By Melissa James Gibson
Directed by Ryan Rilette
October 9 – November 3, 2013
Round House Theatre Bethesda
30 & Under tickets in the Side sections for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday performances of This are $15 – available in person or by calling 240.644.1100. ID required.
“Smart, urbane…five engaging actors…a trove of funny observations about the things that vex us about one another” – Washington Post
“Gibson’s lively, witty, unpretentiously intellectual drama is exactly the sort of thing that’ll get me to Bethesda more often” – Washington City Paper
“Powerfully staged…a flawless cast which features some of the DC Metro’s best actors…a very entertaining evening” – Broadway World
“5 stars…an outstanding and stimulating production…absorbing…This is a play that should be seen now!” – DC Metro Theater Arts
“As funny as it is thoughtful…big and bold, and a smart addition to Round House Theater’s list of successes” – DC Theater Scene
“Awesome” “Fantastic ensemble of DC actors” “An excellent night” – audience members
An Off-Broadway hit by Obie-winning playwright Melissa James Gibson, This is a funny, poignant comedy with music that follows a group of friends as they navigate their way towards the choppy waters of middle age.
Jane is not ok. She’s a promising poet-without-a-muse, a single mother trying to reignite her life after losing her husband. Her supportive friends try to help but only make things more complicated while a sexy, French Doctor-Without-Borders incites temptation – and perspective.
Running time is approximately 95 minutes with no intermission
Enjoy an exclusive Pre-theatre Menu at our restaurant partner, Jaleo Bethesda. Specially priced for Round House patrons at $29, experience the flavors of Spain right here in Bethesda.
Sponsored in part through generous support from Michael Beriss and Jean Carlson
Artwork by Esther Wu
This Audience Events
From discussions with directors, designers, and actors to audio-described and sign-interpreted performances, each production features fun and informative audience events. For more info, call 240.644.1100.
Gain an inside look at the show’s costume, set lighting, and sound designs from the professionals who make it happen
Wednesday, October 9, 2013 at 6:45 p.m.
Get up close with director Ryan Rilette in this pre-performance talk
Friday, October 11, 2013 at 7:15 p.m.
Stay afterwards for a lively discussion with members of the cast and special guests
October 9 – 13 and then on each Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday (except November 3) during the run
RHT offers designated audio-described and sign-interpreted performances of each Bethesda production. More info about those performances may be found below.
Using the services of Maryland Relay, patrons who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, DeafBlind or Speech Disabled can easily communicate through TTY (text telephone) with the Round House box office about performances in our Bethesda and/or Silver Spring theatres. For more information about using Maryland Relay’s TTY service, visit http://www.mdrelay.org/.
Saturday, October 19, 2013 at 3 p.m.
Reservations for sign interpreting services needed at least 2 weeks prior to the performance.
Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 3 p.m.
Lise Bruneau (Jane) is so happy to be back at Round House, having appeared in My Name is Asher Lev, Alice, and Karen Zacarías’ fantastic The Book Club Play. Other area appearances include Coriolanus, And Ideal Husband, Ion, Othello, and The Winter’s Tale at the Shakespeare Theatre Company; Legacy of Light for Arena Stage; Mikveh, (Helen Hayes nomination) and The Odd Couple for Theater J; and at CenterStage: Blithe Spirit and Mary Stuart. Last year for the Denver Center, she garnered a Henry Award for playing Hesione in Heartbreak House. Lise is also a director, having worked on Savage in Limbo for MetroStage, Hamlet for the Nebraska Shakespeare Festival; and for the upstart theater company Taffety Punk – most recently the Riot Grrrls’ Titus Andronicus, and Oxygen, Owl Moon, The Devil in His Own Words, and 6 Bootlegs (full productions of Shakespeare plays rehearsed and performed in one day) among others. She has performed in regional theaters across the country, such as The Old Globe, ACT, Seattle Rep, the Wilma, Triad Stage, and Berkeley Rep, and for the Idaho, St. Louis, Alabama, Chicago, Santa Cruz, and Oregon Shakespeare Festivals. Lise trained at RADA, and is proud to be a Taffety Punk.
