The World Premiere of
A very serious—and very funny—play about abortion
Written by Steve Wangh
Directed by Jessica Burr
Previews: May 11-12, 7:30 pm
Opening Night: Sat, May 13, 7:30 pm
Mon, Thu-Sat and Sun, May 14 at 7:30 pm;
Remaining Sundays at 5:00 pm
Blessed Unrest, an award-winning physical theatre company, enters its 23rd season with a world premiere of MISCONCEPTIONS, a new play by the Emmy-nominated playwright Steve Wangh (The Laramie Project), directed by Jessica Burr. Developed over 30 years of research and featuring material from interviews with women personally facing abortion, the piece took over a decade to write. Performed by a cast of seven actors (six of whom are playing multiple characters, both real and imaginary) and arriving soon after the demise of Roe vs. Wade, MISCONCEPTIONS takes a careful look at the divisive subject of abortion and approaches it with intimacy and humor as a means to push beyond banal talking points. The play will start previews at the 122CC Theater (150 1st Avenue, 2nd floor, New York, NY 10009) on Thursday, May 11, with opening night on Saturday, May 13, and a limited run (Thu-Sun) through June 3. Tickets are now on sale ($25 previews; $30 rest of the run) and can be purchased at https://blessedunrest.ticketleap.com/misconceptions.
Misconceptions is a very serious—and very funny—play about a mother who questions motherhood: The story of a woman who dares to search for answers… wherever they take her. It is also a dramatic inquiry into the performance of fact and fiction, an exploration of how verbatim theater, performance art, and magical realism frame reality. Presented with Blessed Unrest’s award-winning imagination, humor, and artistic risk-taking, Misconceptions illuminates the personal stories which underlie the political posturing of post-Roe America.
Director Jessica Burr says, “Each testimony included in this play is real, and each is moving in unique ways. You won’t hear these stories anywhere else, and you certainly won’t hear such a varied array of experiences. This play is not attempting to convince anyone of anything. It is simply presenting the intimate details of the authentic female experience. You make up your own mind.”
Playwright Steve Wangh adds, “Abortion is always a very visceral and a very personal decision. In America today, it can also be a difficult and dangerous political act. With Misconceptions, Blessed Unrest makes very visceral, very personal, and dangerously difficult political theater.”
The show is performed by Rich Brown, Hilary Dennis, Ethelyn Friend*, Sean Mana*, Shah Motia, Julie Becker, and Celli L. Pitt*. Misconceptions features set design by Calypso Michelet, costume design by Sera Bourgeau, sound design by Ryan Gamblin, and lighting design by Jay Ryan.
|ABOUT THE ARTISTS|
Jessica Burr (Director) is the founding Artistic Director of Blessed Unrest and a recipient of numerous awards, including the 2019 Kennedy Center ACTF Commendation for Distinguished Leadership, First Prize at the 2016 Secondo Festival (Switzerland), the 2011 LPTW Lucille Lortel Award, and multiple NY Innovative Theatre Awards. Burr was recently named Artist in Residence at Sacred Heart University (CT) in recognition of her work on The Untitled Othello Project. She has directed and choreographed over twenty productions and workshops for Blessed Unrest, including Body: Anatomies of Being (New Ohio), The Snow Queen (2019 Independent Theatre Award for Outstanding Premiere Production of a Play), This Is Modern Art (New York Theatre Workshop Next Door), Refuge (with Kosovo’s Teatri ODA, Baruch Performing Arts Center), and Battle of Angels (commissioned by the 2021 Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival). Burr has taught workshops and directed at The Kennedy Center/American College Theater Festival, Texas Tech University, Stephens College (MO), Eastern New Mexico University, Centenary College (NJ), and Prishtina University (Kosovo). She has degrees in theatre and dance from Bard College. www.jessicaburr.net
Steve Wangh (Playwright) is a director, acting teacher, and the author of fifteen plays. He was Associate Writer for The Laramie Project (Emmy nomination 2002), and writer, with Leigh Fondakowski, of The People’s Temple (Glickman Award: Best Play in the Bay Area 2005). He was the dramaturg of Moisés Kaufman’s Gross Indecency. In 2020 his live-zoom play The Waiting Room was produced by the Silverthorne Theater Company in Greenfield, MA. He is the author of two books about teaching acting: An Acrobat of the Heart, 2000, and The Heart of Teaching, 2012. In 1967, Steve studied with Polish director Jerzy Grotowski and has taught acting at Emerson College, at Naropa University, and at New York University, where he is now Arts Professor Emeritus. During the past ten years, Steve has trained actors in Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok, and at the Freedom Theatre in Jenin, Palestine. www.stephenwangh.com
