PlayMakers Repertory Company presents the world premiere of “Leaving Eden,” a play with music, script by North Carolina playwright and UNC-Chapel Hill alumnus Mike Wiley, and music and lyrics by North Carolina singer-songwriter Laurelyn Dossett. The production, the first fully commissioned work by the theater, is directed by PlayMakers’ Producing Artistic Director, Vivienne Benesch, and runs from April 4 to 22.
Two of North Carolina’s most vibrant, award-winning artists team up to bring us a searing new work that unearths the cycles of history in a small town where cotton is king in the 1930s, and pork processing keeps the town alive in 2016. Its black and Latino citizens are the backbone of the town’s economy past and present, so why are they also its most vulnerable to violence and hatred? As high-stakes elections loom during both time periods, the young, as ever, have a lot to fight for and a lot to learn.
“Leaving Eden” is an exciting new work that is part folk musical and part oral history fable in the tradition of the North Carolina theatrical style, the folk play, which originated at UNC-Chapel Hill in 1918 with the Carolina Playmakers.
“Staging a new work, like ‘Leaving Eden,’ and releasing it into the world is an amazing act of transition from my very personal journey of inspiration and interviews with several generations of North Carolinians over the past two years, to a shared vision with Laurelyn, Vivienne and the company at PlayMakers,” says playwright Mike Wiley. “As I’ve worked on ‘Leaving Eden,’ the common thing I’ve observed is a restlessness, a searching, we all have, for a place to call home. There’s a restlessness in these characters, and in this town, as they all go through that struggle to find home. How can they keep that place they live, that place they love? I hope this play helps people through their own search for home.”
“As I wrote the music for this play, I really wanted to evoke the sounds, the heart of North Carolina,” states songwriter Laurelyn Dossett. “Of course, the challenge was to capture the sounds of each era, from both 1933 and 2016, but in the process we unearthed this deep rumble that comes out of the river, out of the ground, and tells the history of time upon time on the same ground as it shifts and changes, and as its people shift and change.”
“It’s been an absolute joy taking on PlayMakers’ first full commission, an over two year journey that every corner of our company has invested in to create a work that speaks directly to our home, North Carolina, here and now,” says Vivienne Benesch. “This story evokes the cyclical nature of our often troubled relationship with immigration, otherness and the dehumanization that takes place when you’re needed but not wanted. The brilliance of Mike and Laurelyn’s work is that it serves up an unapologetic and complex view of history — full of love, violence, and racial tensions. Through its music and poetry, it makes space for us to see some truths and recognize the cycles of our behavior, offering a hymn of hopefulness for the future to break that cycle.”
“Leaving Eden” features Tangela Large as Selah (“Detroit ‘67,” “Mr. Joy”), Sarita Ocón as Maria (“The Crucible” and “PLACAS: The Most Dangerous Tattoo” with Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre), Rebecca Guy as Ms. Maggie (“Romeo and Juliet” at Chautauqua Theater Company), Jonathan Varillas as Miguel (“The Lost Colony” at Waterside Theatre), and Trevor Johnson as Reverend Jackson/Ben Mason (“The Miraculous and the Mundane” at Manbites Dog). Also featured are PlayMakers company members David Adamson as Earl/Thomas (“My Fair Lady,” “Three Sisters”), Jeffrey B. Cornell as Roy/Jacob (“Count,” “My Fair Lady”), Ray Dooley (“A Christmas Carol,” “Tartuffe”), Kathryn Hunter-Williams as Cheryl/Eve (“Dot,” “Intimate Apparel”) Samuel Ray Gates as David/Adam (“Dot,” “Between Riverside and Crazy” at American Conservatory Theater), Rishan Dhamija as Taj (“Tartuffe” and “The May Queen”), Alex Givens as Andre/Seth (“The Christians,” “My Fair Lady”) , Sarah Elizabeth Keyes as Jillian/Young Maggie (“Sense and Sensibility,” “The Skin of Our Teeth” at Theatre for a New Audience), Tristan Parks as Tuan/Moses (“My Fair Lady,”“Twelfth Night”), Daniel Toot as Foreman (“Sense and Sensibility,” “The Tempest” at Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival), Carlos Alcala as Javier (“Tartuffe”), and Peyton Furtado (PlayMakers debut).The Creative Team of “Leaving Eden” includes: Vivienne Benesch (Director), Laurelyn Dossett (Music Director), Jan Chambers (Scenic Designer), McKay Coble (Costume Designer), Tracy Bersley (Choreographer), John Patrick (Vocal Coach), ML Geiger (Lighting Designer), Adam Bintz (Sound Designer), JaMeeka Holloway (Assistant Director), Matt Dickson (Assistant Director), Adam Versenyi (Dramaturg), Charles Bayang (Stage Manager) and Liz Ray (Assistant Stage Manager).
“Leaving Eden” is recommended for audiences 13 and older. For information and to purchase tickets, call 919.962.7529 or visit www.playmakersrep.org. Individual ticket prices for “Leaving Eden” start at $15.
Performance and Special Event Schedule :
● March 14, 7:00 p.m. The Hayti Heritage Center, Durham — “Blood, Soil and the Stage: Meet the Playwrights” a sneak peek with behind the scenes insights and special performance from two world premieres by Mike Wiley. Co-hosted with Raleigh Little Theatre. Free and open to the public.
● March 19, 7:00 p.m. Durham South Regional Library — “In the Wings,” a series of conversations in partnership with the Durham County Library. Free and open to the public.
● March 29, 6:30 p.m. — “The Vision Series—Directors in Conversation,” a behind-the-scenes preview with members of the creative team, moderated by Producing Artistic Director, Vivienne Benesch, at the Joan H. Gillings Center for Dramatic Art. Free and open to the public.
● April 4 – 6, 7:30 p.m. — Preview performances
● April 7, 7:30 p.m. — Opening Performance & Press Opening
● April 10, 7:30 p.m. — All-access performance for attendees with special needs, with sign language interpretation and audio description
● April 10, 7:30 p.m. — Community Night. General admission seating, with all tickets $15
● April 11 & 15 — Free post-show discussions with members of the creative team, cast and community members
● April 14, 2:00 p.m. — Open captioned performance, with dialog, stage direction, and sound effects communicated on a “universal access” live caption unit
● April 16th, 7:00 p.m. — “Breaking the Cycles of History,” an event with Carolina Public Humanities, UNC General Alumni Association and Institute for the Arts and Humanities. Free, reservations requested at humanities.unc.edu
● April 22 — “Mindplay,” a free post-show psychoanalytic reading of our production in partnership with the North Carolina Psychoanalytic Society