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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

World premiere of Danai Gurira’s The Convert at McCarter Theatre


The world premiere of Danai Gurira’s The Convert at McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, NJ, January 13 through February 12, 2012. 

Directed by Emily Mann, The Convert is produced in association with Center Theatre Group (Los Angeles) and The Goodman Theatre (Chicago). The cast features Pascale Armand, Cheryl Lynn Bruce, Zainab Jah, Kevin Mambo, LeRoy McClain, Warner Joseph Miller, and Harold Surratt. 
 
Set in 1895 in the region that would become Zimbabwe, The Convert tells the story of a girl forced to choose between her family’s traditions and the Christian faith and Western values she has embraced. Born in the U.S. and raised in Zimbabwe, Gurira has a unique perspective and distinctive voice have created a compelling new play filled with humor and compassion.

“Danai’s voice is unique among American playwrights due to the experience she brings as an individual who has spent much of her childhood in Zimbabwe,” says Emily Mann. “Her dual perspectives allow her to integrate an important part of Africa’s history into American culture in a way that is both extraordinarily accessible to us and completely authentic. I firmly believe that this play will become part of the new American repertoire.”
Ms. Gurira notes, “The Convert is part one of my cycle on Zimbabwe and Zimbabwean identity. In the play I go back to the inciting incident: when Zimbabwe became a colony and the first uprising against the colonial structure occurred. 

The concepts of ownership and cultural identity, right and wrong and moral ideals, and of course questions of  faith and Christian identity -- all these things still flood who we are today. The Convert was really exploring all of that in myself...I felt the need to explore my own Zimbabwean identity and the country as a whole the only way I know how, which is through dramatic writing.”
Danai Gurira, an award-winning Zimbabwe-American actor and playwright, co-created and performed in the award-winning two-woman play In the Continuum, which premiered off-Broadway and toured the U.S. and Southern Africa. For her work on that production, Ms. Gurira won a 2006 Obie Award, the 2006 Outer Critics John Gassner Award, and the 2004 Global Tolerance Award (Friends of the United Nations), in addition to being honored by the Theatre Hall of Fame. Ms. Gurira was most recently seen in the Shakespeare in the Park production of Measure for Measure, the acclaimed film The Visitor (with Oscar-nominated actor Richard Jenkins), and on Broadway in Lincoln Center Theater's production of Joe Turner's Come and Gone. Her play Eclipsed, about Liberian women in war, was developed at McCarter, and had productions at Woolly Mammoth, CTG's Kirk Douglas, and Yale Rep. Eclipsed won Best New Play at the 2010 Helen Hayes Awards and Ms. Gurira won Best Playwright at the 2011 NAACP Theater Awards. She was the recipient of '08 TCG New Generations travel grant for Eclipsed and has taught playwriting and acting in Liberia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. For The Convert, Ms. Gurira was named recipient of the 2011 Barrie and Bernice Stavis Playwriting Award by The National Theatre Conference.  She is a Hodder Fellow at Princeton University.
Multi-award-winning director and playwright Emily Mann is in her 22nd season as Artistic Director of the McCarter Theatre. Recent McCarter directing credits include the world premiere of Edward Albee’s Me, Myself & I (also off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons), and the world premiere of Sarah Treem’s The How and the Why. Other McCarter directing credits include Nilo Cruz’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Anna in the Tropics (also on Broadway); the world premiere of Christopher Durang’s Miss Witherspoon (also off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons): Edward Albee’s All Over (also off-Broadway at The Roundabout) among others.  Her plays include Execution of Justice, Still Life (receiving 6 Obie Awards) and her latest Mrs. Packard, which was the recipient of the 2007 Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays Award. Ms. Mann wrote and directed Having Our Say, adapted from the book by Sarah L. Delany and A. Elizabeth Delany with Amy Hill Hearth (Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle nominations; winner of NAACP and Joseph Jefferson awards). This season Ms. Mann directed Marina Carr’s world premiere Phaedra Backwards, and is scheduled to direct A Streetcar Named Desire on Broadway. Her adaptation of The House of Bernard Alba, which premiered at McCarter, will be produced at The Almeida Theater in London in January 2012. She is the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from Princeton University and was named the 2011 Person of the Year by the National Theatre Conference.
 

