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Provocative ‘Pass Over’ by Antoinette Nwandu
gets California premiere at Echo Theater Company
LOS ANGELES (June 11, 2019) — Moses and Kitch stand around on the corner — talking smack, passing the time, and hoping that today a miracle will come. The Echo Theater Company presents the California premiere of Pass Over, the 2019 Lucille Lortel award-winning play by Antoinette Nwandu that mashes up Waiting for Godot with the Exodus saga — a rare piece of politically charged theater by a bold new American voice. Deena Selenow directs for a July 13 opening at Atwater Village Theatre. Pay-what-you-want previews begin July 10, and performances continue through Aug. 19.
Emotional and lyrical, Pass Over crafts everyday profanities into poetic and humorous riffs, exposing the unquestionable human spirit of young black men who dream about a promised land they’ve yet to find. Pop culture, historical and religious references collide to create a hilarious and disturbing meditation on manhood, race and the cycle of violence that prevents too many from realizing their full potential.
“The play is a metaphor for the idea of being stuck, of being chained to a place — the characters in this play, in the hood; the Israelites, in Egypt; slaves, on a plantation,” suggests Selenow. “It’s about the centuries of history we carry and hold within us, that make us who we are, and that weights the playing field. Slavery was abolished. But we carry the impact with us in a deep way.”
According to Nwandu, “This play asks us collectively to consider the value of the lives of young black men who are not special. They are not entertainers, or athletes, or secret math geniuses. To entertain the possibility that we need to live in a society that does not ask these young men to prove their worth. This is part of the conversation we are having about who we are as a nation.”
The world premiere of Pass Over at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company in 2017 sparked a national conversation within the theater community about bias. In his New York Times “Critic’s’ Pick” review of the 2018 Lincoln Center production, co-chief theater critic Jesse Green called Pass Over “searing… daring dramaturgy.” The Wrap found it to be “scarily funny,” and the Hollywood Reporter called Pass Over “a powerfully imaginative drama that will shake up audiences, instantly tagging the playwright as a significant new voice.” The play was published in its entirety in the Sept. 2018 issue of American Theatre magazine.
The Echo Theater Company production stars Samuel Isaiah Hunter as Moses and Aaron Joseph as Kitch. Landon Mirisciotti takes on dual roles: Mister, a genteel, upper-middle-class man on his way to his mother’s house, and Ossifer, a menacing beat cop.
The creative team includes scenic designer Mark Kanieff, lighting designer Chu-Hsuan Chang, sound designer Howard Ho, costume designer Lena Sands, fight choreographer Cesar Cipriano and graphic designer Christopher Komuro. The production stage manager is Mitchell Carswell. Chris Fields and Rachael Zambias produce for the Echo Theater Company.
Currently under commission from the Echo Theater Company for a second play, Nwandu’s work has been supported by the MacDowell Colony, Sundance Theater Lab, Cherry Lane Mentor Project (mentor: Katori Hall), Kennedy Center, P73, PlayPenn, Space on Ryder Farm, Southern Rep, The Flea, Naked Angels, Fire This Time and Movement Theater Company. She is an alum of the Ars Nova Play Group, the Naked Angels Issues PlayLab, and the Dramatists Guild Fellowship. Honors include the Whiting Award, Paula Vogel Playwriting Award, Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award, Negro Ensemble Company’s Douglas Turner Ward Prize and a Literary Fellowship at the Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference. Antoinette’s plays have been included on the 2016 and 2017 Kilroys lists, and she has been named a Ruby Prize finalist, PONY Fellowship finalist, Page73 Fellowship finalist, NBT’s I Am Soul Fellowship finalist and is two-time Princess Grace Award semi-finalist. Antoinette graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College with a bachelor’s degree in English and holds a Master’s of Science degree in Cultural Politics from the University of Edinburgh and an MFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU Tisch School of the Arts.
