Sanitation Workers Take Center Stage in World Premiere at Philadelphia Theatre Company

-Courtesy of Aversa PR & Events
Image courtesy of Philadelphia Theatre Company

Honoring our essential workers, Philadelphia Theatre Company welcomes audiences back to the Suzanne Roberts Theatre for in-person theatre with a hopeful story about finding common ground in the most uncommon places. PTC is thrilled to kick-off its 2021-2022 season with the Co-World Premiere of Lindsay Joelle’s The Garbologists, from November 11 to December 5, 2021, with opening night on Wednesday, November 17th.

This timely and relevant Co-World Premiere with Pittsburgh’s City Theatre features a white, conservative, proud union member and a Black, liberal, ivy-educated newbie who just joined the sanitation route. When they find something on the curb too valuable to throw away, they’re forced to re-evaluate each other and accept each other on their own terms. 

Directed by Brooklyn-based Estefanía Fadul, The Garbologists stars Bensalem native Ngozi Anyanwu, making their Philadelphia region debut, joined by Philadelphia favorite Steven Rishard. Tickets are on sale now starting at $35. PTC continues its 10Tix program, supported by PNC Arts Alive, providing a select number of seats at $10 for every performance. As a thank you for their bravery and perseverance during the pandemic, those who identify as essential workers will have advance access to a reserved set of 10Tix for each performance. Tickets are available at or by phone at 215-985-0420. All shows are performed at PTC’s home at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre, 480 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19146.

“When I first read The Garbologists, the writing struck me as so deceptively funny, yet the themes of the play were really deep,” said PTC Producing Artistic Director Paige Price (she/her). “It was 2018, and we were talking about how relevant this show was even then. I mean, the metaphors about what people toss aside and how one person’s trash is another’s treasure. It sounded like pure gold, couched in an intimate buddy comedy with two unlikely truck mates. It just felt so fresh and I knew audiences who were just getting their theatre sea legs would really enjoy this world premiere. I had no idea several years later this story would become so timely and relevant during the pandemic.”

In the story, Danny is a white, blue-collar mansplainer hiding a heart of gold. Marlowe is a Black, Ivy League-educated newbie who just joined his route. When these two polar opposites are thrown together on Marlowe’s first day at the city sanitation department, they’re forced to find a steady rhythm, despite their differences. This odd couple starts their 6:00am shift trading barbs, one-upping each other and practicing the secret art of mongo: hunting for treasure in the trash. Somewhere along the route Danny slowly earns Marlowe’s trust by sharing hard-earned tricks of the trade. As Marlowe and Danny’s lives become increasingly entwined, their initial bickering gives way to a reluctant bond over the broken, beautiful things people discard in the trash.

For research for the production, the playwright went into the actual streets and back alleys of America with sanitation workers from around the county. Joelle said, “The Garbologists is the product of five years of research and fieldwork with sanitation workers who generously showed me around their trucks, garages, and (my favorite), the secret NYC Museum of Trash. The play’s world premiere was postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic, during which time sanitation men and women around the country proved how truly essential they are to our daily health and safety. Working one of the top five most dangerous jobs in the country, they are our nation’s unsung heroes, and I hope this funny, provocative, heartwarming play will shine a light on their stories.”

The Garbologists garnered several accolades ahead of its World Premiere, including an Ensemble Studio Theatre/Sloan Science and Technology Commission, 2020 Kilroys List, 2019 Kilroys List Honorable Mention, and a Susan Smith Blackburn Nomination.

For the Philadelphia production, Estefanía Fadul makes her PTC directorial debut at the helm of this hilarious World Premiere. She recently directed the Drama League Award nominated Carla’s Quince, created with The Voting Project. The Garbologists co-stars Ngozi Anyanwu making her PTC and Philadelphia-region debut as Marlowe. She is a Bensalem native and a playwright who most recently appeared in her own two-actor play The Last of the Love Letters at the Atlantic Theater Company, with Tony Award-nominee Daniel J. Watts. Steven Rishard co-stars in his return to PTC to play Danny. Rishard was last seen at PTC in Lisa D’Amour’s Detroit and his most recent stage appearance was in The Wilma Theater’s Describe The Night.

Christopher Ash (he/him) returns to PTC as the Scenic Designer, after most recently designing PTC’s production of Lynn Nottage’s Sweat. LeVonne Lindsay (she/her) and Alyssandra Docherty (she/her) were also on the creative team for Sweat, and they return to PTC as the Costume Designer and Lighting Designer, respectively. Docherty tours internationally as a lighting designer with Ballet X and Koresh Dance Company. Philadelphia Sound Designer and Composer Daniel Ison (he/him) is creating the sound for this world premiere. Alison Hassman (she/her), who served as Stage Manager for Everything is Wonderful at PTC in 2020, returns for the season. Clare Drobot (she/her), the co-Artistic Director at City Theatre is Dramaturg, Jamel Baker (he/him) is Production Assistant and Noelle Diane Johnson (she/her) will serve as EDI Officer for The Garbologists.

Following The Garbologists, the season continues in the new year with Tarell Alvin McCraney’s smash hit Choir Boy, set to run from February 18 to March 13, 2022. Choir Boy will be directed by PTC Resident Artist Jeffrey Page (he/him). The season concludes with the World Premiere of Madeline Sayet’s solo show, Where We Belong, from April 15 to May 8, 2022. Where We Belong launches a national tour with this production at PTC.