The Cast of The Convert

Pascale Armand

Pascale Armand (Jekesai/Ester) has appeared in Danai Gurira’s Eclipsed, dance of the holy ghosts (Yale Rep); Ruined (La Jolla Playhouse, The Huntington, Berkeley Rep); Let There Be Love (Baltimore Center Stage); Gee's Bend (Kansas City Repertory Theatre); Doubt (Vermont Stage Company); Gem of the Ocean (Arena Stage); As You Like It (Hangar Theatre); Hamlet, Jitney, Blues for an Alabama Sky (Syracuse Stage). Off-Broadway: Four (MTC); Breath, Boom (Playwrights Horizons). European tour with Peter Sellars performing An End to the Judgment of God. TV/Film: The Good Wife, Law & Order: Trial by Jury, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Kinsey, Strangers with Candy.

Cheryl Lynn Bruce (Mai Tamba) Broadway: The Grapes of Wrath. Regional and International: The Grapes of Wrath (Steppenwolf, National Theatre – London, La Jolla Playhouse); Race, The Great Fire (Lookingglass Theatre Company); Harriet Jacobs (Kansas City Rep). TV/Film: Prison Break, There Are No Children Here, Separate but Equal, To Sir with Love 2, Stranger than Fiction, Daughters of the Dust, The Fugitive. Awards/Fellowships: 2010 Jane Addams Hull House Association’s Woman of Valor Award, 3Arts Artist Award, and the Inaugural Fellow of the Ellen Stone Belic Institute for the Study of Women and Gender in the Arts and Media at Columbia College Chicago in spring 2006. Ms. Bruce is developing a performance project on the life and times of Edward Alexander Bouchet, Yale’s first black PhD in Physics, for her 2011-12 Yale Research Residency.  
   
Zainab Jah (Prudence) Born in London, Zainab spent her childhood in Sierra Leone, where she was a regular on children’s television shows, and studied at the London School of Contemporary Dance and Leeds University, Yorkshire, UK.  Her theater credits include Ruined (La Jolla Playhouse, The Huntington, Berkeley Rep; San Diego Critics’ Circle Featured Actress Award); A Doll’s House (Williamstown Theatre Festival); Eclipsed (Yale Rep); Tranced (Merrimack Rep); Intimate Apparel, King Lear, Trojan Women (Classical Theatre of Harlem, Drama Desk Award); In Darfur (The Public/NYSF); Much Ado About Nothing, Edward II (The Queen’s Company); Peter Sellars’ Children Of Herakles (European Tour). TV/Film: principal roles in 100 Center Street dir. by Sidney Lumet, Dinner Rush with Danny Aiello, Law & Order: SVU. Zainab received the Best Actress Award for Nick Mwaluko’s Waafrika, which was presented as part of the Fresh Fruit Festival NYC and again for Nick Mwaluko’s S/HE at The Blue Heron Theatre, NYC.

Kevin Mambo

Kevin Mambo (Chancellor) Broadway: Fela!. Off-Broadway: Ruined (MTC), Hoodoo Love (Cherry Lane Theatre), Once Around the Sun (Zipper Factory Theater), and Fela is a Weapon (Shrine Theater). TV/Film: Cadillac Records, Guiding Light (two-time Daytime Emmy Awards), One Life to Live, Soul Food, Any Day Now, Law & Order, Law & Order: CI, Deadline, Law & Order: Trial by Jury, Law & Order: SVU, Spin City, Family Matters, Freshman Dorm, The Firing Squad, and One Of Us Tripped. Mr. Mambo received his BFA from the University of Southern California Theatre Conservatory.  Mambo was born in Zimbabwe and raised in Canada.



