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CWRU/CPH MFA Class Of 2022 Make Their Virtual Debut in Dark Comedy THE LAST DAYS OF JUDAS ISCARIOT

Posted December 2, 2020 in Press Releases

(Cleveland, OH) The Case Western Reserve University/Cleveland Play House (CWRU/CPH) MFA Acting Program Class of 2022 returns as an ensemble in The Last Days of Judas Iscariot written by Stephen Adly Guirgis. Directed by David Vegh, this production will be streamed virtually from December 2 – 6, 2020. The cast includes Isaac Baker, Kristina Gabriela, Bridget Kim, Gustavo Marquez, Santino Montanez, Nnamdi Okpala, Chris Portley, Sarthak Shah, Jordan Taylor, Noah Williams, and Sara Young. Tickets to all virtually streamed performances are $5 and are available at www.clevelandplayhouse.com.

Set in a time-bending, darkly comic world between heaven and hell, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot reexamines the plight and fate of the New Testament’s most infamous and unexplained sinner.

Was Judas Iscariot given a bad rap? Was he guilty until proven innocent? In this dazzling, profane, funny and razor-sharp play, Pulitzer-Prize winning writer, Stephen Adly Guirgis takes us on a journey to unearth the “truth” about Judas. Set in a courtroom in purgatory, the play challenges the audience to consider the big questions: How do we balance faith with reason? Does evil really exist? And can we ever forgive anyone if we can’t first forgive ourselves?

The original production premiered Off-Broadway in a Labyrinth Theatre Company production at the Public Theatre in 2005, directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman. The play received its West End/European premiere in 2008 at the Almeida Theatre, and was directed by Rupert Goold.

In March 2020, the CWRU/CPH MFA Class of 2022 was scheduled to make their debut in Will Eno’s Middletown directed by Donald Carrier. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, the production was cancelled, however the ensemble was able to perform for a special “one-night-only” invited audience at their final dress rehearsal.

Jeffrey Ullom, Interim Chair of the CWRU Department of Theater shares, “This cohort has faced unique and unforeseen challenges during the past year, from the cancellation of their production to the modality of actor training through a computer screen. However, the mission statement for our program is to seek new artistic challenges, both individual and as a cohort.” Ullom adds, “These performances are the embodiment of that challenge by asking our actors to persevere and adapt by utilizing a progressive, complex script presented through virtual means.”

Donald Carrier, Director of the CWRU/CPH MFA Acting Program says, “In the second year of training, our students are given increasingly more challenging material in terms of style, language and imagery. Stephen Adly Guirgis is a master in all of those areas and our students have relished the experience.” Carrier adds, “Even within the limitations of remote performance, they have capitalized on the intimacy of the medium and created dynamic and detailed work.”

At the helm of this production, Director David Vegh states, “This highly irreverent and darkly comic play uses the story of Judas Iscariot to explore deep and probing philosophical questions about morality, culpability and the nature of forgiveness.” Vegh says, “As a playwright, Stephen Adly Guirgis rides a wonderful line between creating compelling characters and highly entertaining stories while also making the audience think. By reimagining traditional Biblical characters in the language of contemporary urban-speak, Guirgis brings them down to earth, and humanizes them in a way that even the most diverse of today's audiences can relate to.”

CPH Artistic Director Laura Kepley says, “CPH audiences may be familiar with the writer Stephen Adly Guirgis from our 2017 production of Between Riverside and Crazy. Like that show, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot is darkly comic, provocative, and relies on the strength, agility, and dynamism of the ensemble.” Kepley adds, “I am very proud of the Class of 2022 for nurturing and developing the trust, precision, and responsiveness necessary for great ensemble work and bringing that to this new digital stage.”

Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Play House gratefully acknowledge The Cleveland Foundation and Tom F. and Anne Degnan for sponsoring the CWRU/CPH MFA Acting Program.

Additional funding for the Lumination Station Projection project was provided by a Nord Grant from the University Center for Innovation in Teaching and Education (UCITE) at Case Western Reserve University.

REVIEWS

“[The Last Days…] shares many of the traits that have made Mr. Guirgis a playwright to reckon with in recent years: a fierce and questing mind that refuses to settle for glib answers, a gift for identifying with life’s losers and an unforced eloquence that finds the poetry in lowdown street talk…Mr. Guirgis is a zealous and empathic researcher, and he presents dilemmas of ancient Galilee in terms winningly accessible to the twenty-first century…” — New York Times.

