NY – Variety called him "a writer to remember." The New York Times said he "writes with a ripe lyricism" and "inevitably brings to mind the work of August Wilson." And The New Haven Register described his play on memory as "an inspired experience that trumpets the arrival of a new and daring voice in the theater."
Now, 29-year-old Marcus Gardley will bring a newly revised version of his heralded Dance of the Holy Ghost: A Play on Memory, directed by Leah C. Gardiner, to the Powerhouse Theater Season at Vassar College July 13-15. In this humorous and emotionally raw new play, Gardley takes the audience on a journey through the life of Oscar Clifton – a bitter, defiant jazz musician who wrestles with his troubled past and pines for the one true love of his life. Oscar represents Gardley's grandfather – a man the playwright never knew, but who nevertheless served as a powerful, mythical figure in Gardley's childhood.
"When I was growing up I heard lots of stories about my grandfather. Most of them were really tragic and really intriguing," says Gardley, who was four years old when his grandfather died. "I decided to write a play that put all those stories together. I feel like it's a journey through Oscar's mind because when we put these memories together, we see who he really is."
Gardley says that Oscar's struggle to make peace with three generations of his family is sure to hit home with many audience members, who may have gone through similar familial challenges. Ultimately, Dance of the Holy Ghost is a story of two men's journeys – Oscar and his 10-year-old grandson Marcus, who is loosely modeled after the playwright himself. While Marcus shuns Oscar at the outset of the play, the young man begins to discover the true value of his own past as the story unfolds. And, by the end, both men conquer some of their personal demons.
"We want Oscar to live in the present, so he can develop a meaningful relationship with his grandson," Gardley explains. "By the play's conclusion, we come to terms with whether he will be able to do that."
Evening and matinee performances of Dance of the Holy Ghost will be held in the Susan Stein Shiva Theater on the Vassar College campus. Tickets for this Inside Look! production are $20 and can be ordered online at http://powerhouse.vassar.edu, or through the Powerhouse box office at (845) 437-7235 and (845) 437-5599.
Since 1985, Vassar and New York Stage and Film's Powerhouse Theater Season has premiered numerous new works destined for on- and off-Broadway production, and made Poughkeepsie a theater destination for thousands of theatre lovers. Powerhouse has also trained an entire generation of young artists through its annual summer Apprentice Training Program, which produces an outdoor repertory series on the Vassar campus. More than 200 professional playwrights, directors, actors, and designers, and nearly 50 apprentices from high schools and colleges across the United States, live and work together each summer in a rich collaborative environment at Vassar.
Founded in 1985 by Producing Directors Mark Linn-Baker, Max Mayer, and Leslie Urdang, New York Stage and Film (SAF) is a not-for-profit company dedicated to both emerging and established artists in the development and production of new works for theater and film.
Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential, liberal arts college founded in 1861.
ABOUT MARCUS GARDLEY, PLAYWRIGHT
Marcus Gardley is a poet-playwright who teaches playwriting at Columbia University. His most recent play Love is a Dream House in Lorin was nominated for the National Critics Steinberg New Play Award. He has had six plays produced, two of which are: Dance of the Holy Ghosts at Yale Repertory Theatre and (L)imitations of Life, at the Empty Space. He is the recipient of the Gerbode Emerging Playwright Award, the National Alliance for Musical Theatre Award, a Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation Grant, a National Endowment for the Arts/Theatre Communications Group Playwriting Participant Residency, and the Eugene O' Neil Memorial Scholarship. He holds an MFA in playwriting from the Yale School of Drama and is a member of New Dramatists and the Lark Play Development Center.
ABOUT LEAH C. GARDINER, DIRECTOR
Upcoming: August Wilson's Fences for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Most recent: Molly Smith Metzler's Training Wisteria for Cherry Lane Theatre. National Tour: Judith Light in Margaret Edson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Wit. Off-Broadway: the world premiere of Eisa Davis' Bulrusher for Urban Stages (Pulitzer finalist); John Augustine's Kent, CT for the Zipper Theater; Anne Garcia-Romero's Earthquake Chica for the Summer Play Festival and put in the subsequent actresses to Wit at the Union Square Theater. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the Yale School of Drama and has been a Director-in-Residence for the New York Shakespeare Festival and New Dramatists.
