ATHENS, GA – UGA Theatre presents “In the Blood” by Suzan-Lori Parks, directed by guest artist Martin Damien Wilkins. Performances will be held February 15-16 and 19-23 at 8 p.m. and February 17 & 24 at 2:30 p.m in the Cellar Theatre in UGA’s historic Fine Arts Building. Tickets are $16 and $12 for UGA students. Tickets can be purchased online at www.ugatheatre.com/blood, via phone at 706-542-4400, or in person at the Performing Arts Center or Tate Center box offices.
Originally published in 1999, playwright Suzan-Lori Parks’ “In the Blood” is a modern reimagining of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” that transposes its own version of Hester Prynne to modern-day America. Hawthorne’s Hester Prynne is a puritan in seventeenth century Massachusetts Bay, and on the surface seems worlds apart from the play’s Hester, who is a homeless illiterate woman, struggling to survive in the looming metropolis of New York while trying to raise five children. In their different times and places, however, characters are forced to contend with the challenges presented by poverty, discrimination, and oppression.
UGA Theatre invited Martin Damien Wilkins to bring Parks’ play to life as the first show of the Spring 2019 Season. Wilkins — who recently won Best Director at the 2018 Suzi Bass Awards — is no stranger to the playwright’s work, having directed her play “Father Comes Home From the Wars” for Actor’s Express in 2017. “Suzan-Lori Parks was the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama, and is widely recognized as one of America’s greatest living playwrights,” said David Saltz, head of the theatre and film studies department. “And Martin Wilkins is one of the most sought-after and creative young directors in the southeast. With his deep familiarity with Park’s work, he is the ideal director to tackle this amazing play.”
Wilkins will be working with a team of undergraduates and graduates in crafting the upcoming production. Junior Business Management and Theatre major Kasey Freeman will take on the challenging lead role of Hester, a role that she describes as quite personal to her: “Hester reminds me of my own mom. She is a black, single mother, who tries her best to provide for the children she loves dearly. The amount of strength and courage it takes to raise children by yourself as a black woman is difficult to imagine.”
Undergraduate scenic designer Maddie Walsh has worked closely with Wilkins and scenic design associate professor Julie Ray to craft an abstract set that reflects the urban dystopia that constitutes Hester’s life. “Incorporating abstract elements proved difficult at first because I wanted to convey a somewhat realistic overhanging structure for the bridge, for example. I am very proud of the strides I have made as an artist during this project,” Walsh said.
For David Saltz, productions like “In the Blood” present myriad opportunities for theatre students. “The play allows us to show off the strengths of the department as a whole, giving our students the chance to work and learn alongside professional artists and one another to create an electric experience for audiences that speaks directly to some of the most pressing issues of the day.”
Hester/La Negrita – Kasey Freeman
Reverend D/Baby – Luis Omar O’Farrill
Welfare Lady/Bully – Rachael Simpson
The Doctor/Trouble – Shanon Weaver (Appears Courtesy of Actor’s Equity)
Amiga Gringa/Beauty – Atalanta Siegel
Chilli/Jabber – Brett M. Green
Understudies – Evan King, Kiana Washington, Richy Wagner
Lighting Design: Travis Blansit
Costume Design: Daniel Carter
Scenic Design: Maddie Walsh
Sound Design: Nate Byrd