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South Philadelphia-based theater company, Theatre Exile, is proud to announce three in-person productions for its 2021/22 season, including one world premiere. The season represents Theatre Exile’s 25th year of presenting gritty, provocative plays. Theatre Exile’s artistic team selected three playwrights who use hope and humor to tell compelling stories of characters finding salvation through human connection. These shows tell stories in line with Theatre Exile’s 25-year tradition of producing provocative plays that explore the complexities of the human condition. They also contain a sense of the grit and passion audience members have come to expect from Theatre Exile.
A major theme found throughout the season is daring to do the impossible. In Extreme Home Makeover, the Vega family goes to great lengths for a chance to appear on the famous home renovation TV series of the same name. This inspirational story by up-and-coming Texas-based playwright Makasha Copeland follows a modern Mexican-American family that attempts to achieve the American dream at any cost. This presentation of Extreme Home Makeover will be a world premiere.
In The Motherf**ker with the Hat, the characters come to terms with their personal truths as they navigate a morally ambiguous world. After his release from prison, Jackie moves into his childhood sweetheart’s apartment as he tries to start his life anew. He’s working to overcome his addictions with the help of his sponsor Ralph D. but is soon confronted by familiar demons when he discovers another man’s hat in his apartment. Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis, this modern theater classic uses sharp, unflinching whit as it examines the limits of love and friendship in the face of societal pressures and addiction.
In Theatre Exile’s final show of the season, hope comes from a renewed sense of purpose. Award-winning screenwriter and playwright Susan Soon He Stanton’s Today is My Birthday is an eccentric comedy that follows an out-of-work writer named Emily, who returns home to Hawaii after her life in New York City falls apart. Feeling unfulfilled, Emily creates an alter-ego for a radio dating show in a desperate attempt to turn fantasy into reality. Told through a unique blend of live radio, voicemail, and phone calls, this timely and adventurous show is about Emily attempting to break free from isolation.
On September 11, 2021, Theatre Exile will present the world premiere of The Ever Present, an original family-friendly play by R. Eric Thomas commissioned through Theatre Exile’s Out of Exile program. The free outdoor engagement will run through September 19, 2021. In Spring 2022, there will be additional programming through Studio X-hibition, which will highlight three notable playwrights with readings of their scripts. These readings provide an opportunity for playwrights to see their work performed for a live audience and receive constructive critiques. This year’s readings include abSolution by Philadelphia based playwright Brendan Dahl, Saturday Mourning Cartoons by New Jersey playwright Iraisa Ann Reilly, and Abandon by Philadelphia-based playwright, director, and performer James Ijames. Theatre Exile has already committed to present the world premiere of Abandon for its 2022-23 season.
Following current CDC recommendations and city guidelines, Theatre Exile will require audiences and staff to wear masks and show proof of vaccination for all indoor performances. All artists and staff will be vaccinated, and Theatre Exile will limit seating to provide distance between audience members.
A Season 25 Years in the Making
For 25 years, Theatre Exile has remained dedicated to cultivating the future of theater and enhancing the cultural experiences of Philadelphians through the staging of bold productions. Founded by Joe Canuso and Trish Kelly in 1996, Theatre Exile has produced over 100 plays, presented 23 world premieres, and earned 19 Barrymore Awards. Theatre Exile’s successful pivot to virtual productions during last year’s lockdown allowed the company to reach new audiences and garnered critical praise from national publications, including the New York Times and American Theatre.
When Canuso and Kelly first launched Theatre Exile, their goal was to create an artist-centric theater company that produced shows to challenge the status quo. In May 1996, they presented their inaugural show with the world premiere of The Further Adventures of the Gavonne Family, written by local playwright Joseph Sorrentino. Canuso and Kelly continued to work with Sorrentino and produced two more of his plays as part of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival (now FringeArts). It was here that Canuso and Kelly met future Exile Producing Artistic Director Deborah Block, who was the program director of the Fringe at the time.
Theatre Exile continued to move away from traditional plays in favor of newer, edgier works from highly regarded local playwrights, including Bruce Graham and John Lumia. In 2005, team members Matt Pfeiffer and Brenna Geffers helped Theatre Exile build a subscription-based model, furthering the young theater company’s efforts to create a more sustainable business model.
In 2006, Block was hired as Theatre Exile’s new Co-Artistic Director while Canuso prepared to direct Exile’s most daring production yet: Killer Joe, a dark and violent comedy written by Tracy Letts. Brought to Theatre Exile by Pfeiffer, the show solidified Theatre Exile’s bold and cinematic artistic vision. The show received seven Barrymore Award nominations and won two.