Founded in 1997 and dedicated to producing new work, the Echo Theater Company has gained a reputation for bringing the hottest new plays and playwrights to Los Angeles. The 2019 season opened in March with the acclaimed Los Angeles premiere of The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe. The 2018 season saw West Coast premieres of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ Pulitzer Prize finalist play Gloria, named to the Los Angeles Times’ “Best of 2018” list, and Molly Smith Metzler’s Cry It Out, winner of Los Angeles Drama Critic’s Circle and Ovation best production and playwriting awards; it was also included on NPR affiliate station KCRW’s “Best of 2018” list. In addition, the Echo was honored with the LADCC award for “Best 2018 Season.” The company was anointed “Best Bet for Ballsy Original Plays” by the LA Weekly in its 2014 Best of L.A. issue and was a recipient of a 2016 “Kilroy Cake Drop”– one of only 13 theaters in the country to be surprised by cakes to honor the efforts they are making to produce women and trans writers. In the Los Angeles Times, theater critic Charles McNulty wrote, “Echo Theater Company, which has cultivated a community of top flight actors, would be my go-to place in Los Angeles for symbiotic ensemble acting… Artistic directors of theaters of all sizes would be wise to follow the [lead] of the Echo’s Chris Fields, who [is] building audience communities eager for the challenge of path-breaking plays.” KCRW’s Anthony Byrnes stated, “Echo Theater Company is on a fierce journey. They’re choosing plays that are consistently challenging and all have a deep conscience… The body of work that Echo is building is substantial. If you wanted to pick one small theater to add to your cultural roster — Echo is a consistent favorite.”
Pass Over opens on Saturday, July 13, with performances continuing on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 4 p.m.; and Mondays at 8 p.m. through Aug. 19. Three preview performances are set for Wednesday, July 10; Thursday, July 11; and Friday, July 12, each at 8 p.m. Tickets are $34 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays; Monday night performances are $20 in advance, and Pay-What-You-Want at the door (subject to availability). Atwater Village Theatre is located at 3269 Casitas Ave in Los Angeles, CA 90039. On-site parking is free. For reservations and information, call (310) 307-3753 or go to www.EchoTheaterCompany.com.
Details for Calendar Listings
California premiere of Pass Over — Antoinette Nwandu’s provocative mashup of Waiting for Godot and the Exodus saga is a rare piece of politically charged theater by a bold new American voice. Moses and Kitch stand around on the corner — talking smack, passing the time, and hoping that today a miracle will come. Emotional and lyrical, Pass Over crafts everyday profanities into poetic and humorous riffs, exposing the unquestionable human spirit of young black men who dream about a promised land they’ve yet to find. Winner of the 2019 Lucille Lortel award-for outstanding play.
• Written by Antoinette Nwandu
• Directed by Deena Selenow
• Starring Samuel Isaiah Hunter, Aaron Joseph, Landon Mirisciotti
• Presented by The Echo Theater Company, Chris Fields artistic director
Previews: July 10, July 11, July 12
Performances: July 13 – Aug. 19
• Wednesday at 8 p.m.: July 10 ONLY (preview)
• Thursday at 8 p.m.: July 11 ONLY (preview)
• Fridays at 8 p.m.: July 12 (preview), July 19. July 26, Aug. 2, Aug. 9, Aug, 16
• Saturdays at 8 p.m.: July 13 (opening night), July 20, July 27, Aug. 3, Aug. 10, Aug. 17
• Sundays at 4 p.m.: July 14, July 21, July 28, Aug. 4, Aug. 11, Aug. 18
• Mondays at 8 p.m.: July 15, July 22, July 29, Aug. 5, Aug. 12, 19
Echo Theater Company
Atwater Village Theatre
3269 Casitas Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90039
Mondays: $20 in advance; Pay-What-You-Want at the door (subject to availability)
FREE in the Atwater Xing lot one block south of the theater
Contains loud gunshots and frequent and extreme profanity. The show is recommended for ages 15+.