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McCarter Theatre presents "Bulrusher"

originally published: 08/22/2023

McCarter Theatre presents "Bulrusher"

(PRINCETON, NJ) -- McCarter Theatre Center opens their 2023-2024 Theatre Series with Eisa Davis' Bulrusher, a transformational coming-of-age story filled to the brim with passion, humor, and even a touch of magic; on stage in the Berlind Theatre from September 13 – October 7, 2023. This is a co-production with Berkeley Repertory Theatre, where the production will move after its run in Princeton.

“I’m so thrilled for Bulrusher to be opening our season and to have Nicole A. Watson back in the director’s chair after leading the much-loved Blues for an Alabama Sky to great success,” said Artistic Director, Sarah Rasmussen. “We couldn’t be more excited to produce this heartfelt and poetic play. The world of this play and its characters will stay with you long after you've seen it!”

Bulrusher transports audiences to the predominantly white town of Boonville, nestled in the majestic Redwoods of 1955 California. Orphaned as an infant and possessing the mystical gift of clairvoyance, Bulrusher feels her small-town world closing in around her, until a mysterious Black girl from Alabama arrives harboring a secret, awakening new discoveries and uncovering old truths.

McCarter Theatre presents "Bulrusher"

Nicole A. Watson

“Any story that enlivens and expands our understanding of the variety of history and our shared past is a story worth telling,” said Nicole A. Watson, director of Bulrusher and McCarter’s Associate Artistic Director. “Bulrusher is a gift of a play in that is a story about finding love, home, and a sense of belonging in a variety of ways. It's complex, poetic, and rooted in this history of Northern California.”

A finalist for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Eisa Davis’ Bulrusher has charmed critics and audiences with its “big heart and wide-open soul” (Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune). The Hollywood Reporter praised Ms. Davis for her ability to convey “the power of many variants of intimacy, with their contending and complementary strands of anger and desire, rebellion and love.”



 
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Tickets start at $25 and are now on sale at McCarter.org or can be purchased by calling the Patron Services Office at 609-258-2787. Groups of 10 or more can save 20% off of tickets (zone restrictions apply.) 

NOTE: Princeton University Students can access free tickets with Passport to the Arts using code PUTIGER. More information on PU Student Tix for events at McCarter: McCarter.org/TigerTix and High School & College Students can access $25 tickets in advance with code STUTIX. Tickets can be picked up prior to the performance with a valid student ID. 

The Creative Team for Bulrusher includes: Nathan C. Crocker (Dialect & Vocal Coach), Katherine Freer (Projection Designer), Liza James (Associate Costume Designer), Tommy Kurzman (Wig and Makeup Designer), Destiny Lilly (Casting Director), Kate Marvin (Sound Designer), Paloma McGregor (Movement Director), Rocio Mendez (Fight and Intimacy Director), Sherrice Mojgani (Lighting Designer), Lawrence E. Moten III (Scenic Designer), Faye Price (Dramaturg), Jessica Natalie Smith (Associate Director), Valerie St. Pierre Smith (Costume Designer), Samantha Weiser (Associate Lighting Designer)

Eisa Davis (Playwright) is an award-winning actor, writer, and singer-songwriter working on stage and screen. She was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for her play Bulrusher, and wrote and starred in Angela’s Mixtape, named a best of the year by The New Yorker. Other plays include Ramp (Ruby Prize winner), The History of Light (Barrymore nomination), Paper Armor, Umkovu, Six Minutes, Warriors Don’t Cry, ||: Girls :||: Chance :||: Music :||, and Mushroom. Collaborations include AFROFEMONONOMY // WORK THE ROOTS, Maze at The Shed, The House on Coco RoadActive IngredientsHip Hop Anansi, and Cirque du Soleil’s first ice show, Crystal. Works in progress include a sound art installation/performance piece entitled The Essentialisn’t, and a musical version of Devil in A Blue Dress. Eisa wrote for both seasons of the Netflix series She’s Gotta Have It, and has co-written two episodes for the upcoming FX series Justified: City Primeval.

Eisa is a 2020 Creative Capital recipient. She was awarded the prestigious Herb Alpert Award in Theatre, and was a resident playwright at New Dramatists, where she won the Helen Merrill Award and the Whitfield Cook Award, among others. She has received fellowships from Sundance, Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, Cave Canem, and the Doris Duke, Van Lier and Mellon Foundations. In addition to dozens of workshops at academic and arts institutions, Eisa has taught semester-long courses at Princeton and Williams.

