An American Wife Gets World Premiere March 21 at PA's Northeast Theatre

News   An American Wife Gets World Premiere March 21 at PA's Northeast Theatre
 
An outsider tries to be an insider in the assimilation-themed immigrant drama An American Wife, getting its world premiere by The Northeast Theatre in Scranton, PA.
Amber Irvin and Tessa Barrett in An American Wife by Michael Downend and Karen Blomain.
Amber Irvin and Tessa Barrett in An American Wife by Michael Downend and Karen Blomain. Photo by Pat Henneforth

The resident Equity theatre launches the play, by married playwrights Michael Downend and Karen Blomain, March 21 toward a March 24 opening night. The play is "a comic drama set in the Scranton area shortly after World War II." It concerns an Irish-American soldier returning home — and his Polish bride, Stella, who receives a mixed reception from her new husband's family.

Directed by Northeast Theatre's producing artistic director David Zarko, performances play to April 7 at the Performance Space at the Hotel Jermyn, 326 Spruce Street, second floor, in downtown Scranton.

The cast features New York actress Amber Irvin, and Scranton actors Tessa Barrett, Melanie Brown, Agnes Cummings, Christa Manning, Michael Maria and Conor McGuigan.

Playwrights Michael Downend and Karen Blomain are residents of Wilkes-Barre and Puerta Vallarta, Mexico.

Blomain told Playbill.com, "A long time ago, I wrote a short story, 'The Polish War Bride,' while I was in Mexico. I asked my husband, Michael, to be a second set of eyes as I revisited this story and edited it. He said that each time he read the story, he was struck by the thought that it would make a terrific play. It so happened that we were both immersed in other writing projects, so we did what any writer would — dropped everything and dove head first into making the story into a play. "Just as Arthur Miller addressed McCarthyism through the seemingly unrelated The Crucible, I wanted to explore the enduring xenophobia in the United States. Stella, the protagonist in An American Wife, finds resistance, distrust and anger as she attempts to take her place as an American wife.

"In contrast to those who find the economic disappointment at the end of the war crushing, Stella seizes any new opportunity and embraces the life she's come to as one of safety, comfort and opportunity. One of the things I have learned from all the incarnations of Stella I've known — be she Lupita, Carmen, Josefina, Tatiana, or Zena — is how immigrants enrich our culture with their presence.

"In the case of An American Wife, Stella's haunted and painful past not only brings her new family together but also imbues those around her with her optimism and verve. The story is pre-feminist feminist, working class, blue collar, and small town — anytown USA. I hope it makes people think."

The creative team includes set designer Lausanne Davis Carpenter, lighting designer James Langan, costume designer Cheri Vasek and sound designer Malcolm Bowes.

*

Poet, essayist, translator, short story writer, novelist and now playwright, Karen Blomain holds an MFA from Columbia University and is a professor in the Professional Writing Program at Kutztown University. With her husband, playwright, novelist and photo journalist Michael Downend, she has taught and conducted workshops in France, Ireland, Russia and Mexico and across the U.S. An American Wife is her first play.

Michael Downend's career as a playwright began with a one act called The Mola Mola Fish, which received productions in theatres across the country. A series of other plays followed, among them High Thin Cirrus, Lone Ranger Mornings and Occoquan, and with them a series of awards including a Rockefeller/OADR playwriting grant, two Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Playwriting Fellowships and an ABC Filmwriting Fellowship.

For information about The Northeast Theatre, call (570) 558-1515 or visit thenortheasttheatre.us.

Conor McGuigan, Tessa Barrett and Agnes Cummings in The Northeast Theatre's world premiere production of <i>An American Wife</i> by Michael Downend and Karen Blomain.
Conor McGuigan, Tessa Barrett and Agnes Cummings in The Northeast Theatre's world premiere production of An American Wife by Michael Downend and Karen Blomain. Photo by Pat Henneforth
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