The Convert | Bay Area Premiere

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 23, 2015

Production photos are now available online

 MARIN THEATRE COMPANY PRODUCES THE
BAY AREA PREMIERE OF
THE CONVERT BY DANAI GURIRA

MARKS BAY AREA DEBUT OF THE
OBIE AWARD-WINNING PLAYWRIGHT,
BEST KNOWN AS ACTRESS WHO PLAYS
MICHONNE ON THE WALKING DEAD

FROM JASSON MINADAKIS, DIRECTOR OF THE WHALE,
ONE OF THE TOP PLAYS OF 2014;
FEATURES THE RETURN OF “LUMINOUS”
KATHERINE RENEE TURNER (FETCH CLAY, MAKE MAN)

Eight performances weekly from February 19 – March 15, 2015
Opening Night: Tuesday, February 24

MILL VALLEY, CA—Marin Theatre Company begins 2015 with the Bay Area premiere of The Convert, which marks the Bay Area debut of award-winning Zimbabwean-American playwright Danai Gurira. MTC’s artistic director Jasson Minadakis directs this play about a young woman in Southern Africa at the turn of the 19th century who is wrestling with the ramifications of English colonization on the Shona People, her family and herself. It’s a “remarkably compelling ride that races to a dramatic conclusion the likes of which will stun the audience to the core” (DC Metro Arts). MTC’s production features the return of Bay Area actors L. Peter Callender (The Whipping ManCircle Mirror Transformation), Elizabeth Carter (Beggar’s HolidayThe Crucible) and Omoze Idehenre (Seven Guitars), as well as DC-based actors Jefferson A. Russell and Katherine Renee Turner (both Fetch Clay, Make Man). Making their local debuts are Jabari Brisport (New York) and JaBen Early (Washington DC). The production will run for a limited engagement of 29 performances from February 19 through March 15. Opening night is Tuesday, February 24. Based in Mill Valley, MTC is a 48-year old professional nonprofit theater, whose “New Play Program has become the Bay Area blue-chip showcase for new American plays” (For All Events). 

“Danai Gurira is one of our most exciting American playwrights,” said Minadakis. “And we are thrilled to be producing her Bay Area debut while her latest world premiere is playing at Yale Rep. The Convert is the first piece of Danai’s trilogy about the long and complicated history of Zimbabwe and the people who call that region home. I am incredibly moved by the play’s examination of the impacts of Christianity on the African people, and how religion interacted with the colonial business interests that sought to capitalize on Africa’s wealth. Danai has created three very complex and amazing female characters, and I am excited to see how our audiences react to their powerful stories.”

In the emerging colony of Rhodesia, a young Shona girl named Jekesai escapes a forced marriage arrangement by becoming maid and student to Chilford Ndlovu, an African man who continues the work of Catholic British missionaries. As anti-colonial sentiments rise among her people, Jekesai must make an impossible choice – between her newfound Christian faith and her ancestral loyalties, between European and African ways of life. In this “gutsy, heartfelt [and] richly complex portrait” (Chicago Tribune), “Gurira has met the demands of a big subject by writing a big play” (The Washington Post). 

Commissioned by the Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles, The Convert premiered in January 2012 at the McCarter Theatre Center in New Jersey in a coproduction with Goodman Theatre in Chicago and Center Theatre Group’s Kirk Douglas Theatre, where the play also ran in March and April of that year, respectively. Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company produced the play in February 2013 at its Washington DC theater and the Wilma Theater in Philadelphiain October 2013. Most recently, Tennessee’s Hattiloo Theatre produced The Convert in October 2014 in partnership with The Memphis Theological Seminary.

Born in Iowa and raised in Zimbabwe, actor, playwright and activist Danai Gurira may be best known for her recurring role of Michonne in the AMC drama series The Walking Dead. She is also “an impressive young playwright” (The Philadelphia Inquirer). Her plays – In the Continuum (2006, co-written with Nikkole Salter), Eclipsed (2009), The Convert and Familiar (premiering this month at Yale Repertory Theatre) – have earned her “a reputation for hard-hitting drama” (Variety), the Village Voice’s 2006 Obie Award for playwriting and the 2012 Whiting Writers’ Award, which is given in recognition of exceptional talent and promise early in a writer’s career. Gurira says that she began writing for theater, “out of necessity, because African women deserved a voice and a place on the stage” (The Daily Beast). The Convert is the first of a trilogy that the playwright plans to write about Zimbabwe. 

