5 STARS! “A sumptuous feast!” – Marin IJ

“Rich and rewarding… plays out with riveting force to a genuinely potent climax” – SF Chronicle

5 STARS! “The cast is so fantastic that it is difficult to think of superlatives worthy of these performances.” – TheatreStorm

Watch the official trailer >

Southern Africa. 1896. 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 face an impossible choice – between colonial and ancestral ways of life. Read the playbill >

Featuring Jabari Brisport* (MTC debut), L. Peter Callender* (The Whipping Man), Elizabeth Carter* (MTC debut), JaBen Early* (MTC debut), Omoze Idehenre* (Seven Guitars), Jefferson A. Russell* (Fetch Clay Make Man) and Katherine Renee Turner* (Fetch Clay Make Man)

Recommended for mature teens and up
LENGTH OF SHOW
– Two hours and forty-five minutes, including two ten-minute intermissions.

ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT

“An impressive new work by an impressive young playwright” (The Philadelphia Inquirer), The Convert marks the Bay Area debut of award-winning Zimbabwean-American playwright Danai Gurira. She may be best known for her role in the AMC TV series The Walking Dead, but her plays have earned her “a reputation for hard-hitting drama” (Variety) and the Village Voice’s 2006 Obie Award for playwriting. Listen to the NPR radio interview | Read the SF Weekly interview

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Cast

  • Jabari Brisport*

    Jabari Brisport*

    Chilford

    Brisport 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.

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  • L. Peter Callender*

    L. Peter Callender*

    Uncle

    Callender 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 Transformation, Seven 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 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 films Sweet November, Dr. Doolittle, The Kite Runner and voiced characters in The Nightmare Before Christmas. He trained at the Juilliard School.

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  • Elizabeth Carter*

    Elizabeth Carter*

    Mai Tamba

    Carter has appeared at MTC in Beggar’s Holiday, The 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 in Fences, 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

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  • JaBen Early*

    JaBen Early*

    Tamba

    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.

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  • Omoze Idehenre*

    Omoze Idehenre*

    Prudence

    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 Tale, Spunk and Macbeth at Cal Shakes; A Doll’s House, Elektra, Scorched, Clybourne Park, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Scapin 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.

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  • Jefferson A. Russell*

    Jefferson A. Russell*

    Chancellor

    Russell 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 Man, Two Trains Running, Fahrenheit 451, Amadeus and 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; Hecuba, Blood Knot, A Raisin in the Sun and A Lesson Before Dying at African Continuum Theatre Company in D.C.; Gem of the Ocean, Blues for an Alabama Sky, Hedda Gabler and 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’s Homicide: 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.

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  • Katherine Renee Turner*

    Katherine Renee Turner*

    Jekesai / Ester

    Turner 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 Dream, Much 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’s, Wintersmith and Ward 11. Turner is a graduate of Ithaca College and the National Theater Institute at Eugene O’Neill Theatre.

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Creative Team

  • Danai Gurira

    Danai Gurira

    Playwright

    Gurira 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 Liberia, 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.

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  • Jasson Minadakis^

    Jasson Minadakis^

    Director

    Minadakis is in his ninth season as artistic director of MTC, where he has directed The Whale, Failure: A Love Story, the world premiere of Lasso of Truth, The Whipping Man (San Francisco Bay Area Critics Circle Awards for best production and best acting ensemble), Waiting for Godot, Othello, the Moor of Venice, The Glass Menagerie, Edward Albee’s Tiny Alice, the world premiere of Seagull, Happy Now?, Equivocation (SFBATCC Award for best director), the world premiere of Sunlight, Lydia, The Seafarer, Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, A Streetcar Named Desire, said Saïd, Love Song and The Subject Tonight is Love. As artistic director of Actor’s Express Theatre Company, he directed The Pillowman, Bug, The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer, Echoes of Another Man, Killer Joe, Burn This, The Goat or, Who is Sylvia?, Blue/Orange and Bel Canto. As producing artistic director of Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival, he directed Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train, Chagrin 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 Roof and Hamlet at Georgia Shakespeare, Copenhagen at Playhouse on the Square (2003 Ostrander Theatre Award for Best Dramatic Production) and Bedroom Farce at Wayside Theatre.

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  • Nina Ball**

    Scenic Designer

    Ball has designed the sets for MTC’s productions of Failure: A Love Story, Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol, Good People, The Beauty Queen of Leenane and God of Carnage. Her designs have been seen at A.C.T., Cal Shakes, San Jose Rep, Aurora Theatre Company, Shotgun Players, SF Playhouse, Center REP and Z Space, among many others. She has been nominated for numerous San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle, Shelley and Arty Awards. Recent awards include SFBATCC Awards for My Fair Lady at SF Playhouse and Metamorphosis at Aurora Theatre, a BroadwayWorld San Francisco Award for Care of Trees at Shotgun Players and an Arty Award for her design of Eurydice at Solano College Theatre. Ball is a company member of Shotgun Players and has a MFA in scenic design from San Francisco State University. Her upcoming shows include Twelfth Night at Cal Shakes, Antigonick at Shotgun Players and Mirandalina! Mistress of a Tuscan Inn at Center REP. ninaball.com

