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People’s Light presents the world premiere of Mushroom, an original play from Pulitzer Prize finalist and Mare of Easttown cast member Eisa Davis. In Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, “the mushroom capital of the world,” intersecting lives of immigrant families collide when a workplace injury, an unexpected romance, and the looming presence of immigration authorities have staggering ramifications for the entire community. Mushroom runs September 14 through October 16 on the Steinbright Stage. Single tickets are $47, including fees. To purchase, call 610.644.3500 or visit peopleslight.org. People’s Light is located at 39 Conestoga Road in Malvern, PA.
Major support for Mushroom has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from Lead Individual Sponsors Pat & Jane Lusk.
Developed in partnership with local communities, Mushroom invites audiences to contemplate and celebrate their own backyard in new ways. It is the fourth homegrown production to emerge from the New Play Frontiers Residency & Commission Program at People’s Light (NPF), following the hit plays Project Dawn, Mud Row, and Bayard Rustin Inside Ashland. NPF invites nationally renowned playwrights to immerse themselves in Southeastern Pennsylvania to create new plays that speak to both local communities and national interests.
Playwright Eisa Davis was among the first round of NPF commissioned writers back in 2013, when Kennett Square’s multimillion-dollar mushroom farming industry piqued her interest. Since then, the country and world have been rocked by numerous shocks to the system, but Davis and the Mushroom team have kept a finger on the pulse of the mushroom farming industry, its workers, and the systems that support them.
“This play is for our undocumented who withstand dangerous crossings, deleterious working conditions, poverty, and the threat of deportation in order to make a new life on this land,” Davis shares.
“What has struck me again and again is the resourcefulness and generosity of everyone I have encountered throughout Mushroom’s development. This corner of the world has been shaped not only by those who live here now but by the traditional Lenni Lenape ways, the Quaker sensibility, Underground Railroad station conductors. There are many reminders here that we must keep the doors open to freedom seekers, to care for each other. ”
A portion of the proceeds from Mushroom ticket sales will be donated to the local organizations that have served as key partners throughout the play’s development: LCH Health and Community Services, The Garage Community and Youth Center, Casa Guanajuato, and Alianzas de Phoenixville.
“For many, the mushroom industry may be seen as simple vegetable farming, but for me, it has transformed my life and the lives of thousands who seek a better future in their journey of life,” says Gonzalo Cano, Secretary of Casa Guanajuato in Kennett Square. “Working within all facets of the mushroom farming industry—growing, harvesting, human resources—I have seen my and others’ dreams reflected in daily tasks. Passing through the mushroom houses, or ‘doubles’ as they are called, they are full of people or ‘pickers’ harvesting not only mushrooms, but dreams. Sometimes there are joys, sometimes there is sadness, but in this place, you can see that there is a lot of hope.”
Mayra Castillo, Casa Guanajuato Vice President, shares this sentiment. “I love that the Hispanic community, especially those that have been working in the mushroom industry in Pennsylvania for so long, is finally being highlighted, honored, valued, and celebrated by a local organization!”
“How emocionante this is for us,” adds Nina M. Guzman, Executive Director of another partner organization, Alianzas de Phoenixville. “Our comunidad gets to see themselves in the true light of their struggle, humanity, and dignity without the filtering out of our realist passion and pain! We will be there with our hearts in our hands!”
Mushroom is performed in both English and Spanish—the first-ever bilingual production at People’s Light—with dialogue modeled on the way communities in Chester County, PA naturally move between languages. Every performance includes English supertitles for the parts of the play in Spanish, and Spanish supertitles for the parts of the play in English. Audiences are able to read these supertitles from anywhere in the theatre as translations are displayed above the audience seating on all sides of a thrust stage.
“Mushroom is unlike anything ever produced at People’s Light,” says Producing Artistic Director Zak Berkman. “Bilingual, inclusive of a fascinating intersection of people and stories, incorporating a collage of aesthetics that possess the energies and perspectives of multiple cultures—we hope this production makes Chester County feel a bit smaller, and more whole.”