Director Jasson Minadakis continues to receive accolades for the productions he helms. Most recently, The Whale was featured by the San Francisco ChronicleMarin IJNorth Bay Bohemian and Bay Area Reporter as one of the top theater productions of 2014Failure: A Love Story has been nominated for 6 2014 San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Awards, including best director and production; and The Whipping Man won the 2013 SFBATCC Awards for best production and ensemble.

Katherine Renee Turner stars as Jekesai (who is later given the Christian name Ester). She appeared last year in MTC’s Fetch Clay, Make Man in a 2014 SFBATCC Award-nominated performance hailed as “luminous” by the Marin IJ and “bracing, self-assured [and] refreshing” by the San Francisco Chronicle. Recently named Bay Area Theater’s “Most Valuable Player” of 2014 by the San Francisco ChronicleL. Peter Callender returns to the stage to perform his second Zimbabwean character in a row, having last portrayed President Robert Mugabe in Breakfast with Mugabe at Aurora Theatre Company.

 CALENDAR INFORMATION
Performing Arts | Theater

WHAT
The Convert | Bay Area Premiere

WHO
Marin Theatre Company
Written by Danai Gurira
Directed by Jasson Minadakis (The WhaleFailure: A Love Story)
Featuring Jabari Brisport (MTC debut), L. Peter Callender (The Whipping Man), Elizabeth Carter (Beggar’s Holiday), JaBen Early (MTC debut), Omoze Idehenre (Seven Guitars), Jefferson A. Russell (Fetch Clay, Make Man) & Katherine Renee Turner (Fetch Clay, Make Man)

 WHEN
February 19 – March 15, 2015
Opening Night: Tuesday, February 24
Previews: Thursday, February 19 – Sunday, February 22

 

 Performance Days
Tue–Sun 7:00 pm (Due to three-hour run time, all evening shows begin at 7:00 pm.)
Matinees: Every Sun 2:00 pm | Sat 2/28 & 3/14, 2:00 pm | Thu 3/5, 1:00 pm

WHERE
Marin Theatre Company | 397 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley, CA 94941

ABOUT
Southern Africa. 1896. An impossible choice.

Against her family’s wishes, a young Shona girl escapes a forced marriage arrangement by converting to Christianity and becoming servant and student to an African evangelist. However, as anti-European sentiments rise among her people, she must choose between colonial and ancestral ways of life.Recommended for mature teens and up.

“A gutsy, heartfelt & richly complex portrait” - Chicago Tribune

Born in Iowa but raised in Zimbabwe, Danai Gurira is the Obie and Whiting Writers Award-winning playwright of several critically acclaimed plays. She is also an actress best known for her role as Michonne in the hit AMC TV series The Walking Dead. Her plays have earned her “a reputation for hard-hitting drama” (Variety), and The Convert will be your first chance to see her powerful and compelling work live on stage in the Bay Area.

TICKETS
$20–$58, details below (discounts available for Seniors and those Under 30)

Ticket Prices:
NEW! $20 seats: all shows, available in advance, limited number  
All Previews: $35
Opening Night (2/24): $53 side | $58 center
Tues, Wed, Thu Evenings: $37| $42
Fri: $45 | $50
Sat Evenings: $50 | $55
Sun Evenings & All Matinees: $42 | $47
All prices subject to change.

Discounts available:
RUSH tickets: $20, available one hour prior to show, based on availability
Under 30: $20, all performances
Senior discounts: $4 off, all performances
Military personnel, their families & US veterans: $5 off, all performances, must show ID

For group sales, contact Margot Manburg, groupsales@marintheatre.org(415) 388-5208

ENGAGE

After Words – Join a member of MTC’s artistic staff (often with one or more members of the cast) for a Q&A talk back after almost every performance, except on Saturday evenings, and Opening and Closing Nights.

 MTC Engaged Special Events:

·      Library Lecture: Larkspur Library: Thurs, 1/29, 7:30 p.m.; 400 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur
·      Window on the Work: Mill Valley Public Library: Tues, 2/3, 7:30 p.m.;  375 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley
·      Perspectives pre-show topical lecture: Thur 3/5, 12:00 p.m.

ACCESS
For visually impaired patrons, Large Print playbills are available with one week’s advance notice. To request a Large Print playbill, call MTC’s Box Office,(415) 388-5208, or use the California Telecommunications Relay Service by dialing “711.” For hearing impaired patrons, amplified sound Listening Devices are available.