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  • Gabe Maxson

    Lighting Designer

    Maxson has designed the lighting for MTC’s productions of Good People and Circle Mirror Transformation. Other recent designs include A Raisin in the Sun and The Tempest at Cal Shakes, Terminus at Magic Theatre, Assassins at Shotgun Players, Higher at A.C.T., The Companion Piece at Z Space, Paufve Dance’s So I Married Abraham Lincoln at Dance Mission Theater and Hunters Point at Strange Angels. Maxson was an artistic associate at the Wooster Group in New York City from 2002-2010, where he co-designed with renowned designer Jennifer Tipton the premieres of La Didone, Hamlet and Poor Theater, and co-created the interactive video installation There Is Still Time... Brother. He received a 2009 Theatre Bay Area CA$H Grant (with his wife, actress Michelle Maxson, who has appeared at MTC in The Whale) and a 2011 Lighting Artists in Dance Award. Maxson is an assistant professor of production and design and resident lighting designer at the University of San Francisco.

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  • Fumiko Bielefeldt**

    Costume Designer

    Bielefeld thas designed costumes for MTC’s productions of The Beauty Queen of Leenane, Othello, the Moor of Venice, Edward Albee’s Tiny Alice, Equivocation, What the Butler Saw, Lovers & Executioners, Frozen, Displaced, Fugitive Kind, Indiscretions and Candida. Other recent credits include The Soldier’s Tale and Miss Julie at Aurora Theatre Company; Silent Sky, The Little Women, Being Earnest, The Secret Garden, 33 Variations, Sense and Sensibility and Light in the Piazza at TheatreWorks; The Understudy at San Jose Rep; Evie’s Waltz at Magic Theatre; and Emma for Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park and the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. Her designs have also appeared at A.C.T., Cal Shakes, Theatre of Yugen and Kansas City Repertory Theatre. In Japan, she has designed for Tokyo Theatre of Children and Tokyo Shitamachi Festival. Bielefeldt has received many awards, including Barbara Bladen Porter, San Franicsco Bay Area Theater Critics Circle, Dean Goodman Choice, Back Stage West Garland and Drama-Logue Awards.

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  • Chris Houston

    Composer and Sound Designer

    Houston is a pianist, composer and sound designer. He has composed music and/or designed sound for 28 MTC productions, including The Whale, Failure: A Love Story, August Wilson’s Fences, Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol, The Whipping Man (co-production with Virginia Stage Company), Waiting for Godot, It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, Topdog/Underdog, Othello, the Moor of Venice, The Glass Menagerie, the world premiere of Bellwether, Seven Guitars, In the Red and Brown Water, Equivocation and more. Locally, his designs and compositions have been featured at A.C.T., Aurora Theatre Company, SF Playhouse, Center REP, Magic Theatre and the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival.

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  • Lynne Soffer*

    Dialect and Text Coach

    Soffer has provided coaching for 28 MTC productions, including Good People, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, Othello, the Moor of Venice, A Steady Rain and The Glass Menagerie. She has served as dialect/text coach on over 250 theater productions, including A.C.T., Berkeley Rep, San Jose Rep, Magic Theatre, Cal Shakes. SF Playhouse, Marin Shakespeare Company, the Old Globe, Dallas Theater Center, Arizona Theatre Company, the Arena Stage, Seattle Rep and Denver Center Theatre Company. Her film and television credits include Fruitvale Station, Metro, Duets, The Land of Milk and Honey and America’s Most Wanted. Soffer is a professional actor, director and teacher of actors. She is the recipient of the 2011 Actors’ Equity Association Lucy Jordan Humanitarian Award.

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  • Dave Maier*

    Fight Director

    Maier has composed fights for MTC’s production of Othello, the Moor of Venice. He is the resident fight director for San Francisco Opera and Cal Shakes and a company member with Shotgun Players. His work has also been seen at A.C.T., Berkeley Rep, San Jose Rep, La Jolla Playhouse, SF Playhouse, Berkeley Playhouse and Impact Theatre, among others. Maier is an instructor of theatrical combat with Dueling Arts International and a founding member of Dueling Arts San Francisco. Recent credits include Showboat and Madame Butterfly at SF Opera, Party People and The House That Will Not Stand at Berkeley Rep and A Lie of the Mind at Magic Theatre. He is currently teaching combat related courses at Berkeley Rep School of Theatre and St. Mary’s College of California.