Nicole A. Watson (Director) is the BOLD Associate Artistic Director at the McCarter Theatre Center. Prior to this appointment, she served as the AAD at Round House Theatre. On behalf of both theaters, she produced the Adrienne Kennedy Festival, directing a digital version of Kennedy’s She Brought Her Heart Back in a Box. A history teacher turned freelance director, Nicole’s directing career includes premiering new plays by writers of color in addition to restoring missing voices onto the stage. Credits include Pearl Cleage’s Blues for an Alabama Sky (McCarter Theatre Center and Guthrie Theater), the world premieres of Charly Evon Simpson’s it’s not a trip it’s a journey, (Round House), Keith Josef Adkins’ The West End (Cincinnati Playhouse), and Jacqueline Goldfinger’s adaptation of Madeline L’Engle’s A Wind in the Door (The Kennedy Center). At McCarter she is the curator of the Toni Morrison Commissions, the co-curator with Paula Vogel on Bard at the Gate where she directed a digital production of Dipika Guha’s Passing and has been the lead teacher for the Kennedy Center Directing Intensive for the past 3 years. She has worked with Signature Theater, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Baltimore Center Stage, Portland Center Stage, Asolo Rep, The Contemporary American Theater Festival, New Dramatists, Playmakers Repertory Theatre, The Lark, The Fire This Time Festival, New Black Fest, The Playwrights Center, Working Theater, The 52nd Street Project, Theater Latte Da, and the Washington National Opera. She is a New Georges Affiliated Artist, an alum of the Drama League, the Lincoln Center Directors Lab and the Women’s Project Directors Lab, and a member of the SDC.

About the Cast:



 
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Jordan Tyson (Bulrusher) Jordan Tyson’s work can be seen in the Netflix series The Chair and film Vampires vs The Bronx. Recently she performed in the world premiere productions of Lempicka musical at La Jolla Playhouse and The Notebook musical at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. She’s also working on her debut EP.

Shyla Lefner (Madame) Shyla Lefner is an actor, writer and comedian based out of Los Angeles. She is thrilled to be returning to the McCarter Theatre! Recent credits include Between Two Knees (McCarter, Seattle Rep); Between Two KneesManahatta (Yale Rep); The Cymbeline ProjectAlice in WonderlandHenry VBetween Two Knees, and The Way the Mountain Moved (Oregon Shakespeare Festival); The Door You Never Saw Before (Geffen Playhouse TYA); Fairly TraceableOff the RailsThe Frybread Queen (Native Voices at the Autry). Readings and workshops: Sovereignty (Theatre for a New Audience); Wonderland (Dramatists Guild); (w)holeness (Oregon Shakespeare Festival); Ackia: The Complete Epic (Idyllwild Native Arts Festival); Ungipamsuuka: My StoryOur Voices Will Be Heard (La Jolla Playhouse). Some film credits include Lies and AlibisWhatever It TakesGraceWoo.

Jeorge Bennett Watson (Logger) Jeorge is extremely honored and profoundly grateful to be making his McCarter Theater debut. Most recently, Jeorge had the extreme pleasure of working with director Lisa Peterson in her repertory productions of Coriolanus and Timon of Athens at this season’s Utah Shakespeare Festival. Off-Broadway: Romeo & Juliet (MAD Company), Powerhouse (Manhattan Repertory Theatre), …what the end will be (Roundabout Theater, Laura Pels) Superhero (Sheen Center), Babette’s Feast (Theatre At St. Clement). Regional: The Crucible (Resident Ensemble Players), The Purists (The Huntington Theatre) A Human Being, Of A Sort (Williamstown Theatre Festival), Fences (Resident Ensemble Players), The Royale (Merrimack), The Piano Lesson (Arena Stage) The Bluest Eye (Theater Alliance), TopDog/UnderDog (Studio Theatre), Jitney (Studio Theater), stopkiss (Woolly Mammoth), The Great White Hope (Arena Stage). Select TV: Blue BloodsLaw & Order: Organized CrimeFBI: Most Wanted, For LifeLuke CageShamelessJustifiedThe Wire.

Cyndii Johnson (Vera) Broadway: Trouble in Mind. Off Broadway: What to Send Up When It Goes Down (Playwrights Horizons). Regional: Clyde’s (Berkley Rep, Huntington Theatre Company) Confederates and Peter and the Starcatcher (Oregon Shakespeare Festival); The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington (Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival); BLKS (Woolly Mammoth); How We Got On (Cleveland Playhouse); Remix 38 and The Christians (Humana Festival); The MountaintopOur Town (Actors Theatre of Louisville).

Rob Kellogg (Boy) Off-Broadway/Regional: Hansol Jung's Romeo and JulietRed Light WinterSpring AwakeningTwelfth Night, Amputees. Television: Pretty Little Liars: Original SinUncoupled, and

FBI. Training: LAMDA, Boston University (BFA).

Jamie LaVerdiere (Schoolch) Jamie LaVerdiere made his Broadway debut starring opposite Nathan Lane in The Producers as Matthew Broderick’s understudy. Bulrusher marks his first time on stage at the McCarter, but NJ audiences may have seen him in Papermill Playhouse’s The Baker’s Wife1776, and Clue, the Garage Theatre’s Enigma Variations, or NJ Repertory’s Date of a Lifetime. More Broadway: The Pirate Queen and Motown. Tours: Urinetown (First National), Motown (First National), and A Chorus Line (Europe). OTHER NYC credits include Grand Hotel (Encores!), I Love You, You’re Perfect... (Westside), Closer Than Ever (York), Rothschild and Sons (York), This Side of Paradise (St Clements), Gold Rush (Kaye), Roadside(York), Dogman (New World Stages) and Cam Jansen (Lambs).