“Stephen Adly Guirgis has written a real jaw-dropper…expressionistic fantasy…raw language and flamboyantly street-savvy characters…his imagination is dazzling and his command of language downright thrilling.” — Variety.

“An extraordinary play…not since Angels in America have I seen a play so unafraid to acknowledge the power of the spirit…” — The Guardian (UK).

TICKET INFORMATION

Registration for all performances is required in advance. Viewing access is $5 per household. The event will be broadcast on ZOOM and can be viewed on a computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Patrons can purchase viewing tickets exclusively by visitingwww.clevelandplayhouse.com.

BIOGRAPHIES

THE ACTING COMPANY

ISAAC BAKER graduated from the University of Evansville, where he played Bruce Bechdel in the collegiate premiere of Fun Home. During his tenure at Evansville he also played Andrew Carnes in Oklahoma!, Georg Zirschnitz in Spring Awakening, Pa Joad in Frank Galati’s Grapes of Wrath, Albert Thornton in Horton Foote’s Lily Dale, and Antonio in Twelfth Night. Other credits: John Dodge in Middletown (CWRU/CPH), Lorenzo in The Merchant of Venice (Great River Shakespeare Festival), John Proctor in The Crucible (Pheonix Theatre), and Ansel in The Cyprus Hatley Chapel (Brute Candor Production).

KRISTINA GABRIELA is a second-year student in the CWRU/CPH MFA Acting program. Kristina is from Corpus Christi, Texas and received her BA in Acting/Directing at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. Recent credits: Sweetheart/Doctor/Tourist in Middletown CWRU/CPH; Sophie in Mamma Mia; Ariel in The Tempest; Mimi in Rent; and Beauty in Smokefall. @quirky_kris

BRIDGET KIM received her BA in Political Science and a minor in Theatre Arts from the University of Louisville. While there, she found joy as LeeAnn in A Piece of My Heart, Rebecca in The Long Christmas Ride Home, Grace in Baltimore, and Ginny Yang in Smart People. She was last seen as Mary in the CWRU/CPH production of Middletown.

GUSTAVO MÁRQUEZ received a BFA in Music Theatre from the Metropolitan State University of Denver. Regional: Sweat, A Christmas Carol, and Native Gardens at Denver Center Theatre Company. Other credits: The Comedy of Errors, Julius Caesar, The Merchant of Venice, The Tempest, Middletown, Metamorphoses, You Can’t Take It With You, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, American Idiot, Dracula, and Grease.Gustavo-Marquez.com

SANTINO MONTANEZ is a Cleveland actor who has appeared in many local productions, national commercials, and film projects. Recent credits: Elliot in Water by the Spoonful (Ensemble Theater), Allan Carr in Mama/Moon, in the title role of The Hairy Ape, and as Khadim in The North Pool (Ensemble Theater). Film: Judas and the Black Messiah (Warner Brothers).

NNAMDI OKPALA is a Cleveland-native and recently completed his BA in Theatre Arts at Cleveland State University. Credits: George Murchison in A Raisin in the Sun (Ensemble Theatre), Eddie in Railroaded (Shadow of the Run), Narrator in She Kills Monsters (CSU), and Paris in Romeo and Juliet (CSU).

CHRISTOPHER PORTLEY earned his B.S. in Integrative Studies at the University of North Texas. Regional: Father Comes Home from The Wars parts 1, 2 & 3 (African American Repertory Theatre); Middletown (CWRU/CPH). Other credits: The Tempest, Measure for Measure (Shakespeare Academy at Stratford); Stick Fly (University of North Texas).

SARTHAK SHAH is an undergraduate theater student at CWRU. Prior credits include Bus Stop, Bethany, As You Like It, and Three Sisters. Sarthak also performs weekly for IMPROVment, CWRU's short-form musical improv troupe.

