Inis Nua Theatre Company ends the 2016-2017 mainstage season with the American premiere of Swallow by Stef Smith. From Scotland, Swallow follows three lives intricately connected and the quiet, traumatic struggles of being human. Swallow was a 2015 Fringe First Winner and received the Scottish Arts Club Theatre Award. The Scotsman called the play, “An elegant and glowing piece of twenty-first century magic realism.” Swallow opens at the Proscenium Theater at The Drake (302 South Hicks Street) on April 28th, with preview performances on April 26th and 27th.
Beautiful and wrenching, Swallow brings us three characters whose lives are taking drastic turns. Anna feels a bit of herself fall away every day. Rebecca teeters on the edge after a breakup, wondering who she is on her own. Sam wants to step forward to meet the future, coming to terms with his gender identity. Their stories intertwine -- delicately looping together then flying apart. These three strangers’ fragile connections with each other might lead to a shift in their worlds.
“Each of these three characters’ experiences are deeply important to them,” said Swallow Director Claire Moyer. “Every day they are fighting for their lives. I really liked the idea that these things that are so desperately huge to us as individuals can be completely unapparent to people on the outside.”
Aside from watching TV, Anna cannot face life outside her apartment. Denying herself speech, food and any connection to others, she pours her energy and anxiety into mosaic projects using the remnants of her life. Smashing mirrors and crockery is an efficient distraction from what feels deeply wrong inside. Rebecca is doing her share of smashing things too…her longtime lover has left her but didn’t take the TV. Her self-mutilation is a monument to the old life she built, but also to her loneliness and anger. Sam’s leaving someone behind too. He is getting ready to jump a chasm he has been staring at his whole life—he is leaving behind the gender he was assigned at birth to live fully as himself, as Sam. Anna, Rebecca and Sam change, struggle, screw up, pull back and reach out. But most of all, they continue.
Smith prefaces the script with a 1937 quote from Frida Kahlo: “I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.”
The Independent said Swallow was “…a piece which is so beautifully measured, so transporting, that it takes us inside these characters’ experience of measuring up to what society expects from them in captivating, universal and often emotionally battering detail.” Moyer describes Stef Smith’s work as “poetic rather than literal in nature. We move swiftly through time and place in order to tell Rebecca, Sam, and Anna’s stories as they exist in an emotional, rather than every day, reality.”
Playwright Stef Smith, who will be in Philadelphia for the production and a special talk-back, is unabashedly political—she searches for the darkest in life without relinquishing the possibility of light and optimism. In 2012, Stef Smith won an Olivier for RoadKill. After a 2013 residency to the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada, she was named Associate Artist at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh in 2015. The Scotsman called Stef Smith “One of Scotland’s most gifted young playwrights.” Smith’s travel to the United States is being provided courtesy of American Airlines.
This American premiere of Swallow is directed by Claire Moyer and stars Corinna Burns, Samy el-Noury and Felicia Leicht. The crew includes Lauren Tracy (Production Manager), Lisa Sullivan (Stage Manager), Natalia de la Torre (Costume Designer), Meghan Jones (Set Designer), Rowan Darko (Sound Designer), Joseph Daniels (Technical Director), Avista Custom Theatrical Services (Properties Designer) and Angela Coleman (Lighting Designer). Special thanks to Honorary Producer the Satalof Family.
Swallow opens on Friday, April 28 at 8:00pm, with previews on Wednesday, April 26, and Thursday, April 27, at 7:00pm. Swallow runs for a total of 16 performances, through May 14, 2017. All shows are at the Proscenium Theater at The Drake, 302 South Hicks Street. South Hicks Street is right next to The Drake apartment building at 1512 Spruce Street.
Tickets are on sale for $25-$35 by calling (215) 454-9776 or visiting inisnuatheatre.org. To join the conversation, please like Inis Nua Theatre Company on Facebook and follow @InisNua Theatre on Twitter.
