Although the wait may be longer than originally anticipated, when Pillsbury House Theatre brings Marcus Gardley’s play the road weeps, the well runs dry to the stage, it should be well worth the wait, according to Faye Price, Pillsbury House Co-Artistic Producing Director.
“The production is now slated for sometime in Fall 2013,” said Price, seated in her office in the heart of South Minneapolis. “We moved it back from this fall, due to some scheduling issues, and to make sure we could really prepare well.”
the road weeps… is Gardley’s second play in his trilogy about Black Seminole communities in the nineteenth century. It is the centerpiece of this year’s Lark consortium, enjoying a rolling premiere at a select group of theaters around the country, including Pillsbury House.
“What attracted me to the play was the story. It’s one that you don’t often hear being told, and really needs to be. Marcus has given us a great entry into this history – particularly with reference to African American and Native American histories,” says Price.
“I knew this play and had the script in my hands for several years before the Lark started looking for partners,” she continues. “I loved the play, and loved the language – it’s exquisite. It looked impossible, so of course I thought, ‘Let’s do this!’
The stage directions/descriptions for the road weeps… frequently require things and people to appear and disappear – a logistical challenge that Price finds intriguing. “Pillsbury House is a challenging space in and of itself, so how are we going to do this? I don’t know, but I can’t wait to find out,” she says.
Set design is another opportunity masquerading as a problem, in Price’s view. She says, “Given our space, the set design is going to have to be poetic – we’re not looking for realism here. That just excites me, because we and the audience get to use our imagination. All we have are our lights, sound, set, and actors to tell this story. It’s a challenge, but we like challenging theater here.”
All of these factors make choosing the right director for the project imperative. This is why Pillsbury House has chosen veteran director Marion McClinton. “He is a director who works with a vision,” says Price. “And he likes unwieldy plays, too. He brings a passion to this and every project he’s involved in.” McClinton directed Pillsbury House Theatre’s critically acclaimed production of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s In the Red and Brown Water at the Guthrie last fall, and will be continuing this work through The Brother Size, the second play in McCraney’s trilogy, at Pillsbury House in September. He has also directed many of August Wilson’s plays, and was nominated for a Tony Award for his work on King Headley II.
The next piece of the puzzle will be casting, which Price thinks is up for grabs at this point. “We have a lot of actors here in the Twin Cities who could do it, but I don’t know if they’re available. But I know we have a lot of great talent,” says Price, adding that Pillsbury House’s initial staged reading of the road weeps… last November was a fine representation of what local actors could bring to the table.
So, while there is still much up in the air about this production, one thing can be certain: Pillsbury House will endeavor to bring Minnesota’s own particular articulation of Gardley’s characters and overarching themes of his seminal new work. Indeed, audiences and community members alike expect nothing else from this intimate, firebrand theater.