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The Luck of the Irish, a new play exploring Boston race relations and the universal longing for home, begins at Huntington Theatre Company March 30.


Boston, MA — The Huntington Theatre Company presents Huntington Playwriting Fellow Kirsten Greenidge's THE LUCK OF THE IRISH, a compelling new play that illuminates aspects of the hidden racial and social tensions of 1950s Boston and their lingering presence fifty years later. Melia Bensussen, director of the Huntington's 2010 production of Circle Mirror Transformation, returns. The ensemble cast includes Nikkole Salter (last seen in the Huntington's Stick Fly) as Lucy Taylor and local favorites Marianna Bassham (Actors' Shakespeare Project's The Hotel Nepenthe) and Nancy E. Carroll (The Rose TattooPresent Laughter at the Huntington) as Patti Ann Donovan across two generations.

 

The story of The Luck of the Irish spans two time periods and three generations. In the late 1950s, Lucy and Rex Taylor, a well-to-do African-Americam couple living in Boston's South End, aspire to move to a nearby suburb to provide a better life for their two daughters. Unable to purchase a home in a segregated neighborhood themselves, they pay Patty Ann and Joe Donovan, a struggling Irish family, to "ghost-buy" the house on their behalf and then sign over the deed. Fifty years later, Lucy's granddaughter Hannah and her family live in the home and grapple with the contemporary racial and social issues that stem from living in a primarily white community. When Lucy dies and leaves the house to Hannah and her sister Nessa, the now elderly Donovans return and ask for "their" house back. This intimate new play explores personal stories of integration and the conflict of calling any place your home.

"Kirsten Greenidge's play tells an extremely personal story while revealing a hidden part of Boston's history," says Huntington Artistic Director Peter DuBois. "In this, the Huntington's 30th Anniversary Season, Kirsten's play provides us with the opportunity to explore and celebrate our rich history as we also look to our future by producing new work by our talented Playwriting Fellows."

"The Luck of the Irish is inherently a Boston story," says Greenidge. "It is also, in my thinking, cousin (perhaps distant, but that's okay as long as I'm at the dinner table somehow) to the works Mr. [August] Wilson was able to develop at the Huntington decades ago."

Greenidge is a direct inheritor of playwright Wilson's legacy. At age twelve, she was inspired to become a playwright while attending a student matinee of the Huntington's production of Joe Turner's Come and Gone. "I looked down onto that proscenium stage and saw, for the first time, an African-American story that simultaneously challenged and affirmed what I knew about how black people fit into the cultural landscape that is America," Greenidge recalls. "Previously I had wanted to write novels, but my notions of how black characters fit into American literature melted quickly into the gilt that surrounds the Huntington's main stage when I sat in that theatre on a gray and rainy day. For the first time in my life I saw black people on stage who were there to tell stories. Complicated stories. Rhythmical stories. Stories that were at once proud, true, painful, and funny."

Kirsten Greenidge (playwright) is a Huntington Playwriting Fellow and the author of the plays Bossa Nova, Milk Like Sugar, Rust, The Curious Walk of the Salamander, Sans-Culottes in the Promised Land, 103 Within the Veil, and The Gibson Girl. She has developed her work at Sundance (Utah and Ucross), Magic Theatre, National New Play Network, Cardinal Stage, South Coast Repertory, Madison Rep, Page 73, Hourglass, Bay Area Playwrights, Playwrights Horizons, New Dramatists, The Mark Taper Forum, A.S.K., the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center, Guthrie Theater, Mixed Blood, McCarter Theatre Center, Humana Festival of New American Plays, Moxie, and New Georges. She is the recipient of an NEA/TCG residency at Wooly Mammoth Theatre Company and a residency at Boston's Company One. She has also received Sundance's Time Warner Award for Bossa Nova and a commission from Yale Repertory Theatre. Ms. Greenidge attended Wesleyan University and the Playwright's Workshop/University of Iowa, and is a member of New Dramatists and Rhombus.

Greenidge is a part of an accomplished and acclaimed group of Huntington Playwriting Fellows to be produced by the Huntington including Lydia R. Diamond (Stick Fly), Ronan Noone (The Athiest, Brendan), Melinda Lopez (Sonia Flew), Sinan Ünel (The Cry of the Reed), Rebecca Maggor (Shakespeare's Actresses in America), Ryan Landry (Psyched), and Rosanna Yamagiwa Alfaro (Before I Leave You).

