Everyman Theatre’s Intimate Apparel Reveals Patterns of Synergy and Commitment to Playwright’s Work
Production Weaves Thematic Threads with Meaningful Community Connections
Baltimore, MD – As though tailor-made for the locally-commissioned play’s Baltimore audience,Intimate Apparel stirs with substance, style and sincerity at Everyman Theatre—October 18 through November 19, 2017—in a quietly commanding production that radiates with powerful performances on-stage and profound local partnerships off-stage, bringing the play’s delicate themes affectingly to life.
Wearing her heart on her sleeve while sewing intimates for her clientele, Esther is the talented African American seamstress in turn-of-the-century New York who has built a savings for herself making beautiful undergarments—while earnestly daydreaming of new beginnings, romantic possibilities, and the lingering affection she shares with a Jewish fabric merchant. But when an egregious deception cuts short heartfelt desires, can class, culture and circumstance outmatch the strength of human spirit? Inspired by a true story, Intimate Apparel is a heart-rending contemporary work in the style of an enduring classic—from Lynn Nottage, the first female playwright to win two Pulitzers.
Intimate Apparel marks the third Lynn Nottage play produced at Everyman Theatre, following 2015’sRuined and 2014’s By The Way, Meet Vera Stark. Intimate Apparel director Tazewell Thompson (who previously directed Great Expectations and Ruined at Everyman, as well as a production of Intimate Apparel at Dartmouth College) brings what Everyman Theatre Founding Artistic Director Vincent M. Lancisi describes as “a dramatist’s eye and a librettist’s ear” to the helm.
“Plays like Intimate Apparel are about bringing the real changing world into the theater,” said Thompson. “They are about making the theater contemporaneous with life; making the theater a leader of perception, not a follower. Intimate Apparel awakens us to the selves within ourselves; allows us to see, hear and understand the lives of, indeed, every man.”
In this spirit, Everyman’s production of Intimate Apparel is augmented by an extensive slate of ancillary programming that fastens topics from the play (including empowerment, entrepreneurship, and evolving trends) to close-knit community collaborations involving local artists, makers and independent entrepreneurs as well as institutions such as MICA, Baltimore School for the Arts, the Baltimore Design School and the Maryland Film Festival’s SNF Parkway Theatre.
“The story on stage can be just the beginning of the journey,” explained Everyman Theatre Managing Director Jonathan K. Waller. “We invite audiences to join us in deepening the experience by exploring how the play’s themes connect to our lives and history here in the Baltimore area. For Intimate Apparel, we have more opportunities to do this than ever before thanks to a growing circle of committed and connected partners.”
Partner projects for Intimate Apparel include an on-site costume exhibit, a tasting involving local restaurants, a film screening and discussion, a community conversation with local/regional fashion designers, a panel discussion about labor and sex work, and a walking tour of Baltimore’s historic garment district—among others. (See below for comprehensive listing.)
The cast of Intimate Apparel reunites several cast members from Ruined, including Resident Company Member Dawn Ursula* (Esther), Jade Wheeler* (Mayme) and Bueka Uwemedimo* (George). Rounding out the cast is Jenn Walker* (Mrs. Dickson), Resident Company Member Beth Hylton* (Mrs. Van Buren), and Drew Kopas* (Mr. Marks) and Steve Polites (Understudy-Mr. Marks).
The Intimate Apparel design team includes director Tazewell Thompson, Donald Eastman (Set Design), Stephen Quandt (Lighting Design), David Burdick (Costume Design), Fabian Obispo (Sound Design & Composition), Gary Logan (Dialects) and Denise O’Brien (Wig Design).
Intimate Apparel runs October 18 through November 19, 2017. Tickets ($10-65) are now on sale online (everymantheatre.org), by phone (410.752.2208), or at the Everyman Theatre Box Office (315 W. Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD).
*Member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States
On View in the Lobby/Mezzanine
Fashion Exhibit: Boudoir Vignettes
Ongoing (October 20 – November 19, 2017)
Independent designers and matriculating students from MICA, Baltimore School for the Arts and Baltimore Design School have crafted this visual response to the story and setting of Intimate Apparel, which combines their local viewpoint with elements of clothing, including lingerie and boudoir attire. Curated by Caprece Jackson-Garrett.