Felicia Curry (Marrell) is thrilled to be making her Round House Theatre debut. DC area credits: Ford’s Theatre (A Christmas Carol, Little Shop of Horrors), The Kennedy Center (Beehive, Wings of Ikarus Jackson), Signature Theatre (Les Misérables), Studio Theatre (Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson), Rep Stage (Home), Imagination Stage (The Araboolies of Liberty Street, Rapunzel), Adventure Theatre (Mirandy and the Brother Wind, Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse), MetroStage (Three Sistas, The Stephen Schwartz Project), Arena Stage (Redhand Guitar), Olney Theatre (Ebony, Ivory and Ink), Toby’s Dinner Theatre (Aida, Godspell), Artists’ Bloc (Three Sisters, or The Dormouse’s Tale). NY credits: We Three Divas at Joe’s Pub, Petite Rouge and DMLRR The Brontes at NYMF. National Tours: Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka, Barbie Live!. HH Awards: Best Ensemble, Les Miserables. HH nominations: Aida, Aida; Eponine, Les Miserables; Featured Performer, Godspell; Best Ensemble, Rapunzel. Co-host of 28th Helen Hayes Awards. Member of the Capitol Steps. Education: UMCP. Proud member of AEA.
Todd Scofield (Tom) Round House Theatre: The Beauty Queen of Leenane, Double Indemnity, Tabletop. DC area: Kennedy Center: Mister Roberts, also Shakespeare Theatre Company, Folger Theatre, Olney Theater, Ford’s Theater, Theater J, and Adventure Theatre. Regional: C.S. Lewis in Freud’s Last Session at Arden Theatre (a role he will reprise at Theater J later this season), Barter Theatre, Charlotte Rep, PlayMakers, and four seasons at North Carolina Shakespeare Festival. Television: The Wire (recurring role, Seasons 3 and 5).
Michael Glenn (Alan) is thrilled to be making his Round House Theatre debut with this show. A DC-based actor, he has appeared with dozens of area companies. Some favorite past productions include; Good People at Arena Stage; Clybourne Park with Woolly Mammoth; Arcadia, Henry VII, and The Gaming Table at The Folger Shakespeare Library; Neville’s Island at Olney Theatre Center; The Lieutenant of Inishmore and Fallen From Proust at Signature Theatre; Village Wooing, The Underpants, Major Barbara, and A Skull in Connemara with the Washington Stage Guild. Michael is also a company member with Longacre Lea Productions, where he has worked on every annual summertime production since 2001, most notably in Cat’s Cradle, The Hothouse, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, and Theories of the Sun. Michael can also be heard as The Flash, Sinestro, Desaad, Namor, as well as many cowboys, mutants, and spies in hundreds of comic and pulp book audio adaptations from Graphic Audio.
Will Gartshore (Jean-Pierre) last appeared at Round House Theatre in Becky Shaw, Orson’s Shadow, A Year with Frog and Toad, The World Goes ‘Round, and Summer of ’42. DC area credits include The Religion Thing (Theater J); The Velvet Sky (Woolly Mammoth); Monster (Olney); Privates on Parade and A New Brain (Studio); Passion (Kennedy Center); and Show Boat, Merrily We Roll Along, My Fair Lady, Assassins, Sex Habits of American Women, Urinetown, Pacific Overtures, Elegies, Allegro, Twentieth Century, Grand Hotel, Side Show, and Floyd Collins (Signature). Will performed on Broadway in Parade and Off-Broadway in The Last Session and Ziegfield Follies of 1936. Regional credits include Elegies (Philadelphia Theatre Co.); Myths + Hymns (Prince); 3hree (Ahmanson, Prince); and Fanny Hill (Goodspeed). Will is a two-time winner of the Helen Hayes Award for Best Actor and an eight-time nominee. He is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (AADA) in NYC.
Melissa James Gibson (Playwright) Melissa James Gibson’s plays include What Rhymes With America; This; [sic]; Suitcase Or, Those That Resemble Flies From A Distance; Brooklyn Bridge (with a song by Barbara Brousal); and Current Nobody. Her work has been produced and/or developed at Playwrights Horizons, Center Theatre Group, Soho Rep, La Jolla Playhouse, The Children’s Theatre Company, Steppenwolf, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Seattle Rep, and the Sundance Institute Theatre Lab among others, regionally and internationally. Commissions: Atlantic Theater Company; Manhattan Theater Club (Sloan Foundation); Second Stage Theatre. Honors: OBIE Award; Guggenheim Fellowship; Steinberg Playwright Award; Kesselring Prize; Whiting Writers Award; Lucille Lortel Foundation Playwrights’ Fellowship; LILLY Award; Jerome Fellow; MacDowell Colony Fellow; NEA/TCG Theatre Residency Program for Playwrights; Susan Smith Blackburn Prize finalist. MFA: Yale School of Drama; graduate of New Dramatists. Teaching: Lecturer in the Program in Theater at Princeton University, spring semesters 2011 and 2012. “This and Other Plays” is forthcoming from TCG. Film: screenplay for Almost Christmas, starring Paul Giamatti, Paul Rudd, and Sally Hawkins, directed by Phil Morrison. TV: writer on the FX show, The Americans, created by Joe Weisberg.
