For the Tree to Drop is a breath-taking world premiere by a Pittsburgh playwright.
PICT kicks off its 2015 Season in a new venue.
Pittsburgh, PA, January 23, 2015- It’s a new year, and PICT Classic Theatre opens its nineteenth season out of the gate with a world-premiere, For the Tree to Drop, written by celebrated local actress Lissa Brennan. Part of PICT’s brand-new Downtown Series, it is no coincidence that this compelling piece will run February 19 – 28, during Black History Month, at the Peirce Studio inside The Trust Arts Education Center at 805 Liberty Avenue.
“The hope is that the audience will experience the triumph of the human spirit in a time of year where it is pertinent to recognize this unfortunate period in American history,” explains Stanford, PICT’s Artistic & Executive Director. “Although more hidden, the ownership of people by people still occurs today; and then, as it is now, it is powerful to be reminded that ownership of the body does not extend to ownership of the soul.”
The playwright, Lissa Brennan, appeared recently at PICT as Mrs. Bradford in Blithe Spirit and has also worked with numerous other theatre companies in the city including her own Dog & Pony Show Theatricals, whose show Grist from the Mill opens next week.
“For the Tree to Drop was originally meant to be an adaptation of Antigone, but it turned into its own play, with the central themes of Antigone,” explains Brennan, and those who are familiar with Sophocles’ famous Greek tragedy will be quick to notice the correlation. According to Brennan, “The hardest thing for me while writing this play was the fact that I love and am protective of these characters, but I am not always able to protect them.”
About the particular struggle of a young slave girl in the Antebellum Old South, For the Tree to Drop is thematically rich and incredibly meaningful. For Brennan, “The play is about power— that no matter how much power one human being has over another, they still do not have power over that person’s will… Though it may have different meanings for those in the audience.”
A world premiere, For the Tree to Drop has only been previously seen as part of a workshop, directed by Alan Stanford, that was part of Bricolage’s “In the Raw” series in 2013. Classically-inspired, this piece, performed without an intermission, will kick-off PICT’s 2015 Season of Saints and Sinners as well as the new Downtown Series. “We are glad to offer our fans the chance to visit with us year-round,” said Alan Stanford, “and after the incredible successes of 2014, we are poised to try something new.”
Among the “incredible successes” was Macbeth, which broke records as the most-attended production in PICT’s eighteen-year history. PICT also received critical acclaim for Waiting for Godot, which was the runner-up for Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s “Play of the Year,” and over a dozen artists were mentioned in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s “Performer of the Year” for their participation in PICT’s 2014 Season.
Leaving a rewarding season behind, PICT jumps right into the 2015 season at a new Downtown venue, which is actually not the only new move in PICT’s future. Beginning in February, PICT Classic Theatre will move its administrative offices from Dormont to the South Side. The new office space, which is closer to the Mainstage Series and Downtown Series venues, also offers ample space for rehearsals and team meetings.
“We begin our 2015 Season with pride in our achievements and the anticipation that the family of PICT- including actors, authors and audience— will continue to grow,” says Stanford, “We invite you to join with us in ‘A Place of Saints and Sinners’ for our largest season yet.”
PICT Classic Theatre is committed to the creation of high-quality, professional thought-provoking theatre of substance. As a theatre company, PICT promotes the community and region with education outreach, and also by consistently employing world-class talent who choose to call Pittsburgh their home. From the timeless truths that explore the depths of human nature, to the sharpest Irish wit— long after the curtain falls, PICT Classic Theatre seeks to remind audiences of the first moment they ever felt the power of a great performance.
ABOUT FOR THE TREE TO DROP:
Three actors make their PICT debuts in this compact production.
Estella, who is both slave and sister, holds a vigil in honor of her brother, Henry. Unable to turn a blind eye to the horrifying injustices she has seen, she exercises one of her “little freedoms” to the dismay of the plantation owner and his wife.
