Palm Beach Dramaworks
The World Premiere of Michael McKeever’s
The People Downstairs
Opens Palm Beach Dramaworks’ 2021-2022 Season on December 3
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(West Palm Beach, Fla.) November 16, 2021-Palm Beach Dramaworks, unable to perform onstage for audiences for 21 months due to the pandemic, begins its season of renewal on December 3 (8pm) with the world premiere of Michael McKeever’s The People Downstairs, a commissioned play that tells the story of the courageous souls who hid Anne Frank and seven others during the Holocaust. Performances continue through December 19, with specially priced previews on December 1 and 2 (7:30pm). Producing Artistic Director William Hayes directs.
In 1942, as Jewish residents of Nazi-occupied Amsterdam were sent to concentration camps or murdered in the streets, Miep and Jan Gies, Victor Kugler, and Johannes Kleiman risked everything to save their colleagues Otto Frank and Hermann van Pels, the men’s families, and a family friend, from certain death. For 761 days, Anne Frank shared her observations and inner-most thoughts on what life was like for eight people whose world was reduced to a few concealed, cramped rooms in the building where her father worked. But what of the people who hid them, who provided safety and sustenance until the awful moment when authorities, either by a tip from an informer or simply by chance, discovered the Secret Annex? The People Downstairs explores the complex challenges faced by these brave individuals on their journey of rebellious morality during the horrors of the Holocaust.
“We’re living through such turbulent times,” said Hayes. “Incidents of anti-Semitism have increased for the past several years, as has a rise in hate crimes toward many ethnic groups and people of color, which makes The People Downstairs all too timely. It’s alarming to see people wearing yellow stars and hear them draw a comparison between mask mandates and Nazism, or to see people beaten because of the color of their skin. The play serves as an important reminder for all of us to protect those who are being unfairly persecuted in our country. We’re a nation built on immigration, a country that should take pride in its diversity. As it says on the plaque in the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty: ‘Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’”
The People Downstairs features Amy Miller Brennan, Bruce Linser, Dennis Creaghan, Tom Wahl, Michael McKeever, Matthew W. Korinko, and John Campagnuolo. Scenic design is by Michael Amico, costume design is by Brian O’Keefe, lighting design is by Kirk Bookman, and sound design is by Roger Arnold.
All guests at the theatre are required to wear suitable masks that completely cover the nose, mouth, and under the chin for their entire visit. Anyone who does not comply will be escorted out of the theatre. PBD will also require documentation (printed or digital): Fully vaccinated guests have the option of voluntarily presenting documentation showing full vaccination status. Full vaccination is defined as the completion of the final dose at least 14 days prior to the performance date. Alternatively, all guests can, instead, present documentation of a negative COVID-19 PCR test result conducted within 72 hours prior to the performance, or a negative COVID-19 Antigen test result conducted within 24 hours prior to the scheduled performance start time. Matching photo ID is required for everyone 18 years of age and older.
These protocols are subject to change. As the situation evolves, PBD will re-evaluate and share any updates on its website at palmbeachdramaworks.org and via email.
The People Downstairs is the first of two world premieres to be produced by PBD during the 2021-2022 season; Bruce Graham’s The Duration will debut on February 18. Developing new work is now an essential part of the company’s profile, and this will be PBD’s fifth consecutive season featuring at least one world premiere. The People Downstairs was commissioned by PBD, and both plays were nurtured in The Dramaworkshop, the company’s lab for developing new plays. The People Downstairs received its first public reading in the 2020 New Year/New Plays Festival, and a revised script was given a virtual reading in June of that year following two, three-day workshops.
Michael McKeever has written 33 full-length plays that have been produced at theatres around the world, including Comödie Dresden (Dresden), Och-Teatr (Warsaw), and Theater in der Josefstadt, Kammerspiele (Vienna). His play Daniel’s Husband enjoyed a sold-out, extended three-month run in Los Angeles at the Fountain Theatre, and ran Off-Broadway at the Westside Theatre following successful runs at Penguin Rep and Primary Stages, where it was nominated for an Off-Broadway Alliance Award for Best New Work. McKeever has won numerous Carbonell and Silver Palm Awards, and is the proud recipient of the prestigious George Abbott Award for outstanding artistic achievement. His work has been nominated four times for the Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award. He is also an award-winning actor and designer. McKeever and his husband, Stuart Meltzer, are co-founders of Zoetic Stage, a Miami-based theatre company dedicated to developing new work. He is a member of Actors’ Equity and the Dramatists Guild. michaelmckeeverplays.com
Palm Beach Dramaworks is a professional, nonprofit theatre company founded in 2000 and located in the heart of downtown West Palm Beach. Each season, the award-winning company produces five mainstage shows and offers a wide variety of programs for students at the theatre, in schools, and online. Committed to fostering the future of theatre, PBD has become a hub for playwrights in Florida and around the country to nurture their work through initiatives including Drama(in the)works and the annual New Year/New Plays Festival. PBD is a member of Theatre Communications Group, Florida Professional Theatres Association, and the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County. www.palmbeachdramaworks.org
Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30PM, Friday and Saturday at 8PM, and select Sundays at 7PM. Matinee performances are on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday at 2PM. Post-performance discussions follow Wednesday matinee and Sunday evening performances.
The Don & Ann Brown Theatre is located in the heart of downtown West Palm Beach, at 201 Clematis Street. For ticket information contact the box office at (561) 514-4042, or visit www.palmbeachdramaworks.org.