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Announcing Top Girls

RETHINKING A CLASSIC: HUNTINGTON’S PRODUCTION OF CARYL CHURCHILL’S TOP GIRLS, DIRECTED BY TONY NOMINEE LIESL TOMMY, BOASTS DIVERSE CAST

(BOSTON) – For the Huntington Theatre Company’s major revival of the contemporary classic Top Girls by Caryl Churchill (Serious Money, Cloud Nine), Tony Award-nominated director Liesl Tommy (the Huntington’s A Raisin in the Sun, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Ruined; Eclipsed on Broadway) has assembled a diverse cast to play some of history’s most famous women and their modern-day counterparts. Top Girls runs from April 20 through May 20, 2018 at the Avenue of the Arts / Huntington Avenue Theatre.

Top Girls follows career-driven Marlene, who lands the top job over a male colleague at a London employment agency. To celebrate, she hosts a lavish dinner with a group of famous and adventurous historical women who cheer the successes and bemoan the sacrifices required to get ahead in a so-called man’s world. Written originally as a rebuke of Margaret Thatcher’s England in the 1980s, and inspired by conversations with feminists in England and America, Caryl Churchill’s groundbreaking masterpiece remains as relevant and powerful today.

Churchill is a prolific, highly regarded British playwright, having written more than 45 plays and been lauded by critics and peers. Paula Vogel called Churchill “the greatest playwright alive,” and The New York Times last year referred to Churchill as “the most dazzlingly inventive living dramatist in the English language.” She is famous for experimenting with playwriting forms, including the overlapping dialogue and non-linear timeline of Top Girls.

Liesl Tommy, one of the country’s most in-demand directors, returns to the Huntington after a successful Broadway run of Danai Gurira’s Eclipsed featuring Lupita Nyong’o, where she was the first woman of color ever to be nominated for the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play. She has previously directed A Raisin in the SunMa Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Ruined at the Huntington. Known for reimagining classic plays, Tommy has been in touch with Churchill and plans to reorder some of the scenes in Top Girls.

“Caryl Churchill is a hero of mine, and Top Girls is very close to my heart,” says Tommy, who also played Pope Joan in Top Girls as a student at Trinity Repertory Company in Providence. Her experience with the show gave her the idea to embrace diversity for the Huntington production. “I knew I wanted to cast Marlene and her sister with actors of color,” she says. “As an artist of color myself, I am always looking for ways to create access. The issues Churchill tackles in this play – class, capitalism, family dynamics, ambition, and the desire to be upwardly mobile – are about everyone.”

Artistic Director Peter DuBois says, “Liesl has assembled a stunningly talented cast of women who will bring power, passion, and humor to this iconic play. The impact of strong women around the world today knows no bounds, and I know audiences will be eager to see Liesl’s take on this 20th century masterpiece. I expect extended conversations about the themes of this play long after people have left the theatre.”

ARTISTS AND PRODUCTION TEAM
The cast includes Carmen Zilles (Scenes from a Marriage Off Broadway) as Marlene. Most of the cast has dual roles: Sophia Ramos (Macbeth at DC’s Shakespeare Theatre Company) plays Pope Joan, the alleged female Pope of the Catholic Church in 9th century Italy, and Marlene’s sister Joyce. Carmen M. Herlihy (Crooked Off Broadway) plays Dull Gret, a figure of Flemish folklore famously depicted in Pietar Bruegel the Elder’s portrait, and Marlene’s niece Angie. Boston favorite Paula Plum (Tartuffe at the Huntington) is Isabella Bird, an English explorer and novelist from the 19th century, as well as Louise and Mrs. Kidd. Vanessa Kai (KPOP at Ars Nova) plays Lady Nijo, a Japanese concubine later-turned Buddhist nun, and Win. Elia Monte-Brown (Blithe Spirit at the Guthrie Theater) plays Patient Griselda from Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, as well as Nell and Jeanine. Kiara Pichardo (Bad Jews at Theatre on Tap) plays Kit, Angie’s next-door neighbor, and Shona.  

Caryl Churchill wrote her first play, Downstairs, while at Oxford University. It was staged in 1958 and won the award at the Sunday Times National Union of Students Drama Festival. Her plays have been performed on international stages, on BBC radio, and adapted for BBC television. They include Light Shining in Buckinghamshire, Cloud Nine, Fen, Three More Sleepless Nights, Serious Money (Laurence Olivier/BBC Award for Best New Play), Mad Forest, The Skriker, Far Away, A Number, and a new version of August Strindberg's A Dream Play. Her plays Drunk Enough to Say I Love You? and Love and Information premiered at the Royal Court Theatre, where she served as resident dramatist in 1974 and 1975, and her most recent play, Escaped Alone, premiered there in 2016. She lives in London. 

Liesl Tommy (Director) is an award-winning stage director returning to the Huntington having previously directed A Raisin in the SunMa Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Ruined. Her credits include productions of Danai Gurira’s Eclipsed (Broadway and The Public Theater) starring Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o (Tony Award nomination for Best Director), Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s Appropriate (Signature Theatre), Tracey Scott Wilson’s The Good Negro, UNIVERSES’ Party People, and A. Zell Williams’s Urban Retreat (The Public Theater), Les Misérables (Dallas Theater Center), Hamlet (California Shakespeare Theater), The Piano Lesson (Yale Repertory Theatre), and John Kander/Greg Pierce’s musical Kid Victory. Ms. Tommy is the recipient of an Obie Award, Lucille Lortel Award, Pioneer of the Arts Award, Lillian Hellman Award, Lee Reynolds Award, Alan Schneider Award, NEA/TCG Directors Grant, New York Theatre Workshop Casting/Directing Fellowship, and the inaugural Susan Stroman Award from the Vineyard Theatre. Ms. Tommy facilitated the inaugural Sundance East Africa Theatre Director’s Lab and is a program associate and artist trustee at Sundance Institute Theatre Program.

