Starving, a Portrait of Black Atlanta in the '50s, Premieres at D.C.'s Woolly Mammoth

News   Starving, a Portrait of Black Atlanta in the '50s, Premieres at D.C.'s Woolly Mammoth
 
The lives and hopes of a new black community in Atlanta are explored in the world premiere of S.M. Shephard-Massat's Starving by Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington, D.C. Nov. 14-Dec. 18.

The drama with humor by the author of Waiting To Be Invited and Levee James is directed by Seret Scott.

Picture "a bustling apartment stoop in a new black neighborhood in 1950s Atlanta" that "brims with vitality and ambition as a community blossoms with residents moving from the country to a fresh start in the city," production notes invite. "But a peek behind the apartment walls reveals a steamy world of private bonds and struggles within, where the women try to better their lives and keep their men focused and striving for more. With a keen eye, vivid language and riotous humor, Shephard-Massat captures a pivotal moment in one particular black community as it struggles over sex, shifting values, and an uncertain future."

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"Starving looks through a big lens," said artistic director Howard Shalwitz, in production notes. "It all takes place in a single apartment building in Atlanta in the early 1950s. But through the comings and goings of its residents, Sherry brilliantly captures the challenges of a generation of Southern black women on the threshold of a new urban life. This is a big, funny, fascinating, and powerful play all at once — and it's been thrilling to work with Sherry and Seret Scott to bring it to life for the first time."

The cast of Starving features Woolly acting company member Doug Brown and Woolly veteran Craig Wallace with Jessica Frances Dukes, Lizan Mitchell, J Paul Nicholas, Dawn Ursula and Michael Anthony Williams. The resident professional theatre in Washington, D.C. will offer two pay what you can performances Nov. 14-15. Opening night is Nov. 20.

S.M. Shephard-Massat's first full-length play, Waiting To Be Invited, has been produced by theatre companies across the United States, including the Denver Center Theatre Company, Chicago's Victory Gardens Theatre and in D.C. by the African Continuum Theatre Company. She has received the Adrienne Kennedy Society's Young Dramatist’s Award (1996), Delaware Theatre Company's Connections Award for best original play (1997), the Roger L. Stevens Award from the Kennedy Center (1999), the Westword Best of Denver Award for best new play, the American Theatre Critics' Association's M. Elizabeth Osborn Award (2001), and the Black Theatre Alliance Award (Chicago, 2002) for best playwriting.

Her second full-length play, Someplace Soft to Fall, received a 2001 Francesca Primus Award and was produced by St. Paul's Penumbra Theatre Company in March 2002, while she was in residence at the University of Minnesota as playwriting instructor. Levee James, her third play, was developed in July 2002 at the O'Neill Playwrights Conference, premiered at San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater and was nominated for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.

Director Seret Scott is an associate artist of the Old Globe Theatre (San Diego) where she has directed numerous productions including the world premiere of Knowing Cairo, a new adaptation of Trojan Women, as well as productions of I Stopped By To See The Man, Faith Healer, Blues for an Alabama Sky, Crumbs From the Table of Joy and Madame Mao's Memories, among others. Off-Broadway she directed Mujeres Y Hombres (New Victory Theatre), and Birdie Blue and Zooman and The Sign (Second Stage Theatre).

The design team includes Daniel Ettinger (set design), Kate Turner-Walker (costume design), Dan Covey (lighting design) and Mark Anduss (sound design).

Woolly Mammoth is located at 641 D Street, NW (7th & D). For more information, call (202) 393-3939 or visit www.woollymammoth.net.

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