Marin Theatre Company, in a co-production with Virginia Stage Company, will stage the regional premiere of Matthew Lopez's Civil War drama The Whipping Man in Mill Valley from March 28 to April 21, 2013. MTC's artistic director Jasson Minadakis directs the production. Featuring popular Bay Area actors L. Peter Callender, Nicholas Pelczar and Tobie Windham, as well as the design team from MTC's 2011 San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award nominated production of Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie, this co-production will rehearse and run at VSC in Norfolk, Virginia, from February 26 to March 17, 2013, before moving to MTC. Opening night at MTC is on Tuesday, April 2.
"When I first spoke to Virginia Stage Company's artistic director Chris Hanna about co-producing Matthew Lopez's The Whipping Man, the first mutual connection we found to the play was the setting: Richmond, Virginia," says Minadakis, a native of that city. "I've read countless plays in my career and this was the first set in my hometown. Since selecting The Whipping Man for our seasons, the 2012 presidential election and success of films like Lincoln and Django Unchained have pushed one of the play's core themes - race and identity - into our national dialogue and highlighted just what an important new American play The Whipping Man is. I am so honored to have been able to bring the work of Bay Area actors L. Peter Callender, Nicholas Pelczar and Tobie Windham, as well as the design team from The Glass Menagerie, to Norfolk to share with VSC's staff, artists and patrons and I am thrilled to bring this production back to MTC to share with our own community."
In the final days of the Civil War, three Jewish men - two emancipated slaves and their former owner's son, a wounded Confederate captain - share an uneasy, improvised seder to mark Passover and commemorate their ancestor's escape from slavery in Egypt. They soon discover that, though they are no longer tied by ownership, they remain tied by faith, history and explosive secrets.
Winner of the New York Outer Critics Circle's 2011 John Gassner Playwriting Award, The Whipping Man premiered at Luna Stage Theatre Company in New Jersey in 2006 and has been produced throughout the country, most famously Off Broadway by the Manhattan Theater Club at City Center's Stage in 2011 with Emmy Award-winning actor Andre Braugher and Tony Award-winning director Doug Hughes. According to Theatre Communications Group, The Whipping Man is the third most produced play of the 2012-13 season in the US, behind Bruce Norris's Pulitzer Prize-winning Clybourne Park and David Linsay-Abaire's Good People. Lopez's work was last seen in the Bay Area in January/February 2013, with Somewhere premiering regionally at TheatreWorks in Mountain View.
MTC's artistic director Jasson Minadakis directs this production of The Whipping Man. He won the 2010 SFBATCC Award for best director (Equivocation) and was nominated in the same category in 2011 (The Glass Menagerie). This co-production features the return of Bay Area actors L. Peter Callender (Circle Mirror Transformation, Seven Guitars and My Children! My Africa!), Nicholas Pelczar (The Glass Menagerie and Othello, the Moor of Venice) and Tobie Windham (Seven Guitars) to MTC, as well as the complete design team from MTC's 2011 SFBATCC Award nominated production of Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie (entire production and set design) - scenic designer Kat Conley, costume designer Jacqueline Firkins, lighting designer Ben Wilhelm, composer Chris Houston and props artisan Seren Helday - with the addition of sound designer Will McCandless.
The first six performances of MTC's The Whipping Man, which centers around a Passover seder held during the last days of the Civil War in April 1865, fall during this year's Passover festival (March 25 to April 2, 2013). MTC is collaborating with a number of Jewish organizations to present talks and lectures about the play. As of this release, the free public lecture "Passover and American Slavery: A discussion of Matthew Lopez's historical drama The Whipping Man" has been scheduled for 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 3, at San Francisco Jewish Community Center, 3200 California St., San Francisco.