Ryan Rilette (Director) is currently in his second season as Producing Artistic Director of Round House, where he previously directed How to Write a New Book for the Bible by Bill Cain. Prior to joining Round House, he served as Producing Director of Marin Theatre Company for five years. For MTC, he has directed the world premieres of Bellwether by Steve Yockey and Magic Forest Farm by Zayd Dohrn. He also directed God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza; Fuddy Meers by David Lindsay-Abaire; Boom by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb; and In The Red and Brown Water by Tarell Alvin McCraney, the first part of The Brother Sister Plays Trilogy, which MTC co-produced with American Conservatory Theatre and Magic Theater, and which was named “the theatrical event of the year” by the San Francisco Chronicle. Prior to joining MTC, Rilette served as Producing Artistic Director of Southern Rep Theatre, the leading professional theater in New Orleans, from 2002 to 2007. At Southern Rep, he directed the world premieres of The House of Plunder by Jim Fitzmorris, The Vulgar Soul by John Biguenet, and The Sunken Living Room by David Caudle; and the regional premieres of Edward Albee’s The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?, In Walks Ed by Keith Glover, and Kimberly Akimbo by David Lindsay-Abaire. He also commissioned, developed, and directed two plays about Hurricane Katrina and its effect on the region: Rising Water by John Biguenet and The Breach by Tarell Alvin McCraney, Catherine Filloux, and Joe Sutton. Rilette is the co-founder and former Artistic Director of Rude Mechanicals Theatre Company, the immediate past president of the National New Play Network, and a former professor at Tulane and Loyola universities in New Orleans. He earned his MFA in Acting from American Conservatory Theatre.
James Kronzer (Scenic Designer) has designed scenery for numerous Round House productions including Glengarry Glen Ross, Amadeus, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Nixon’s Nixon, The Book Club Play, Camille, A Prayer for Owen Meany among others. His work has also been seen at The Shakespeare Theater, Olney Theatre Center, Signature Theatre, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Theater J, and The Kennedy Center. Regional theatre credits include Broadway, Off-Broadway, Denver Center, Portland Center Stage, Delaware Theatre Company, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Milwaukee Rep, San Diego Rep, and Arden Theatre. He has designed sets for several national tours such as The Wizard of Oz, Thomas The Tank, Backyardigans, Barbie Live! in Fairytopia, Seussical the Musical, Show Boat, Annie, Big, and Damn Yankees. He also designed scenery for Disney Cruise Lines Twice Charmed. TV credits include numerous specials for Comedy Central and Netflix for comedians such as Sinbad, Whitney Cummings and Nick Cannon. Mr. Kronzer has been nominated 31 times for the Helen Hayes Award and has received the award eight times. He is a member of United Scenic Artists. His work can be seen at www.JamesKronzer.com.
Ivania Stack (Costume Designer) is proud to return to Round House, where she recently designed Glengarry Glen Ross and Young Robin Hood. Her DC area credits include Detroit, The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Diety, Bright New Boise, Full Circle, and Boom for Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company; Our Class, The Whipping Man, After the Fall, The Odd Couple, Photograph 51, The Four of Us, and In Darfur for Theater J; Mother Fu**er With The Hat, Time Stands Still, and Adding Machine: A Musical at Studio Theatre; Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Pop! and F***ing A for Studio Theatre 2nd Stage; God of Carnage, Heroes, and 50 Words for Everyman Theatre in Baltimore; Clementine in the Lower Nine, bobrauschenbergamerica, and Angels in America at Forum Theatre; House of the Spirits, Ana en el Tropico, Lucido, and True History of Coca Cola in Mexico at Gala Hispanic Theatre; Ghost-Writer, Savage in Limbo, Lonely Planet, The Real Inspector Hound, and Heroes for MetroStage; Lidless and Breadcrumbs for The Contemporary American Theatre Festival; and A Killing Game, Beertown, Separated at Birth, and Mother Courage for dog & pony dc. She received her MFA in Design from the University of Maryland.
