Deconstructing concentrated poverty through the arts

Playwright Katori Hall shares insights from her new production “Hurt Village,” about a community in a public housing project that is set to be demolished. Shedding light on concentrated poverty, Hall discusses her difficulties with making her play accessible to audiences while maintaining her message.

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Written on March 16th, 2012 , Uncategorized






The Williamstown Theatre Festival has announced the world premiere of Oliver Award-winning Mountaintop playwright Katori Hall‘s Whaddabloodclot!!! as part of it 2012 summer season. New additions to Williamstown’s summer lineup also include a newly conceived production of Oscar Wilde‘s The Importance of Being Earnest, staged by Tony winner David Hyde Pierce (June 26-July 14). It is described as a Guys and Dolls meets “Downton Abbey” take on the classic comedy.

Tony winner Richard Nelson will stage the world premiere of a new translation of Ivan Turgenev‘s A Month in the Country (Aug. 1-19).
Nelson collaborated with Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky on thetranslation.

Jessica Stone will stage Neil Simon’s classic comedy The Last of the Red Hot Lovers (July 11-22), and a free staging of Sir Arthur
Conan Doyle’s The Valley of Fear, adapted by Steve Lawson, will also be offered (July 18-27).

Whaddabloodclot!!! (Aug. 8-19) is presented in association with the Signature Theatre Company, which is currently presenting Hall’s Hurt Village.

Here’s how the new play is described: “One-percenter Eden Higgenbotham lives
a cushy Upper-East-Side life surrounded by equally affluent, vain, and snobbish
friends. When a sudden stroke causes her to contract the very rare Foreign
Accent Syndrome, which makes her speak uncontrollably with a Jamaican accent,
she’s forced to embrace a dramatically altered identity.”

As previously reported, Williamstown will produce Far From Heaven, a new musical with a book by Tony Award winner Richard Greenberg (Take Me Out) and an original score by Tony-nominated Grey Gardens songwriters Scott Frankel (music) and Michael Korie (lyrics). Michael Greif (Next to Normal, Grey Gardens, Rent) will direct (July 19-29). Three-time Tony Award nominee Kelli O’Hara will star.

Also announced in recent weeks was the world premiere of Lucy Boyle’s The Blue Deep, starring Tony winner Blythe Danner, under the direction of Bob Balaban (July 11-22).

Single tickets will go on sale in April. Visit WilliamstownTheatreFestival

Written on March 7th, 2012 , Media










Written on March 7th, 2012 , Media

Katori Hall, the playwright behind “The Mountaintop,” stopped by the WSJ studio to discuss the world premiere of her new play, “Hurt Village,” at the brand new Pershing Square Signature Center in New York City.

Hall, who now lives in Washington Heights, New York, is a native of Memphis, and said the inspiration for the play came from growing up as a young girl near the real-life Hurt Village housing project.

“I grew up playing with kids from Hurt Village, playing with kids from other housing projects, Lamar Terrace, because my grandmother lived in that particular area,” Hall said in the interview. “So, I always wondered how I would have turned out if I would have lived in that particular given circumstance.”

“Hurt Village,” which opened on Monday, tells the story of an African-American family during its last days in a Memphis housing project—too poor to afford better housing, but considered too well-off to qualify for public housing. At its heart is Cookie (Joaquina Kalukango), a gifted 13-year-old girl who wants to continue her education and improve her life.

Hall is one of three playwrights being celebrated in the inaugural season of the Pershing Square Signature Center — a 70,000-square-foot, Frank Gehry-designed space that opened earlier this month. Along with Hall’s “Hurt Village,” Signature is staging Edward Albee’s “The Lady From Dubuque” and Athol Fugard’s “Blood Knot.”

“It’s freaking mind-blowing to be rehearsing and you come out of the door and there’s Mr. Fugard eating cookies on his break,” Hall said. “I feel so honored to be in such amazing, amazing company. I feel like when they embrace me, it’s showing me that they feel like there’s room for all of us. All of these stories deserve to be told.”

Hall’s play, “The Mountaintop,” was a recent production on Broadway starring Samuel Jackson and Angela Bassett. When asked how that experience differed from playing at the off-Broadway Signature Center, Hall said, “It’s so different because obviously it’s Broadway, there’s more at stake. You gotta get your $3.1 million back. You’re working with stars—not just stars but STARS… You do have to deal with producers coming to you and like, how many minutes you gonna cut off? You have to deal with that I think more so on the Broadway level. But I think the major difference is, you’re under the radar at Signature and they say Broadway is playwright-centered and it’s not, no more [laughs]. It’s actor-centered at this point in time because of the economy. But off-Broadway, particularly at Signature, it’s playwright-centered, absolutely”

Written on March 7th, 2012 , Media
Katori Hall on Twitter