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Month: May 2017

Meet James Ijames, U.S. theater’s next major voice

On this podcast, on a beautiful night in Old City, I caught up with playwright, director, teacher, and actor James Ijames, whose latest play, WHITE, is enjoying a critically acclaimed world-premiere production at Norristown’s Theatre Horizon. Meanwhile, this Barrymore and F. Otto Haas Emerging Artist Award winner’s The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington opened at the Ally Theatre in Washington, D.C., on April 30, 2017; another, Kill Move Paradise, opens at New York’s National Black Theatre on May 31, 2017. Ijames also recently won the $50,000 Whiting Award for “emerging writers who exhibit great promise.”

Playwright James Ijames is taking over 2017. (Photo by Beowulf Sheehan)

“A jazz guy”

Philadelphia audiences already know he’s delivered on that promise. Here we discuss the creative process and how Ijames’s work was enhanced after development at PlayPenn’s new-play conference. We also touch on provocation in art, a playwright’s responsibility to their audience, and the Whitney Biennial’s Emmett Till controversy. While WHITE traverses some rocky territory, it’s very funny. Ijames explains, “I’m a jazz guy, not a blues guy.” So what play does Ijames really adore? The answer may surprise you.

For Wendy Rosenfield’s review of WHITE, click here.

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All alone in a crowded room

Scottish playwright Stef Smith isn’t yet 30, but her plays show a power beyond her years. Philadelphia’s Inis Nua Theatre Company, which focuses specifically on presenting contemporary work from England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, is a perfect fit for her unique voice.

Playwright Stef Smith. (Photo via StefSmith.co.uk)

Here, we speak with Smith and director Claire Moyer about Inis Nua’s production of Swallow. Smith’s tale about a trio of lonely adults all in the midst of life-changing events finds a kind of universality in alienation from the modern world. Smith has received an Olivier Award for her play RoadKill and is an associate artist at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, Scotland. This is the third play Moyer has directed for Inis Nua. Together they discuss the play’s symbolism, getting into the heads of these characters, and the reactions from audiences around the world.

To read Mark Cofta’s review of Swallow, click here.

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