Suzan-Lori Parks’s Topdog/Underdog
  • 2023-10-09

Suzan-Lori Parks’s Topdog/Underdog




September 27 – October 21, 2012 | Opening Night: October 2

MILL VALLEY, CA—Marin Theatre Company continues its 2012/13 Season with Suzan-Lori Parks’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Topdog/Underdog, which runs from September 27 to October 21. Acclaimed regional theater director Timothy Douglas directs this “thrilling comic drama [that] vibrates with the clamor of big ideas, audaciously and exuberantly expressed” (The New York Times). The first locally produced professional staging, MTC’s production coincidentally marks the tenth anniversary of the first and only Pulitzer Prize for Drama win by an African-American woman. Local spoken word artist Biko Eisen-Martin returns to the region for his first Bay Area production since 2009 and also his first as a member of Actors’ Equity Association. Opening night is on Tuesday, October 2.

“I am delighted that MTC is a part of the tenth anniversary celebration of this remarkable, historic and profound American play,” artistic director Jasson Minadakis said. “Rarely has the theater seen the kind of brilliance that Suzan-Lori achieved with the story of Lincoln and Booth: ill-fated brothers condemned by their very names to play out the tragedy of America’s troubled, brutal legacy of race. I am particularly excited by the potential conversations that Topdog and our spring production of Matthew Lopez’s The Whipping Man will inspire in our lobby and in our community.”

“An utterly mesmerizing evening of theater  ” (Var iety), Topdog/Underdog delves into the rivalry of two brothers – Lincoln, the elder, is trying to make a go at honest work after years of hustling three-card monte; and Booth, the younger, is a wannabe looking to learn the tricks of his brother’s illegitimate trade. Trapped by their poverty, family history and ominously prophetic given names, these two black men soon realize they are locked in a dangerous game of deception, sparring over just which one’s the Player and which one’s the Played. In 2002, San Francisco Chronicle theater critic Robert Hurwitt, who also served on the Nominating Jury that recommended Topdog/Underdog as its top pick to the Pulitzer Prize Board, wrote, “The complex interweaving of social, imagistic and emotional metaphor beneath its surface makes [the play] as richly provocative as it is undeniably powerful.”

Winner of the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for DramaTopdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks returns to the Bay Area for its first locally produced professional staging. The play previously received a limited commercial run in San Francisco in 2003 through Best of Broadway (now SHN) at the Curran Theatre. Mounted by Seattle Rep, the short West Coast tour featured the original 2002 Broadway set, costumes, director (George C. Wolfe) and producer (Carole Shorenstein Hays), but actors Harold Perrineau and Larry Gilliard Jr. replaced the Broadway cast (Jeffrey Wright and Mos Def). The New York Times hailed the Broadway production, which had an extended four month run at the Ambassador Theatre, as “revitalizing,” “a deeply theatrical experience,” and “an entertaining wallop.” Originally starring Wright and Don CheadleTopdog/Underdog premiered off-Broadway on July 10, 2001, at the Public Theatre.

MTC previously produced staged readings of Suzan-Lori Parks’s 365 Days/365 Plays and In the Blood in 2007 as part of its New Works Series. Parks’s most recent work, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess (a controversial adaptation of the classic opera developed by American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts), won the 2012 Tony Award for Best Musical Revival and is currently running on Broadway through September 23. To mark the tenth anniversary of her Pulitzer Prize win (the first and only African American woman to do so), Parks will direct Topdog/Underdog for the first time in September at Two River Theater Company in New Jersey. Her work was last seen in the Bay Area at the Cutting Ball Theater in 2008, when Betting on the Dust Commander was featured in “Avant GardARAMA!: an evening of short experimental plays.”

Director Timothy Douglas makes his MTC debut with Topdog/Underdog. He has directed nationally and internationally, including local productions at Berkeley RepMagic Theatre and A.C.T. Conservatory. Most notably, he directed the world premiere of August Wilson’s Radio Golf at Yale Rep, the acclaimed Caribbean-inspired Much Ado About Nothing at the Folger Shakespeare Theatre in Washington D.C. and the premiere of a new translation/adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s Rosmersholm off-Broadway.

