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by Sheryl Flatow
David Hare
“I spent my whole life saying I didn’t want to write plays in rooms,” David Hare said in a television interview a few years ago. The prolific playwright gravitated toward “epic plays with large casts,” big ideas, and biting social commentary. A play set in a room simply didn’t appeal to him. But in 1995, 25 years after his first play was produced, he “finally gave in.” The result was Skylight, which would go on to win the 1996 Olivier Award for Best New Play and eventually become his most produced work.
Skylight, which runs at PBD through March 1, is a three-character play about passion, politics, privilege, and grief, set in Great Britain in the wake of Margaret Thatcher’s tenure as prime minister. Hare’s big ideas and social commentary are as robust as ever, but as they play out in an intimate setting and focus on the complex relationship between two former lovers, audiences seem to connect to the material in very personal ways.
Tom Sergeant (Peter Simon Hilton), a wealthy, middle-aged businessman, and the much younger Kyra Hollis (Sarah Street), his former employee, had a long, ardent love affair until his wife, Alice, discovered their relationship. Kyra and Alice were best friends, and once Alice learned the truth, Kyra walked out. A year after Alice’s death, Tom unexpectedly pays a visit to his ex, who now teaches underprivileged children and chooses to live in poverty. The third character in the play is Edward Sergeant (Harrison Bryan), Tom’s son, whose scenes with Kyra bookend this funny, searing, and romantic work.  
Sarah Street
Vanessa Morosco
Set Model
by Bill Clarke
“One of the things that makes this play so exciting is it almost feels like it could have been written yesterday,” says director Vanessa Morosco, familiar to PBD audiences from her performances in Arcadia and The House of Blue Leaves. “The play deals with issues that are part of our cultural conversation right now, so I feel that it really engages an audience and expands the conversations. But at the same time, Skylight has three very developed human beings onstage that we all can relate to. What I find extraordinary is that although these characters have very opposing worldviews at times, they are incredibly connected. One of the things that excites me is that I think the audience’s allegiances will constantly shift between characters. We immediately think, ‘Oh yes, I agree with that person, that’s who I’m behind.’ But suddenly we find ourselves agreeing with a viewpoint of the other character. I love that it's not so simple to just name one person as our hero and one person as our villain. The plays that often attract me are the ones that explore big ideas, and that’s what this play does. But David Hare is far too sophisticated a playwright to hand us easy answers. He doesn't prescribe what the moral outcome should be. He leaves us with more questions, and that’s really exciting.”
Hare is known as an ardent liberal, and Kyra’s political and social views appear to be a reflection of the playwright’s sentiments. But he doesn’t stack the deck in favor of Kyra. In fact, one of the reasons Hare wrote the play was his desire to give voice to a businessman’s perspective.
“Just as he was about to write this play, his romantic life took a turn for the better,” says Morosco. “He fell in love with the woman he’s now married to. Her previous partner had been in business, and Hare became fascinated by what business people think about, what their day-to-day experience is like, what their world is like, and how they move through the world. He realized that we as a theatrical community are generally not exposed to that mindset and what makes a person like that tick, and he wanted to get inside the head of an entrepreneur. One of the things that makes Tom very exciting is he's an innovator, a risk taker. I think that sort of person is really captivating. Even if your politics don't align with Tom’s, there are things he says that we may find ourselves agreeing with.
Sarah Street and
Peter Simon Hilton
Harrison Bryan
Sarah Street and
Peter Simon Hilton
“For instance, one important difference between Kyra and Tom is their class or their privilege, especially when they were young,” Morosco continues. “Kyra was raised in a very privileged background, had access to education, and has a university degree in mathematics. Tom is a self-made businessman who pulled himself up by the bootstraps and made his way in the world. And I think that, especially from an American filter, that's heroic. We value the self-made person. So there are aspects of Tom that are incredibly compelling, including his real, heartfelt frustration – almost mourning – that Kyra is not using her degree to what he would consider the full extent of its possibilities, and not using her intellect to make an enormous stamp on the world. Of course, what he would define as a stamp on the world is different than her definition would be. That’s one of the things that I love about the play: the same kernel of belief may manifest itself in different ways and therefore pose extraordinary conflict between two people, despite the fact that there's great love between them.”
For all the political talk, and Kyra and Tom’s differences on just about every issue, Skylight is, in the end, a play about two people trying to reconcile their past, trying to find common ground, trying to reconnect. That’s true, in a different way, for Edward as well. “It can be very seductive to only look at the political and ethical debates that are occurring,” says Morosco. “But at the end of the day it's about a family trying to figure out how to bond after they've lost the family member that held them together.” 