In its early days, Theatre Exile’s office was headquartered in South Philadelphia, while its shows were presented on local stages throughout the city. In 2008, Kelly found a building at 1340 S 13th Street with enough room for administrative offices and rehearsal space to develop their shows. A year later, they established a black box theater that they dubbed Studio X, which would be used to present a production of Rona Munro’s Iron directed by Block in the 2010/11 season. The new black box theater provided Theatre Exile with a stage to present intimate productions. Studio X also allowed Exile to create its new play development program, Studio X-hibition. Since its inception in 2010, Theatre Exile has contributed to the development of over 27 plays, 15 of which were later produced for regional and national audiences. Through another program, Out of Exile, Theatre Exile commissions playwrights to create an original play for theatergoers of all ages.
In 2013, Theatre Exile entered a new phase when Block assumed the role of Producing Artistic Director. When she accepted the position, Block was adamant that she didn’t intend to change the company’s artistic mission. Instead, she wanted to expand on the original goal by featuring artistic voices from more diverse backgrounds. Since then, Exile has helped bring nationally recognized playwrights to Theatre Exile’s stage, presenting critically acclaimed plays from Anna Moench, Rajiv Joseph, Antoinette
Nwandu, Hansol Jung, Ayad Akhtar, Jackie Sibblies Drury, and more. Additionally, Block advocated for direct outreach throughout South Philadelphia to strengthen Exile’s connection with the local community and maintain its core audience.
In 2017, Theatre Exile reached a new milestone after completing its first full season presented in Studio X. During this time, the staff received news that their building was slated for demolition and would be renovated as new residences. Block convinced the developers to include a new theater space for Theatre Exile in the new building plans. Theatre Exile then returned to the location in early 2019 and presented Tim Crouch’s Oak Tree as the inaugural show in the new space with Caruso directing.
To this day, Theatre Exile strives to reach new theater audiences throughout the community by presenting both new works as well as established plays that are often reinterpreted in original ways. These productions emphasize freedom of expression formulated through innovation, exploration, and provocation. At the same time, Theatre Exile provides a safe and creative environment where local artists can grow, experiment, and find their own voice.
2021/22 Season Shows & Ticket Information
*World Premiere* Extreme Home Makeover
October 28 – November 21, 2021
Extreme Home Makeover by Makasha Copeland paints a human portrait of a contemporary Tejano family willing to go to the extreme for a spot on the popular, rags-to-riches TV show of the same name. Following the Vega family who must fight to make their video application stand out, this earnest satire explores family dynamics in the face of financial hardship. Extreme Home Makeover is a beautifully complex, bold, funny, and hopeful story about a family striving for the American dream and begs the question – in a world where so many receive so little, how much do miracles cost? Opening night is set for Wednesday, November 3, 2022, at 8 p.m.
The Motherf**ker with the Hat
February 3 – 27, 2022
Just released from prison, Jackie lives with his childhood sweetheart Veronica and is staying clean with the help from his too-smooth sponsor Ralph D. Things are looking up for Jackie until he spots another man’s hat in their apartment. The Motherf**ker with the Hat by Pulitzer Prize-winner Stephen Adly Guirgis is a fast-paced, brutally funny, foul-mouthed look at modern love, friendship, addiction, and the challenges of adulthood. The Tony Award-nominated show made its Broadway debut in 2011. Opening Night is set for Wednesday, February 9, 2022, at 8 p.m.
Today is My Birthday
April 28 – May 22, 2022
Today is My Birthday is about life with a thousand friends on Facebook and no one to have dinner with on Saturday night. This quirky comedy by award-winning screenwriter and playwright Susan Soon He Stanton tells the story of would-be writer Emily, who moves back home to Hawaii after her bubble life in New York pops. As she trades one island for another, Emily, feeling unfulfilled, creates an alter-ego for a radio dating show, determined to turn fantasy into reality. Today is My Birthday, told through a playful mixture of live radio, voicemail, and phone calls, is about finding true human connection in a digital obsessed world. Opening Night is set for May 4, 2022, at 8 p.m.
Subscription sales are available online, with packages starting at just $45. You can also purchase tickets by calling the Theatre Exile box office at 215-218-4022. Programming and scheduling is subject to change based on the latest CDC recommendations. For more information on Theatre Exile’s latest health and safety protocols, please visit http://www.theatreexile.org/safety.
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