“Our mission is to artistically, economically, and socially advance our local Latinx communities,” adds Associate Producer Nikko Kimzin. “From the start, Eisa and the creative team have approached this project in the spirit of curiosity, deep listening, and collaboration. We believe Mushroom will be a catalyst for a deeper discussion around immigrant experiences in this region.”
For director David Mendizábal, one of the first lines of the play has been a north star throughout the development and rehearsal process: “‘Listen, not just with your ears but with your whole body.’” Mendizábal continues, “Having just spent two years when we couldn’t gather in person, the opportunity to simply sit with each other and listen to the stories of our friends, families, and neighbors feels more important than ever.”
The cast of Mushroom features many newcomers, along with returning artists. Making their People’s Light debuts are Ahsan Ali as Natarajan, Janice Amaya as Third Person Omniscient, Laura Crotte as Lety, Maribel Martinez as Rain, Michael G. Martinez as Ignacio, and Kenia Munguia as Edit. Returning cast members include Todd Lawson (Bayard Rustin Inside Ashland, Personality: The Lloyd Price Musical) as Tyler and Angel Sigala (People’s Light teaching artist, member of the 2021 People’s Playback Ensemble) as Epifanio.
David Mendizábal (digital series America 2am) directs their first live production at People’s Light. Nikko Kimzin serves as Associate Producer. Efren Delgadillo Jr. designs the set, Rodrigo Muñoz designs costumes, and Cha See designs lights. David R. Molina serves as Composer and Sound Designer; Yee Eun Nam is the Projection Designer; Teniece Divya Johnson is Intimacy Coordinator. Abigail Vega joins the team as Accessibility Designer, Georgina Escobar serves as Translator, Victor Rodriguez as Script Supervisor, and Gaston Mazieres stage manages.
Mushroom previews Wednesday, September 14 through Saturday, September 17. The play opens on Sunday, September 18 at 5pm and runs through Sunday, October 16. Standard tickets are $47, including fees. People’s Light also offers a range of ticket discounts, like 50%-off Access Nights on Friday, September 16 and Tuesday, October 11 at 7:30pm, 25% off for educators and military, and discounted student and industry rush tickets. Learn more about available ticket discounts here. To purchase single tickets, visit peopleslight.org or call the Box Office at 610.644.3500. Special rates are available for groups of 10 or more. For more information, or to purchase group tickets, call Kelly Benedict at 610.647.1900, x111, or email firstname.lastname@example.org .
Mushroom is recommended for ages 16+ for sexual themes and language.
Actors, prices, productions, performance dates and times are subject to change. Additional service charges may apply.
HEALTH AND SAFETY– Masks are currently required indoors for everyone who visits People’s Light, regardless of vaccination status. Audience members must remain masked at all times in the theatre. For more information on policies at People’s Light, please visit the Health and Safety page. Recommended protocols may shift with evolving local and national guidelines, so please continue to check this page for the most up-to-date information when planning your visit.
ACCESSIBILITY– People’s Light offers a Relaxed Performance of Mushroom on Sunday, October 9 at 2pm. Relaxed Performances offer a judgment-free environment that invites individuals with autism, ADD, ADHD, dementia, and other sensory sensitivities to enjoy theatre in a relaxed, “shush-free” zone. Tickets to Relaxed Performances are $30, including fees. For more information, contact the Box Office at 610.644.3500.
Service animals are welcome at all performances at People’s Light. The Theatre offers a designated relief area and water bowl for their comfort.
People’s Light offers a range of Audio and Visual Aids freely available to patrons, including audio headsets, T-Coil “induction” loops, large sensory supports like fidgets, noise-canceling headphones, and more. These supports are available on a first come, first served basis, no reservations required. Please pick them up from the House Manager in the theatre lobbies. Learn more about Accessibility at People’s Light here.