Following a record, at-capacity run of How We Got On, Azuka Theatre continues their 2016-2017 “pay what you decide” season with the world premiere of Sh_theads. Developed in partnership with PlayPenn, playwright Douglas Williams and director Kevin Glaccum examine a down-and-out bike shop in lower Manhattan and the lives of the people who love to work there. Stuck between facing their own arrogance and bankruptcy, this group of scrappy cyclists fight to save the only home they’ve ever known - their bike shop.
Presented in the Proscenium Theatre at The Drake, Sh_theads previews begin Wednesday, February 22, opens on Saturday, February 25 and runs through March 12, 2017. Information about ticket reservations and the pay what you decide policy can be found at azukatheatre.org.
Staged in a modern urban style, Sh_theads captures the beauty and tragedy of these cycling communities through poignant dialogue and dynamic characters. Set in Bert’s Bikes and Sports, this run down bike shop is on its last leg. Customers have vanished, the shop across the street is poaching their best mechanics, and the new guy they just hired doesn't even own a bike. It will take scheming, stealing - and a little smoking - to save the shop they love.
“It’s about passion for the bikes and that lifestyle. There’s a character that says, ‘I spend all day on my bike, what could be better than that,’” director Kevin Glaccum says of the play, “It really is a life choice, not just a transportation choice.” With this cast of passionate and eccentric characters, Azuka aims to maintain their vibrant audience.
“I just feel like this show is just good for getting young people in the theater to see a bunch of young people on stage,” says playwright Douglas Williams, “I’ll say just how excited I am for Azuka's pay what you decide for this show specifically, well for the whole season.”
Azuka Theatre continues this new approach to the box office after a stunning ‘sold-out’ run of the season’s first show, How We Got On. Audience members make a reservation for a show, see the production first and then pay what they decide based on the value of the experience. Pay what you decide is designed to bring in new audiences and remove financial barriers to theater. The program is supported by a $55,000 grant from The Barra Foundation. However, ticketing is not the only innovative element of this production.
“We got this development opportunity through PlayPenn, and we started talking more realistically about how to make it more a producible and more of an Azuka show,” explains Williams. Glaccum and Williams applied for the PlayPenn Collaborated Extended Workshop, a program designed to workshop new plays with the promise of a full production.
“It’s like all these things kind of circling around and you go through it and at the end you have a finished project. It’s so great because we can use the resources of PlayPenn and also get a production. Having that through line was really important to the play and really important to our process,” says Williams.
This dedication to developing new plays and supporting local playwrights is a cornerstone of Azuka’s process.
“This is our second show that we’ll be doing with Doug, a resident playwright, so it underlines our commitment to Philadelphia playwrights. I knew we needed to be doing his work. This is a voice that I’m interested in getting out there, and this was a playwright that I was very interested in collaborating with,” Glaccum says of Williams.
The partnership between Glaccum and Williams for Sh_theads has been a central point to this production. Sh_theads marks William’s second collaboration with Glaccum, previously developing and producing Moon Cave in 2015.
The admiration is mutual as Williams says of Glaccum, “He has a commitment to the development of a single piece that I have not heard of or experienced before."
With the help of Fairmount Bicycles and Neighborhood Bike Works, Sh_theads actors have trained in bicycle repair, and are ready to handle the reality of the script. Led by Akeem Davis, an actor involved with both PlayPenn development and production, the cast includes the Azuka premiere performances of Harry Watermeier, Charlotte Northeast and David Pica.
Glaccum and William’s vision comes to fruition with a realistic bike shop set designed by Apollo Mark Weaver, in partnership with Fairmount Bicycles. The production team is rounded out by a talented crew including J. Dominic Chacon (Lighting Design), Natalia de la Torre (Costume Design), Larry D. Fowler Jr. (Sound Design), Joe Daniels (Technical Director), Avista Custom Theatrical LLC (Properties), Terry Mittelman (Stage Manager), Ben Levan (Production Manager), and Michele Volansky (Dramaturg).
Sh_theads runs from February 22 through March 12. Ticket reservations and pay what you decide information is available at azukatheatre.org or by phone at (215) 563-1100. Performances for Sh_theads take place at the Proscenium Theatre at The Drake, 302 S. Hicks Street.
Azuka Theatre concludes its 2016/17 season with another world premiere production by Playwright-In-Residence Jacqueline Goldfinger, The Arsonists, from May 3-21, 2017. The Arsonists will be directed by Allison Heishman.
For more information about Azuka Theatre, please call (215) 563-1100 or visit azukatheatre.org.