Tickets, subscriptions and more information can be found online at or by phone at 215-985-0420. Connect on social with Philadelphia Theatre Company at @philatheatreco on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

For the health and safety of patrons, cast, crew and staff, PTC will require that audience members present proof of vaccination and wear a mask while in the venue, aligning with the safety protocols outlined by Theatre Philadelphia. PTC is also offering reduced capacity seating in its mezzanine for audience members who would like to take an additional precaution at the theatre

ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT- Lindsay Joelle (she/her) is a playwright and screenwriter drawn to stories of misfits, rebels, and the un-assimilated.  Plays include TRAYF (Geffen ’22, Theater J, New Rep), The Messengers (Audible Theater audioplay), A Small History of Amal, Age 7 (Forward Flux/Pratidhwani), and The Garbologists (Philadelphia Theatre Company ’21, City Theatre ’22).  She has been awarded an Audible Theatre Emerging Playwright commission, Ensemble Studio Theatre / Sloan Foundation Science & Technology commission, Vital Theatre new musical commission, Irving Zarkower Award, and Goldberg MFA Playwriting Prize.  Originally from Chicago, Joelle received her BA from Columbia University and MFA from Hunter, studying under Tina Howe, Arthur Kopit, and Samuel D. Hunter.  Alumna of the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop, Nashville Repertory Theatre’s Ingram New Works Lab, and 2017-2018 NNPN Playwright-in-Residence at Curious Theatre.  Non-theatrical writing includes restaurant reviews for New York Magazine’s Grubstreet and the prep book Tutor Tells All: ACT Test

ABOUT THE DIRECTOR– Estefanía Fadul (Director, she/her) is a Brooklyn-based Colombian-American director and deviser of new work. Current and recent projects include Kamloopa by Kim Senklip Harvey (WAM), Carla’s Quince created with The Voting Project (Drama League Award nomination), Noelle Viñas’ Zoom Intervention (Weston Playhouse, NYTimes Critics Pick), Christina Quintana’s Azul (Southern Rep) and Scissoring (INTAR), Stefan Ivanov’s The Same Day (Sfumato Theatre, Bulgaria), and Preston Max Allen and Jessica Kahkoska’s musical Agent 355 (Chautauqua, NYSAF). Estefanía has developed new work off-Broadway and regionally at the Public Theater, Playwrights’ Realm, Long Wharf, Juilliard, Repertorio Español, and more. She is the inaugural recipient of New York Stage and Film’s Pfaelzer Award, and an alumna of the Clubbed Thumb Directing Fellowship, Drama League Directors Project, O’Neill/NNPN National Directors Fellowship, Van Lier Fellowship at Repertorio Español, and NALAC Leadership Institute. Estefanía is an artist with the Center for Performance and Civic Practice, and a member of the Drama League Directors Council, New Georges Jam, Latinx Theatre Commons advisory committee, Lincoln Center Directors Lab, and SDC. B.A. Vassar College.

ABOUT THE CAST- Steven Rishard (he/him) was last seen in Describe the Night, at the Wilma Theater. Here in Philadelphia, his other credits include work with Azuka Theater, Boycott Esther, and The Arsonists. With the Arden Theatre, Cabaret, and Doll’s House 2;  Straight White Men at Interact Theatre, The Few at Theatre Horizon, and Detroit at Philadelphia Theatre Company.  At the Wilma Theater, where he has been a HotHouse member since 2014, he has been in several plays including When the Rain Stops Falling,  Adapt!, Romeo and Juliet, and The Hard Problem. His New York credits include The Bacchae for The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park, In the Penal Colony at Classic Stage Company,  Luz at LA Mama Theatre, and with Division 13 Productions, Cascando. Also Journeys Among the Dead at H.E.R.E Art Space, and Act Without Words 1 at the Brooklyn Can Factory. TV credits include Law & Order, Treme, Law & Order: SVU, Kings, and The Americans. Film: Shelter (6 Souls), Joy D.Vee, and Hal Hartley’s Meanwhile. Look him up on Instagram @srishard.

Ngozi Anyanwu (Marlowe, she/her) most recently appeared at the Atlantic Theater Company in her play The Last of The Love Letters, in which she starred with Daniel J. Watts. She is a staff writer on AMERICANAH for HBOMax and Plan B, and recently developed a pilot with Juvee Productions and ABC Signature. In theater, she has commissions with NYU, The Old Globe and The Atlantic Theatre. Previously, her play Good Grief (Kilroys List 2016, semi finalist Princess Grace, Humanitas Award), in which Anyanwu also starred, recently ran Off-Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre and was produced at Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles in Spring 2017. Nike… (Kilroys List 2017) was recently workshopped at The New Black Fest in conjunction with The Lark and The Strand Festival in conjunction with A.C.T and Space on Ryder Farm. The Homecoming Queen (Kilroys List 2017, Leah Ryan Finalist) recently had its world premiere and a sold out run at the Atlantic Theater. Anyanwu has also received residencies from LCT3, Space on Ryder Farm, the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, The New Harmony Project, New York Stage and Film and Page 73. She attended Point Park University (BA) and received her MFA in Acting from University of California, San Diego.

ABOUT PHILADELPHIA THEATRE COMPANY- Philadelphia Theatre Company (PTC) is a leading regional theater company that produces, develops, and presents entertaining and imaginative contemporary theater focused on the American experience.

Founded in 1974, Philadelphia Theatre Company has presented 201 World and Philadelphia premieres. More than 50 percent of PTC’s world premieres have moved on to New York and other major cities, helping to earn Philadelphia a national reputation as a hub for new play development. In 2007, PTC was instrumental in expanding Philadelphia’s thriving cultural corridor by opening the Suzanne Roberts Theatre on the Avenue of the Arts.

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