Melia Bensussen (director) is the recipient of an Obie Award for Outstanding Direction and has directed extensively around the country where she has worked on classics and collaborated with many of America's leading playwrights. Her directing credits include work with Merrimack Repertory Theatre, Actors' Shakespeare Project, La Jolla Playhouse, Baltimore Centerstage, Hartford Stage, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, New York Shakespeare Festival, MCC Theater, Primary Stages, Long Wharf Theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville, and People's Light and Theatre Company, where she received a Barrymore Award nomination for Best Direction, and many others. She has received two Directing Awards by the Princess Grace Foundation, USA, including their top honor, the Statuette Award for Sustained Excellence in Directing. Ms. Bensussen is chair of the Performing Arts Department at Emerson College.

ABOUT THE ARTISTS

The cast includes:

  • McCaleb Burnett (Joe): The Normal Heart (The Public Theater); A Little Journey (Mint Theater Company);
  • Nancy E. Carroll (Mrs. Donovan): Present Laughter (Broadway and the Huntington, Elliot Norton Award), Brendan(Huntington Theatre Company, Elliot Norton Award);

  • Francesca Choy-Kee (Hannah Davis): Letters to the End of the World (Studio Theatre), Bossa Nova (Yale Repertory Theatre);

  • Shalita Grant (Nessa Charles): The Philanderer (Pearl Theatre Company), Measure for Measure (The Public Theater);

  • Antoine Gray, Jr. and Jahmeel Mack (alternating) as Miles;

  • Curtis McClarin (Rich): TOPDOG/UNDERDOG (South Coast Repertory), Drowning Crow (Broadway);

  • Richard McElvain (Mr. Donovan): To Kill a Mockingbird, Bang the Drum Slowly, Lady from Maxim's (Huntington Theatre Company), Angels in America (Boston Theatre Works);

  • Nikkole Salter (Lucy): Stick Fly (Huntington Theatre Company), Gee's Bend (Cincinnati Playhouse), Inked Baby (Playwrights Horizons), and;
  • Marianna Basham (Patty Ann): The Hotel Nepenthe (Actors' Shakespeare Project), Blackbird (SpeakEasy Stage Company, Elliot Norton Award); and
  • Victor Williams (Rex): “King of Queens” (NAACP Image Award), A Small Fire (Playwrights Horizons).

PRODUCTION ARTISTS

Scenic design by James Noone (Burn This, The Rose Tattoo, Ain't Misbehavin' at the Huntington); lighting design by Justin Townsend (Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson on Broadway, Milk Like Sugar at Playwrights Horizons); costume design byMariann Verheyen (Fences at the Huntington), and sound design and music direction by David Remedios (Circle Mirror Transformation and Prelude to a Kiss at the Huntington). Production stage manager is Marti McIntosh. Stage Manager isCarola LaCoste.

SPONSORS

  • Grand Patron: Boston University

  • 30th Anniversary Sponsor: Carol G. Deane

  • Season Sponsor: J. David Wimberly

ABOUT HUNTINGTON THEATRE COMPANY:

Over the past 30 years the Huntington Theatre Company has developed into Boston's leading professional theatre. Under the direction of Artistic Director Peter DuBois and Managing Director Michael Maso and in residence at Boston University, the Huntington brings together world—class theatre artists from Boston and Broadway and the most promising new talent to create an eclectic season of exciting new works and classics made current. By also mentoring playwrights in the Huntington Playwriting Fellows program, educating young people in theatre through its nationally renowned programs in education, and providing Boston—based companies with discounted audience services and first—class facilities at the Huntington—built and operated Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, the Huntington cultivates, celebrates, and champions theatre as an art form. The Huntington has transferred over a dozen productions to New York, including two last fall: the Broadway premiere of Lydia R. Diamond's Stick Fly and the Roundabout Theatre Company production of Stephen Karam's Sons of the Prophet. A national leader in the development of new plays, the Huntington has produced 83 New England, American, or world premieres to date, with three world premieres scheduled for the 2011 — 2012 Season, and its education and community programs serve 25,000 young people and underserved audiences each year. The Huntington performs in two homes — the BU Theatre on the Avenue of the Arts and the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA in the South End. The Huntington was founded in 1982 by Boston University and separately incorporated as an independent non—profit in 1986. Its two prior artistic leaders were Peter Altman (1982 — 2000) and Nicholas Martin (2000 — 2008). For more information, visit huntingtontheatre.org.

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