PlayGuide - "New Age"

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MARCH 22 – MAY 1, 2022 | STIEMKE STUDIO Presented by

Christine Symchych & Jim McNulty

By Dael

Orlandersmith |

Directed by Jade

King Carroll

A John (Jack) D. Lewis New Play Development Program Production Executive Producers

Associate Producers

The Stiemke Studio Season is presented by

Croen Foundation • Mara & Craig Swan

Krista Kile

Four-Four Foundation

Table of Contents Mark Clements ARTISTIC DIRECTOR

Chad Bauman

Characters/The Play..........................................................3


Dael Orlandersmith: Her Body of Work....................4


Art Inspiring Artists: Music and Visual Art in New Age and Onstage....................................................6


Deanie Vallone



Milwaukee Rep’s New Play Development Program...................................................8 The Intersection of Script, Sound, and Stage.........10


Lydia Cochran



New Age – PlayGuide


Cass (Lisa Harrow)

A white woman in her early 70s. She has a unique presence and panache that has often been disregarded by those around her.

Lisette (Delissa Reynolds)

A black woman, age 80. She is a writer who has always been independent, self-assured, and present. She is now confined to a nursing home and resents the infantilization pressed upon her by those who care for her.

Candy (Courtney Rackley)

Liberty (Blair Medina Baldwin)

A white woman, age 45. She is attractive, boisterous, smart, and funny. She leans into an aesthetic that is of a previous age, one of fully done hair and makeup, girl groups and girdles, glamazons like Marilyn Monroe and Sophia Loren.

A young mixed race woman of 18. She is a determined rocker whose music serves as commentary throughout the piece. She seeks independence and the ability to pursue her art in the face of a mother who does not support her and does not reflect the person she wants to become.

The Play

The play is a lyrical piece about four women at various stages in their life journeys. The piece opens with Cass exploring the Greek and Roman sculptures at The Met after the death of her ex-husband, Lisette confined to a nursing home, Candy post-birthday celebration, and Liberty and her guitar in an undefined space after leaving an abusive home. The women reflect on relationships, dreams, race, the limitations placed on them because of gender, family, and how art and self-expression gives them a voice. Ultimately, as the women reflect on their lives and their experiences, they discover and reclaim themselves, reaching for more than what the world has allowed them and inspiring each other, and especially young Liberty, to embrace whatever is yet to come.


Dael Orlande

Her Bo

Liar, Liar (1994):

Orlandersmith’s first one-woman show which shares the stories and revelations of nine disparate individuals examining life’s challenges and failures with humor and insight.

Beauty’s Daughter (1995): This Obie Award-winning play follows one woman’s journey through life in East Harlem as she grapples with life’s obstacles through music and poetry.

Monster (1996): Fifteen-year-old Theresa copes with growing up and life’s hardships, hearing the voices of the family members and neighbors who impact her ability to actualize her own story.

The Gimmick (1998): Alexis, a young, smart Black girl growing up in East Harlem, finds solace and growth through a strong friendship and the magic of books and libraries as the adults in her life have left her to mature and grow on her own.

Yellowman (2002): This Pulitzer Prize finalist in Drama follows Eugene and Alma from their youth to their adulthood as they grapple with their evolving romantic relationship, the challenges of family, colorism, class, and race (Milwaukee Rep 2011/2012 Season). 4

Raw Boys (2005): Two Irish brothers, Shane and Billy, escape an abusive home to find new challenges, love, and a new life in New York.

The Blue Album (2007): Co-written with David Cale, this “theatrical ‘concept album’” combines various vignettes to explore the ups and downs of life and love.

Stoop Stories (2008): From the stoop of a Harlem apartment building, the narrator shares the stories of her diverse neighbors and neighborhood with poetry and music.

Bones (2010): An alcoholic mother and her twin adult children are reunited in an airport hotel, clashing and confronting their shared trauma and shared history. Erica Bradshaw and Ryan Quinn in Yellowman, Milwaukee Rep (2011). Photo Credit: Michael Brosilow.

New Age – PlayGuide

Dael Orlandersmith. Photo credit: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times


ody of


Horsedreams (2011): After his wife dies of an accidental overdose, a single father confronts the reality of his circumstances and the breakdown of a family at the hands of addiction.

Black n Blue Boys/Broken Men (2012): This one-person show brings together five disparate men whose stories of abuse and trauma link them within the narrative and across boundaries of time and space.