TNT: Theatre Night for Teens
Tuesday, October 17, 2017 at 6:00 PM
Students in grades 9-12 enjoy a dynamic night out at the theatre featuring pre-show dinner sponsored by Noodles & Company, an Intimate Apparel artist meet-and-greet, and a 7:30 PM preview performance followed by post-show discussion and dessert. Tickets: $10 each (space is limited).
Pay-What-You-Can Preview Performance
Tuesday, October 17, 2017 at 7:30 PM
Pay-What-You-Can to see the first preview performance of Intimate Apparel. Tickets: By donation (cash only), available on a first-come, first-serve basis at the Box Office beginning at 5:30pm. Seating is general admission.
Everyman at the Parkway: Middle of Nowhere
Tuesday, October 24, 2017 at 7:00 PM (at the SNF Parkway Theatre)
One-night-only film screening presented in partnership with the Maryland Film Festival: Written and directed by Ava DuVernay, who won the 2012 Sundance Film Festival Best Director Award for her work,Middle of Nowhere chronicles a woman’s separation from her incarcerated husband and the journey to maintain her marriage and her identity amidst crisis and chaos. Resident Company member Dawn Ursula (Intimate Apparel) will introduce the screening and host an informal discussion following the film. Tickets: $8-10 each (available at mdfilmfest.com).
Taste of Everyman: Classified Cravings
Thursday, October 26, 2017 at 6:00 PM
Taste of Everyman is an artful pre-show experience that combines smarts and samples from some of the hottest talent in Baltimore’s dine and drink scene, including expert knowledge and sample-sized pairings designed (cheekily) to complement the show. Hush-hush hankerings? Top-secret tastes? For even the “foodiest” foodies among us, keeping our favorites quiet is par for the course. In the secret-keeping spirit of Intimate Apparel, join one of Baltimore’s most knowledgeable and passionate food and drink insiders, Amy Langrehr (aka Charm City Cook) for an “off the record” dish on some of Baltimore’s most-loved nosh — including some well known and others still a little bit under the radar. Featured restaurants include Dylan’s Oyster Cellar, Ekiben and Lobo, paired with local beers from Brewer’s Art, Monument City Brewing and Union Craft Brewing. Tickets: $60 each (includes event and 7:30pm performance) or $30 each (event only).
Confessions of a Designer
Friday, October 27, 2017 at 6:00 PM (Reception at 5:30 PM)
Join host, bespoke menswear designer Stephen Wise of SWB Atelier (City Paper 2016 Tailor of the Year), and esteemed local/regional designers, for a community conversation exploring the “inner lining” of the independent fashion design world and its artistic, professional and personal impacts. Participating designers include: Earle Bannister, Adira Bunch, John Cash, Brian Collins, Sally DiMarco, Crystal Joines, Dino Hartfield, Sehar Peerzada, Seleh Rahman, Stacey Stube, Richard Swartz, and Brandon Warren. Tickets: Free to attend, reserve in advance at Box Office.
World of the Play: Unraveling the Threads of Labor and Love, Then and Now
Saturday, November 4, 2017 at 4:30 PM
The characters of Intimate Apparel and their professions provide us with the thematic threads of labor and intimacy to spark discussion with an expert panel, including a local labor historian, a contemporary African-American tailor and menswear designer, and a member of SWOP (Sex Workers Outreach Project). Hosted by Marc Steiner (The Center for Emerging Media). Tickets: Free to attend, reserve in advance at Box Office.
Thursday, November 9, 2017, Post-show
Chat with participating cast members following the 7:30 PM performance of Intimate Apparel, or follow along (and submit questions) via Twitter courtesy of @BWW_Baltimore. Tickets: N/A (free to attend, with ticket to accompanying performance).
Threading History and Place: Bromo District Walking Tour
Sunday, November 12, 2017, 11:00 AM-12:30 PM
Explore invisible public spaces and storied buildings that reflect the history of Baltimore’s fashion industry, department stores and garment district and learn about past and present efforts that shape the neighborhoods contained within the Bromo Arts and Entertainment District. Tour begins and ends at Everyman Theatre (315 W. Fayette St. entrance), where attendees may stay for the 2pm performance at an exclusive discounted rate. Produced in partnership with New Public Sites, Bromo Arts and Entertainment District, and Market Center Merchants’ Association. Tickets: $15 each (tour only), advance purchase required (space is limited).
