The Whipping Man at Syracuse Stage

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By Craig Thornton

The Whipping Man is made possible with generous support from: The Reisman Foundation (Presenting Sponsor); an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, Grandma Brown Foundation, and Syracuse Stage’s Board of Trustees (Sponsors); Urban CNY and WAER (Media Sponsors).


Richmond, April, 1865. The Civil War has ended and Caleb DeLeon, a badly wounded Confederate soldier, stumbles into the ruin of what was once his home. His family has fled the City’s destruction leaving two former slaves, Simon and John, to wait and watch. Together they care for the wounded Caleb, and having adopted the religion of their former owners, celebrate Passover. A mesmerizing drama where secrets are revealed and the plot twists and turns. Since opening off-Broadway to critical acclaim and winning the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Play, The Whipping Man has become one of the most produced plays in the country.


The Whipping Man performs January 29 - February 16 in the Archbold Theatre at the Syracuse Stage/Drama Complex. It is recommended for ages 13 and up due to mature subject matter. Tickets can be purchased online at www.SyracuseStage.org, by phone at 315-443-3275, or in person at the Syracuse Stage Box Office at 820 East Genesee Street. Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more at 315-443-9844.


Pre-and post-show events during the run of The Whipping Man include the Opening Night Party on January 31 with live music, Wednesday @ 1 Lecture on February 5 (“Jews and the Civil War” with Samuel D. Gruber, Ph.D, Rothman Family Lecturer in Judaic Studies at Syracuse University), Happy Hour on February 6 (with half price drinks and complimentary snacks), an Actor Talkback following the 7 p.m. show on February 9, and Prologues (moderated discussions with actors) on February 2, February 8, and February 13.) Visit Syracuse Stage Events for more information.



Additionally, in the Coyne Lobby patrons can enjoy an exhibit prepared by Onondaga Historical Association titled “Syracuse Reflections on Slavery and The Civil War,” which will depict stories about the history of slavery in Onondaga County Prior to 1827. The display will also cover Syracuse’s Jewish community during the Civil War, including Jewish soldiers of the Fourth Onondaga County Regiment, the 149th New York Volunteers, and the significance of Syracuse’s salt industry to the Union cause.


“What better time to delve into a play that examines the moment of the end of the Civil War and slavery than on the 50th anniversary of the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and in the midst of the sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) of the Civil War,” said Director Timothy Bond. “The deeply entwined histories and relationships of the play’s deftly-drawn characters live in its complex explorations of shared faith, the meaning of the words family and freedom, and all of it illuminated with honesty, precision, and fine craft by Mr. Lopez.” (Program Letter)


Playwright Matthew Lopez struck upon the premise for The Whipping Man when he learned that Passover in 1865 began the day after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. “It was this eureka moment,” said Mr. Lopez. “As these slaves were being freed in the American South, there was this ancient observance of the Exodus story.” (The New York Times)


“It was nice to write about the end of slavery, rather than the hope for an end to slavery,” said Lopez. “I love the use of Passover as one giant metaphor… Its purpose is to allow the past to converse with the present so that the lessons and sacrifices of previous generations are not lost… I am the very fortunate recipient of exquisite historical timing.” (Program Notes)



The Whipping Man is one of the most popular new plays in America, produced at over 30 theatres nationwide. In 2010 it premiered in New York at Manhattan Theatre Club, where it sold-out and extended four times. The New York Times called it “haunting, striking, and powerful.” “A perfect balance between realism and drama, culminating in a Seder loaded with ironies and revelations,” said The New Yorker. Entertainment Weekly said, “Smart dialogue ranges from rhythmic to biting to funny.” Subsequently, playwright Matthew Lopez was awarded the John Gassner New Play Award from the New York Outer Critics Circle.


Following the success of The Whipping Man, Matthew Lopez became one of the most widely-produced new playwrights in America. He holds new play commissions from Roundabout Theatre Company, Manhattan Theatre Club, Hartford Stage, and South Coast Rep. He was a season two staff writer on Aaron Sorkin’s HBO series The Newsroom and is currently developing a screen adaptation of Javier Marias’ Your Face Tomorrow trilogy for Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment.


The Syracuse Stage cast features Biko Eisen-Martin (John), Gregory Perri (Caleb), and Jonathan Peck (Simon). Designers of the production are William Bloodgood (Scenic Designer), Gretchen Darrow-Crotty (Costume Designer), Darren McCroom (Lighting Designer), and Michael G. Keck (Composer). Additional credits include Kyle Bass (Dramaturg), Stuart Plymesser (Production Stage Manager), Rabbi Daniel Fellman (Rabbinic Consultant), Malcolm Ingram (Dialect Coach), and Felix Ivanov (Fight Choreographer). The Director is Timothy Bond.


ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT:


Matthew Lopez is currently one of the most widely-produced new playwrights in America. His play Somewhere premiered at The Old Globe, was presented at TheatreWorks in Palo Alto, and will make its East Coast premiere this spring at Hartford Stage Company. Denver Theatre Center will present the world premiere of his latest play The Legend of Georgia McBride in January 2014. Other plays include Reverberation, Zoey’s Perfect Wedding, and The Sentinels, which premiered in London in 2011. He holds new play commissions from Roundabout Theatre Company, Manhattan Theatre Club, Hartford Stage, and South Coast Rep. He was a season two staff writer on Aaron Sorkin’s HBO series The Newsroom and is currently developing a screen adaptation of Javier Marias’ Your Face Tomorrow trilogy for Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment.


ABOUT THE DIRECTOR:


Timothy Bond is in his seventh season as producing artistic director of Syracuse Stage and the Syracuse University Department of Drama. For Syracuse Stage he has directed August Wilson’s Two Trains Running, The Brothers Size, The Boys Next Door, Radio Golf, No Child..., Fences, The Price, The Diary of Anne Frank and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. He has 26 years experience in leading regional theatres throughout the country. Previously, he served for 11 years as associate artistic director of the famed Oregon Shakespeare Festival where he directed 12 productions, including works by Shakespeare, August Wilson, Suzan-Lori Parks, Edward Albee, Lorraine Hansberry, Lynn Nottage, Octavio Soliz and Pearl Cleage. Prior to that, Bond spent 13 years with the Seattle Group Theatre, serving as artistic director from 1991 – 1996. Bond holds a BFA from Howard University and an MFA in directing from the University of Washington.


ABOUT SYRACUSE STAGE:


Syracuse Stage is Central New York’s premier professional theatre. Founded in 1974, Stage has produced more than 300 plays in 40 seasons including a number of world, American, and East Coast premieres. Each season 90,000 patrons enjoy an adventurous mix of new plays, and bold interpretations of classics and musicals, featuring the finest theatre artists. In addition, Stage maintains a vital educational outreach program that annually serves more than 30,000 students from 24 counties. A solid core of subscribers and supporters helps keep Syracuse Stage a vibrant artistic presence in Central New York. Additional support comes from the government, foundations, corporations and Syracuse University. Syracuse Stage is a constituent of the Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national organization for the American theatre, and a member of the Arts and Cultural Leadership Alliance (ACLA), the University Hill Corporation and the East Genesee Regent Association. Syracuse Stage is a member of The League of Resident Theatres (LORT), the largest professional theatre association in the country.


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