Top Girls features scenic design by Rachel Hauck (Carol Mulroney at the Huntington); costume design by Linda Cho (What the Butler Saw at the Huntington); lighting design by M.L. Geiger (Venus in Fur at the Huntington); original music and sound design by Broken Chord, Daniel Baker and Aaron Meicht, (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Ruined at the Huntington); projection design by Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew (Relevance and Informed Consent both directed by Liesl Tommy); and dramaturgy by Phaedra Michelle Scott (Skeleton Crew and Merrily We Roll Along at the Huntington). Production stage manager is Emily F. McMullen; stage manager is Meg Tracy Leddy.

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ABOUT THE HUNTINGTON THEATRE COMPANY
The Huntington Theatre Company is Boston’s leading professional theatre and one of the region’s premier cultural assets since its founding in 1982. Recipient of the 2013 Regional Theatre Tony Award, the Huntington brings together superb local and national talent and produces a mix of groundbreaking new works and classics made current to create award-winning productions. The Huntington runs nationally renowned programs in education and new play development and serves the local theatre community through its operation of the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA. The Huntington has long been an anchor cultural institution of Huntington Avenue, the Avenue of the Arts, and will remain so on a permanent basis with plans to convert the Huntington Avenue Theatre into a first-rate, modern venue with expanded services to audiences, artists, and the community. Under the direction of Artistic Director Peter DuBois and Managing Director Michael Maso, the Huntington cultivates, celebrates, and champions theatre as an art form. For more information, visit huntingtontheatre.org.

PRODUCTION INFORMATION AND CALENDAR

WHEN
April 20 – May 20, 2018
Evening: Tue. – Thu. at 7:30pm; Fri. – Sat. at 8pm; select Sun. at 7pm
Matinee: Select Wed., Sat., and Sun. at 2pm
Days and times vary; see complete schedule below.
Press Opening: Wednesday, April 25, 6:30pm. RSVP online.

WHERE
Avenue of the Arts / Huntington Avenue Theatre, 264 Huntington Avenue, Boston

TICKETS
Single tickets starting at $25 and FlexPasses are available:

  • online at huntingtontheatre.org;
  • by phone at 617 266 0800; or
  • in person at the Huntington Avenue Theatre Box Office, 264 Huntington Ave. and the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA Box Office, 527 Tremont St. in Boston’s South End.

 Select discounts apply:

  • $5 off: seniors (65+)
  • $30 “35 Below” tickets for patrons 35 years old and younger (valid ID required)
  • $20 student and military tickets (valid ID required)

SPECIAL EVENTS FOR TOP GIRLS

POST-SHOW AUDIENCE CONVERSATIONS
After select Fri. – Sun. evening, Wed. matinee, Sat. matinee, and Sun. matinee performances throughout the run. An opportunity for audience members to discuss what they have seen, led by members of the Huntington staff.

35 BELOW AFTER PARTY
Friday, April 20 after the 8pm performance
A post-show party for culturally minded patrons ages 35 and under, featuring backstage access, free refreshments, and live entertainment. Mingle with members of the cast, creative team, and Huntington staff. 35 Below tickets are available at all performances to patrons 35 and under for just $30.

COMMUNITY MEMBERSHIP RECEPTION
Thursday, April 26 at 6pm, prior to the 7:30pm performance
Huntington Community Members are invited to a free pre-show reception on Thursday, April 26. Includes complimentary food and drinks.  Attendees have an opportunity to learn about the Huntington season and meet other interested theatregoers. Tickets to the 7:30pm performance of Top Girls should be purchased separately.

The Huntington Community Membership Initiative is a program designed to reduce the cost barrier of attending live theatre for those with limited income. The program’s goal is to diversify audiences to better represent the city of Boston. Community Members can purchase tickets to any available seat at any performance without restriction for just $20.

STUDENT MATINEE
Thursday, May 3 at 10am
For students in grades 9–12. Tickets: $15.
Student matinees include a pre-show, in-school visit, a curriculum guide, a post-show Actors Forum, and a “Dramatic Returns” card for each student. Call 617 273 1558 for more information

ASL-INTERPRETED PERFORMANCES
Thursday, May 3 at 10am
Friday, May 4 at 8pm
The Huntington Theatre Company offers ASL interpretation for the Deaf and hard-of-hearing at designated performances.

Seating for ASL-interpretation is in the orchestra, house left. Tickets are $20 each for Deaf patrons and a guest. To reserve tickets, contact the Access Coordinator at 617 273 1558, or by email.

AUDIO DESCRIBED PERFORMANCES
Thursday, May 3 at 10am
Saturday, May 5 at 2pm
Audio Description is a live narration of the visual aspects of a performance. It is broadcast via radio transmitter to patrons, who wear a single headphone receiver enabling them to hear both the on-stage dialogue and the describer's narration.

Headsets must be reserved and limited seating is available. Braille and large print programs are available at the performances. Plan to arrive 30 minutes early for audio described program notes and set description. Guide dogs are welcome. Tickets are $20 for each blind/low-vision patron and a guest. To reserve tickets and headsets, contact the Access Coordinator at 617 273 1558 or email. 

ACTORS FORUMS
Thursday, May 3 after the 10am performance
Thursday, May 10 after the 7:30pm performance
Wednesday, May 16 after the 2pm performance
Audience members can meet members of the Top Girls cast after the performance to ask questions .

HUMANITIES FORUM
Sunday, May 6 after the 2pm performance
Audiences explore Top Girls with a guest expert after the performance.

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