In addition to the verbal calisthenics, there’s a physical aspect to the play that invariably delights and fascinates audiences: a meal of spaghetti is cooked onstage. “It’s quite a feat of multitasking for both characters, because as one character has to achieve the cooking on stage, the other character needs to partner it,” says Morosco. “To me, one of the most exciting elements of theatre is when you introduce a variable, like spaghetti, that may or may not follow its blocking on a given night. There’s something so palpable and exciting about that experience in live theatre. Audiences know that while the actors may have full control of what they say, there’s this bubbling variable that may or may not go according to plan. If we were doing the film version and something went wrong with the scene, we would edit it or retake it. But in live theatre, you can’t do that. You're actually cooking a meal of spaghetti every night in front of an audience, and every meal of spaghetti is going to be slightly different in front of every new audience. So the actors and the audience are experiencing this together. The magic of theatre is that we put something ordinary onstage, and it suddenly becomes extraordinary.”
Morosco was first introduced to the “magic of theatre” by her mother, Sibley Morosco, an accomplished ballet teacher. Although Vanessa loved dance, she didn’t consider a career in theatre until she was pursuing a master’s degree at Yale. “When I went to college, I thought I was going to study mathematics, like Kyra,” she says. “But I also had a great love for language and at school I discovered philosophy, which at the time seemed to me like the perfect union of the logic of math and the beauty of language. I got my degree in philosophy and subsequently my masters in ethics, and I thought I might continue on to my PhD.”

But she was cast in a show at Yale Repertory Theatre, and things changed. “I found I really missed this expression of myself, this community expression,” she says. “The nature of an academic is often a very solo expression. It’s often writing and reading. And as much as I love that, I realized that I was very turned on by exploring ideas and expressing myself in community. So I started out as a performer, which is not an uncommon path to a director. I remember quite early on in my career looking at a speech of Hamlet’s, and thinking, ‘This is exactly like an ethical proof or a philosophical proof.’ We start out with a hypothesis, which is ‘if I hire these players to come in and perform a play in front of the king, then I will see whether my uncle is guilty or not of killing my father.’ That’s his hypothesis. And he gets through all the evidence and the details of what that argument will be, and ends with the proof, which in Shakespeare is a rhyming couplet: ‘The play’s the thing/Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king.’ I thought, ‘I love the logic of this, and the use of rhetoric.’ It really appealed to me as a philosopher. I subsequently spent many years performing before transitioning into directing.” 
Vanessa Morosco
The House of Blue Leaves
by John Guare
Peter Simon Hilton and Vanessa Morosco
by Tom Stoppard
Morosco says she knew she wanted to direct when it occurred to her that as a performer, she found herself immersed in the entire play, rather than just her own role. “Going back to Hamlet again, I realized that you could give me the first line of the play, and I could just keep going. I hadn't really noticed before that I heard the entire play. That was really compelling to me; I loved the idea of being a greater part of the story. I found that the more I performed, the more I desired a greater access to the storytelling. I wanted to take a leadership position. But, like any business, theatre has been guilty of limiting who has access to leadership positions. We’re acknowledging that the doors have to open, but I don’t think the numbers are changing as quickly as we’d like to think they are. I believe that diversity of thought in any business, in any workplace including the rehearsal room, always yields a more exciting product. And I'm excited that Palm Beach Dramaworks has been among my supporters to start to pave that way to lasting change.”
2020-2021: PBD’s Twentieth Anniversary Season
Palm Beach Dramaworks will celebrate its twentieth anniversary season by paying tribute to its past and stepping into the future. Subscriptions for the 2020-2021 season, which opens on October 9, will be on sale soon. Visit the subscriptions page on our website for information about subscription packages and how to purchase tickets:

To mark this milestone anniversary, PBD Producing Artistic Director William Hayes is bringing back three plays that patrons have frequently expressed an interest in seeing again: Mark St. Germain’s Camping with Henry and Tom , Stephen Temperley’s Souvenir: A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins , and Ronald Harwood’s The Dresser . The company continues its commitment to new work with the world premiere of Michael McKeever’s The People Downstairs , which was commissioned by PBD and was met with an enthusiastic response when it was read at the recent New Year/New Plays Festival. Rounding out the schedule is Lynn Nottage’s critically acclaimed Intimate Apparel .  