Forever (2016): Framed by a visit to Pere Lachaise Cemetery, this play examines Orlandersmith’s own relationship with and understanding of her mother and the bonds that art can create with those who feel more like family than those of our blood.

Until the Flood (2016): An exploration of the social uprising in Ferguson, Missouri after the shooting of Michael Brown, this piece, developed from extensive interviews with residents, has been brought to life with Orlandersmith’s unique poetic style (Milwaukee Rep 2017-2018 Season).

Lady in Denmark (2018): This solo show explores the impact of the great Billie Holiday on the life of one of her fans, Helene, who has just lost her husband, but finds solace and friendship in Holiday’s music.

Antonio’s Song/I Was Dreaming of a Son (2019): Co-conceived/written with Antonio Edwards Suarez, this piece explores themes of masculinity, art, race, and family and the responsibility one man feels to balance these conflicting parts of his life. Presented at Milwaukee Rep in February of 2022.

Antonio Edwards Suarez in Antonio’s Song/I Was Dreaming Of A Son. Photo Credit: Michael Brosilow.


David Cantor, Cassandra Bissell, and Jonathan Bock in My Name is Asher Lev. Photo Credit: Michael Brosilow.


rt Inspiring rtists

Music and Visual Art in New Age and Onstage

The tradition of ekphrasis, or literary interpretation of visual art, is a recurring motif in poetry, fiction, and dramatic writing alike. The idea of ekphrasis has also been expanded to include works inspired by music or other art forms. In New Age, visual art and music become additional characters in the play, highlighting and illustrating the lives of these women and their quest for agency, selfactualization, and freedom to express themselves. Orlandersmith’s work often uses music, art, or poetry as tools for artistic expression and an important part of understanding her characters. In New Age, the ways that art and music are centered are key to the very existence of each character. Cass finds solace in the halls of The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Lisette is a writer, not only as a career, but in her very soul; Candy has now abandoned her dream of acting or performing; 6

and Liberty punctuates the entire story and her life with powerful guitar riffs. While these women have different backgrounds, ages, and lives, their connection to the power of art resonates through all of their stories. Music and visual art have been key elements in many plays in the theatrical canon. While musical theater and opera are genres of their own in which music is a central part of the story, the influence of music can also be seen in “straight” plays or plays with music. The same can be said about the appearance of visual art and artists as inspiration for theatrical works. At Milwaukee Rep, musicals and musical revues abound on our stages, especially in the Stackner Cabaret, but many plays we produce embrace the power of art, artists, music, and musicians as well.

New Age – PlayGuide

A few other pieces produced by Milwaukee Rep in the past 25 years that embrace the world of music or art and the people who create it:

End of the Rainbow by Peter Quilter (2013/2014 Season) brings audiences into Judy Garland’s final residency at Talk of the Town in London and her larger-thanlife personality and problems.

My Name is Asher Lev by Aaron Posner (2010/2011 Season) examines the life of a young painting prodigy and the conflict between his talent and desire for self-expression and his Hasidic Jewish faith.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Inventing Van Gogh by Steven Dietz (2002/2003 Season) centers around a lonely artist who is offered the chance to forge Van Gogh’s “final self-portrait.” As he grapples with the deception, his world intersects with the spirits of various artists, including Van Gogh himself.

Bach at Leipzig by Itamar Moses (2004/2005 Season) brings a young Bach to audition for a post as organist at the famed Thomaskirche. Farcical bribery and shenanigans ensue as the potential organists vie for the patronage of the church.


by August Wilson (2010/2011 Season), set during a recording session with blues legend Ma Rainey and her musicians, examines art, race, religion, and the exploitation of black artists by white music producers.

by Peter Shaffer (1998/1999 Season) pits the devout, eldery composer Salieri against the boorish and yet magnificently talented young Mozart while Mozart seeks approval by an aristocracy that does not seem to understand his genius.

Picasso at the Lapin Agile

Dinah Was

by Steve Martin (1998/1999 Season) is an absurdist comedy that places Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso in a Paris cafe in 1904, just before they both changed their fields and the world.

by Oliver Goldstick (2000/2001 Season) follows legendary blues singer Dinah Washington as she grapples with racism, addiction, love, and her life’s journey.

