Bristol Riverside Theatre Presents Skeleton Crew by Tony Nominee Dominique Morriseau

-Courtesy of Aversa PR & Events
Feature photo: Lisa Strum, Joell Weil, Marquis Wood, and Malik Childs in Skeleton Crew

Bristol Riverside Theatre’s (120 Radcliffe Street) 35th Anniversary Season continues with Bucks County premiere of TONY Nominee (Ain’t Too Proud) Dominique Morriseau’s timely play about four Detroit auto workers, Skeleton Crew. This OBIE Award recipient and multiple Audelco Award winner in its 2016 premiere at Atlantic Theatre Company in New York is the third play in her Detroit Project (A three play cycle that includes Paradise Blue and Detroit ‘67). The BRT production is directed by Cameron Knight, the new head of the BFA Acting Program at Rutgers University and features an ensemble of actors making their BRT debuts. Skeleton Crew runs November 2nd to November 21st. Opening Night is Thursday, November 4 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 to $50, with discounts available for students and military. A limited number of $10 tickets are available for Bristol Township residents courtesy of Flager & Associates, PC. As always, Bristol Borough residents can receive $5 tickets for preview performances. For this show, audience members must show proof of vaccinations and wear a mask. For tickets and health protocols, visit brtstage.org or call 215-785-0100.

In this riveting play, four Detroit auto workers panic as rumors that their factory is closing circulate through the tight-knit work community. With their futures unknown, each of the workers must make difficult choices about loyalty to each other, the company, and themselves. In this timely play by MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” recipient Dominique Morisseau, who also spent three seasons as a co-producer of Showtime’s Shameless, audiences go back to the start of the Great Recession where one of the last auto stamping plants in Detroit is on shaky ground. Each of the workers have to make choices on how to move forward. Shanita has to decide how she’ll support herself and her unborn child, Faye has to decide how and where she’ll live, and Dez has to figure out how to make his ambitious dreams a reality. Power dynamics shift as their manager Reggie is torn between doing right by his work family, and by the red tape in his office. This powerful and tense play showcases the families we make at work and how we bring each other through the hard times when dynamics shift.

“We saw this play in New York and immediately thought this would be the perfect play to bring to Bristol,” said BRT Producing Director Ken Kaissar. “The characters in this play are not only hardworking, they are also very caring and they think of each other as family. They are a tight knit community, and that’s exactly how we think of Bristol, a tight knit community. So we thought our audience would really connect with and appreciate this play.”

Cameron Knight is at the helm of this Bucks County premiere. Everyone involved in the show is making their BRT debut. His cast includes Malik Childs as Dez. Childs is a Detroit native. He recently appeared in Soft by Donja R. Love and Orlando by Sarah Ruhl produced by Williamstown Theatre Festival. He will make his off-Broadway debut in the spring with Roundabout Theatre Company. Lisa Strum plays Faye. She appeared in Sweat at People’s Light. She also was in Lines in the Dust directed by Awoye Timpo and starred as Rose in Fences with the REP and Virginia REP. Joell Well plays Shanita. She appeared in Little Rock (Off Broadway), Dreamgirls (Village Theatre), and Grease (5th Ave Theatre). Marquis Wood plays Reggie. Wood is a classically trained actor, singer, and rapper. He was in the original cast of Black No More and was the lead in No Doubt on Amazon Prime.

The set is designed by Britton Mauk. He is a Pittsburgh-based scenic designer. He designed two world premieres The Burdens at City Theatre and Old Man and the Sea at Pittsburgh Playhouse. Bay Area based designer Sarah Smith is designing the costumes. She designed costumes for the filmed production of The Catastrophist. Chicago based designer Jared Gooding is the Lighting Designer. Before the pandemic, he designed The Agitators at Remy Bumbo Theater and Clybourne Park at University of Indiana NW. The Sound Designer is Michael Keck. Pre-pandemic, Keck designed The Children at Seattle Repertory Theatre and Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express at Indiana Repertory Theatre.

Having Knight at the helm of a BRT show has been something Producing Director Ken Kaissar has wanted to see happen. Years ago, Kaissar met Knight when Knight taught in North Carolina and Kaissar shadowed one of his acting Shakespeare classes. Kaissar noticed how Knight worked with actors and was impressed. He wanted to work with Knight. Skeleton Crew opened the door for it. Knight is currently the head of the BFA Acting Program at Rutgers University.

