The College of Charleston Department of Theatre and Dance will stage two productions in repertory. “Spark” by Caridad Svich and “Last Night and the Night Before” by 1999 alumna Donnetta Lavinia Grays both explore the department’s season theme of “family.”
“Spark” is a contemporary American story about faith, love, war, trauma and a bit of healing. The plot centers on three sisters living in rural N.C., near the Tobacco Road corridor, caught in the mess of a recent war’s aftermath. It sheds light on what happens when soldiers come home, when women of little economic means must find a way to make do and carry on, and the strength, ultimately, of family.
A prolific writer, editor and translator who has authored an impressively long list of plays, Svich has won the OBIE for Lifetime Achievement (2012), the ATHE Ellen Stewart Career Achievement in Professional Theatre (2018), the Tanne Foundation Award (2018), and the Todd McNerney National Playwriting Award (2013), among others. “Spark” earned Svich a National Latino Playwriting Award in 2013.
“Spark” is directed by Evan Parry, Associate Professor of Theatre at the College, who also works as a professional actor. Parry shares, “Spark deals with weighty issues, including the entrenched nature of class in America and the fact that our poor and those who have served in the military are sometimes forgotten or ignored. However, it’s also full of hope, love and laughter. It’s a play which suggests that love and sacrifice are sometimes rewarded.”
Becca McLeod is stage manager and the production’s design team includes students Jess Silvey (costume designer), Jay Olvera (scenic designer) and Anna Robertson (lighting designer).
“Last Night and the Night Before” centers on Monique and her 10-year-old daughter, Samantha, who show up unexpectedly on her sister’s Brooklyn doorstep; it’s the beginning of the end for Rachel and her partner Nadima’s ordinary lifestyle. Monique is on the run from deep trouble, her husband Reggie is nowhere to be seen, and Samantha becomes ever haunted by the life in southern Georgia that she was forced to leave behind. Poetic, dark and often deeply funny, “Last Night and the Night Before” explores the power, necessity, and beauty of loss.
Raised in Columbia, S.C. and an alumna of the College of Charleston, Grays is a Brooklyn based playwright who was recognized with several awards for “Last Night and the Night Before”: the National Theater Conference Barrie and Bernice Stavis Playwright Award, the Kilroys List, the Todd McNerney National Playwriting Contest Winner, and the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center National Playwrights Conference Semifinalist. In her artistic statement, Grays shares that she “seeks to write strong roles for women of various ages, races, sexual identities and economic standings.”
She continues, “I believe the most radical theater happens when cultural specificity meets common human conflict. I also believe that humor should marry heartbreak at most turns in a narrative.”
Guest director and Charleston resident Nakeisha Daniel is a multi-talented artist, who has been seen on national and international stages. Her background stems from experience as an actor, director, choreographer and as a teaching artist. As an arts education advocate, her mission is to transform student learning and to support educators through arts integration.
Susan Kattwinkel is stage manager and the production’s design team includes students Morgan Clinton (costume designer), Victoria Leatherman (scenic designer) and Jordan Benton (lighting designer).
Both productions will run in repertory, with “Spark” running Feb. 21, 23, 26, 29 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 22 at 2 p.m. and “Last Night and the Night Before” running Feb. 22, 24, 27 28 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 23 at 2 p.m.
All shows will take place at the Emmett Robinson Theatre in the Simons Center for the Arts, 54 Saint Philip St. Admission is $20 for general public; $15 for patrons under 18 and over 60; and $12 for College of Charleston students and employees. Tickets can be purchased ONLINE, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or calling (843) 953-6306. The productions may contain material recommended for mature audiences.
Upcoming productions: “Journey – a dance concert” and “The Addams Family” musical with book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice and music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa. Learn more at theatre.cofc.edu.