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  • Julia Tsitsi Chigamba

    Cultural Consultant and Guest Vocal Artist

    Chigamba makes her MTC debut with The Convert. A native Zimbabwean, she has performed and taught widely in the US since 1999. Chigamba directs the Chinyakare Ensemble, which performs authentic Zimbabwean music and dance. In 2000, she founded Tawande MuChinyakare, an organization dedicated to the preservation of Shona music and dance. Tawanda MuChinyakare means in Shona: “We are all in the deep arts and traditions of our ancestors.” Chigamba’s mission is to merge the powerful and traditional art forms of African music and dance with newer innovative movement and soulful form. chinyakare.com

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  • Kirsten Royston

    Props Artisan

    Royston has provided props for MTC’s productions of The Whale and Fetch Clay, Make Man. The resident technical director of San Francisco State University’s Brown Bag production development class, she is a Bay Area-based set, props and production designer. Her recent prop work has been seen at theaters such as Aurora Theatre Company and Shotgun Players. More of her work can be seen at kirstenroyston.com.

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  • Sean McStravick*

    Stage Manager

    McStravick has previously stage managed MTC’s productions of The Whale, Fetch Clay, Make Man and Good People. In the Bay Area, he has stage managed for Shotgun Players, 42nd Street Moon and Willows Theatre Company, where he was the production stage manager from 2010 to 2012. Regionally, he has worked with North Coast Repertory Theatre, Blue Trunk Theatre Company, Back Seat Theatre and Actors Alliance of San Diego. McStravick is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association.

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* Denotes member of Actors Equity Association
+ Member, United Scenic Artists
^ Member, Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers

Reviews

  • A SUMPTUOUS FEAST – The cast is superb from top to bottom, and the tension builds beautifully to gut-wrenching proportions. As humorous as the play is in the beginning, it grows more and more shadowed by menace. How ["The Convert"] plays out is so powerful and gripping that the play’s three hours seem to speed by.

    — Marin IJ Read full review
  • A MUST-SEE – This remarkable work has been carefully and expertly directed by Jasson Minadakis and the cast is so fantastic that it is difficult to think of superlatives worthy of these performances. Each cast member can justifiably be called “brilliant”... The women of this play — the convert Ester, the servant Mai Tamba and the Western educated intellectual Prudence — are remarkable, moving, and memorable creations... [All of the characters] are richly detailed and multi-faceted. This playwright displays a depth of empathy which is only seen in truly exceptional artists... “The Convert” offers tragedy, comedy, history and character at a level of excellence rarely encountered.

    — TheatreStorm Read full review
  • A MUST-SEE – A play of monumental power, insight and impeccable beauty... astonishing and absorbing period drama gorgeously written by Danai Gurira and guided with exceptional skill by director Jasson Minadakis. Features a transcendent performance by Katherine Renee Turner. (FOUR AND A HALF STARS)

    — North Bay Bohemian Read full review
  • A RICH AND REWARDING DRAMA – Beautifully performed and staged, ["The Convert"] builds through well-plotted twists to a genuinely potent climax. [Playwright Danai Gurira] expertly depicts and encapsulates the complexity of the colonial situation with her characters. The principal battleground between all of these cultural forces plays out with riveting force in the deeply moving work of the delightful Elizabeth Carter as Mai Tamba and the magnetic Katherine Renee Turner as the heartbreakingly torn Ester.

    — San Francisco Chronicle Read full review
  • A POWERFUL, COMPELLING DRAMA – Director Jasson Minadakis and his superb cast fill [the stage] with sharply defined characters and well-defined historical conflict. Katherine Renee Turner is stunning, as is Omoze Idehenre. Their characters are vivid and powerful and rich. The supporting cast provides complex human beings rather than cardboard historical cut-outs. It’s refreshing to see a playwright go bold. Danai Gurira is an impressive, kick-ass playwright."

    — TheaterDogs Read full review
  • THRILLING – A spectacular cast breathes impassioned life into this exciting night of theater that speaks with a refreshing eloquence and authenticity.

    — San Francisco Examiner Read full review
  • A POTENT PIECE OF THEATRE – A very impressive production by an exciting new young playwright... Director Jasson Minadakis with his skillful hand has an extraordinary cast to perform this powerful, absorbing drama... The play is fascinating, with wonderful, riveting characters.

    — Talkin' Broadway Read full review
  • ENGAGING, VIBRANT – Riveting and astounding storytelling; an ensemble of outstanding actors [support] a powerful performance by the stunning Katherine Renee Turner... The audience was on its feet, applauding wildly, with good reason. Don't miss this intriguing slice of history.

    — Mill Valley Herald (Marinscope Community Newspapers Read full review
  • TOUR DE FORCE – Powerful, gripping... we may be witnessing the emergence of a major new voice in our national theater. One of the most talented ensembles I've ever seen locally. Quite an achievement all around.

    — Pacific Sun
  • TAUT, ABSORBING – "The Convert" is one of those plays set in the past that transcend its period to achieve a powerful general relevance. Features a rich tangle of character portrayed by an admirable ensemble.

    — Piedmont Post/Repeat Performance Read full review
  • OUTSTANDING CAST – Strong performances from everyone... A fascinating drama that sheds light on a part of African history that probably is unfamiliar to most Americans.

    — San Mateo Daily Journal/Aisle Say Read full review

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