‘Art’ by Yasmina Reza (2000/2001 Season) examines the meaning of art and friendship through the lens of three friends with wildly different opinions on a modern art piece that one of them purchases. Anthony Fleming III and Ernest Perry, Jr. in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Photo Credit: Alan Simons.


Several recent Milwaukee Rep commissions. All photos by Michael Brosilow.



DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM New Age is part of Milwaukee Rep’s John (Jack) D. Lewis New Play Development Program, an initiative started in 2015. Milwaukee Rep has premiered over 150 plays and musicals since its founding in 1958, but this program commits fully to the development of new work by exciting and innovative playwright partners. New play development has now become one of Milwaukee Rep’s three strategic priorities as an organization, and audiences, artists, and the institution reap the benefits of that commitment. Plays that fall under the New Play Development Program fit into one of several categories: commissioned new works, world premieres, U.S. premieres, or second productions (plays that have premiered elsewhere, but need additional development or exposure). Since the advent of this program, Milwaukee Rep has entered into commission agreements for ten to fifteen new works with playwrights such as Ayad Akhtar, Idris Goodwin, Eleanor Burgess, and of course, Dael Orlandersmith (see complete list on our website). According to Literary Director Deanie Vallone, there are many benefits to having such a strong commitment to new works and being a part of the development process. For Milwaukee Rep, it allows the company to tell stories they want to tell for Rep audiences and the Milwaukee community, and to “tap into stories that we haven’t heard, topics that we haven’t discussed, or in new ways of telling stories.” Vallone adds:

We’re such a big theater and we produce a lot of shows, which is unique in the theater landscape. Being able to offer our audiences a variety of work, to be able to have a brand new play that is still in development alongside a Shakespeare play, playing at the same time, is just incredible. It’s an opportunity to step back and look at the evolution of art; to hold multiple ideas up against each other; to be able to talk about our past, present, and future in one conversation. Everybody likes to be at the forefront of something new. I think our audiences should be really excited about having access to new work because that’s not always the case . . . . We often don’t get access to the writers. The nice thing about being able to develop relationships with writers over longer periods of time is that they get to know us, we get to know them, they get to know our community, they get to know our audiences, and our audiences get to know them. That can dispel some of the exclusivity around theater and bring together the various constituencies of the theater. As Milwaukee Rep continues its commitment to new works, be on the lookout for more John (Jack) D. Lewis New Play Development Program musicals and plays in upcoming seasons! 8

New Age – PlayGuide





Milwaukee Rep reaches out to a playwright with whom the theater has a good relationship and knows the quality of their work to propose a commission.

Playwright shares a pitch or the idea of the play with the Artistic staff.

If the Milwaukee Rep team likes the pitch, they offer a contract for a commission that outlines details of timeline, support from the theater, and other specifics.

Playwright writes their first draft of the piece (usually in about a year, but timelines vary).

Milwaukee Rep team gives feedback on the draft.

Playwright writes a revised draft of the script.

A workshop of the play is planned.

In a workshop, the playwright usually comes to Milwaukee where a fully cast and directed reading of the script is completed. The entire team gathers in a rehearsal room and works the play for about four days, giving feedback and letting the playwright hear the words off the page. The playwright is revising, writing new pages, and developing the script further during this time.

The workshop process often culminates in a reading for core Artistic staff members or sometimes a wider audience.

Playwright develops a more polished version of the script as a result of information gained from the workshop process.

From here, the revision process varies by play/playwright. Sometimes more drafts are written, sometimes that third draft is the final.

Once a producible script is completed, Milwaukee Rep Artistic staff will decide if they want to move forward with the piece.

New contracts are written and the play is added to a season schedule.

Rehearsals begin with the playwright still developing along the way.

Opening night!








Script, & Stage

the intersection of


an interview with

Dael Orlandersmith, Lindsay Jones, & You-Shin Chen

Written by Lydia Cochran, Literary Emerging Professional Resident

we don’t talk about ageism. The assumption is that you’re older, you’re a throw away. If you’re young, you’re stupid.”

Music pulses through the heart of New Age. It uplifts and feeds each woman’s tune as she tells her story, each isolated in her space but connected to each other in thought. Playwright Dael Orlandersmith, Sound Designer/ Composer Lindsay Jones, and Scenic Designer You-Shin Chen came together to discuss how musical storytelling has been infused into the show’s concept and design.

