Bristol Riverside Theatre Brings Mind-Blowing I and You To Audiences January 25-February 13

-Courtesy of Aversa PR & Events
Photo: JJ Wilks and Silvia Dionicio, by BRT Staff

Bristol Riverside Theatre (120 Radcliffe Street) kicks off the year with the local premiere of Lauren Gunderson’s mind-blowing I and You. This mysterious play about two high school students who uncover their connection to each other is directed by Gia Forakis. The show runs January 25-February 13. Opening Night is Thursday, January 27 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $43, with discounts available for students and military. For this show, audience members must show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test (PCR or Antigen) taken within 48 hours of the performance start time. You must also wear a mask. For tickets and health protocols, visit brtstage.org or call 215-785-0100.

“We actually selected this play before the pandemic,” said BRT Producing Director Amy Kaissar. “At the time we picked it because it was just such a great ride with a big fat juicy twist at the end that had us all immediately flipping back to the beginning to read it again. Each person on staff who read it, immediately handed it to the next person with a ‘you have to stop what you’re doing and read this’.”

Today, the play resonates on many previously unexpected levels. It’s about a teenager who, because she is immuno-comprimised, is attending school remotely. “While it was written before Zoom School was a thing, it still speaks to all the social challenges and isolation of what quarantine means,” said Kaissar. “ While postponing a production is not something you hope for, in this case I think it’s going to make the experience even richer for the audience.”

Homebound due to illness, Caroline hasn’t been to school in months. When Anthony, a high school athlete, arrives unexpectedly at her door bearing a beat-up copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass with an urgent assignment from their English teacher, Caroline’s back goes up. She is quick and sardonic, Anthony athletic and sensitive. As these two let down their guards and share their secrets, this seemingly mundane poetry project unlocks the much deeper mystery that has brought them together. I and You is an ode to youth, life, love, and the strange beauty of human connectedness. The end will leave you speechless.

Gia Forakis makes her Bristol Riverside debut directing this two person show. Kaissar met Forakis roughly 15 years ago, when they were both part of the Women’s Project Lab, a two two-year program in NYC in which future female leaders of the field (their class included the Wilma’s Leigh Goldenberg, Lear DeBessonet, Katori Hall, and Maria Goyanes, among others), gather regularly to collaborate, learn, and share experiences. While they have long wanted to collaborate, I and You marks the first time they will work together.

“We’ve sort of been ships passing in the night until now,” said Kaissar. “As soon as I read I and You, Gia jumped to mind. She’s an exceptional storyteller who dives deep into the kinds of nuances and details that will make this story sing. She plays with metaphor and unconventional visual storytelling but also nuanced psychological acting. I’m really excited to bring her to BRT for the first time.”

The company’s many other Bristol debuts include: Actors Silvia Dionicio and JJ Wilks as Caroline and Anthony, Set Designer Lee Savage, (who designed the set for The Lightning Thief on Broadway), Lighting Designer Carolina Ortiz Herrera, and Projection Designer Yana Biryukova. The company’s Resident Costume Designer Linda Bee Stockton is the costume designer and Michael Keck returns after recently designing Skeleton Crew as the Sound Designer.

ABOUT THE CAST
Silvia Dionicio (Caroline) is making her debut at Bristol Riverside Theatre and she’s excited to bring life to Caroline. In 2016 the Dominican government granted her a unique scholarship to move and study acting in NYC. Ever since she’s performed all around the city, and in 2020 was part of the New York Times Critics Pick in the Off Broadway show Fandango for Butterflies and Coyotes (LaMama and; Tour). She’s also performed in the Off-Broadway shows: The Last Jew of Boyle Heights (Actor’s Temple), Black Panther Women (NYTW), among others. Additionally, Dionicio is quickly making a name for herself on Film/TV: Legacy (Sundance), New Amsterdam (NBC), Wu-Tang (HULU), Grave’s Mysteries (ID) and In Pursuit (Amazon Studios). IG: @silviadionicio

JJ Wilks (Anthony) is ecstatic to be back onstage! A recent graduate of SUNY Purchase. Regional: Waterwell, Shakespeare on the Sound. Proud company member of Family Life Theatre. Endless love and thanks to his family, best friends, About Artists Agency, and the entire I and You team! He dedicates this performance to his artistic hero, Jill Echo.