 
CONTACT
marintheatre.org | (415) 388-5208 | boxoffice@marintheatre.org


ARTIST BIOGRAPHIES

Danai Gurira (playwright) makes her Bay Area debut with The Convert at MTC. She co-created and performed in the award-winning two-woman play, In The Continuum, which premiered off-Broadway and toured the US and Southern Africa. For her work on that production, Gurira won a 2006 Obie Award, the 2006 Outer Critics John Gassner Award, the 2004 Global Tolerance Award (Friends of the United Nations) and was honored by the Theatre Hall of Fame. She has also won the Whiting Award, Best Playwright with NAACP, and her play Eclipsed, which appeared at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in 2009, won Best New Play at the Helen Hayes Awards. She is the recipient of the 2008 TCG New Generations Program travel grant for Eclipsed and has taught playwriting and acting in Uberia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Her newest play Familiar premieres this month at Yale Repertory Theatre. Gurira received her MFA in acting from New York University and was a Hodder Fellow at Princeton University. She was born in the US to Zimbabwean parents and raised in Zimbabwe. Currently, Gurira can be seen as Michonne in the award-winning AMC series, The Walking Dead.

Jasson Minadakis (director) is in his ninth season as artistic director of MTC, where he has directed The WhaleFailure: A Love Story, the world premiere of Lasso of TruthThe Whipping Man (San Francisco Bay Area Critics Circle Awards for best production and best acting ensemble), Waiting for Godot,Othello, the Moor of VeniceThe Glass Menagerie, Edward Albee’s Tiny Alice, the world premiere of SeagullHappy Now?Equivocation (SFBATCC Award for best director), the world premiere of SunlightLydiaThe SeafarerFrankie and Johnny in the Clair de LuneA Streetcar Named Desiresaid SaïdLove Song and The Subject Tonight is Love. As artistic director of Actor’s Express Theatre Company, he directed The PillowmanBugThe Love Song of J. Robert OppenheimerEchoes of Another ManKiller JoeBurn ThisThe Goat or, Who is Sylvia?Blue/Orange and Bel Canto. As producing artistic director of Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival, he directed Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ TrainChagrin Falls (2002 Cincinnati Entertainment Award for Best Production) and numerous others, including 19 productions of Shakespeare. Regional credits include The Whipping Man at Virginia Stage Company, Cat on a Hot Tin Roofand Hamlet at Georgia Shakespeare, Copenhagen at Playhouse on the Square (2003 Ostrander Theatre Award for Best Dramatic Production) andBedroom Farce at Wayside Theatre.

Jabari Brisport (Chilford) makes his MTC debut in The Convert. His recent credits include Bach at Leipzig at People’s Light and Theater Company in Pennsylvania, These! Paper! Bullets! at Yale Repertory Theatre, Archbishop Supreme Tartuffe at The Classical Theatre of Harlem, Macbeth at New York Classical Theatre, Political Subversities at Peoples Improv Theater and Funnyhouse of a Negro with Yale Cabaret. Brisport is a recent graduate of the Yale School of Drama and also holds a BFA with honors from New York University.

 L. Peter Callender (Uncle) has appeared at MTC in The Whipping Man (San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award winner for best ensemble and best production), Circle Mirror TransformationSeven Guitars and My Children! My Africa!, as well as the Diablo Actors’ Ensemble production of Driving Miss Daisy. Named Bay Area Theater’s “Most Valuable Player” of 2014 by the San Francisco Chronicle, he most recently appeared in Pygmalion at Cal Shakes and Breakfast with Mugabe at Aurora Theatre Company. Callender is currently the artistic director of African-American Shakespeare Company in San Francisco and an associate artist at Cal Shakes, where he has acted in over 20 productions. His Bay Area credits include roles at A.C.T., Berkeley Rep, Brava!, Magic Theatre, Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, San Jose Rep, Shakespeare Santa Cruz, TheatreWorks and San Francisco Symphony. In New York, Callender appeared on Broadway in Prelude to a Kiss and Julie Taymor’s The Tempest at Classic Stage Company, as well as in roles at the Manhattan Theater Club, New York Shakespeare Festival and Circle Rep. Other regional theater credits include Virginia Stage Company, Arena Stage, The Rep in Milwaukee, Pittsburgh Public Theater, Cincinnati Playhouse, Syracuse Stage and Pennsylvania Stage Company. Callender has appeared in the filmsSweet NovemberDr. DoolittleThe Kite Runner and voiced characters in The Nightmare Before Christmas. He trained at the Juilliard School.

