhout (David Dubov), who defines himself thus: “Origin: Dutch.  The first one arrived in 1695.”

In case you’re wondering, that’s pretty close to the beginning of the European presence in what we now call South Africa.

The first Europeans – Portuguese – sailed around the Cape of Good Hope at the end of the 15th century, and the Dutch first showed up in 1652.  They farmed on land grants in the area now known as Stellenbosch, then pushed north and east, opening up frontiers, encountering resistance and fighting wars with the native tribes who had occupied the land for many, many centuries, gradually taking over with their European weaponry. 

Does this sound familiar? 

The Europeans who settled South Africa did a lot of the same things that the Europeans who settled the American colonies did – including enslaving people.  But the Dutch didn’t just enslave Africans – Indians and Malaysians got caught up in it, too.  When the British showed up in the 1700’s and began to assert themselves, they pushed the Dutch to abandon slavery, which finally went away officially in the 1830’s; but, of course, racial inequality persisted to this day, with the whites at the top of the heap – though which whites, English or Dutch, made out better depends on whose story you listen to.  That’s Piet, the Afrikaner; more about him later.

Laura Russell

Laura Russell (Gladys)

Piet’s wife, Gladys (Laura Russell), is English – her maiden name was Gladys Adams – but she was born in South Africa and has lived her entire life there. 

Gladys has a deeply ambivalent attitude about the country: “I may have been born here, but I will never call it [home],” and she draws a clear distinction between her origins and Piet’s, lumping him with “you Afrikaners.”

But for all her Englishness, Gladys has never actually been to England, though she refers to it dreamily and persistently, conjuring up idyllic images of a Somerset landscape and contrasting it with her present harsh surroundings.

But there’s a deep-seated irony in Glayds’s situation: at the time in which the play is set (1963), South Africa had declared itself a republic and had withdrawn from the Commonwealth, that worldwide association of 53 countries that have ties to Great Britain (usually from having been part of the British Empire, but that fact isn’t too widely trumpeted).  The concept of the Commonwealth shored up the allegiance of many a British expat and their children born overseas, like Gladys.  However, in 1963 South Africa, an Englishwoman’s psychological and emotional ties to Queen and country were pretty tenuous.

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Addison Switzer (Steve)

Finally, there is Steve (Addison Switzer), Piet’s long-time friend and the guest for the evening.  Steve is Colored, which, in the South African context, means that he is descended from the indigenous peoples who intermarried with Dutch settlers in the 1700’s, mostly in the southern coastal part of South Africa known as The Cape.  (Port Elizabeth, where Fugard has set many of his plays, is in the Eastern Cape.)

Being Colored is a little better than being African (black), but not much.  As one contemporary observer puts it, ” … the system was designed in such a way that you had White people at the very top … Black people at the bottom … and Coloureds and Indians as the buffer. This created an ugly precedent, one that cast Coloured people as ‘inbetweeners’, never good enough to be the boss, but a little more privileged than the bottom-rung servant.  Despite the oppression of the … government, things were not as rough for Coloured and Indian folk as they were for Black folk and so if you kept your head low and did not cause too much trouble with ideas of revolution, you barely got by.”  (Gushwell Brooks, Daily Maverick, 30 Jul 2015)

Unfortunately, however, Steve did cause too much trouble: he became politically active, got arrested, broke parole (to put it in American terms), got rearrested and re-incarcerated, and has been dealt with as only the brutal Special Police can do.

Recently released, Steve has decided to emigrate with his family to England, under an arrangement that allows no possibility of return – a one-way ticket, with no way back.

Steve’s situation shines a harsh light on a central issue of the play: faced with the prospect of living in a brutally unjust society that is nevertheless your home, do you choose to stay or leave?  This issue preoccupied Fugard’s own mother, an Afrikaner married to an improvident English South African who left her with the challenge of making ends meet.  She employed black servants and was acutely aware of the injustice that pervaded the society of her day, yet she chose to remain and do what she could to lead a normal, moral life.  Fugard has often cited his mother as the principal influence on his view of the world in general and South Africa in particular. 

So there we have our characters, each from a major segment of South African society, each with intense personal preoccupations, each with a different approach to the issue of staying or going.  Plenty to work with here.

And we haven’t even gotten into the politics, the police tactics, the poetry, the rumors about what Piet did – or the aloes. Next time.

A LESSON FROM ALOES April 29 – May 29, 2016 at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda. Tickets are available now

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MAYTAG VIRGIN: It’s All About the Journey

By Will Hardy, who plays Jack Key

For me Maytag Virgin began last fall with a call from playwright Audrey Cefaly. She was looking for actors to read a draft so she could hear the words out loud and work out where she wanted the play to go. I soon found out that this is a hallmark of her writing, that the words–both said and unsaid–must come from a real place, in order to reveal the inner workings of human hearts.

unnamed-11I fell in love with this play from the very first reading for the nuanced way it told the story of two good but wounded people struggling against their reluctance to open their hearts again. With every new version Audrey created, and that Gillian Shelly and I read together, the writing became richer and more layered, even as the language itself became simpler and clearer. This play is not just about how broken hearts overcome grief and loss to be able to find each other, it is also about how inseparable life and death really are–two sides of the same coin. Life is both pain and joy, death is both tragedy and release.

One of the the things I love about being in Maytag Virgin is the musicality of the language. The cadence of English spoken in Alabama is almost a song; the words matter, not only which ones you use but also which ones you stress. Listen for the silences too–those moments when something shifts in the conversation, or when no words could possibly say what needs to be said. Quotidian’s intimate space at The Writer’s Center is perfect for rendering the very human scale of these voices.

I am also incredibly fortuunnamed-6nate to be playing this role opposite Gillian (now Gillian Shelly Lawler) as Lizzy Nash. Her presence and range of expression onstage and her warmth and dedication backstage have made this very challenging show a joy, and I delight in her performance every bit as much as the audience does–once we step into our roles, she becomes Lizzy to me too. I feel privileged to be able to inhabit Jack Key for a little while and give voice to the heart he keeps locked down out of fear, though he longs to set it free. To take such a battered, stoic man through that pain and let the audience share his moment of grace is one of the real rewards of acting in this gorgeous new play.

MAYTAG VIRGIN runs through November 1. Friday & Saturday at 8pm. Sunday at 2pm. *Additional 2pm matinee Saturday October 31 Tickets

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