Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company to Present Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' An Octoroon

Apr 28, 2016
An Octoroon

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company announces its final production of Season 36, the D.C. premiere of An Octoroon by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, directed by Nataki Garrett. An Octoroon will run from May 30 to June 26, 2016.

A plantation on the brink of foreclosure. A young gentleman falling for the part-black daughter of the estate's owner. An evil swindler plotting to buy her for himself. Meanwhile, the slaves are trying to keep things drama-free, because everybody else is acting crazy.

An incendiary adaptation that the New York Post called "entertainingly demented," An Octoroon riffs on a 19th century melodrama that helped shape the debate around the abolition of slavery. Part period satire, part meta-theatrical middle finger, it's a provocative challenge to the racial pigeonholing of 1859-and of today.

An Octoroon is the second play by Washington, D.C.-born playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins to be produced at Woolly; Appropriate appeared on Woolly's stage in 2013. Appropriate and An Octoroon won a joint Obie Award for Best New American Play in 2014. The following year, Jacobs-Jenkins won the Steinberg Playwrights Award, and in 2016 he won the PEN/Laura Pels Award for Emerging American Playwright and Yale's Windham-Campbell Prize. His new play Gloria was a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

"Our mission at Woolly is to challenge our community, ask hard questions, and push the boundaries of theatrical style, so it's a special thrill to discover a play that is unafraid to do all those things," says Woolly Mammoth Artistic Director Howard Shalwitz. "With a dazzling sense of style and humor, Branden disarms our notions of what's acceptable on stage, blows past any concerns over political correctness, and asks us to think about questions of race and representation in radical new ways. It's an honor to welcome Branden back to Woolly, along with his frequent collaborator Nataki Garrett."

Washington, DC actor Jon Hudson Odom will appear on the Woolly stage for the first time in the role of BJJ. Other cast members making Woolly debuts include Joseph Castillo-Midyett (Assistant), Kathryn Tkel (Zoe), Maggie Erwin (Dora), Shannon Dorsey (Minnie), Jade Wheeler (Grace), Jobari Parker-Namdar (Br'er Rabbit). James Konicek (Marie Antoinette) is returning to Woolly in the role of Playwright, and Erika Rose (Mr. Burns) is returning in the role of Dido.

Los Angeles-based director Nataki Garrett will make her directing debut at Woolly with An Octoroon. Woolly Company Members Misha Kachman (set design), Colin K. Bills (lighting design) and Ivania Stack (costume design) are joining the production team, which also includes Kim James Bey (dialect), Patrick Calhoun (sound design), and local hip-hop artist and past Woolly collaborator Christylez Bacon (composer).

Every performance of An Octoroon will be accompanied by a pre- or post-show engagement opportunity featuring a Woolly community partner, curated by Woolly's Connectivity team. Depending on the performance, these events may take the form of facilitated dialogues, creative workshops, or expert-led talks. Some of the collaborators and co-creators involved include: The Sanctuaries, a local arts community recently featured in the New York Times and the Huffington Post; The Historical Society of Washington, D.C., an educational foundation and museum dedicated to preserving and displaying the history of the District of Columbia; Dwayne Lawson-Brown and Spit Dat, a weekly poetry open mic event, and many more to be announced.

An Octoroon runs May 30 to June 26, 2016, with performances Wednesday-Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 3pm and 8pm (Saturday, June 4 at 8pm only), and Sunday at 2pm and 7pm (Sunday, June 5 at 7pm only). Monday, May 30 and Tuesday, May 31 will be Pay What You Can performances, which will begin at 8pm.