In the process of writing, it became important for Orlandersmith to look at the stories of women who contradict age-based stereotypes. “I mean, there’s certain people – I love the fact that Georgia O’Keefe painted literally until the day she died. You look at the work Patti Smith is doing. Yoko Ono is close to ninety, and she’s still working.” One of her primary inspirations for the character of Cass was Jackie O’Shaughnessy, who was discovered by American Apparel and became a model at age 62.

To begin the conversation, Dael Orlandersmith spoke to her initial inspirations and ideas for New Age. “I wanted to look at aging in general...What does it mean to age? What does it mean ‘to come of age’? And what it means to be female and to be of a certain age.” She has observed how women in the theater and entertainment industry can often become invisible by age 30 or 35. “It’s the last -ism, you know. We talk about racism. We talk about sexism. But 10

Women like this, female artists and icons of film, literature, and especially music, are referenced and celebrated throughout the play. “Music plays a role in everything that I write...I always wanted to write about women in music, and specifically rock ‘n roll,” explains Orlandersmith. “And so I came up with New Age.” New Age – PlayGuide

Sound Designer/Composer Lindsay Jones, then jumps in, emphasizing the plethora of genres that Dael has tapped into for this play. “Dael has this really awesome tapestry of music that sort of weaves its way through the show. And she’s specified all these different artists that have shaped and influenced the people in the show.”

and memory. “So we have this circular pool form with the three older generation women [around it]. Like a fountain, they [become] the statues there, while Liberty, being the youngest, and singing her heart out, like a poet, is trying to find her way. And [she] visits these three women that are ahead of her time.”

“I’m very plugged into music in general. I hear it a lot of the time no matter what I’m writing,” explains Orlandersmith. “So, music is really a part of my DNA. And I have a thing called synesthesia, which is, I hear a sound and it will connect me to a character.” Synesthesia is a neurological condition where you experience one sense through another. She gives an example: “When people describe the blues. It makes sense to me – it sounds blue to me.”

“You-Shin’s really devised something pretty amazing and unusual,” adds Jones. “There is something you don’t often see in theater, which is a set that has a living component, which is this pool of water. What you have is a really evocative environment that music can sort of live on.” Jones explains how the sound vibrations physically change the set as the water seems to react to the story unfolding onstage. “I’m very, very excited to see how the music will also ebb and flow, very much in the same way as the water.”

Inspired by Orlandersmith’s musical storytelling, Jones is developing original compositions for the show. He expresses how his original work is linked to the array of music that Orlandersmith weaves throughout the script: “What I’m interested in doing is using the music of Liberty to sort of connect those influences together.” Liberty is the youngest character in the show, an eighteen-year-old musician searching for her own sound. “So the original music part is how we tie artists from different eras and different influences to be one sort of organic fabric that is the show – taking these different cool things and making them feel like one whole object.” “I’m pretty excited to see, to hear Lindsay’s magic,” adds Scenic Designer You-Shin Chen. “Dael wrote about the surrounding being void, and I feel like the new music from Lindsay is something to also fill into the room.” In New Age, the four characters exist in their separate spaces, at points in semi-darkness - experiencing life separately, but existing together through time and space. In asking Chen about her original ideas for the set design, she says, “Dael’s writing is really poetic and what these women are saying kind of echo each other, they weave together. So, when I started designing, it’s something poetic and something that could be more abstract in terms of the form and shape.”

Jones also explains how he was personally drawn to Orlandersmith’s use of music. “What inspires me through it is how music plays into finding your identity and establishing who you are. Because, to me, my whole life surrounds music, I identify with that so strongly - that idea that this song is me, that music is me, these different musical influences are all the things that make up who I am.” And the characters would certainly agree. “I’ve seen how people give birth to themselves or not,” expresses Orlandersmith. “I’ve seen older people who have not reinvented themselves, and they’ve used age as a weapon. And they automatically assume that somebody who is younger is going to make the same mistakes, the same way, that they did.” However, in New Age, this is definitely not the case. Jones agrees; he says that one of the things he was most inspired by in the script was how “they go through the show to sort of coalesce their experiences together – it’s this discovery that they’re all kinda badasses by the end of it. They all find themselves in each other and through their musical storytelling.”

Chen continues, “I remember I was looking into paintings and drawings, and of how women come together. And I came across this painting -- it’s with the Muses.” She explains how the set was created such that the characters became reminiscent of three of the Muses, the Greek goddesses of poetic inspiration, representing song, dance,



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