ABOUT THE DIRECTOR
Gia Forakis is recognized as a stage director and avant garde theater artist, creating vividly engaging and physically dynamic works for the stage, and art events. She is also founding Artistic Director of GF&CO, (a Brooklyn, NY-based, not-for-profit studio-lab and collective of professional theater artists founded in 2011, dedicated to the creation of performance projects and art events, and to the application of the One-Thought-One-Action (OTOA)™ performance technique). Selected Directing Credits Include: The GF&CO 3C-Video, THIS IS NOT A CURE (available at www.GFandCO.org); LOVE IN SPACE-TIME: by G.Forakis (Developmental Residencies include: TheaterLab Hotel New Works, NYC, and GF&CO MonkeyTime, Alchemical, NYC); SONG FROM THE UPROAR: by composer Missy Mazzoli (Opera World Premiere, Beth Morrison Projects, The Kitchen, NYC; Remount, RED CAT Theatre, LA Opera); O.REX: a “Greek-Noir” vision of Sophocles ’Oedipus Rex’ (GF&CO, NYC, conceived by G.Forakis. Translated by M. Buchan & G. Forakis) Alchemical, NYC; FATELESSNESS, an Original Adaptation of Imre Kertesz, Nobel Prize winning novel, HERE Arts Center, NYC (Co-Production: SceneHouse & GF&CO, adapted for the stage by A. Boncz and G. Forakis. Nominated New York Innovative Theater Awards Best Solo Performance); THE SEAGULL: A COMEDY IN FOUR ACTS by Anton Chekhov. NAATCO, NYC; LOVE PERSON by Aditi Brennan Kapil (National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere) Marin Theatre Company, Mill Valley, CA; BLUE BEFORE MORNING by Kate McGovern (World Premiere terraNOVA Collective, NYC. Nominated for seven New York Innovative Theater Awards, including Outstanding Director); THE RIVALS by Richard B. Sheridan (Hudson Valley Shakespeare, Cold Spring, NY); ACTS OF MERCY: PASSION-PLAY by Michael John Garcés (Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre, NYC); Shakespeare’s THE WINTER’S TALE (Milwaukee Shakespeare); Gia holds an MFA from the Yale David Geffen School of Drama in Directing, and a BFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts Graduate Acting Program. Gia is the Founder & Master Teacher of the OTOA™ Performance Technique. She is a member of SDC (Stage Directors & Choreographers Society). www.GiaForakis.com

ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT
Lauren Gunderson is the 2014 winner of the Steinberg/ATCA New Play award and was a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for I and You.  She studied Southern Literature and Drama at Emory University, and Dramatic Writing at NYU’s Tisch School where she was a Reynolds Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship. Her work has been commissioned, produced and developed at companies across the US including South Coast Rep (Emilie, Silent Sky), The Kennedy Center (The Amazing Adventures of Dr. Wonderful And Her Dog!), The O’Neill, Denver Center, Berkeley Rep, Shotgun Players, TheatreWorks, Crowded Fire, San Francisco Playhouse, Marin Theatre, Synchronicity, Olney Theatre, Geva and more. Her work is published at Playscripts (I and You, Exit, Pursued By A Bear, and Toil And Trouble) and Samuel French (Emilie). She is a Playwright in Residence at The Playwrights Foundation, and a proud Dramatists Guild member. She is from Atlanta, GA and lives in San Francisco. Learn more at LaurenGunderson.com and @LalaTellsAStory.

HEALTH AND SAFETY PROTOCOLS
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 ID (a photo or copy of your vaccination card is acceptable) OR proof of a negative COVID-19 test (PCR or Antigen) taken within 48 hours of the performance start time.

*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.

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