Blessed Unrest is a subversive physical theater ensemble that transforms new and classic plays into channels for unexpected alchemy, energetic discomfort, and complex articulation. Through a dedicated and diverse ensemble, international collaborations, and a rigorous training and devising process, they are fueled by the innate human desire to collaborate, the thrill of the impossible challenge, and the instinctual need to rebel. Now in its 23rd season of generating original theatre in NYC and touring worldwide, the group received many accolades, including four New York Theatre Awards (twelve nominations), the Cino Fellowship for Sustained Excellence, the LPTW Lucille Lortel Award, and first prize at the 2016 Secondo Theatre Festival (Switzerland). The company’s work has been praised for “magnetism and electricity” (TimeOut NY) and “physical ingenuity and visual artistry” (NYTheatre.com). Blessedunrest.org
Julie Becker (Performer) is a theatre artist based in NYC. She primarily devises solo and ensemble theatre, creating work that often is dreamlike, physically dynamic, and focuses on masks: literally and/or figuratively. She draws upon physical theatre, butoh, voice, and a variety of embodied relational practices in her artistic practice. Her solo piece Untitled Clown was most recently featured in the 2023 Coney Island Ritual Cabaret, and in Matthew Silver’s alternative comedy showcase, The Otherside of Comedy. She has trained with artists working within (or heavily influenced by) Polish laboratory theatre, and has performed in NYC, Boston, LA, London, and Poland, including in the 2015 Gdańsk Shakespeare Festival. She holds an MA in Ensemble Theatre from Rose Bruford College, in conjunction with Song of the Goat Theatre (Teatr Pieśń Kozła). She also directs, writes, designs, teaches workshops, makes audio drama and short comedic films, and performs at kids’ parties. Juliebeckerartist.com
Rich Brown (Performer) has been collaborating and training with Blessed Unrest for over ten years and is thrilled to perform in his third show with this brilliant company, adding to Lying and The Snow Queen. Other favorite recent roles include Art with Oregon Contemporary Theatre, Circle Mirror Transformation with Idaho Repertory Theatre, and The Glass Menagerie with Western Summer Theatre. Rich teaches physical acting and devising at Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA. He was awarded the KC/ACTF National Award for Outstanding Lead Deviser in 2020 for #HereToo-WWU and in 2012 for US. In 2015, Rich was named the Washington State Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation. After working with Steven Wangh at NYU’s Experimental Theatre Wing in 2003, performing in Misconceptions feels like life and art coming full circle.
Hilary Dennis (Performer: Harriet) is an actor and producer based in Northampton, MA, and New York City. She is co-founder of Elsewhere Shakespeare, a punk Shakespeare theatre company. Hilary graduated from the Tom Todoroff Studio Conservatory (NYC) and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Studies and Spanish from NYU. She worked for some time as an organic farmer before choosing to pursue her passion for the stage.
Ethelyn Friend (Performer) is an actor/singer, writer, and voice coach. Off-Broadway credits include Coal Country (The Public Theater), Our Brother’s Son (Signature Theatre), Troilus and Cressida (Baryshnikov Arts), Spill, Casa Cushman (Tectonic Theatre workshops.) Regional: Wit (Theatreworks), House Of Blue Leaves, Les Mis (Arvada Center), Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado, Merry Wives (Colorado Shakes); Jar The Floor, The Circle (New Rep), Fuddy Meers (Curious Theatre), and Calamity! (also by Steve Wangh—winner of the Best Actress/Westword, Denver).Original solo shows include Blackout: How I Became White In America and Songs My Grandmothers Taught Me. Ethelyn offers voice work in the tradition of the Roy Hart Centre, was a founding faculty member of Naropa University’s MFA Theatre Program, and a guest faculty at NYU, La Mama/Trinity, Brandeis, TK Studio. ethelynfriend.com
Sean Mana (Performer) is an actor with over 25 years of professional experience. In addition to attending Hofstra University, Sean has received elite training from programs like The Lee Strasberg Institute and Upright Citizen Brigade and coaches Anthony Abeson and Patrick Page. Career highlights include lead/co-starring roles on FOX and NBC, working stages like 5959E, The Samuel Beckett Theatre, and New York Theatre Workshop, and some of his recent work as Tiresias in Oedipus Rex, a performance art piece in the MoMA and his heavy involvement in the Off-Broadway sketch comedy team: I Mostly Blame Myself, currently holding a 2023 residency at The Players Theatre. www.seanmana.com
Shah Motia (Performer) is an actor, writer, and musician. As a stage actor, he has performed at La MaMa, The Brick, and Theater for the New City. Shah can also be seen in The Game, a short film for which he shares the “Best Ensemble” award from the Art of Brooklyn Film Festival. He also is a member of Ex Models, whose music has received critical acclaim in Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Spin, The New York Times, NME, and countless other outlets. Shah is currently at work on his first play. He is a graduate of the Terry Knickerbocker Studio Conservatory (’19).
