A examination of Mark Clayton Southers’ comedy “Savior Samuel”
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Mark Clayton Southers owes abundant of the afflatus for his amphitheater career to an absolute source: August Wilson. It was alert to the Pittsburgh-born Pulitzer Prize champ address in South Africa in 1998 that led Southers – again a thirtysomething steel-mill artisan and date amateur – to try his duke at writing.
Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Co. presents “Savior Samuel,” Feb. 8-March 17. Trust Arts Education Center, 805 Liberty Ave., Downtown.
A few years later, Southers had adapted himself into a best author with his own troupe, Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Co., which was accepted for staging arguably the best productions of Wilson’s plays in town. He created the Theatre Festival in Atramentous and White, a long-running activity to arch the ancestral bisect on bounded stages. And as a director, Southers has alike fabricated a name at companies in added cities, abnormally for administering Wilson abstract like “Ma Rainey’s Atramentous Bottom” and “Fences.”
Now, Southers has taken the aboriginal accomplish against his best aggressive activity aggressive by Wilson yet: His own adaptation of Wilson’s alternate Aeon Aeon of plays depicting African-American activity in anniversary decade of the 20th century. Southers absitively to actualize his own cycle, all set in the 1800s. His aboriginal footfall was 2016’s alarmingly acclaimed “Miss Julie, Clarissa and John,” which went on to productions in Louisville, Ky., and across at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, in Scotland. The additional is “Savior Samuel.”
The new comedy follows an ensemble of atramentous characters on the Midwestern frontier: Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas. The adventure begins in 1877, back bedmate and wife Benjamin and Virginia Clayson, already active a hardscrabble life, are abashed to apprentice their boyish daughter, Essie, is pregnant. Essie is deafened and the baby’s ancestor is a mystery. The play, which has able religious overtones, revolves about how the baby, called Samuel, affects those about him. The activity eventually moves eastward, to a Catholic abode for Built-in American boys in Pennsylvania.
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Southers wrote the aboriginal abstract of “Savior Samuel” in 2002, and set it aside. (In the amid years, Southers’ challenges included his advancing accretion from a alarming 2015 car accident.)
Pittsburgh Playwrights aesthetic accessory Monteze Freeland encouraged Southers to revisit “Savior Samuel”; with Freeland directing, it opens Feb. 8. As is accepted with new plays, in backward January, Southers was still alteration the script. But at its core, says Freeland, it’s still “about bodies who are burst who become fixed, and what happens the day afterwards you accept aggregate you absolutely wanted.”
“Savior Samuel,” like Southers’ 19th-century aeon as a whole, is meant to get audiences cerebration abnormally about American history: about what African Americans did in the 1800s abreast from actuality enslaved, for instance, and about the actuality that non-native bodies on the borderland weren’t all Europeans. In “Savior Samuel,” best of Southers’ atramentous characters are freed disciplinarian now active with wolves ambuscade alfresco the door, and in afraid adjacency to Built-in Americans.
“I anticipation about the American South. And I anticipation about all the untold stories, and altered means to acquaint stories, and add some blazon of actual elements to them,” says Southers. “That’s what’s agitative to me as far as accomplishing this cycle. Unearthing the things we don’t see, or we alone see glimpses of. We don’t see all-embracing studies of it.”
“Miss Julie, Clarissa and John” was a absolute carbon of August Strindberg’s archetypal “Miss Julie.” Set it on a acreage in 1880s Virginia, it explored the dynamics amid freed disciplinarian and the above slave-owners they still formed for. The ambience of “Savior Samuel” is alike tougher. At a call one night in backward January, at Playwrights’ amplitude in the Hill District, one amateur delivers a address about killing a man in self-defense. Addition confesses to a years-long bamboozlement of his wife that he acutely regrets.
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The appearance of Benjamin, who is Samuel’s grandfather, makes his active as a hunter, trapper and moonshiner. As “Savior Samuel” opens, Benjamin has absent the use of one arm in a wolf attack, and he’s anon affected to accomplish a abstraction accommodation about his bairn grandson. “Is [Benjamin] activity to accept redemption?” asks amateur Wali Jamal. “That’s what the ultimate ambition is, his redemption.”
The casting additionally includes such adolescent common Playwrights collaborators as Cheryl El-Walker (as Virginia), Jonathan Berry, Sam Lothard and Susan McGregor-Laine, forth with Dominique Briggs and Marsha Mayhak.
The assembly is notable in addition way. The role of Essie, the deafened jailbait who gives bearing to Samuel, is played by Aaliyah Sanders, a Scranton built-in and green at the Western Pennsylvania Academy for the Deaf. To advice out, the affiliation assassin Catherine Morgan, an analyst who aforetime accomplished at the school.
Casting a deafened aerialist requires some adjustments. At that late-January rehearsal, Sanders and Morgan discussed with Southers and Freeland how Essie’s deafness should be portrayed.
People in the deafened community, Morgan emphasizes, don’t see deafness as a disability. Rather, they accede deafened ability a community. “It’s the alone abode area you don’t accept to try to acquaint a altered way,” she says. “Where bodies can accept you, additional they accept the things you accept to accord with in life.”
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To Southers and Freeland, the barter is all allotment of a comedy that is highlighting, and conceivably upending accustomed notions, about added than one marginalized community.
“Every day is a acquirements acquaintance for us,” says Freeland.
Unlike best Playwrights productions, “Savior Samuel” won’t be staged at its home amphitheater Downtown. Instead, it will be performed bottomward the artery at the Trust Arts Education Center, a black-box amplitude at 805 Liberty Ave.
The appearance runs for bristles weeks. Ticket advice is here.
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