LeRoy McClain
(Chilford) Broadway: Cymbeline, The History Boys. Off-Broadway: Milk Like Sugar, Born Bad (AUDELCO nom.), Measure for Measure, Othello, The Good Negro, Oroonoko, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, Huck & Holden, In Search of Stanley Hammer. International: Othello. Regional: Milk Like Sugar, The Piano Lesson (Connecticut Critics Circle Award, Best Actor), Antony & Cleopatra, The Whipping Man, The Good Negro, Blue/Orange, Elmina's Kitchen, Othello, Trouble In Mind, The Comedy of Errors, Rough Crossing, Richard II, Three Days of Rain, Private Eyes, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Like Sun Fallin' in the Mouth, The Taming of the Shrew, King Lear, Medea/Macbeth/Cinderella. TV/Film: The Happy Sad, The Adjustment Bureau, Rubicon, Law & Order: CI, Guiding Light, Breaking In, The Stage. Education: MFA Yale School of Drama, National Theatre Acting Studio (London).
Warner Joseph Miller (Tamba) has recently appeared at Seattle Repertory Theatre in Tarell Alvin McCraney's The Brothers Size. His credits include August Wilson's Fences dir. by Kenny Leon (The Huntington), Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (Syracuse Stage), The Piano Lesson (Geva Theatre, Indiana Repertory Theatre), Paradox of the Urban Cliche (LAByrinth Theater Company), the premiere production of Since Africa (The Old Globe), False Creeds (Alliance Theatre), and A Raisin in the Sun (Hartford Stage). Film: American Gangster dir. by Ridley Scott, HBO's Wyclef Jean in America, and Everyday People. TV: Law & Order, CSI-NY.

Harold Surratt (Uncle) most recently appeared in Follow Me to Nellie's by Dominique Morisseau (Premiere Stages) and Cormac McCarthy's The Sunset Limited (Triad Stage). Broadway: Serious Money, dir. Max Stafford-Clark; Impressionism (understudy), dir. Jack O’Brien. Off-Broadway: The Public, Urban Stages, The Keen Company. Regional: North Carolina Shakespeare Festival, Connecticut Repertory Theatre, King Lear (Classical Theatre of Harlem at The Folger), The Exonerated (Actors’ Gang National Tour), A.C.T. (company member), Berkeley Rep, South Coast Repertory, The Denver Center, Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts, Boston Court in Pasadena, and the Berkshire Playwrights Lab. TV: The Temptations mini-series, Fringe, ER, The District, The Practice, and Her Hidden Truth. Film: Blood in Blood Out, The Pelican Brief, The Dream Team, Sudden Death.


The creative team of The Convert includes Daniel Ostling (set design), Paul Tazewell (costume design), Lap Chi Chu (lighting designer), Darron L West (sound design), J. Steven White (fight director), and Beth McGuire (dialect/vocal coach). Alison Cote is the production stage manager. 

TICKETS AND SCHEDULE

Tickets for The Convert start as low as $20, and can be purchased online at www.mccarter.org, by phone at (609) 258-2787, or in person at 91 University Place, Princeton, NJ 08540. The Convert will be performed in the Berlind Theatre.

Performances are Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30pm; Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m., Saturday at 3:00 p.m., Sunday at 2:00 p.m. with additional 7:30 performances on Sunday, January 29 and Sunday,
February 5. 

Groups of 10 or more save and receive premium seating. For more information, call (609) 258-6526 or e-mail groups@mccarter.org.

McCarter is committed to making live theater available and affordable to all members of our community. Public Rush makes unsold tickets available for half-price on the day of selected performances, and is not available in all seating locations. A Pay-What-You-Can performance will be offered on Tuesday, February 7 at 7:30pm. Tickets are subject to availability and must be purchased at the McCarter box office or at the door an hour prior to curtain.  

McCarter Theatre Center is easily accessible by car via US Route 1, Interstate 95/295, and NJ Route 206. Or take the train to McCarter:  New Jersey Transit serves Princeton Junction via the Northeast Corridor Line. Then it’s a ride of four minutes on New Jersey Transit’s “Dinky” train to Princeton Station–McCarter is directly across the street at 91 University Place.

The Convert is the recipient of the Edgerton Foundation New American Plays award.
Production sponsor: CURE Auto Insurance.

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