JORDAN TAYLOR obtained her BFA in Acting from Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. There she played Oya in In the Red and Brown Water, Shaunta Iyun in Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet, and Clytemnestra in Electra. Her debut in the CWRU/CPH MFA graduate program was as the Librarian/Female Date in Middletown. Most recently, she portrayed the role of Hermia in Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival’s staged reading of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

NOAH WILLIAMS attended Troy University, where he performed in numerous roles. Notable credits include Tom in The Glass Menagerie, Petruchio in The Taming of The Shrew, and Black Stache in Peter and The Star Catcher. Noah made his CWRU/CPH debut as The Cop in Middletown by Will Eno.

SARA YOUNG is a recent graduate from Case Western Reserve University with a BA in Theatre and Economics. She is currently an actor with Docherty Agency. Recent credits include Bus Stop (Cherry), and Stupid F**king Bird (Mash) at Dobama Theatre.

THE CREATIVE COMPANY

STEPHEN ADLY GUIRGIS (Playwright) is a longtime member of NYC’s LAByrinth Theater Company. His plays have been produced on five continents and throughout the United States. They include: the extended, sold-out run of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, Out Lady of 121st Street (named one of the ten best plays of 2003; Lucille Lortel, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle Best Play Nominations), Jesus Hopped The A Train (Edinburgh Fringe First Award, Olivier Nomination as London’s Best New Play, Barrymore Award), and In Arabia We’d All Be Kings. All four plays were originally produced by LAByrinth, directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Stephen was awarded a 2004 TCG fellowship, attended the 2004 Sundance Screenwriter’s Lab, was named one of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film by “Filmaker Magazine,” and appeared in “Entertainment Weekly’s” 2005 Summer Must List. He has received new play commissions from Manhattan Theater Club and South Coast Rep, is a member of New Dramatists and the MCC Playwright’s Coalition and has contributed to “ESOPUS” magazine. Television writing credits include NYPD Blue, The Sopranos, Big Apple, and UC: Undercover. As an actor, he has appeared in Brett C. Leonard’s Guinea Pig Solo, produced at the Public Theatre in New York, and played leading roles in Todd Solondz’s Palindromes, and Brett C. Leonard’s award-winning Jailbait, opposite Michael Pitt. Currently, he is developing a project with Mos Def and HBO, and is writing his first feature film for Scott Rudin Productions, to be directed by George C. Wolfe. He lives in New York City.

DAVID VEGH (Director) is an Associate Professor and instructor in the CWRU/CPH MFA Acting Program. His directing credits include Cry Baby, Reckless, In the Next Room or the vibrator play, High Fidelity, The Cripple of Inishmaan, and Lobby Hero at CWRU's Eldred Theater; Body Awareness at Beck Center for the Arts; and The Bigger Man with Circle X Theatre in Los Angeles. As an actor, he has performed locally with Dobama and Ensemble Theatre, and as a guest performer in the CWRU/CPH MFA production of The Three Sisters. His film and television credits include Grey's Anatomy, Dexter, Manhunt: Deadly Games, and the Steven Spielberg film Saving Private Ryan.

TED RODENBORN (Production Editor) is a proud graduate of the CWRU/CPH MFA Acting Program, class of 1999. While no longer frequenting stages as an actor, he keeps busy singing with and serving on the operating committee of The Cleveland Orchestra Chorus. Ted is a freelance video engineer and live streaming technician, living in Pepper Pike. He owns Factotum Media, LLC, a media production company, working locally with clients like Cleveland Clinic and The Cleveland Orchestra. He also travels all over the country working on live conferences for various medical and corporate clients.

GRACE INGHAM (Costume Coordinator) is a second-year undergraduate student at Case Western Reserve University majoring in theatre and psychology. She is also a graduate of the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, where she studied drama. She currently works in the CWRU costume shop and has worked as a stitcher for The Old Man and the Old Moon at Dobama Theatre, and A Christmas Carol and Matilda at Tryon Little Theatre. As a stage manager, she assistant stage managed at Case Western Reserve University for Cry Baby and Bethany, and stage managed many productions at Spartanburg Youth Theatre, Tryon Little Theatre, and Tryon Fine Arts Center.