“This is a special season, so we wanted to take a look at where we’ve been and where we’re going,” says Hayes. “We wanted to give our longtime patrons a chance to revisit some of their favorite plays, and provide new audiences with the opportunity to discover these works. The three that we’re reviving were chosen both because they’re among the most requested, and because the material suits a number of the artists who have contributed significantly to the growth of PBD over the years. I want to showcase as many of these actors as possible.” Casting will be announced at a later date.

“The two plays that are new to us are a wonderful reflection of the organization’s evolution and vision as we start another decade,” Hayes continued. “This is our fourth consecutive season producing a world premiere, and developing new work is now an essential part of our profile. We also want our audiences to hear from an expanding variety of voices, so I’m extremely pleased to produce a play by Lynn Nottage, one of our very best contemporary playwrights. As we look ahead, we will, of course, continue to stage great classic works. We remain guided by the idea of ‘Theatre to think about,’ and in these turbulent times we feel an even greater urgency to offer plays that illuminate the period we’re living through.”
2020 – 2021 SEASON
By Mark St. Germain
October 9 – November 1, 2020
Warren G. Harding, eager to get away from the press, prying eyes, and the presidency, accepts an invitation to join Henry Ford and Thomas Edison on their annual camping trip. Stranded in the woods, they converse about politics, ambition, family, and fame, revealing three starkly different personalities and world views. A work of fiction inspired by an actual 1921 excursion, the play deals with issues and ideas that remain as relevant today as they were 100 years ago.  
By Michael McKeever
December 4 – December 27, 2020
For two years and one month, Anne Frank and seven others hid in four small rooms concealed behind a bookcase in the building where her father worked. Her diary revealed their ordeal to the world. But what of the people who hid them, got them food, and kept them informed? This play explores the complex challenges faced by these brave individuals on their journey of rebellious morality during the horrors of the Holocaust.
By Lynn Nottage
February 5 – February 28, 2021
In this heartfelt and heartbreaking work set at the turn of the 20 th century, Esther is a 35-year-old African-American seamstress of exquisite intimate apparel who aches to love and be loved. An unlikely opportunity arises when she enters into a correspondence with a man she’s never met. The play is a lyrical exploration of loneliness and longing, sweet dreams and bitter truths, determination and resiliency. 
By Stephen Temperley
April 2 – April 25, 2021
Florence Foster Jenkins was a wealthy socialite who had unwavering confidence in her “pitch- perfect” voice and was blissfully unaware that her singing was astonishingly awful; it was so bad that it made her a celebrity. Cosmé McMoon was her longtime accompanist, who was pained by her lack of talent but came to admire her indomitability. McMoon narrates this funny and touching memory play about self-delusion, friendship, kindness, compassion, and joy.
By Ronald Harwood
May 21 – June 6, 2021
It’s 1942, bombs are dropping over England, and a renowned but fading actor is bringing Shakespeare to the provinces with a ragtag troupe. Sir, scheduled to give his 227 th performance of King Lear , is in no condition to go on, but his devoted, self-sacrificing dresser, Norman, is determined to get him onstage. Sir and Norman’s co-dependent – if unequal – relationship is the heartbeat of this warts-and-all, tragicomic valentine to the transcendent power of theatre.  
the Academy @pbd
Fugitive Songs has been chosen as the 2020 production by theAcademy@pbd, a summer program for teenagers that provides them with the opportunity to appear in a musical or play and also offers rigorous training in stage management and acting in a safe, positive environment. Performances are June 26 and 27 at 7pm, and June 28 at 2pm.

Written by Chris Miller (music) and Nathan Tysen (lyrics), who also collaborated on Tuck Everlasting and The Burnt Part Boys , Fugitive Songs is a song cycle which blends traditional folk music with contemporary pop and gospel. It’s a funny, poignant piece in which the characters explore running from their lives, their jobs, and their significant others, only to discover that the easiest way to escape a problem is to solve it. 
Fugitive Songs is an extraordinary song cycle that perfectly captures what it means to be restless,” said Director of Education and Community Engagement Gary Cadwallader. “When we are young, we run and search, looking outward, trying to find our place in the world. Eventually we realize that the answers to self-respect and acceptance are inside each of us. Fugitive Songs captures the moments when we find ourselves learning the biggest lessons of our lives.”