“He was amazing with the actors,” said Kaissar. “The work he got from them was just beautiful, and I thought, I’ve got to work with this director someday. So when we needed a director for Skeleton Crew he was an obvious choice. Cameron taught at my Alma Mater, Carnegie Mellon, and now he is the new Head of BFA Acting at Rutgers University. They are definitely lucky to have a teacher of his caliber teaching there, and we are so fortunate to have him in Bristol working on this show.”

Knight is excited about his time at BRT and he is looking forward to directing this searing play.  “The people and the leadership are wonderful (at BRT),” said Knight. “Dominique Morriseau masterfully captures the stories, the people at the heart of our country’s struggles, hopes and dreams. It is an honor to work on this play. Being from Michigan, it is a dream to bring stories like these to more audiences. I hope that a conversation is sparked that they carry with them about what is at stake and who we are in the high and low moments of our lives,” said Knight. “We are intertwined and share much more than we often want to admit. I hope we can shed some light on that and provoke thought and conversation which can lead to action.”

Now in their second show of this season. BRT is enjoying having a bustling, open theatre again. The theatre is looking forward to bringing audiences back again.  “We love having audiences back in our space. This time they can expect a very intelligent and beautifully written script by Dominique Morisseau filled with lots of heart,” said Kaissar. “The four-person acting ensemble is incredible, and this is a chance to see top-notch acting up close and personal. The play is a wonderful comment on the resilience of the human spirit. The struggles are real and relatable, and watching the characters navigate their predicaments is ultimately very uplifting and inspiring.”

Honorary Associate Producers for Skeleton Crew are Andrew and Harriet Singer.

HEALTH AND SAFETY PROTOCOLS
For the production of Skeleton Crew all audience members will be required to wear masks at all times when inside the theatre and show proof of full vaccination with a matching identification. Full vaccination means the performance date must be at least 14 days after the second dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine, or at least 14 days after a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine. For future shows, please stay tuned for continued updates that follow CDC, state and local guidelines.

For continued COVID protocols, BRT has upgraded its filtration to a MERV-13 as recommended by the CDC. The theatre will continue thorough and more frequent disinfection with CDC recommended products and special attention to high-touch areas. The theatre has installed touchless paper towel dispensers in all bathrooms. Hand sanitizer will be available in the lobby at all times. Updated health and safety protocols will be updated on the website during the season for each show and special event.

WHAT’S NEXT
Skeleton Crew is followed by BRT’s popular holiday special event, An American Christmas Songbook (December 9 to December 19, 2021). In the new year, audiences will experience a  mystery between two high school students in Lauren Gunderson’s I and You (January 25 to February 13, 2022). Next, audiences will roar with  laughter at the hilarious Ken Ludwig’s A Comedy of Tenors (March 8 to March 27, 2022). The season closes with Aaron Sorkin’s searing masterpiece A Few Good Men (May 3 to May 22, 2022).

Subscriptions for the 2021-22 season are still available starting at $124. Single tickets are also on sale starting at $43.

ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT
Dominique Morisseau (Playwright)  is the author of The Detroit Project (A 3-Play Cycle) which includes the following plays: Skeleton Crew (Atlantic Theater Company), Paradise Blue (Signature Theatre), and Detroit ’67 (Public Theater, Classical Theatre of Harlem and NBT). Additional plays include: Pipeline (Lincoln Center Theatre), Sunset Baby (LAByrinth Theatre); Blood at the Root (National Black Theatre) and Follow Me To Nellie’s (Premiere Stages). She is also the TONY nominated book writer on the new Broadway musical Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations (Imperial Theatre). Dominique is alumna of The Public Theater Emerging Writer’s Group, Women’s Project Lab, and Lark Playwrights Workshop and has developed work at Sundance Lab, Williamstown Theatre Festival and Eugene O’Neil Playwrights Conference. She most recently served as Co-Producer on the Showtime series “Shameless” (3 seasons). Additional awards include: Spirit of Detroit Award, PoNY Fellowship, Sky-Cooper Prize, TEER Trailblazer Award, Steinberg Playwright Award, Audelco Awards, NBFT August Wilson Playwriting Award, Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama, OBIE Award (2), Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellowship, Variety’s Women of Impact for 2017-18, and a recent MacArthur Genius Grant Fellow.