Playing the role of Estella is Siovhan Christensen, who is making her PICT debut. Classically trained at DuPaul University, Siovhan has worked in theatres from Chicago, Illinois to Copenhagen, Denmark. Locally, she was seen most recently in A Streetcar Named Desire at barebones productions and in the “2014 Young Playwrights Festival” at City Theatre.
Also making their PICT debuts are Justin Lonesome, playing the role of Henry, and Linda Haston, who will play the role of the plantation’s cook, Theenie.
Justin Lonesome appeared recently as Jim Conley/ Riley in Front Porch Theatricals’ Parade last fall. Other credits include Barry Belson in Jersey Boys First National Tour, Sargent Thomas in Soldier’s Heart and Che Guevara in Evita. Finding a talented singer in the role of Henry, the playwright will be adding music for Justin to perform during transitions throughout the show.
Linda Haston, the Assistant Artistic & Education Director at Prime Stage Theatre Company and an advisory board member at Off the Wall, is a professional actress, singer, dancer and director. In additional to many national and regional tours, Linda has also been seen in Pittsburgh at City Theatre, Quantum Theater, Pittsburgh Public Theatre and Off the Wall. In fact, Linda and her fellow cast members from City Theatre’s Crowns (2005-2006 Season) were a bit of an inspiration for Brennan, who was working on the production team: “I tend to be inspired by the actors I am rehearsing with. The cast consisted of five incredible African American actresses, and this made me want to write parts for them.” Now, ten years later, Linda will be playing a part that she helped to inspire.
After her portrayal of the contrasting roles of Mrs. Joe and Biddy in Great Expectations, Karen Baum returns to PICT to play the plantation owner’s wife, Clarinda. Other memorable PICT performances include Hecate in Macbeth, Edith in Blithe Spirit, Scarecrow in Woman and Scarecrow, Cordelia in King Lear, the maid in Boston Marriage, and multiple roles in PICT’s 2013 production of Don Juan Comes Back from the War.
David Whalen, who recently played the title role in Macbeth and Jaggers in Great Expectations, returns for his tenth season and twenty-third production at PICT. Continuing to live up to his title as former Performer of the Year by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, he recently appeared in Of Mice and Men for The Rep. He has also appeared locally at Pittsburgh Public Theater, City Theatre, Quantum Theatre and barebones productions, where he played Joey in A Steady Rain and directed Take Me Out. He has played leading roles across the country, in Europe, and in New York. Audiences world-wide may recognize him from the recent films The Fault in Our Stars and Jack Reacher.
Directed by Alan Stanford, who will also act as scenic designer, the artistic team for this production includes costume design by Joan Markert (PICT’s 2014 Anne D. Mullaney Inspiration Award recipient), sound design by Steve Shapiro and projections by Jessi Sedon-Essad.
For the Tree to Drop
By Lissa Brennan
Directed by Alan Stanford
The Peirce Studio inside the Trust Arts Education Center
805 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222
February 19 – 28, 2015
Please Note: This production will be performed without an intermission.
- Opening Night reception following the February 21 performance at 8 p.m. at The Sharp Edge Bistro on Penn Avenue Downtown (Free to ticketholders for the February 21 performance.)
- Post-Show Talkback: Discussion and Q&A with the playwright and PICT’s 2015 Featured Artist, Martin Giles, will follow February 22 performance
- Early Tuesday Happy Hour with free appetizers at The Sharp Edge Bistro prior to the February 24 show (Free to ticketholders for February 24 performance.)
- Pre-show lecture by Martin Giles from 7:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. before the February 25 performance. (Free and open to the public.)
- 10 a.m. student matinee on Thursday, February 19
- What’s the BIG DEAL… about For the Tree to Drop? A special package combining dinner, show-enhancing conversation and your seat at the performance on Thursday, February 26. Dinner at 6 p.m., performance at 8 p.m.
- American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation available Sunday, February 22, 2015 – 2 p.m. matinee. (Ticket for performance required.)