What is TERMINUS about?
The plot: TERMINUS tells the story of Eller--a progressive white matriarch--and her mixed-race grandson, Jaybo, who live together down by the railroad tracks in rural Georgia. When Eller's mind begins to fade, her violent past in the segregated South haunts her from the very walls of the old family home. And as she descends terrifyingly closer toward a horrifying truth, Jaybo’s capacity to love his grandmother is put to the test.
What it’s ultimately about for me is using the story and the metaphor of theatre to excavate the confession of the great sin which existed since the beginning of our country…the sin of slavery and the capitalist oppression of black people…and the subsequent dismantling of the social construct of whiteness that would come as a result of the admission of this sin. It’s a very personal play with much truth stemming from my own family history. I dedicate the play to “my nameless kin,” because, as my grandmother told me at a very young age, there were people in my family tree whose lives were lost because of the color of their skin.
How did the show end up playing Next Door at NYTW?
Monk Parrots had agreed to produce the play and when NYTW called for proposals for their new 4th street theatre, we applied. I am a Usual Suspect at NYTW and so had an existing relationship with the theatre. They chose us, along with Dave Malloy, Elena Araoz & Mac Wellman, Idris Goodwin, and several other very exciting artists. We are thrilled to be part of their inaugural season.
You've got a fantastic cast and creative team. How was the team assembled?
With great care by me and director Lucie Tiberghien! Deirdre O’Connell (Eller) is a friend of mine who I met workshopping a different play (QUALITIES OF STARLIGHT) and when we started thinking about dream NY actresses to play the role, she was at the top of both mine and Lucie’s list. Thankfully she said yes! We found Reynaldo Piniella (Jaybo) a few years back when we did a Lab reading of TERMINUS at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ. He was someone both Lucie and I wanted to continue working with. Mat Hostetler (Bones) and Vanessa Butler (Finch) were new actors to me, but had worked with Lucie previously at Hartford Stage. Shann Patrick Tubbs (That Man) and I went to graduate school together at UT Austin and we’ve been trying to find a project to work on together for years and this really fit the bill. Luke Leonard (Jim) is the Co-Artistic Director and Founder of Monk Parrots and the piece really spoke to him and he wanted to be in the room again as an actor. Jessie Dean (Leafy) is my partner in life and art and has been there every step of the way as this play has developed. The role of Leafy has been tailored to her specific talents, in fact. And Clementine Belber (Annie) is making her professional debut. We didn’t have to look to far to cast that role. She’s Lucie’s daughter and I persuaded her that she was perfect for the role!
What's next for you?
As I type this, I’m in Rochester at Geva Theatre in the first week of rehearsal for my new play, HEARTLAND, which opens mid-March. It’s receiving a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere, so it will go from here to New Rep Theatre in Boston to InterAct Theatre in Philadelphia to The Vortex in Austin, Texas. This play is a departure from the world of Attapulgus.
Dr. Harold Banks is a retired professor of Comparative Literature and Afghan Studies, waiting for his adopted daughter to return from teaching in Afghanistan, her native country. When Nazrullah, an Afghan refugee, suddenly arrives at his Nebraska doorstep armed only with his daughter’s copies of The Diary of Anne Frank and The Old Man and the Sea – the two men become unlikely roommates. Set in both Maiden Shar and Omaha, Heartland is the story of a father, his determined daughter, and a surprising friendship.