Celli Pitt (Performer) received her MFA in Acting from Brandeis University and her BA in Theatre from Spelman College. Her Blessed Unrest acting credits include Machinal; Burn, Crave, Hold: The James Wilde Project; Measure for Measure; 365 Days/365 Plays; and workshop productions of Misconceptions, Nick, and Christmas Carol. She has performed in National Tours, Regional Theatre, and Off-Broadway. She has written, produced, and performed in eight cabarets in NYC. In 2008, Celli directed This Train is Bound for Glory at the Cherry Lane which won the Downtown Urban Theatre Festival’s Best Play Award. Additionally, she was a member of the vocal composition team and provided vocals for the score of the American Black Film Festival’s HBO Best Short award-winning film PreMature.
Sera Bourgeau (Costume Design) Previous Blessed Unrest designs: Chasing the Tides, Battle of Angels, Refuge. Additional design credits include Monstress (Hunger & Thirst Theatre), Nickel Mines (New York Musical Theatre Festival, ACT of Connecticut), Something Happens for Joe (Williamstown Theatre Festival), Still Life With Iris (Long Wharf Theatre), Pete(Her) Pan, Jr. (Northern Stage), Honky Tonk Angels (Artistree Music Theatre Festival), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (New York Shakespeare Exchange), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Capital Repertory Theatre), Spring Awakening (The Lounge Theatre, Los Angeles), Sound of Music, Intimate Apparel (Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center). Some Lovers, Nikola Tesla Drops the Beat, Knights of the Sales Office (Adirondack Theatre Festival). Dial M For Murder, Turn of the Screw (Theater at Monmouth). The Lion in Winter, Chapter Two, Outside Mullingar, The Taming, Murder for Two: Holiday Edition, The Shuck (Cape May Stage). MFA: University of California, Irvine. BA: University of New Hampshire. www.serabourgeau.com
Ryan Gamblin (Sound Design) is a sound designer, composer, and performance-maker based in Brooklyn, NY working across performance, installation, and music. Recent NY: Weathering (Faye Driscoll / NYLA), Liveness (The Civilians / WNYC), Utopian Hotline (as Guest Artist, Theater Mitu / Enki Arts Forum). Recent Associate Sound Design: The Trees at Playwrights Horizons / Page 73, Public Obscenities at SoHo Rep / NAATCO. Regional: Mary Jane, You Got Older, #Enough, You Are Here (Sound Des.) at Third Rail Rep; Beckett Women, Our Ruined House (Assoc. Sound Des.) at Portland Experimental Theater Ensemble. Member, TSDCA. www.ryangamblin.com
Calypso Michelet (Set Design) is a French designer and visual storyteller based in New York City. After earning her MFA from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, she started creating sets and costumes for numerous Theater and Dance companies along the East Coast and rapidly became a sought-after multi-disciplinary artist and educator. Her interest in reflecting on social conflicts and her flair for building dramatic tension led her to design a great number of modern plays and devised pieces. When she is not working in her studio or traveling around the globe, Calypso enjoys writing and illustrating tales and short stories. Her recent works include set and costume designs for Fauna at Torn Page (NYC), Cadillac Crew with WAM Theater (MA), Many Patterns, One Cloth at UMass (MA), Mlima’s Tale at Burning Coal Theater Company (NC), and ÄKÄ Free voices of the Forest, a French and Congolese musical show. calypso-m.wixsite.com
Jay Ryan (Lighting Design) fled to NYC after one too many Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals in his hometown of Richmond, Va. He is a frequent Blessed Unrest collaborator; credits include Body: Anatomies of Being, A Christmas Carol, The Snow Queen (New Ohio), and Refuge (Baruch Center for the Performing Arts). As Resident Lighting Designer at Dance Theater Workshop (DTW), he designed lights for hundreds of dance pieces and developed the Dance and Technology initiative. He has toured the world with the Phoenix Theatre Ensemble, Big Dance Theater, H.T. Chen, Chris Aiken, Karl Anderson, Dan Safer/Witness Relocation, Fiona Marcotty, Nami Yamamoto, Jeanine Durning, Sally Silvers, American Spanish Dance Theater, John Jasperse, The Bang Group, The Elementals, and many others. Jay was Nominated for a New York Innovative Theater Award for his lighting of Dancing Vs the Rat Experiment with WRC and was Awarded the Eva Adamson Award for Excellence in Lighting Design in 2011. He was a Senior Designer at Levy Lighting in NYC designing lights for many high-end weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, fashion shows, corporate product launches, and private parties. Recently he started working for Frost Productions doing more high-end weddings and corporate events. He continues enjoying a variety of rich collaborations.