The Playwrights Realm (Katherine Kovner, Founding Artistic Director; Roberta Pereira, Producing Director) kicks off its 2018-2019 season with the world premiere of Jonathan Payne’s The Revolving Cycles Truly and Steadily Roll’d, directed by Awoye Timpo (Sept. 7-Oct. 6, at The Duke on 42nd Street, 229 W 42nd Street). Having fostered the careers of breakout playwrights such as Sarah DeLappe (Pulitzer Prize finalist The Wolves), Lauren Yee (The Hatmaker’s Wife), Jen Silverman (Crane Story, The Moors), Mfoniso Udofia (Sojourners), and Donja R. Love (Sugar in Our Wounds), The Realm continues to spotlight new playwrights setting the tone for the future of American theatre. This world premiere marks the first full production from the mordantly funny and unsparing voice of Jonathan Payne.
The cast features Keith Randolph Smith (Jitney), Lynda Gravatt (The House That Will Not Stand), Deonna Bouye, Toni Ann DeNoble (The Cost, Ski End), Donnell E. Smith, Kenneth Tigar (“The Man in The High Castle,” “House of Cards”), James Udom and Kara Young.
Official opening is September 19 at 7:30pm. Donor pre-sale tickets priced from $1-$5 will be on sale from August 9. The $1to5 drive, where tickets for previews run between $1 and $5, applies to preview performances September 7-12. General tickets are $15-$60; tickets for students with valid ID are $15, and group tickets are $25 per seat for groups of six or more. To purchase, please visit http://dukeon42.org/ or call 646-223-3010. For more details, please visit playwrightsrealm.org.
The creative team includes Set Design by Kimie Nishikawa, Lighting Design by Stacey Derosier, Sound Design by Luqman Brown, Costume Design by Andrea Hood and Prop Design by Alexander Wylie, with Stage Manager Kara Kaufman.
Terrell, a black teenager in the foster care system, has gone missing within the Oblong-a fictional inner city that Payne describes as “an island isolated by poverty.” Maybe he’s run away; maybe it’s drugs; maybe he’s dead; or maybe he’s simply lost somewhere in the depths of an uncaring society. His foster sister Karma embarks on a journey across the stagnating social order of the Oblong in hopes of solving the mystery of his whereabouts. As Karma sleuths, she pries clues from a wide variety of characters (an undertaker who profits from abundant death, a veteran teacher with a poor recollection of his students) who tend to be quick to disregard her. In The Revolving Cycles Truly and Steadily Roll’d, Payne draws a complex map of a very systemic form of isolation.
The stories that have pervaded mainstream American culture and ongoing news stories regarding missing minors almost exclusively appeal to the anxieties of the white nuclear family. When young people in the margins disappear, the absence of a trustworthy governmental system willing to help-not to mention of a cultural system of collective concern and action-heightens the danger that they will never be found. In 2016, around 38% of the more than 400,000 juveniles recorded as missing by the FBI were black (Time, 2017) despite black people making up approximately 14% of the U.S. population. More than 60,000 children in the foster care system have remained missing since 2000 (Washington Post, 2018). In The Revolving Cycles Truly and Steadily Roll’d, Payne interplays pricking humor, social commentary, and devastation, often, as inspired by Brecht, finding mischievous ways to disrupt his own play before the audience can find total emotional catharsis. Throughout, the playwright presents a string of charged questions and refuses emotionally gratifying answers.
Payne, who by day is a social worker for the housing nonprofit Community Access, submitted Revolving Cycles to Playwrights Realm in 2015-and soon became a 2015/2016 Writing Fellow. With a background in acting, Payne recalls being consistently cast in character roles-a fact that’s now reflected in his work as a playwright. He says, “I found that I was putting those characters front and center-the ones who otherwise would just come in and leave. Karma, the protagonist of Revolving Cycles, would be that wacky character on the corner that no one’s curious about-so I felt like giving her that space was important to me. There’s a racial context as well-there are people who have these needs, who are shouting in the streets and no one is listening. I knew I wanted to write a play that would grab people; out of all of the plays I’ve written, this is the one I’m most curious to see in how the audience grasps it.”
Awoye Timpo (The Homecoming Queen-Atlantic Theater Company; Carnaval-National Black Theatre) says, “Each of the characters that Karma encounters lives in a very fixed way-‘These are the terms in which I exist in this world, and I protect myself inside of them so I know how I can make it through.’ And as they become trapped in different systems, the isolation becomes so real… The tragedy of the conversation of people not ‘having a voice’ is that it’s about the voice not being heard, and not about the power of the actual voice. Karma has an exceptionally powerful and vivid and focused and loud voice-what does it mean for that to be ignored?”
Over the past eleven years, The Realm has continually produced work by brave new voices and introduced new initiatives to expand its commitment to providing holistic support to playwrights as they strive to make a life in the arts. Payne is the 2018-2019 recipient of the Page One Residency-the cornerstone of the company’s work, which provides playwrights with services including $10,000, health insurance, internal readings, travel and professional development funds, theater tickets, a desk in the Playwrights Realm offices, and of course, a full Off-Broadway production. In 2017-18, the Realm supported both Don Nguyen, with Hello, From the Children of Planet Earth, and Michael Yates Crowley, with The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias, as its Page One residents. 2016-17 Page One resident Sarah DeLappe and her play The Wolves received a Drama Desk Special Award and an Obie Award for Outstanding Ensemble; the play was a finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Drama, and returned last fall to Lincoln Center Theater’s Mitzi Newhouse Theater. In addition, 2015-16 Page One Resident Mfoniso Udofia’s play Sojourners, after having been produced by the Realm, was produced by New York Theatre Workshop in rep with Udofia’s Her Portmanteau. Both productions were produced in association with The Playwrights Realm and were New York Times Critic’s picks.
About the Artists
Jonathan Payne’s work has been produced and developed at Long Wharf Theatre, Ars Nova, Fringe Festival NYC, The Bushwick Star, and the Fire This Time Festival. He was a fellow at New Dramatists, Playwrights Realm and The Dramatist Guild, as well as an Ars Nova Play Group. Awards include the Princess Grace Award, Holland New Voices Award, Rosa Parks Award, John Cauble Short Play Award. He received a BA from the GSA Conservatoire (UK), an MFA in Playwriting from Tisch School of the Arts, and an Artist Diploma Recipient in Playwriting from The Juilliard School.
Awoye Timpo The Homecoming Queen (Atlantic Theater), Skeleton Crew (Chester Theater), Sister Son/ji (Billie Holiday Theater), Carnaval (National Black Theatre), Ndebele Funeral (59E59, South African tour, Edinburgh Festival), The Libation Bearers (Shakespeare Theatre of NJ), Araby (La MaMa), In the Continuum (Juilliard). Producer: CLASSIX, a reading series exploring classic plays by Black playwrights. Broadway: Associate Director, Jitney; Assistant Director, Shuffle Along. Other: Associate Director, Othello (Shakespeare in the Park), ABC/Disney, Cherry Lane, Lincoln Center Directors Lab, Ma-Yi, New Dramatists, NOW Africa, Page 73, PEN World Voices, Royal Shakespeare Company, Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab and WNYC.
Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.