BETH MCGEE (Dialect Coach) is a co-founder of Shadow of the Run productions and the playwright of WanderLust, Cleveland’s first fully immersive theater experience. Shadow of the Run produced The Torso Book Club, a Zoom interactive theater piece, for which she was an actor. She was the on-set dialect coach for Cinemax’s 2016 television series Quarry, directed by Greg Yaitanes. She has been the vocal coach for CWRU/CPH MFA Acting Program recent productions of The Merchant of Venice, The Seagull, Fifth of July, Macbeth, Clybourne Park, She Stoops to Conquer, The Philadelphia Story, The Misanthrope, and An Orchard. CPH voice coaching credits include A Christmas Story, The Grapes of Wrath, A Kiss for Cinderella, The Imaginary Invalid, The African Company Presents Richard III, Lady from the Sea, Antigone, and Dracula. She dialect coached the 2002 film Welcome to Collinwood directed by the Russo Brothers and starring George Clooney. She has coached and/or acted in productions at numerous Cleveland area theaters. She is a Professor of Voice and Acting at CWRU.

MARYANN MORRIS (Artistic & Production Liaison) is Associate Production Manager at CPH. She is a Cleveland native who also proudly Stage Manages. Recent mainstage works include Every Brilliant Thing, Pipeline, CPH’s Borderlight reading of Our Dad is in Atlantis, Native Gardens, An Iliad, The Royale, The Diary of Anne Frank, hand-over SM on A Christmas Story and Sweat, and ASM for Clue, How I Learned to Drive and The Good Peaches. Other credits: CPH New Ground Theatre works Grand Concourse and Fairfield; Letters from Zora featuring Vanessa Bell Calloway at Karamu House; Havana Hop with Paige Hernandez; Eric Schmiedl’s stage adaptation of the graphic novel Incognegro by Mat Johnson; My Mother Has 4 Noses with Jonatha Brooke; The Dazzle Awards at Playhouse Square; and May 4th Voices presented by The Maltz Museum of Jewish History and Kent State University’s Democracy Symposium.

SHEILA SCANLON (Stage Manager) is a senior undergraduate student at Case Western Reserve University majoring in theater and environmental studies. Their recent productions include staging managing Cry Baby at Eldred Theater and working as a stage management intern on The Music Man at Porthouse Theatre. They have worked as a dresser on previous CWRU/CPH MFA shows Macbeth and The Merchant of Venice, as well as Great Lakes Theater's 2019 production of A Christmas Carol.

THE PRODUCERS

DONALD CARRIER was officially named Director of the CWRU/CPH MFA Acting Program in 2020. Prior to that, he was the Program’s Interim Director and Associate Director. He recently directed Middletown for the MFA Program, Othello at Texas Shakespeare Festival, and As You Like It for the CWRU Department of Theater. For the CWRU/CPH MFA Acting Program, he has also directed Fifth of July, Clybourne Park, The Misanthrope, Too True to Be Good, and The Violins of Hope. Other directing includes Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Seminar, and Really Really (Beck Center for the Arts); and Becky Shaw (Dobama Theatre). Other selected directing credits include The Crucible, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Alms, Twelfth Night, As You Like It, Habeas Corpus, The Pirates of Penzance, and Oh! What a Lovely War. He has appeared at Cleveland Play House in Shakespeare in Love; All the Way; Luna Gale; The Crucible; The Little Foxes; Yentl; In the Next Room, or the vibrator play; Ten Chimneys; Noises Off; and Lincolnesque. Regional credits include The National Arts Center, Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival, Great Lakes Theater, The Studio Theatre, The Shakespeare Theatre, The Wilma Theater, The Huntington Theatre, The Intiman Theatre, and Chicago Shakespeare Theater. He spent nine seasons at the Stratford Festival, three seasons at the Old Globe and two seasons at the Shaw Festival. Television/Film: Guns, The Time Traveler’s Wife, The Passion of Ayn Rand, and Dead by Monday. Don is a proud Lunt/Fontanne Fellow.

JEFF ULLOM, in addition to serving as Director of Undergraduate Studies for the department, teaches theatre history, dramaturgy, and Introduction to Theater (not to mention his summer class on James Bond). His research interests have focused on contemporary American theatre, especially new play development in the regional theatre circuit and on Broadway. His first book The Humana Festival: A History of New Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville (Southern Illinois University Press, 2008) charts the growth of the nation’s leading new play festival and its ability to endure economic, administrative, and artistic challenges. He also has published his work internationally in numerous journals, including Theatre History Studies, Contemporary Drama, Theatre Topics, Studies in Musical Theatre, Theatre Journal and the Journal of American Drama and Theatre. Ullom coauthored a new translation of Lope de Vega’s La Doma Boba (The Lady Simpleton) and also contributed a chapter to Angels in the American Theater: Patrons, Patronage, and Philanthropy (edited by Robert A. Schanke). His second book, America’s First Regional Theatre is a history of the Cleveland Play House (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).