Topdog/Underdog features the MTC debut of actors Biko Eisen-Martin and Bowman Wright. Originally from San Francisco and a former Youth Speaks Bay Area spoken word champion, Eisen-Martin is a recent graduate of the National Theatre Conservatory. Last seen in the Bay Area in the world premiere of Fuku Americanus at Intersection for the Arts in 2009, this marks his first production in the region as a member of Actors’ Equity Association. Also his Bay Area debut, Wright, a recent graduate of the University of California, San Diego, has previously worked with director Timothy Douglas in August Wilson’s Fences at Actors Theatre of Louisville.

Topdog/Underdog is on the California Department of Education Recommended Literature List for grades 9-12.



Marin Theatre Company
By Suzan-Lori Parks
Directed by Timothy Douglas
Featuring Biko Eisen-Martin* and Bowman Wright*
* Member, Actor’s Equity Association

September 27 – October 21, 2012
Opening Night: Tuesday, October 2
Previews: Thursday, September 27 - Sunday, September 30

Performance Days
Tue, Thu, Fri & Sat 8:00 pm
Wed 7:30 pm
Sun 7:00 pm
Matinees: Every Sun 2:00 pm | Sat 10/6 & 10/20, 2:00 pm | Thu 10/11, 1:00 pm

Check or call the box office at (415) 388-5208 for exact performance dates and times.

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

“Thrilling comic drama… vibrates with the clamor of big ideas, audaciously and exuberantly expressed… a deeply theatrical experience” – The New York Times

Lincoln and Booth. They are rivals. They are brothers. Lincoln, the elder, is trying to make a go at honest work after years of hustling three-card monte; and Booth, the younger, is a wannabe looking to learn the tricks of his brother’s illegitimate trade. Trapped by their poverty, family history and ominously prophetic given names, these two black men find themselves locked in a dangerous game of deception, sparring over just which one’s the Player and which one’s the Played.

Winner of the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Drama – This year marks the 10th Anniversary of the benchmark win, the first and only for an African-American woman.

“An utterly mesmerizing evening of theater  ” – Var iety

$36–$57, details below (discounts available for Seniors and those Under 30)

Ticket Prices
Previews: $36 all
Opening Night & Sat Evenings: $52 side | $57 center
Tues: $36 | $41
Wed, Thu, Sun Evenings & Matinees: $41 | $46
Fri: $47 | $52

Discounts available:
RUSH tickets: $15, available one hour prior to show, based on availability
Under 30: $20, all performances
Senior discounts: varies by performance, please call
For group sales, contact Julie Knight, (415) 388-5200, ext. 3302

“MTC Engaged” invites patrons to join MTC’s artistic staff, designers and casts in conversation. A member of MTC’s artistic staff (often with one or more members of the cast) hosts a Q&A talk back after every performance, except Saturday matinees and evenings, and Opening and Closing Nights.

MTC Engaged Special Events:
• Theater Lecture Series at Mill Valley Public Library – FREE public lecture by MTC artistic staff, 375 Throckmorton Ave., 9/19, 7:30 p.m.
• After Words – post-show interview with special guest: Sun 9/30, 2:00 p.m.
• Director’s Night – post-show conversation with director: Wed 10/3 & 10/17
• Perspectives – pre-show topical lecture: Thu 10/17, 12:00 p.m.

“MTC All Access” strives to make theater accessible to all audiences. For visually impaired patrons, Large Print playbills are available at the box office at all performances, Digital playbills that are compatible with screen reader software are available online starting one week before the first performance of a production, and Braille playbills are available with two-weeks advance notice through partnership with LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired. To request a Braille 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 | (415) 388-5208 |


Suzan-Lori Parks (playwright) won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her play Topdog/Underdog, becoming the first African-American woman to do so. MTC previously produced staged readings of two of her plays in 2007 as part of its New Works Series – 365 Days/365 Plays, which was produced in over 700 theaters worldwide that year (making it one of the largest grassroots collaborations in theater history), and In the Blood, which was a finalist for the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Her other plays include The Book of Grace, Venus (1996 Obie Award for Playwriting), The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World, Father Comes Home from the Wars, Fucking A, Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom (1990 Obie Award for Best New American Play) and The America Play. Parks has written the screenplays Girl 6 for Spike Lee and Their Eyes Were Watching God, an adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston’s novel, for ABC’s “Oprah Winfrey Presents,” as well as the novel Getting Mother’s Body. Her work is the subject of the PBS film The Topdog Diaries. In addition to her writing, she had a lead acting role in The Making of Plus One, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.

