March 23, 2021

Purdue’s Department of Theatre to present ‘In the Blood’ in a year of change and innovation

Note to journalists: The “In the Blood” graphic is available for use via a Google Drive folder. Journalists visiting campus should follow visitor health guidelines.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The Purdue University Department of Theatre will present “In the Blood” by Suzan-Lori Parks, directed by Sonita L. Surratt and Tasia A. Jones, on March 26-28. This production will be presented virtually through livestream and digital recording from the Carole and Gordon Mallett Theatre in Pao Hall, in the Patti and Rusty Rueff School of Design, Art, and Performance.

In this radical retelling of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter,” Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks tells the story of Hester La Negrita, a single mother of five children. Living under a bridge and without formal education, Hester strives to support her children and teach them right from wrong. Through a style she labels repetition-and-revision (influenced by her love for jazz and classical music), Parks dramatizes the social and economic inequities and injustices that Hester struggles to overcome.

In order to share safely the ongoing work of the students, faculty, staff and guest artists with audiences, the production is offered digitally. The opening-night performance of “In the Blood” will be livestreamed at 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday (March 26), followed by three subsequent broadcasts of the live recording on Saturday (March 27) (2:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m.), and Sunday (March 28) (2:30 p.m.).

This will be the second livestreamed stage production for the Department of Theatre, created using a three-camera setup by Hall of Music Productions.

Tickets may be purchased at the campus Loeb Playhouse box office, by phone at 765-494-3933, or online, and are $17.50 (livestream) and $12.50 (digital recording).

The Department of Theatre is working with two guest directors on this production, sponsored by the Purdue Division of Diversity and Inclusion, the Honors College, and Theatre donors — with an initial preproduction design process beginning in spring 2020 and online component in fall 2020 led by Tasia A. Jones, a professional Chicago-based director, actor and theatre educator, and the full production staging directed by Sonita L. Surratt this spring.

Sonita L. Surratt is an artist in residence at Purdue’s Black Cultural Center and director of its New Directional Players theatre troupe. An accomplished and award-winning classically trained vocalist, playwright, actor, director and sound designer, she earned her Master of Fine Arts degree in directing from Syracuse University and is a member of the Stage Directors' and Choreographers' Society.

Her experience encompasses film, stage, and opera, serving as founder/producer of the Redd Opera Co., a place for young voices. Her recent Chicago collaborations include Open Door Repertory Theater (“Best of Enemies” and “Route 66”) and the professional Mudlark Youth Theatre Company (“Concerning Foster”). Surratt is also a part-time faculty member in the Columbia College (Chicago) theater department.

Scenic design is by Kate Cardinalli (Purdue MFA, scenic design, ’21); costume design is by Allison Jones (Purdue MFA, costume design, ’21); lighting design is by Baxter Carlisle Chambers (Purdue MFA, lighting design, ’21); and sound design is by Delaney Shay (Purdue BA, sound for the performing arts, ’21).

The production process for “In the Blood” has been a story of continued adaptation and innovation over the year of the COVID pandemic. When Purdue moved online from March 2020 through the end of that spring semester, the Department of Theatre was tasked not only with developing methods and plans for online theatre performance, design, and production courses that were in progress. The department also needed to reshape production practices for the upcoming 2020-21 season. Less than four weeks after Purdue moved to remote classes, announcements for “In the Blood” auditions went out across campus – the first auditions held by video submission for the department.

With the restrictions on gatherings and live events, productions of “In the Blood” and “Nell Gwynn,” originally scheduled for fall 2020, were moved to spring 2021 along with “Mother Courage.” The scenery, lights, and costumes were built and installed in theatres according to COVID safe practices that the department developed in accordance with professional industry and Protect Purdue guidelines in fall 2020.

The play’s cast is largely undergraduate students at Purdue, including theatre majors, minors, and acting certificate students Maya Mays (Hester), Izik Metcalf (Jabber/Chilli), Egypt Owens (understudy), Maya Radjenovich (Beauty/Amiga Gringa), Matthew Mahoney (Trouble/Doctor), Kyle Redcross (Baby/Reverend D), and nursing student Christelle Altidor (understudy). One graduate student, Josuenny O’Donnell (Bully/Welfare Lady), is in her second year of her mechanical engineering master’s degree. Students graduating in May 2021 include Mays, Metcalf and Mahoney.

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked the No. 5 Most Innovative University in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at https://purdue.edu/.

Source: Jodi Taylor, Department of Theatre Marketing and Outreach Specialist, joditaylor@purdue.edu 

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