2009 Essential Theatre Festival
Beautifully written, masterfully delicate direction by Ellen McQueen, precise, delightful and surprising performances all round. Go see it.”
“ICE GLEN is both one of the best scripts and best overall productions I’ve seen in the nine years I’ve been in Atlanta, and Ellen’s direction is flawlessly nuanced. A true “must-see.”” Evan Guilford-Blake
“It’s one of the best shows in Atlanta this year!” Leonard Pallats
Essential Festival Lineup
Directed by Peter Hardy
Featuring: Kelly Criss, Kate Graham, Eve Krueger, Brent Nicholas Rose, Charles Swint and Sarah Falkenburg Wallace.
Bobbie is a lonely young man living in New York, trying to write about three sisters who long to escape the city and return to their childhood home of New Jersey or is he really just an imaginary character in the mind of Sylvia, the youngest sister? Middle sister Alice is hopelessly in love with the husband of her older sister, and so she goes out on dates with a different man every night, working in her lab by day to isolate the human gene that makes us fall in love so she can control it! Oldest sister Barbara (played by a man) and her husband (played by a woman) cant figure out how men and women are supposed to relate to each other. This is the kind of play we love to do at the Essential funny and beautiful and just about impossible to describe. The New York Times did it best, calling it fabulously weird and weirdly fabulous.
ICE GLEN by Joan Ackermann. Regional Premiere.
Directed by Ellen McQueen
Featuring: Jo Howarth, Dina Shadwell, Jayson Smith, Spencer G. Stephens, Jim Starbh and Ann Wilson.
Sarah Harding lives in an isolated country cottage, surrounded by a warm circle of quietly eccentric friends. She may be Americas greatest poet, but no ones ever seen her work which is just the way she wants it. But now an editor has arrived from Boston, wanting to publish her poems and bring her the fame and fortune she has never sought. With unforgettable characters, this wonderfully funny romantic drama — about the frozen places in our hearts coming back to life again — is like the best Emma Thompson movie you never saw.
JIM CROW AND THE RHYTHM DARLINGS by Vynnie Meli. World Premiere.
Directed by Betty Hart
Featuring: Rachel Bodenstein, Enisha Brewster, Daniel Burnley, DeAndrea Crawford, Nadir Mateen, Delesa Sims
Its World War Two, and with so many men going off to serve, the previously all-male world of jazz is opening up to women for the first time. The International Rhythm Darlings are an all-female African-American band touring the Deep South, which would be a tough situation in the best of times but now theyve got a last-minute replacement in the group, a white Jewish woman, and integrated bands arent allowed to play together on stage. Not in the South, not anywhere.
Inspired by the real-life experiences of musicians from that era, Vynnie Melis play takes a fascinating look at some extraordinary women who make their way past fear and hatred to find the common threads that bind them together. Winner of the 2009 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award competition, the only prize exclusively dedicated to the work of Georgia playwrights. The Essential Theatre is proud to have developed this play (along with Working Title Playwrights and Jewish Theatre of the South) and to be bringing it to the stage for the first time.
“Directed by Betty Hart, Jim Crow & The Rhythm Darlings truly captures the love of jazz … the dialogue is quick paced and smart, the issues are diverse, and the acting is powerful. Not every day do you come across an intelligent play that explores gender roles, racism, and religion. Jim Crow & The Rhythm Darlings is a harmonious blend of talent, music, and discussion. Definitely a must see.”
Kelechi Ubozoh, Atlanta Theatre Examiner
“Playwright Vynnie Meli’s Jim Crow and the Rhythm Darlings draws from a seemingly bottomless wellspring of drama. Director Betty Hart builds to some undeniably gripping confrontations … Essential Theatre offers an affecting homage to some of the unsung women of jazz.”
Curt Holman, Creative Loafing
James Paulk, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Bob Heller, Publishers’ Feature Service