Daniel MacLean Wagner (Lighting Designer) Mr. Wagner has designed lighting for more than 25 productions at Round House over the past 30 years – most recently Glengarry Glen Ross. He has designed lighting for more than 350 productions at many theaters, including Arden Theatre Company, Berkshire Theatre Festival, Boston Lyric Opera, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Portland Stage, Arena Stage, The Shakespeare Theatre, The John F. Kennedy Center, Studio Theatre, Signature Theatre, Theatre of the First Amendment, Horizons Theatre, Potomac Theatre Project, The Rep Stage, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, and Olney Theatre Center. He is an eight-time recipient of the Helen Hayes Award, for which he has received 28 nominations. Mr. Wagner is a member of the Artists Roundtable at Round House, and is Resident Lighting Designer at Olney Theatre Center. He is a member of the Board of the Washington Area Performing Arts Video Archive (WAPAVA). Mr. Wagner is a Professor of Lighting Design in the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies, of which he was formerly Director, at the University of Maryland.
Eric Shimelonis (Composer/Sound Designer) Round House Theatre productions include: The Beauty Queen of Leenane, Becky Shaw, How to Write a New Book for the Bible, and Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo. Other recent projects include Torch Song Trilogy directed by Michael Kahn at Studio Theatre; Our Class and Andy and the Shadows at Theater J; A Man, His Wife, and His Hat at Hub Theatre; Never the Sinner at 1st Stage; the world premiere of the new Sam Shepard play Heartless at Signature Theatre, NYC; Abigail/1702 at City Theatre, Pittsburgh; Broke-ology at Juilliard School; Fuerza Bruta at Daryl Roth Theatre, NYC; and Adam Rapp’s The Hallway Trilogy at Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre, NYC (Drama Desk and Hewes Design Award nominations). Eric recent wrote a new play for the Washington Bach Consort’s educational program called A Goldberg Variation, and he is directing this and another play for productions aimed at DC public schoolchildren. He is the resident composer of Voice Of The City Ensemble and had a sold-out Carnegie Hall debut with F. Murray Abraham performing his song cycle Elusive Things.
Andrea “Dre” Moore (Props Designer) has designed properties at Round House for several productions (Young Robin Hood, Crown of Shadows, I Love To Eat, A Wrinkle In Time). Her work has graced the stages of Adventure Theatre (The Cat In The Hat, Big Nate, Three Little Birds, Winnie The Pooh, Little House Christmas, Big), Flying V (The Best of Craigslist, Pirate Laureate of Port Town), Theater J (The History of Invulnerability), Rorschach Theatre (Neverwhere), Imagination Stage, The Kennedy Center, Olney Theatre, and Rep Stage. She also assists in the education of our future theater designers and craftspeople at the University of Maryland College Park, at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center.
Rachel Zampelli (Assistant Director) Usually found on stage, Rachel is pleased to be a part of the production team assisting Ryan on This. DC credits include POP! (Helen Hayes nomination, Outstanding Supporting Actress), Jerry Springer the Opera, Reefer Madness at The Studio Theatre SecondStage; The Comedy of Errors, Orestes: A Tragic Romp, A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Folger Shakespeare Theater; Dying City, Brother Russia, Chess, See What I Wanna See, and The Happy Time at Signature Theatre; Stop Kiss at No Rules Theatre Company; ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas at Adventure Theatre, and Shenandoah at Ford’s Theatre. Rachel received her BA in Theater from Santa Clara University. You can catch Ms. Zampelli next playing Rona Lisa Peretti in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Ford’s Theatre this spring.
Jeremy W. Foil (Associate Set Designer) was last at Round House with Glengarry Glen Ross. He also served as associate set designer for A Picture of Dorian Gray and A Prayer for Owen Meany. He has worked alongside James Kronzer as an associate designer since 2006, overseeing various national tours, cruise line productions, comedy specials, and theatrical ventures. He most recently served as Associate Set Designer for the Tony nominated revival of The Mystery of Edwin Drood at Studio 54 (Design by Anna Louizos). He is currently working with Kronzer Design Ltd. on several upcoming shows and serving as an Assistant Art Director on NBC’s live presentation of The Sound of Music staring Carrie Underwood.
Brent Stansell (Dramaturg) has been a teaching artist at Round House since 2006 and is proud to dramaturg two plays this season. Other DC area dramaturgy credits include work with the Inkwell and Forum Theatre as well as with his own theatre company, DC Theatre Collective. Brent also teaches at The Catholic University of America, Montgomery College, The George Washington University, American University, and for the Shakespeare Theatre Company and Folger Theatre. DC area acting credits include Columbinus at Round House and productions with Rorschach Theatre and the National Player’s Tour 55 out of the Olney Theatre Center. He has an MFA in Dramaturgy from Brooklyn College and a BA in Dramatic Literature from The George Washington University.