ABOUT SCOTT RICHARDS, COMPOSER
A recipient of the Jonathan Larson and the Frederick Loewe awards, he scored Dance at the Yale Repertory Theatre last year. He is currently completing a commission (music and lyrics) for a musical adaptation of the Jean Shepherd film, A Christmas Story. Other musical theater works include music and libretto for Charlie Crosse's The Nation a Jazz Opera (Directors Company/Hal Prince Project), music for Coyote Goes Salmon Fishing (dir. Molly Smith at Perseverance Theatre/produced by Stuart Ostrow in Houston). As an actor, Mr. Richards originated the role of Sylvester in the original Broadway production of August Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. He is assistant professor of music/musical theatre at Montclair State University.
ABOUT PETER J. FERNANDEZ, OSCAR CLIFTON
New York Stage and Film productions: Once Around The City. Broadway: The Merchant of Venice, Jelly's Last Jam, Henry IV, and Julius Caesar. Off Broadway: Playwrights Horizons, Public Theater, 2nd Stage, Classic Stage, Delacorte, Epic, Rattlestick, Minetta Lane, New Federal and The Flea. Regional Theaters: Arena Stage, Alliance, Old Globe, Hartford Stage, Longwharf, The Goodman, Seattle Rep, Williamstown, Cincinnati Playhouse, Mc Carter, Geva, and Cleveland Playhouse. Peter has appeared in numerous television series and films. His current projects include Preaching to the Choir and the upcoming The Tourist.
ABOUT E. FAYE BUTLER, VIOLA EATON
[Left: E. Faye Butler] Off-Broadway: Nunsense. National and Regional Tours: Mamma Mia, Dinah Was, Ain't Misbehavin', Nunsense, Nunsense2, Cope. Regional Theatre: Saving Aimee, Gospel According To Fishman (Signature Theatre); Trouble In Mind, Once On This Island (Centerstage); The Wiz (LaJolla Playhouse); Suessical (Chicago Shakespeare); Thoroughly Modern Millie, Little Shop Of Horrors (Marriott Lincolnshire, Purlie– Pasadena Playhouse, Goodman Theatre. Recipient of five Joseph Jefferson Awards, two Black Theater Alliance Awards, John Barrymore, Excellence In The Arts, Rami Award, The After Dark Award, An Ovation Nomination, three Helen Hayes Nominations, and Artist Associate with Arena Stage.
ABOUT WILL JACKSON HARPER, MARCUS G
Will has worked with Broken Watch Theatre, Vital Theatre, Lark Play Development Center, The Cry Havoc Company, Luna Stage, Access Theatre, 3graces Theatre Company and Ensemble Studio Theatre where he is also a member. He has also worked regionally with Garson Theatre Company, Shakespeare in Santa Fe, Dallas Shakespeare Festival, and many others.
ABOUT CAROLINE CLAY, DARLENE
[Left: Caroline Clay] Broadway: Drowning Crow, Doubt (Mrs. Muller standby). National Tour: Doubt (Mrs. Muller-Principal). Off-Bway: Signature Theater, New York Theater Workshop, Playwrights Horizons, Public Theater, Manhattan Theater Club. Regional: McCarter, Long Wharf, Yale Repertory Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, Goodman, Cleveland Playhouse, Shakespeare Theater, Alabama Shakespeare Festival. TV & Film: Law & Order, Sherrybaby, The Heights, Allergic to Nuts. Caroline has a recurring role as Nurse Hazel on All My Children.
ABOUT MEME SMITH, TANISHA TAYLOR
Myosha, 15, is from Brooklyn, NY where she attends the Performing Arts and
Technology High School. She is very happy to have the chance to be a part of the Dance of the Holy Ghost cast; it has given her a new outlook on life and theater. Myosha has attended Stagedoor Manor for the past five summers where she has appeared in many shows.