Named one of Time magazine’s “100 Innovators for the Next New Wave,” Parks is a MacArthur “Genius” Award recipient and has been awarded grants by the National Endowment of the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the New York State Council on the Arts. She is the recipient of a Lila-Wallace Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award, a CalArts’s Alpert Award in the Arts and a Guggenheim Foundation Grant. Parks teaches at NYU, and is currently at work on her second novel and performing her experimental solo show, Watch Me Work, at the Public Theater, where she serves as Master Writer Chair. Her Ray Charles musical, Unchain My Heart, is scheduled to premiere on Broadway within the coming year. Parks is an alumna of Mount Holyoke College and New Dramatists.

Timothy Douglas (director) makes his MTC debut with Topdog/Underdog. His directorial work has previously been seen in the Bay Area at Berkeley Rep (Valley Song), Magic Theatre (Cowboys #5) and A.C.T. Conservatory (Ah Wilderness, Raised in Captivity and Good Breeding). Off-Broadway, he has directed Alloy Theater Company’s Brönte: A Portrait Of Charlotte, which is currently running at the Actors’ Temple Theatre, and Oslo Elsewhere’s Rosmersholm. Douglas directed the world premiere of August Wilson’s Radio Golf at Yale Rep and Much Ado About Nothing at Folger Shakespeare Theatre in Washington D.C. As associate artistic director at Actors Theatre of Louisville, he directed numerous projects, including three Humana Festival premieres and the 25th anniversary production of Crimes of the Heart. He served as a director-in-residence at for Center Theatre Group, resident director at New Dramatists and assistant stage director on Handel’s Rodelinda for Virginia Opera. Regionally, Douglas has directed at Berkshire Theatre Festival, Cleveland Playhouse, Downstage in New Zealand, Guthrie Theater, the Juilliard School, Milwaukee Repertory Theater (where he is an associate artist), Pittsburgh Public Theatre, PlayMakers Repertory Company in North Carolina, Portland Center Stage, Round House Theatre in Maryland, Shakespeare & Company in Massachusetts, South Coast Rep, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Utah Shakespeare Festival and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. As an actor he has appeared regionally, off-Broadway and on television. Douglas is a graduate of Yale School of Drama.

Biko Eisen-Martin (Booth) makes his MTC debut with Topdog/Underdog. Originally from San Francisco, he has appeared in the Bay Area in Fuku Americanus at Intersection for the Arts, Radio Golf at TheatreWorks, 365 Plays/365 Days at Z Space, Patricide Revisited at SF Theatre Fest, Clockwork Orange at Renegade Theatre, All God Chillun Got Wings at the Eugene O’Neill Festival and Basha at Brookside Repertory Theatre. Regionally, Eisen-Martin has appeared in Brother Size, Love’s Labours Lost, Three Sisters at Chautauqua Theatre Company in New York; Ruined, The Liar, To Kill a Mockingbird, Christmas Carol, Taming of the Shrew at Denver Center Theatre Company; King Lear, Our Town, Taming of the Shrew at Colorado Shakespeare Festival; Fucking A at Brown University; Liliane at Brown University’s Rites and Reason Theatre; Uncle Vanya, Richard III, Nicholas Nickleby, The Good Woman of Setzuan, Our Town, Charlie’s Aunt, Farenheit 451, The Big Chill and Topdog/Underdog at National Theatre Conservatory. He has also appeared in the film Poetic License. Eisen-Martin is a graduate of the National Theatre Conservatory (MFA) and Brown University (BA/MAT).

Bowman Wright (Lincoln) makes his MTC debut in Topdog/Underdog. He was last seen in A Raisin in the Sun at the Geva Theatre Center in Rochester, New York. His other regional credits include A Midsummer’s Night Dream at La Jolla Playhouse, The Dreamer Examines His Pillow at Shakespeare & Company in Massachusetts, The Piano Lesson at Virginia Stage Company, Since Africa and A House With No Walls at InterAct Theatre Company in Philadelphia and Fences at Actors Theatre of Louisville. He is a graduate of the University of California, San Diego, (MFA) and the University of the Arts (BFA).

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 intimate 231-seat proscenium theater. We are committed to the development and production of new plays by American playwrights, with a comprehensive New Play Program that includes at least one premiere each season, two nationally recognized annual playwriting awards, new play readings and workshops by the nation’s best emerging playwrights and a National New Play Network Playwright in Residence. Our numerous education programs serve more than 6,000 students each year. Founded in 1966.

Sasha Hnatkovich, Communications Director
(415) 388-5200, ext. 3313 | email


– #### –