Express ’15-16 season topped by premiere set against Atlanta child murders

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Janine Nabers' "Serial Black Face" is set against the backdrop of the Atlanta child murders. CONTRIBUTED BY ACTOR'S EXPRESS
Janine Nabers' "Serial Black Face" is set against the backdrop of the Atlanta child murders. CONTRIBUTED BY ACTOR'S EXPRESS

Janine Nabers’ “Serial Black Face” is set against the backdrop of the Atlanta child murders. CONTRIBUTED BY ACTOR’S EXPRESS

Actor’s Express has announced six plays for its 2015-16 season, including a world premiere set against the backdrop of the Atlanta child murders.

Janine Nabers’ “Serial Black Face,” a drama about a mother coping with the disappearance of her young son, won the 2014 Yale Drama Series, selected from 1,638 entries from 41 countries. The competitions’s judge, playwright Marsha Norman, called Nabers’ script “unsettling to read, but even as you read it, you know it is true.”

The season includes two other world premieres (that will run in repertory) by Steve Yockey, the Atlanta playwright whose “Wolves” and “Pluto” previously were staged by the Westside troupe.

The 28th season lineup under the artistic direction of Freddie Ashley:

Sept. 12-Oct. 11: “Stupid (Expeletive Deleted) Bird.”

Aaron Posner’s (“My Name is Asher Lev”) play is described as an irreverent “sort-of-adaptation” of “The Seagull,” about a passionate young director fighting for the future of his art while competing with a famous novelist for the affections of a beautiful young actress. His mother, an aging Hollywood star, struggles with fading youth and her lover’s wandering eye. In this Atlanta premiere, all touch the disappointments and joys of life and love.

Atlanta playwright Steve Yockey.

Atlanta playwright Steve Yockey.

Oct. 31-Nov. 15: “The Thrush and the Woodpecker.”

In Yockey’s revenge thriller, Brenda Hendricks tries to repair a fractured relationship with her son Noah, who has returned home from college following an act of vandalism. When a mysterious visitor arrives at their remote North Carolina home bearing secrets from Brenda’s past, the three find themselves on a collision course with betrayal and revenge.

Nov. 7-22: “Blackberry Winter.”

Yockey’s drama, a co-production with Out of Hand Theater developed with director Adam Fristoe, is a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere. Carolyn Cook stars as Vivienne, who struggles with caring for her mother, an Alzheimer’s patient who is vanishing slowly before her daughter’s eyes. (Read the AJC’s Personal Journey feature about Cook, whose experience caring for her mother informed the play, here; and more here.)

Jan. 23-Feb. 28, 2016: “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”

Stephen Sondheim’s Tony Award-winning musical.

March 29-April 23, 2016: “Serial Black Face.”

Set in Atlanta in 1979, Nabers’ story charts a single mother’s brave journey of loss, love and learning. With the city gripped by the murders of 23 children, Vivian copes with the disappearance of her young son while working to give a fresh start to her troubled teenage daughter. When a handsome stranger enters her life with the promise of new love, she finds that nothing is as it seems.

May 21-June 19, 2016: “Significant Other.”

A gay romantic comedy from Joshua Harmon, writer of Actor’s Express hit “Bad Jews.” It follows Jordan Berman, who navigates a string of workplace crushes, awkward first dates and romantic misadventures, wondering if he’ll ever find Mr. Right.

In addition to its mainstage season, the troupe will introduce Threshold, a weeklong playwriting festival planned the first week of December, focusing in its first season on works by local playwrights. And Libby Whittemore will continue her cabaret series Libby’s at the Express with three engagements.

Season subscription packages are on sale at 404-607-7469, www.actors-express.com. Single tickets will go on sale July 10, opening night of the summer musical “Rent” at Actor’s Express, located in King Plow Arts Center, 887 W. Marietta St., Suite J-107, Atlanta.

… AND MORE NEWS FROM ACTOR’S EXPRESS …

Terry Guest in "Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet." CONTRIBUTED BY BREEANNE CLOWDUS

Terry Guest in “Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet.” CONTRIBUTED BY BREEANNE CLOWDUS

Actor’s Express has just opened Tarell Alvin McCraney’s “Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet,” a coming-of-age tale of a young African-American man discovering his sexual identity in the Louisiana bayou, and there’s more going on with the Westside troupe:

  • It will present three free play readings by local writers as part of its spring “In the Works” series. Plays include “The Stroke” by Emory University playwriting fellow Edith Freni (7 p.m. March 30); “Coyote Hour” by Margaret Baldwin (3 p.m. April 25); and “In Remembrance of the Legendary Ta-Quilla Mockingbird” by Michael Winn (7 p.m. May 18). Advance reservation suggested.
  • Actor’s Express also has announced that it will present the rock musical “Rent,” from July 10 to Aug. 9.

“Rent was the soundtrack to my 20s,” said artistic director Freddie Ashley, who will direct. “It is nearing 20 years old, and, even though it was written about a very specific time in history, it has never lost its relevance or edge. … I’m excited to re-explore.”

  • The troupe also has been selected as one of 38 nonprofits to participate in Westside Momentum, a three-year capacity-building initiative of the Westside Neighborhood Prosperity Fund of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation.

Launched this year by the Blank Foundation in partnership with the Georgia Center for Nonprofits, Westside Momentum is designed to increase the impact and sustainability of organizations based in Atlanta’s historic Castleberry Hill, English Avenue and Vine City neighborhoods. The 39 groups will have access to hands-on training, networking and year-long programs focused on nonprofit management, leadership and governance training.

“Participating in this initiative will give us access to an even wider group of community members to engage with and may even present opportunities for us to take our artists or interns out of the theater and present work in unique and interesting places,” Express managing director Alexander Scollon said. “We are very excited to uncover everything this partnership will lead to.”

Tickets for “Marcus” (through April 26) and “Rent”: $26-$45. 887 W. Marietta St., Suite J-107, Atlanta. 404-607-7469, actors-express.com.


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