Ekulona Replaces Tony Winner Lenox in World Premiere of Nottage's Ruined at Goodman

News   Ekulona Replaces Tony Winner Lenox in World Premiere of Nottage's Ruined at Goodman
 
Saidah Arrika Ekulona replaces Tony Award winner Adriane Lenox in the world premiere of Lynn Nottage's Ruined, a co-production between Goodman Theatre and Manhattan Theatre Club, launching Nov. 8 in Chicago prior to a 2009 New York City run.

Kate Whoriskey directs the play, commissioned by Chicago's Goodman, where it was first seen in a reading as part of the 2007 New Stages Series. Ruined was developed through Nottage and Whoriskey's pilgrimage to Uganda, "where countless interviews and interactions resulted in a portrait of the lives of the women and girls caught in the devastating armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)," according to production notes.

Leading the Goodman's cast in the role of Mama Nadi is Saidah Arrika Ekulona (Well on Broadway; "Righteous Kill"), who previously collaborated with Nottage and Whoriskey on the world premiere of Fabulation at Playwrights Horizons. Casting for the MTC run is still being determined. (Lenox, a veteran of Doubt and Kiss Me, Kate, withdrew from the production "due to unexpected personal reasons.")

Ruined opens at Goodman's Owen Theatre Nov. 17 and runs through Dec. 7. It begins performances at Manhattan Theatre Club on Jan. 21, 2009.

According to Goodman, "Set in the present-day DRC, Ruined is the captivating story of Mama Nadi (Ekulona), the owner of a canteen who serves up everything from a cold beer and a warm meal — to the company of a woman. Through the eyes of this savvy businesswoman who both protects and profits from the women whose bodies have become battlegrounds, Nottage captures the constantly shifting allegiances and tragic absurdity that marks the civil war in the DRC. Ruined, rendered with Nottage's trademark humanity, clarity and surprising humor, gives a glimpse of a country that has suffered immeasurable losses since the beginning of this war that has raged for more than a decade."

The playwright stated, "I sought to sustain the complexity of the modern DRC, a country that's been ravaged by a brutal war, and where the unspeakable has become commonplace. The challenge in writing the play was to find optimism where there is seemingly none, to mine the ugliness for seeds of beauty. The DRC is a place where hope and disillusionment do a fragile dance. It is in this tension of opposites that my play exists." The cast of Ruined is completed by Quincy Tyler Bernstine (Salima), Cherise Boothe (Josephine), Ali Amin Carter (Soldier #2), Chris Chalk (Jerome Kisembe), William Jackson Harper (Simon), Chiké Johnson (Fortune), Russell G. Jones (Christian), Simon Kashama (Soldier #1), Kevin Mambo (Commander Osembenga), Tom Mardirosian (Mr. Harari) and Condola Phyleia Rashad (Sophie).

Nottage, whose work was most recently seen at the Goodman during the 2005-06 season with Crumbs from the Table of Joy, is the author of the acclaimed Intimate Apparel, which was produced in New York at Roundabout Theatre Company after its world-premiere production at Center Stage and South Coast Repertory and received numerous awards, including the 2004 New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Play, the Outer Critics Circle Best Play award, the John Gassner Award, the American Theatre Critics/Steinberg 2004 New Play Award and the 2004 Francesca Primus Award. Her next play, Fabulation, or the Education of Undine, was first produced by Playwrights Horizons and received a highly acclaimed production at the Tricycle Theatre in London. Both plays are published in an anthology by Theatre Communications Group (TCG). Another anthology of her plays, "Crumbs From the Table of Joy and Other Plays" was published by TCG, and includes Crumbs From the Table of Joy; Las Meninas; Mud, River, Stone; Por'Knockers and Poof!

Nottage wrote the feature film "Side Streets" (Merchant Ivory Productions), directed by Tony Gerber. The film was an official selection at the Venice and Sundance Film Festivals. Currently, she is writing an adaptation of Edwige Danticat's novel "The Dew Breaker" for HBO Films.

She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious 2004 PEN/Laura Pels Award for literary excellence and the 2005 Guggenheim grant for playwriting, as well as fellowships from Manhattan Theatre Club, New Dramatists and the New York Foundation for the Arts, where she is a member of the Artists Advisory Board. Nottage is an alumna of New Dramatists, a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant" Award and a graduate of Brown University and the Yale School of Drama, where she is currently a visiting lecturer.

Whoriskey's Goodman Theatre credits include Vigils, Heartbreak House, The Rose Tattoo and Drowning Crow. Her Off-Broadway credits include The Piano Teacher by Julia Cho at Vineyard Theatre, The Last Tree in Antarctica by Julie Cho at Ensemble Studio Theatre, the world premiere of Fabulation by Lynn Nottage at Playwrights Horizons and Massacre by José Rivera at LAByrinth Theater Company, of which she is a member.

The creative team for Ruined includes Derek McLane (set), Paul Tazewell (costumes), Peter Kaczorowski (lighting), Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen (sound), Dominic Kanza (original music), and Randy Duncan (movement director).

For more information visit GoodmanTheatre.org.

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