-Courtesy of Perpetual Motion PR
Quintessence Theatre Group, Philadelphia’s professional classic theatre, concludes Season XIII: Celebrating the Extraordinary with a world premiere of Paul Oakley Stovall’s Written by Phillis, directed by Cheryl Lynn Bruce. A new play exploring the life and poetry of America’s first published Black poet Phillis Wheatley, Written by Phillis is presented in association with Chicago’s New Classics Collective, and starts previews May 10, with an Opening Night Saturday, May 13 at 7:30 p.m. Visit www.QTGrep.org or call 215.987.4450 to purchase tickets.
“I’m excited to work at a theatre like Quintessence which holds the same goals and hopes for the future of theatre that I do,” said Stovall. “The world premiere of Written by Phillis is perfect for Philadelphia audiences, a group that lives and breathes American history every day, around every corner, and in this play we discover yet another jewel and truth of our singularly American history.”
Written by Phillis is a world-premiere, original play that brings to life the remarkable history of Phillis Wheatley, enslaved American and beloved poet. After Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, was published in London in 1773, she became “the most famous woman of African descent in the World,” admired by Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and King George III, among countless others. Conceived and created as part of Quintessence’s collaboration with Chicago’s New Classics Collective—Paul Oakley Stovall (Artistic Director/Playwright), Marilyn Campbell-Lowe (Playwright), and Cheryl Lynn Bruce (Director)—this new biographical dramatization puts Wheatley’s poetry front and center, reconsiders her important role in America’s founding and ideals, and explores her obscure life and legacy, one that inspired an African-American literary tradition that has lasted over two and a half centuries.
“Quintessence joined forces with New Classics Collective to unearth and unleash Black, Female, and Queer classics onto the American stage. I don’t think there is a more quintessential voice than that of Phillis Wheatley with which to launch this venture,” said Artistic Director Alex Burns. “I received my training in Chicago, and have long admired the brilliance of Paul Oakley Stovall and Cheryl Lynn Bruce. It is an honor to have them at Quintessence and build a bridge between the vibrant theatre communities of Chicago and Philadelphia.”
Paul Oakley Stovall is best known to Philadelphia theatre going audiences as George Washington in the First National Touring production of Hamilton. Paul is a playwright, actor, producer and activist based in Chicago. He is the founding Artistic Director of the New Classics Collective, dedicated to bringing historic BIPOC, female and queer voices to America’s mainstage. Multifaceted, he is a Tony Award Winning, producer for Broadway’s, A Strange Loop. His original play Immediate Family, directed by Phylicia Rashad, received productions both at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre and the Mark Taper Forum in LA. Outside of theatre, Paul served as a Press Advance Associate for Senator then President Obama and subsequently as Advance Staff Lead for First Lady Michelle Obama, representing the Obama administration across the nation and overseas.
Director Cheryl Lynn Bruce is a renowned Chicago-based director, actor and playwright. Her career has been focused on developing and directing works that highlight underrepresented stories. Ms. Bruce was the Inaugural Fellow of the Ellen Stone Belic Institute for the Study of Women and Gender in the Arts and Media-Columbia College Chicago, for which she received funding and research support for the development of a performance project based on the life of Black colonial slave poet Phillis Wheatley. She also developed a performance project based on the life of Edward Alexander Bouchet, Yale’s first Black doctoral graduate in Physics. Ms. Bruce directed Kerry James Marshall’s Rythm Mastr for the Wexner Center for the Arts in Ohio. She received both a Jane Addams Hull House Association Woman of Valor Award and a coveted 3Arts Artist Award with unrestricted grant in support of her work in theatre arts. Ms. Bruce has appeared on stages across the country as well as in Europe and Mexico.
Asia Rogers* will make her Quintessence debut and bring the titular poet, Phillis Wheatley, to life. She is joined by Philadelphia up-and-comer Kira Player* (Theatre Horizon’s Athena, Shakespeare in Clark Park’s Taming of the Shrew) who takes on the roles of the Grad Student / Obour Tanner and Anne Osborne. Carolyn Nelson (Act II’s Steel Magnolias) is Susanne Wheatley, Joshua Kachnycz is Nathaniel Wheatley, and Oregon’s David Mitchum Brown* is John Wheatley, Reverend Moorhead and Archibald Bell. Quintessence proudly welcomes the return of Phillip Brown* (Flyin’ West, Lantern Theater’s The Royale, Arden’s Radio Golf) as Ignatius Sancho and Scipio Moorhead, and Bill Zielinski* (The Seagull, PTC’s Everything is Wonderful) as George Washington.
The production will include scenic design by Brian Sidney Bembrige (Six time Joseph Jefferson Award Winner, Frankenstein, Wizard of OZ, Skin of our Teeth), lighting design by David Sexton (The Wind in the Willows, My Fair Lady, The Merchant of Venice), costume design by Anna Sorrentino (Camille), original music and sound design by Tom Carmen (Camille, Awake and Sing!) and projections by Brittany Bland.
As we continue to live with COVID-19, Quintessence Theatre suggests that masks be worn inside the theater.
Founded in 2009, the award-winning Quintessence Theatre Group uses the classics to explore the fundamental question of what it is to be human in today’s world. Through intimate, visceral, and innovative productions of epic theatre, Quintessence pursues its vision to become the Delaware Valley’s center for progressive humanism and an engine for radical empathy through the classics.
General Admission tickets are $ 35 – $49.
Youth tickets (21 and under) are $20.
Tickets for active military service are $25.
Seniors (65 and over) receive $5 off the ticket price.
Upgrade to a reserved premium seat for an additional $10 per ticket.
STUDENT MATINEES: Weekday student matinees are available at a discounted student rate. To book your classroom’s visit, contact Educational Programs Manager Daniel Ciba at 215.987.4450, ext. 106, or Daniel@QTGrep.org.
GROUP SALES: Special rates are available for groups of over ten. For information on group sales, please contact the Box Office at 215.987.4450, ext. 1, or BoxOffice@QTGrep.org.
POST-SHOW CONVERSATIONS ON THURSDAY MAY 18 and SUNDAY MAY 21