Elizabeth Carter (Mai Tamba) has appeared at MTC in Beggar’s HolidayThe Crucible and The Art of Dining. She was most recently seen as The Eternal Feminine in Wittenberg at the Aurora Theatre Company. Carter has performed with numerous Bay Area theaters including Cal Shakes, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, Magic Theatre, Word for Word, Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, San Jose Stage and TheatreWorks. Her favorite roles include Rose inFences, the Bawd in Pericles, Millie in Trouble in Mind, Effie in Dreamgirls, Mistress Ford in Merry Wives of Winsor and Agnes in Agnes of God. Carter teaches Shakespeare performance at Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts and has directed for the Cal Shakes Theater Summer Conservatory for nearly 20 years. She resides in Oakland and can be heard in the historic Peralta House audio exhibit.

JaBen Early makes his MTC debut in The Convert. A Washington D.C. native, he has performed in the D.C. area in The Convert at Woolly Mammoth Theatre, Ruined at Arena Stage, Fucking A at Studio Theatre, Julius Caesar at Folger Theatre, The Piano Lesson at Olney Theatre Center and Native Son at the American Century Theater, as well as We Are Proud to Present... at InterAct Theatre Company in Philadelphia. Early studied Drama at Morehouse College and received his MFA from Sarah Lawrence College.

Omoze Idehenre has appeared at MTC in Seven Guitars. Her regional credits include The Comedy Of Errors and Richard III at Oregon Shakespeare Festival; The Winter’s TaleSpunk and Macbeth at Cal Shakes; A Doll’s HouseElektraScorchedClybourne ParkThe Caucasian Chalk CircleA Midsummer Night’s DreamScapin and Marcus: Or the Secret of Sweet at A.C.T.; and Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter at Theater First in Oakland. She also appeared in the films On the Road and Woman. Idehenre received an MFA in acting from A.C.T. and a BFA from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.EDIT

Jefferson A. Russell (Chancellor) has appeared at MTC in Fetch Clay, Make Man. Other credits include Clybourne Park (Helen Hayes Award nominated Outstanding Ensemble) at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington D.C.; Fetch Clay, Make ManTwo Trains RunningFahrenheit 451Amadeusand One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest at Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Maryland; The Trinity River Plays at Dallas Theatre Center and the Goodman Theatre in Chicago; The Piano Lesson at Hangar Theatre in Ithaca, New York; Race at Gulfshore Playhouse in Naples, Florida; HecubaBlood KnotA Raisin in the Sun and A Lesson Before Dying at African Continuum Theatre Company in D.C.; Gem of the OceanBlues for an Alabama SkyHedda Gablerand The Soul Collector at Everyman Theatre in Baltimore; The Tempest at Folger Theatre in D.C.; Cyrano and Edward II at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in D.C.; Measure For Measure at Academy for Classical Acting at George Washington University in D.C.; and other theater companies including Imagination Stage, Theatre J and several national tours with the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. His TV credits include HBO’s The Wire and NBC’sHomicide: Life on the Streets. Jefferson has a BA in Sociology/Criminal Justice from Hampton University, an MFA in Classical Acting from the Academy for Classical Acting at George Washington University, is a former Baltimore police officer and a founding member of GALVANIZE, a network for artists of color.

Katherine Renee Turner (Jekesai/Ester) has appeared at MTC in Fetch Clay, Make Man. A Washington D.C.-based actor, she has appeared in that region in Fetch Clay, Make Man at Round House Theatre; The Threepenny Opera at Signature Theatre; A Midsummer Night’s DreamMuch Ado About Nothing and The Tempest at Shakespeare Theatre Company; The Laramie Project at Ford’s Theatre; The Twelve Days of Christmas at Adventure Theatre, Rumplestiltskin at Imagination Stage and Photo-Op at UrbanArias. Her television and film credits include The RA’sWintersmith and Ward 11. Turner is a graduate of Ithaca College and the National Theater Institute at Eugene O’Neill Theatre. 

ABOUT MTC
Founded in 1966, Marin Theatre Company is the Bay Area’s premier mid-sized theater and the leading professional theater in the North Bay. We produce a six-show season of provocative plays by passionate playwrights from the 20th century and today in our 231-seat main stage theater, as well as a five-show Theater Series for Young Audiences (in partnership with the Bay Area Children’s Theatre) in our 99-seat studio theater. We are committed to the development and production of new plays by American playwrights, with a comprehensive New Play Program that includes productions of premieres, two nationally recognized annual playwriting awards, readings and workshops by the nation’s best emerging playwrights and membership in the National New Play Network. Our numerous education programs serve more than 8,500 students from over 50 Bay Area schools each year. MTC is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

PRESS CONTACT
Sasha Hnatkovich, Communications Director
(415) 388-5200, ext. 3313 | E-mail

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