ABOUT THE DIRECTOR
Cameron Knight (Director) Is an Associate Professor and the Head of Acting, Rutgers University, Mason Gross School of the Arts. Directing credits include: Richard III (Utah Shakespeare Festival), Shakespeare in Love (Hope Summer rep), A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Down in the face of God, A movie star has to star in black and white, Suddenly last summer (UNCSA), Othello, Twelfth Night, Pericles (Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival), Julius Caesar (Academy for Classical Acting) Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet (DePaul University), Seven Guitars, Once on this Island (Carnegie Mellon University) Underneath the Lintel (12 Peers theatre). Theatre credits include: Resident Ensemble Players, Teatro Vista, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Texas Shakespeare Festival, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, Michigan Shakespeare Festival, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, The Kennedy Center. Acting credits include: Othello in Othello, Dogberry in Much ado about Nothing, Booth in Top dog/underdog, Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, John Worthing in The Importance of Being Earnest, Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hud in Hair, Bill Walker in Major Barbara, Cory in Fences. Television: The Orville, Chicago Med, Intrusion. Film: Widows, The World Without You, Sister Carrie. Voice-overs and commercial credits include: Kellogg’s Raisin Bran, Honey Nut Cheerios, Dodge Ram, PBS, Pennsylvania Lottery and Subway.

ABOUT THE ACTORS
Malik Childs
(Dez) was born and raised on the East-Side of Detroit, MI. and attended Cass Technical High School. He graduated in May 2019 from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Alumni of Williamstown Theatre Festival, 2019.  Recent productions include, Soft by Donja R. Love and Orlando by Sarah Ruhl produced by Williamstown Theatre Festival; Brother Size and The Hairy Ape at UNCSA. Malik is also set to make his Off-Broadway debut with the Roundabout Theater Spring 2022. “I am overjoyed to tell stories that celebrate, dismantle, and uplift the people of my community. Beyond blessed to do a show based on my home by one of my favorite playwrights. All love to Detroit.”

Lisa Strum (Faye) recently starred in Lines in the Dust directed by Awoye Timpo. Starred as Rose in Fences with the REP and Virginia REP, the Michigan Premiere of Pipeline at Detroit Public Theatre, and Sweat at People’s Light. Her solo play, She Gon’ Learn had sold out performances at United Solo Festival on Theatre Row, and received a Best Solo Show Award.  She directed Baltimore for Ramapo College (Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Award). At Five Towns College, she directed Sweat, Flyin’ West and For Colored Girls… (Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Award). She directed Fall at Ensemble Studio Theatre. TV: Law & Order: SVU, New Amsterdam, The Blacklist, and Citizen Baines. Awards: Finalist for the Doric Wilson Playwright Award; Recipient of the Djerassi Resident Artists Program; Nominated for a New York Innovative Theatre Award, and received a Broadway World Best Actress Award for FENCES. In 2022 Lisa will direct BLKS by Aziza Barnes at the University of Iowa, and will premiere her new play, By the Way… with the Obie Award Winning Fire This Time Festival.

Joell Weill (Shanita) is thrilled to be joining the cast of Skeleton Crew!  She is excited to be coming back to the stage after a global shutdown, with such a beautiful show and cast. Past productions include Little Rock (Off Broadway) Dreamgirls (Village Theatre), Grease (5th Ave Theatre). She can also be seen on Law and order: SVU and Kevin Can Wait. She received her BFA in Music Theatre from Carnegie Mellon. Much love and thanks to Cameron for this opportunity.

Marquis Wood (Reggie) is an Actor, Singer, Rapper, and classically-trained dancer with credits spanning theater, film, and Hip-Hop. He brought his quadruple threat talent to the original cast of Black No More, dir. Scott Elliott, music/lyrics Tariq Trotter (Black Thought), and produced by Jeffrey Seller (Hamilton). He was in the original workshop of Black Orpheus (George C. Wolfe). Recent Film projects include the lead in No Doubt “Amazon Prime”, and second lead in Opening Night “Netflix”. Spike Lee also hand-picked Marquis as a rapper to include on the soundtrack of She’s Gotta Have “Netflix”. He has toured regionally with productions of Hairspray and the Operetta The Student Prince. When he’s not performing, Marquis enjoys Meditation, Yoga, and Sour Patch Kids.

ABOUT BRISTOL RIVERSIDE THEATRE
Since 1986, BRT has continued to bring acclaimed theatre to Bucks County. The theatre is the recipient of over 71 Barrymore Award nominations. Now under the direction of Producing directors Amy and Ken Kaissar, and General Manager David J. Abers, the theatre serves as a cultural hub for the community. In addition to its mainstage productions, BRT offers the William Penn Bank Summer Music Fest, the holiday tradition An American Christmas Songbook concert, the new play development series America Rising, the summer theatre arts camp ArtRageous, and a range of education programs for local youth. For information, visit www.brtstage.org.

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