Boudoir Couture Showcase
Sunday, November 19, 2017, 5:00-6:30 PM
A live activation of the fashion exhibit (Boudoir Vignettes) on view during Intimate Apparel.
Tickets: Free to attend, reserve in advance at Box Office.
About Everyman Theatre
Everyman Theatre is a professional Equity theatre company celebrating the actor, with a Resident Company of artists from the Baltimore/DC area. Founded in 1990 by Vincent M. Lancisi, the theatre is dedicated to engaging the audience through a shared experience between actor and audience seeking connection and emotional truth in performance. Everyman is committed to presenting high quality plays that are affordable and accessible to everyone. The theatre strives to engage, inspire and transform artists, audiences and community through theatre of the highest artistic standards and is committed to embodying the promise of its name, Everyman Theatre.
Intimate Apparel is sponsored in part by Vic & Nancy Romita and the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, with media support from The AFRO News, The Baltimore Sun Media Group and WYPR. Everyman Theatre’s Pay-What-You-Can nights are supported by Dr. E. Lee & Bea Robbins. The 2017/18 Season is generously sponsored by LifeBridge Health. Everyman Theatre is supported in part by grants from the Maryland State Arts Council and the Baltimore County Commission on Arts and Sciences.
Everyman Theatre is a proud member of the Bromo Tower Arts and Entertainment District, the Market Center Merchants Association and the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance.
Vincent M. Lancisi is the Founding Artistic Director of Everyman Theatre; Jonathan K. Waller is the Managing Director. For information about Everyman Theatre, visit everymantheatre.org, call 410.752.2208, or connect via Facebook (@everymantheatremd), Twitter (@everymantheatre), YouTube (@everymantheatre) and Instagram (@everymantheatre).
By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy
Running Time: 2 hours and 20 minutes with one 15-minute intermission
We are introduced to Charles Dickens at a very early age, especially around the holidays and, namely, Christmas, with his crazy-popular A Christmas Carol (which, incidentally, is the “scary ghost stories” in that Christmas standard “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,”… in case you’ve always been wondering) but that is not his only work. Many schools also use his novels in standard curriculum and, as an English major in college, I was yet again exposed to his labors and I’ve got to admit, right here and right now… I was not and am not a fan of Mr. Dickens or his writing, but I do appreciate his stories, which helps… a little.
However, that being said, the latest offering at Everyman Theatre, Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, Adapted by Gale Childs Daly, Directed by Tazewell Thompson, with Set Design by Yu-Hsuan Chen, Lighting Design by Stephen Quandt, Sound Design by Fabian Obispo, and Costume Design by David Burdick has absolutely given me a reason to be a fan and thoroughly enjoy the work of Charles Dickens. Regardless of your familiarity with this tale, you won’t be disappointed with Everyman Theatre’s production.
In a nutshell, Great Expectations (the novel) is a self-narrated coming-of-age story an (abused) orphan named Pip, and his life journey from poverty to wealth, the people with whom he meets and parts ways, some good, some bad, and some in-between, love, lost love, and his inevitable self-realization and humbling.
As I have stated in previous reviews for Everyman Theatre, they never disappoint when it comes to Set Design and Yu-Hsuan Chen pulled out all the stops for this production. Chen’s use of the space is spectacular, giving the actors ample space to move around to keep the action interesting and the attention to detail is second to none. The set alone sets the mood for this piece and the artistry of this faded, derelict setting is superb. Kudos to Yu-Hsuan for a job well done.
Lighting Design by Stephen Quandt and Sound Design by Fabian Obispo worked nicely in tandem to create a subtle but effective visual and auditory sensory presentation to move the story along, giving the audience perspective of time and space while not confusing the plot and situations therein.
Pulling together the production side of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations is David Burdick’s excellent Costume Design. Designing for a period piece can be challenging but Burdick really has a grasp on the Dickens era and his design is spot on and authentic, adding great value to the production as a whole.
