A young girl learns history and humanity from her grandmother in the world premiere of Kia Corthron's coming-of-age drama, Digging Eleven, beginning previews Jan. 14, 1999 at Hartford Stage in Connecticut. Opening is Jan. 20, continuing through Feb. 14, 1999.
Actress Rori Godsey, 13, plays Ness, whose prophetic grandmother (Novella Nelson) helps prepare the girl for the future by exploring the past. The play centers on an African-American family and addresses notions of traditional and non-traditional family in the context of workers' rights and sexual orientation.
"This is actually my most personal play," Corthron said in production notes. "My father worked in paper mills all of his life, and, unlike any other play of mine, a character is based on somebody I know, my grandmother. This play is literally like family to me."
Playwright Corthron's Splash Hatch on the E Going Down was staged at Baltimore's Center Stage and Yale Repertory Theatre. Her other works include Seeking the Genesis, Life by Asphyxiation and Wake Up Lou Riser, among others.
Veteran Hartford Stage director Reggie Montgomery directs Digging Eleven. Joining actress Godsey, who appeared in the Harold Prince staging of Whistle Down the Wind, are Chad Coleman, Helmar Augustus Cooper, Novella Nelson, Ray Anthony Thomas and Sharon Washington. Nelson served as artistic consultant to the NY Shakespeare Festival for seven years; Thomas is a member of Off-Broadway's Atlantic Theatre Company.
Designers are Jim Youmans (set), Felix E. Cochran (costume), Rui Rita (lighting) and David Budries (sound).
Digging Eleven is the first world premiere staged under the leadership of artistic director Michael Wilson, who took over the job from longtime director Mark Lamos in 1998.
Tickets are $16.25-$42. Hartford Stage is at 50 Church St. in Hartford. Call (860) 527-5151 for information.
-- By Kenneth Jones