Guest artist Martin Damien Wilkins is set to direct UGA Theatre’s production of In the Blood.
Performances will be held Feb. 15-16 and 19-23 at 8 p.m. and Feb. 17 and 24 at 2:30 p.m. in the Cellar Theatre of UGA’s Fine Arts Building. Tickets are $16 or $12 for UGA students and can be purchased online at www.ugatheatre.com/blood, via phone at 706-542-4400, or in person at the Performing Arts Center or Tate Center box offices.
Originally published in 1999, playwright Suzan-Lori Parks’ In the Blood is a modern reimagining of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter that transposes its own version of Hester Prynne to modern-day America. Hawthorne’s Prynne is a puritan in 17th-century Massachusetts Bay, and on the surface seems worlds apart from the play’s Hester, who is a homeless, illiterate woman struggling to survive in New York while trying to raise five children. In their different times and places, however, the characters are forced to contend with the challenges presented by poverty, discrimination and oppression.
UGA Theatre invited Wilkins to bring Parks’ play to life as the first show of the spring 2019 season. Wilkins, who recently received best director honors at the 2018 Suzi Bass Awards, is no stranger to the playwright’s work, having directed her play Father Comes Home From the Wars for Actor’s Express in 2017.
“Suzan-Lori Parks was the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama and is widely recognized as one of America’s greatest living playwrights,” said David Saltz, head of the theatre and film studies department in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. “And Martin Wilkins is one of the most sought-after and creative young directors in the Southeast. With his deep familiarity with Parks’ work, he is the ideal director to tackle this amazing play.”
Wilkins is working with a team of undergraduates and graduates to craft the upcoming production. Junior business management and theatre major Kasey Freeman will take on the challenging lead role of Hester, a role that she describes as quite personal to her.
“Hester reminds me of my own mom,” Freeman said. “She is a black, single mother who tries her best to provide for the children she loves dearly. The amount of strength and courage it takes to raise children by yourself as a black woman is difficult to imagine.”
Undergraduate scenic designer Maddie Walsh has worked closely with Wilkins and scenic design associate professor Julie Ray to craft an abstract set that reflects the urban dystopia that constitutes Hester’s life.
“Incorporating abstract elements proved difficult at first because I wanted to convey a somewhat realistic overhanging structure for the bridge, for example,” Walsh said. “I am very proud of the strides I have made as an artist during this project.”
For Saltz, productions like In the Blood present myriad opportunities for theater students.
“The play allows us to show off the strengths of the department as a whole, giving our students the chance to work and learn alongside professional artists and one another to create an electric experience for audiences that speaks directly to some of the most pressing issues of the day,” he said.