Taking an old classic and making it new for new audiences is tough, especially when it comes to Charles Dickens stories or anything in stuffy, staunch Dickens/Victorian era, really, but Tazewell Thompson takes the reigns and masterfully weaves this for a 21st century audience without really changing the setting or the story, but giving it a fresh look by getting back to basics of story-telling. Thompson gives us a mix of broken-fourth-wall story-telling and re-enactment that meshes perfectly to tell this story in a way that is easy to follow and understand. I will admit, at first, it took a moment to get into the rhythm of this mix but once you are settled in and connect with these storytellers, the story unfolds effortlessly. More importantly, Thompson seems to really understand these characters and their objectives, moving them smoothly through the story. Working with Gale Childs Daly’s able adaptation, Thompson gives us an entertaining, accessible piece that makes for a genuinely enjoyable evening of theatre.
The ensemble work in this piece is outstanding and all of these actors work well with each other and play various roles to tell this tale. Gerrad Alex Taylor and Elizabeth Anne Jernigan, listed as Narrator #2 and Narrator #4 in the program, respectively, also take on the very important roles of Pips friends such as Herbert, Pip’s ever faithful friend and confidant (played by Taylor) and Estelle, Pip’s love interest and main inspiration for acquiring a higher status in life (played by Jernigan). Taylor’s portrayal of Herbert makes him a very likable character and Jernigan plays Estelle with a coldness and bitterness befitting of the character and her presentation of the character’s change is authentic and heartwarming. Both of these actors are very comfortable with their characters and give admirable performances.
Drew Kopas as Pip is charming as he takes his character from boyhood to adulthood. It is easy to connect with this character from the start and Kopas keeps that connection with the audience throughout the entire production. His subtle voice and manner change as Pip grows and journeys through life is quite impressive giving the feel of this young man growing up right before our eyes. Taking on the main character of this piece, Kopas gives an outstanding and intelligent performance that is to be commended.
Brit Herring as Joe is absolutely heart-warming. In the program, he is listed simply as Narrator #5 but, like his cohorts, he tackles multiple roles in this piece but his portrayal as Joe, Pip’s warm and loving brother-in-law, is stellar. His ability to switch between completely different characters and keep them separate makes his performance a joy to watch.
Among the talented and dedicated ensemble, Bruce Randolph Nelson and Franchelle Stewart Dorn are definite highlights.
Bruce Randolph Nelson (an Everyman Theatre Resident Company Member) is listed as Narrator #1 but also takes on the role of Magwitch, a raw, crude convict who happens to run into a very young and helpful Pip and he absolutely nails this character both in physicality and vocality. He also gives a brilliant performance in the role of Uncle Pumblechook, who has a part in moving Pip along during his journey. Unlike the sloth-like, slow, heavy character described in the novel, Nelson makes the choice to take this character in another humorous and flamboyant direction that is making for an undoubtedly successful performance.
Franchelle Stewart Dorn is credited as Narrator #3 but takes on the very important roles of Mrs. Joe, Pip’s much older sister, and Miss Havisham, the bitter, jilted, and wealthy old lady who lives in the very large house down the street. Dorn is an absolute pleasure to watch. As Mrs. Joe, she’s forceful, crude, and loud, as the character requires and as Miss Havisham, she oozes bitterness and contempt, but Dorn manages to get the audience to pity this character she embodies. It’s worth noting, I could listen to this woman talk for hours. Dorn’s voice is smooth and booming as it resonates through the entire theatre and every word is crystal clear allowing for an impressive and superb performance.
Final thought…Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations at Everyman Theatre is a brand new take on an old classic. It’s refreshing, entertaining, and accessible that it opens up to a new generation that may have otherwise let it sit on the bookshelf to collect dust. This adaptation handles the many subplots and twists beautifully with a perfect blend of old-fashioned story-telling and re-enactment while the production itself is well thought-out and the impeccable casting of a very capable ensemble make this a show you want to check out. Whether you’re familiar with Charles Dickens’ work or not and whether you’re a fan or not, this production will introduce you to this story either again or for the first time with a fresh and energizing telling.
This is what I thought of Everyman Theatre’s production of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!
Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations will play through March 5 at Everyman Theatre, 315 West Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD. For Tickets, call the box office at 410-752-2208 or purchase them online.
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