The world premiere of Tony Award-winner Warren Leight's No Foreigners Beyond This Point opens Nov. 27 at Baltimore Center Stage's Pearlstone Theatre, following previews that began Nov. 21.
Carrie Preston heads an eight-person troupe under the direction of Tim Vasen. No Foreigners, based on Leight's real life experiences as a teacher in China, is the first play commissioned and produced by Center Stage since the 1990-91 season. Leight won the Tony Award for Best Play for Side Man, his family character study of a brilliant jazz musician father who more committed to music than to his wife and son.
In No Foreigners, two American teachers, Paula and Andrew (played by Preston and Ean Sheehy), find themselves in a remote Chinese village where "the Beatles are as unknown as personal privacy."
Leight himself taught English in Canton in 1980 and 1981, when he was 23. "I had the chance so I took it," Leight told Playbill On-Line. "Also, I had a crush on someone I knew would be teaching over there."
He explained, "Like in Side Man, I'm trying to capture a world I knew well. Of course, one of the points of the play is how hard a world it is to know. The other teachers, students and one other foreigner, are my usual composites." His work on the play, technically, began 20 years ago. During his tenure as a foreign instructor, he kept diaries and wrote letters, which he then packed away until Irene Lewis, the artistic director of the Maryland not-for-profit theatre, offered him a commission to write what became No Foreigners Beyond This Point. The show was workshopped in January 2002 and scheduled for the 2002-03 season soon after.
"I knew of Center Stage because two of my close friends, Eric Bogosian and Michael Mayer, had had productions down there," said Leight, "and a third friend, Jill Rachel Morris, was their dramaturg. I liked the theatre on both trips down, and liked the city. Jill introduced me to Irene.
"Irene has begun to commission new plays. And as you know, not many places do that these days. I had two plays I was interested in writing, and she responded to this one. She said she hasn't seen that world on stage before. And she liked the themes that I said I'd be working with. She has strong interest in China, because her father spent time there during World War II."
Also in the cast are Les J. N. Mau, Ben Wang, John Woo Taak Kwon, Jane Wong, Nancy Wu and Andy Pang. The design team includes Christine Jones (sets), Tom Broecker (costumes) and Matthew Frey (lighting).
Preston first made her mark on the New York stage in Public Theater productions such as The Tempest starring Patrick Stewart and Anthony and Cleopatra starring Vanessa Redgrave. Lately, she has appeared in contemporary dramas such as Chaucer in Rome and Freedomland. She previously acted at Center Stage in The Cherry Orchard.
Performances continue to Dec. 22. For information, call (332) 332-0033 or visit Batimore Center Stage's website by clicking here .
— By Kenneth Jones
and Robert Simonson