Twenty-four non-theatre professional members of the New Haven community form much of the cast of Long Wharf Theatre's experimental Bertolt Brecht production, The Good Person of New Haven, running April 28-June 4. Bill Rauch directs this adaptation, created by the Cornerstone Theatre Company's Alison Carey.
Long Wharf Theatre artistic director Doug Hughes, struck by the complexity of New Haven's city life, formed the New Haven Project to explore the diversity of the people of the Connecticut town. Work toward that goal began in October 1997, when Hughes discussed the idea with Rauch and Carey. The Cornerstone, based in L.A., was formed upon the notion that society flourishes only when its disparate members come to know and respect each other. The company has since executed community based theater projects in New York and Washington, D.C.
Over the summer of 1999, the Long Wharf held a series of community meetings to select a play. After poring over several works, those involved chose the Brecht piece, seeing many aspects of New Haven life in its themes. The Good Woman of Szechwan concerns Shen Te, a good hearted prostitute who becomes unexpectedly wealthy, but finds the only way she can avoid bankruptcy at the hands of a rapacious community is to invent a ruthless alter-ego, Shui Ta.
Ten professional actors fill the lead roles: Patrice Johnson (Tyesha Shore/Taiwo Highwater), Raul E. Esparza (Eddie), Carol A. Honda (Mrs. Shin), Bill Kux (Angel 2), Brian Nicholas Olivieri (Husband), Jeffrey V. Thompson (Reverand March), Chris Well (Angel 3), Peter Howard (Angel 1), Christopher Liam Moore (Quinn) and Armando Molina (Police Officer). All other roles, including the musicians and some backstage technicians, are filled by members of the community.
Designing the Good Person of New Haven are Lynn Jeffries (sets), David Zinn (costumes), Tyler Micoleau (lights) and Paul James (sound). Shishir Kurup composed the original score, with Sabrina Peck as choreographer. Tickets are $45-$10. For reservations, call (203) 787-4282. The Long Wharf Theatre is on the web at http://www.longwharf.org.
-- By Christine Ehren
and Sean McGrath