Casting is by audition only and open to students from rising ninth grade through graduating twelfth grade. Auditions are Monday, February 24, and Tuesday, March 10. Cast size is limited. There are also a limited number of stage management training opportunities available for Fugitive Songs . Trainees will work alongside a professional PBD stage manager, and are required to assist and run all rehearsals and performances. Interviews are required for stage management positions, and will also take place on February 24 and March 10. Rehearsals are Monday through Saturday, June 8-25.

The Sean Boneri Creative Fellowship Fund provides full or partial scholarships to those students demonstrating a need for financial assistance. Scholarship applications are completed and submitted online after acceptance into the program.

For more information, including pricing, the complete schedule of rehearsals and classes, casting breakdown, audition requirements and how to schedule an audition, visit 
January 8 - 10, 2021
When The Dramaworkshop launched PBD’s New Year/New Plays Festival in January, 2019, we were uncertain our audiences would share our enthusiasm for the event. Were they interested in seeing plays that are still evolving? Would they embrace the bare-bones presentation: no sets, no costumes, just scripts being read aloud by wonderful, professional actors? And would they eagerly share their thoughts and opinions about the plays with the playwrights?

It was apparent last year that the answer to all those questions was an emphatic yes. So we weren’t all that surprised that tickets went fast to this season’s festival, which took place from January 10-12 and was a virtual sellout.   

The third annual festival is already set for January 8-10, 2021.
The festival was established to provide playwrights with the opportunity to hear their words performed in front of a live audience, which is instrumental to the development and growth of a play. Audience reactions – laughter, silence, even disruptive coughing – tell the playwright something about how his or her work is being received. But more invaluable are the talkbacks, when patrons have the opportunity to speak directly to the playwright (as well as the director and cast), and express their feelings about what’s working and what’s not working. They can also choose to fill out feedback forms, either on paper or online; those comments are also shared with the playwrights. This season roughly 100 patrons took the time to write down their thoughts. There were additional opportunities to engage with the dramatists at a Playwrights Forum and a Lunch with the Artists.  
This year’s plays and playwrights were The Hat Box by Eric Coble, As I See It by Jenny Connell Davis, Remember Me When You Come Into Your Kingdom by Padraic Lillis, The Standby Lear by John W. Lowell, and The People Downstairs by Michael McKeever. Each of the dramatists shared their thoughts about why the festival was so meaningful to them.  
Eric Coble: “One of the secret pleasures of being a playwright is arriving in a community you have almost no idea about, and over the course of a week getting to know artists and audiences that will not only inform your entire artistic process for years to come, but become friends you want to work with again and again. I experienced that pleasure at PBD. Such a gift.”
Jenny Connell Davis: “It was so exciting to be part of PBD’s second festival! I was thoroughly inspired by the work of my fellow playwrights, and thrilled to have a chance to hear my script as interpreted by talented actors. The highlight of the festival for me, though, was the opportunity to interact with the PBD audience – what smart, engaged folks. I learned a great deal, both about the play and about the West Palm Beach community in those conversations, and hope to return soon.” 
Padraic Lillis: "PBD's New Plays Festival is wonderful because everyone involved is invested in the success of the plays: the staff, actors, directors, and most notably the PBD audience. I was so impressed with and appreciative of the audience's investment and interest in the plays, and I was grateful for the many opportunities to engage in one-on-one conversations with them. It was a gift to be part of this incredibly supportive community for the week."
John W. Lowell: “The New Plays Festival was rewarding in too many ways for me to recount them all here. But meeting an extraordinarily talented and gifted team of actors, directors, and producers was the kickoff, followed by an introduction to a marvelous group of writing colleagues, and finally, hearing my work, as well as the work of those colleagues, in the presence of a sharp, perceptive, kind audience was more than most playwrights could hope to expect. As an introduction to PBD, it was a thrill and a profound pleasure.”
Michael McKeever: “Festivals like The Dramaworkshop's New Year/New Plays Festival are the lifeblood of a playwright. Getting the chance to present a work in this early stage is a gift. I am enormously grateful to Bill Hayes and the PBD family for giving me the opportunity to develop The People Downstairs with such hard-working professionals and to present it in front of such an astute, engaged audience.”