Bekah Wachenfeld (Production Stage Manager) is thrilled to return to the Round House team after stage managing Becky Shaw. Select DC area stage management credits include An Iliad at Studio Theatre; The Religion Thing, New Jerusalem, The Whipping Man at Theater J; If You Give A Moose A Muffin at Adventure Theatre; Mad Forest at Forum Theatre. Select regional credits include Miss Saigon, White Christmas and Amadeus at Walnut Street Theatre; Bad Dates, The Musical of Musicals…, The Light in the Piazza, and Les Misérables at Weston Playhouse; Morini Strad with Primary Stages; Boy Wonders with Second Stage. International credits include The Time of Your Life at Finborough Theatre in London, UK. Ms. Wachenfeld also freelances in corporate event planning. She is a proud member of AEA and graduate of James Madison University. Love to DSKMAT.
What is This?
By Brent Stansell, Dramaturg
“Everyone has a This. It’s changing at all times, but the This is the elephant in the room. It’s the scary thing that demands attention but doesn’t necessarily receive it.” — Melissa James Gibson
This is not the most marketable title. The word “This” is distinctly specific yet simultaneously utterly ambiguous. At first thought This does not provide a clear window into the subject of Melissa James Gibson’s richly complicated, deep, and probing play about a group of friends facing middle age, grief, and mortality. Theatre critics have pointed out how this “bum” or “slightly annoying” title fails to illuminate the play’s themes on the surface. However, the play’s title aptly captures the underlying paradox at the play’s core: “This” is the exact thing that Gibson’s characters are unable to define.
Melissa James Gibson has established herself as a formidable playwright adept at exploring the intricacies of language. Her productions of [sic] and Suitcase off-Broadway at SoHo Rep in 2001 and 2004 respectively solidified her as a playwright capable of dizzying wordplay with the likes of Harold Pinter and Edward Albee. With the premiere of This at Playwrights Horizons in 2009, Gibson established herself as a playwright capable of the emotional underpinnings and keen perceptiveness of Anton Chekhov. Even Gibson has acknowledged that, like Chekhov, not many critics have celebrated her plots; instead, her dramatic power resides in using language to capture her character’s nuances and emotional resonance. Charles Isherwood of The New York Times accurately characterized Gibson’s gift when he wrote that her “richly patterned wordplay and undercurrent of rue combine to cast a moving spell that lingers in the memory.”
In all of her work, Gibson sees language as the tool through which to explore “the cusp between hilarity and tragedy, that fine line where single moments can contain extreme emotions, coupled with the whole process of communication and how difficult it is to be received in the ways in which we intend.” For Gibson, This is intrinsically linked to pain and loss. Although she started writing This wanting to explore adultery, after losing four friends to cancer in the eight months prior to the play’s premiere, she found out she was really grappling with mortality. Just like Chekhov, Gibson writes characters facing incredible pain as they go about their daily lives, but characters who choose to face their pain with humor, intelligence, and humanity. She’s interested in capturing “those jam-packed moments” that “are the stuff of drama — layers of comedy and tragedy and lightness and weight, depending upon one’s perspective in any given moment” because, she says, “life demands that we navigate this complexity with every breath.”
In This, Gibson provides us with characters extremely adept at using language, but who nevertheless struggle to define their messy and complicated lives. This poet, songwriter, mnemonist, bilingual Frenchman, and surprisingly expressive woodworker are capable of playing endless language games and compulsively analyzing everything from Britas to Bjorns to Socrates to Hebrew, but seem to fail at understanding and analyzing their own desires and choices. As all of the characters navigate life approaching forty, they each face in their own ways the big, unanswerable questions Gibson says we all must deal with: “Does who I am remotely resemble who I thought I’d be? Is that a good thing or a bad thing? What sort of person am I in the world? What do I contribute? What will they say about me when I’m gone and should that influence the way I conduct my life?”
The play’s characters endlessly debate the superficialities of language, but are ultimately incapable of answering these questions and defining “This,” what Gibson has called “the scary thing that demands attention but doesn’t necessarily receive it.” Although the play’s title is seemingly inexact, it perfectly illuminates the penetrating, enigmatic questions at the heart of the play.
*All quotes attributed to Melissa James Gibson are excerpted from an interview with the playwright conducted by Tim Sanford, Artistic Director of Playwrights Horizons, or by Kristin Friedrich, a Los Angeles-based free-lance writer, written for Center Theatre Group.