LAURA KEPLEY became Artistic Director of Cleveland Play House in 2013 and has directed numerous CPH mainstage productions including Every Brilliant Thing; Into the Breeches!; Tiny Houses (world premiere, also at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park); Sweat; The Diary of Anne Frank; Shakespeare in Love; The Crucible; Steel Magnolias; The Good Peaches (world premiere); Fairfield (world premiere); How I Learned to Drive (also at Syracuse Stage); The Little Foxes; Venus in Fur; Good People (also at Syracuse Stage); A Carol for Cleveland (world premiere); In the Next Room, or the vibrator play; My Name is Asher Lev; and CPH readings of Roe Green Award-winning plays Tiny Houses; The Chinese Lady; Soups, Stews and Casseroles: 1976; Marjorie Prime; and Daphne’s Dive. She joined CPH in 2010, having arrived from Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, Rhode Island where she was Resident Director and Artistic Associate for four seasons and Interim Director of the Brown/Trinity Rep M.F.A. in Directing Program for one. She has also directed for The Alliance Theatre, Asolo Repertory Theatre, Chautauqua Theater Company, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Contemporary American Theatre Festival, and The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, among others. A native Ohioan, Laura received her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and her Master of Fine Arts from Brown University/Trinity Rep. She is a Drama League Fellow and a recipient of the 2009-2011 National Endowment for the Arts/Theatre Communications Group Career Development Program for Directors.

ABOUT THE PRODUCERS

CLEVELAND PLAY HOUSE, founded in 1915 and recipient of the 2015 Regional Theatre Tony Award, is America's first professional regional theatre. Throughout its rich history, CPH has remained dedicated to its mission to inspire, stimulate, and entertain diverse audiences across Northeast Ohio by producing plays and theatre education programs of the highest professional standards. CPH has produced more than 100 world and/or American premieres, and over its long history more than 12 million people have attended over 1,600 productions. Today, Cleveland Play House celebrates the beginning of its second century of service while performing in three state-of-the art venues at Playhouse Square in downtown Cleveland. Cleveland Play House is made possible in part by state tax dollars allocated by the Ohio Legislature to the Ohio Arts Council (OAC). The OAC is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically. Cleveland Play House is supported in part by the residents of Cuyahoga County through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture. To learn more, visit: www.clevelandplayhouse.com.

CWRU COLLEGE OF ARTS AND SCIENCES houses educational and research programs in the arts, humanities, social sciences, physical and biological sciences, and mathematics. Students in the college can choose a major or minor from almost 60 undergraduate programs, design their own courses of study or enroll in integrated bachelor's/master's degree programs. In addition, the college offers graduate programs in several fields where CWRU's small size and special expertise allow it to make a distinctive contribution to advanced education and research. The college's curricular offerings are enhanced by its affiliations with other University Circle institutions, including Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland Museum of Natural History, The Cleveland Institute of Music, Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland Institute of Art, and Cleveland Play House. The college offers many arts presentations, lecture series and symposia. It also provides abundant opportunities for students to participate in music, theatre, and dance performances. CWRU is one of our nation’s top universities.

THE DEPARTMENT OF THEATER at Case Western Reserve University offers education and participation in all aspects of drama, with course offerings in acting, stagecraft, costume design, scene design, directing, dramatic writing, and history, literature, and criticism. Bachelor of Arts students have the opportunity to perform as well as to serve on the design and technical teams in four fully produced mainstage theatrical productions each year. The low student to faculty ratio ensures that students are able to work closely with our faculty of highly accomplished artists and scholars. As a discipline that is both performing art and humanity, the department treats all performances as artistic and educational experiences, and welcomes the participation of students regardless of their academic majors and career goals. At the graduate level, the Master of Arts degree prepares students for work in professional theater, education, or for further pursuit of graduate study, while the Master of Fine Arts professional actor training program–a collaborative partnership between the Department of Theater and Cleveland Play House–represents a unique alliance between one of the oldest academic theater programs in the United States and the nation’s first regional theater.

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