Jamella Cross (U/S) is an Oakland, CA based actor that has worked with theater companies like Bay Area Children's Theater, Magic Theater, Aurora Theater, Marin Shakespeare Company, Oakland Theater Project, Virago Theater, San Francisco Mime Troupe, and SFPlayhouse.

Kyla Tucaya Garcia (U/S) is a Taíno poet, actor, director, and teaching artist based in unceded Tongva land.  She believes stories are medicine and fuses her voice, art, and activism to bring light to this world. Select Theatre: Can't Drink Salt Water (Montana Rep World Premiere workshop), We Won't Sleep (Broadway workshop), Pure Native (World Premiere, Native Voices at the Autry), Ismene (World Premiere New Adaptation of Jean Anouilh's Antigone, A Noise Within). Kyla originated the role of Sarah Ridge Polson in Sovereignty at Arena Stage and had the honor of performing for Gloria Steinem and Ruth Bader Ginsberg, she is a 3x Audie-nominated and 15x Audiofile Earphones Award-winning storyteller who has narrated over 300 audiobooks to date, and the creator of the acclaimed solo show The Mermaid Who Learned How to Fly. As a poet, Kyla is a mainstay performer at the legendary Nuyorican Poet's Cafe. She is currently learning her Indigenous language and works daily to craft poems that feature Hiwatahia. Select TV: NBC's New AmsterdamSpirit Rangers on Netflix, and The Exchange streaming on Amazon. You can currently hear her starring alongside Jessica Chastain in the hit Audible podcast The Space Within.

David Everett Moore (U/S) David Everett Moore is a longtime San Francisco Bay Area actor whose many local credits include work with Aurora Theatre Company, Magic Theatre, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, African-American Shakespeare Company, and Marin Theatre Company, where he originated the role of Mr. Darcy in Lauren Gunderson's The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley. Regional credits include work with Capital Stage Company, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, and the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. Selected Favorites: We Are Proud To Present at Just Theater; Safe House at Aurora Theatre Company; An Octoroon at Capital Stage ; Inked Baby at Crowded Fire Theater. David is a longtime Resident Artist of the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival and a proud graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, where he earned his BA in Theater and Performance Studies.

Brennan Pickman-Thoon (U/S) is thrilled to make his McCarter debut with this wonderful show! He recently returned from a tour in France, with Word For Word’s production of Home by George Saunders. Other recent credits include A Christmas Carol (American Conservatory Theater), MetamorphosesThe Good Book (Berkeley Repertory Theatre), Mother of the Maid (Marin Theater Company), Boys Go To Jupiter (Word For Word), The Gentleman CallerThe Book of Mountains and Seas (New Conservatory Theater Company), Timon of AthensPhèdre (Cutting Ball Theater), HamletMeasure For Measure (Marin Shakespeare Company). He is a faculty member and teaching artist at American Conservatory Theater and Berkeley Repertory Theatre. He won the 2019 SFBATCC Award for Actor in a Principal Role for his portrayal of Tennessee Williams in Philip Dawkins’ The Gentleman Caller. His training includes the Stella Adler Studio of Acting and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.





 
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Important Dates

Preview Performances – September 13, 14, and 15

Opening Night – Saturday, September 16

Post-Show Discussions – September 17 at 2:00pm and September 23 at 2:00pm

American Sign Language Interpreted Performance – September 23 at 2:00pm

Open Caption and Audio Described Performance – September 24 at 2:00pm

 

Enhance Your Experience

Live at the Library – Bulrusher Thursday, August 24 | 7:00pm - 8:15pm, Princeton Public Library – Community Room. Join McCarter and Princeton Public Library for a free behind-the-scenes conversation about the compelling season opener, Bulrusher by Eisa Davis. Associate Artistic Director Nicole A. Watson will be joined by special guests to share the joys and challenges of mounting this unique coming-of-age story.

Pride PartyThursday, September 28 | 6:00pm. Nights out at McCarter just got even more fabulous! Join us for the 2023-2024 Season of Pride Parties and a curated selection of performances by LGBTQ artists and/or featuring Queer characters and stories. All are welcome at our celebratory pre-performance parties in the West Lobby of the Matthews Theatre featuring hearty appetizers, a cash bar with specialty cocktails, entertainment, and more! 



An independent not-for-profit performing arts center located between New York City and Philadelphia – and on the campus of Princeton University – McCarter is a multi-disciplinary creative and intellectual hub offering theater, music, dance, comedy, spoken word, and educational programs for all ages. Celebrated for developing new work and winner of the 1994 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre, world premieres include Christopher Durang's Vanya, Sonia, Masha and Spike (Tony, Best Play), Tarell Alvin McCraney's The Brother/Sister Plays, and Emily Mann's Having Our Say. Equally revered for presenting renowned global artists on its stages, some of which include Alvin Ailey, Yo-Yo Ma, Samara Joy, David Sedaris, Hasan Minhaj, Terence Blanchard, Roseanne Cash, the rock band Lake Street Dive, Audra McDonald, and more. McCarter connects with the community year-round and offers on-site classes and in-school residencies. McCarter and Princeton University share a long history of unique partnerships and creative collaborations.


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