The team for Swallow use the following personal pronouns:
Stef Smith - she/her
Claire Moyer - she/her
Corrina Burns - she/her
Samy el-Noury - he/him or they/them (either is acceptable)
Felicia Leicht - she/her
Jen Burkhart - she/her
Rowan Darko - he/him
Natalia de la Torre - she/her
Meghan Jones - she/her
MJ Kaufman - they/them
Lisa Sullivan – she/her
Lauren Tracy - she/her
Joe Daniels - he/him
Originally from a small village near Stirling in Scotland, Smith studied Drama and Theatre Arts (with a specialism in directing) at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh. Stef has worked as both an individual artist and with other theatre makers. Her work is predominately political seeking to unearth unheard stories and it always aims to examine both the lightness and darkness of life. Stef loves traveling and in the past few years she has traveled to Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Korea, Turkey and the USA for her work. Stef has also led creative writing groups for young people, ran writing workshops in Brazil and given lectures at Glasgow University.
Most notably in 2012 Stef won an Olivier for the show RoadKill. In 2013 she was invited for a residency to the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada and in 2015 Stef was also made an Associate Artist at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh. She also appeared on The Lists Top 100 Cultural Contributors for 2015 and was named by the Independent as a part of a 'new generation of British playwrights who will dominate 2017.’
She lives with her partner and their two cats. She splits her time between Glasgow, Leeds and London.
Moyer is the Literary Manager and Associate Director for Inis Nua where she has directed Spine, Radiant Vermin, and The Letter of Last Resort . She has directed projects for the New Voices Festival, Drexel Players, First Person Arts, and Revolution Shakespeare and was assistant director on Tom Stoppard’s The Hard Problem at the Wilma. Moyer previously lived in the UK where she worked with aya theatre company, devised Penelope, who really cried (White Bear) and Dark and Bright (On the Verge Festival), and directed the world premiere of Davey Anderson’s Scavengers which toured England and Scotland and traveled to the Beijing University Theatre Festival. She received her BA from Drew University, trained at LAMDA, and holds an MA in Directing from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
Burns is a Philadelphia-based actress who has worked with many local companies including Pig Iron Theatre Company, The Arden Theatre Company, Azuka Theatre, Theatre Exile, and others. Recent credits include Delaware Shakespeare Festival’s community tour of Shakespeare’s Pericles Prince of Tyre, and Brewers Fayre with Tiny Dynamite. Swallow will be her sixth show with Inis Nua, where she last appeared in Gillian Grattan’s Hooked.
el-Noury is a full-time actor, aerialist, pianist, puppeteer and vocalist. In addition to performing, he also works as the General Manager at the Baltimore Annex Theater; as well as a teaching artist for the Smithsonian Discovery Theater.
An out (and outspoken) transgender activist, el-Noury is on the leadership team for the Baltimore Transgender Alliance. He also works with various other organizations on peer support and youth mentorship and outreach for LGBTQ-identified individuals. el-Noury lives in Baltimore, MD and works along the east coast.
Leicht is delighted to be back with Inis Nua where she previously appeared in Ciphers. Other credits include Francoise in Philadelphia Artist Collective’s The Captive, Katharina in Delaware Shakespeare Festival’s Taming of the Shrew, Grace in Tigers Be Still with Azuka Theatre, Lady Percy/Katherine in Five Kings with Revolution Shakespeare. She has also performed with Shakespeare in Clark Park, Commonwealth Classic Theatre Company, Plays and Players, and the National Constitution Center among others, and has created and performed in original works for the Philadelphia Live Arts, Philly Fringe, and Berkshire Fringe Festivals. She is the proud recipient of the 2011-2012 Brian G. Morgan Award from Villanova Theatre. Love always to my boys, S & O, and la famiglia.
AVISTA CUSTOM THEATRICAL SERVICES, LLC
Owned by Jennifer Burkhart and Amanda Hatch, Avista Custom Theatrical Services was founded in 2007 as a properties design and construction firm. Avista specializes in period paper goods and newspapers, custom prop construction, upholstery, soft goods construction, and maintains a 7,000 square foot rental warehouse in Norristown. This season Avista will be working with Opera Philadelphia, Azuka Theatre, 1812 Productions, InterAct Theatre, Delaware Theatre Co, Inis Nua Theatre, Mauckingbird, Temple University, and Drexel University.
After spending far too long in school (BA Theatre and BS Biology WCU, MFA Sound Design SCAD), Rowan (Sound Designer) got swallowed by the maritime forest along the Georgia coast. He now spends most of his days swatting away sand gnats while giving nature walks in the hot Georgia sun, but is lucky enough to return inside to the cool, dark, dusty, musty theatre life that he loves in his freelance sound, set, and lighting work. He is also a founding member of The Gnome Haus Theatre Company in Brooklyn, NY.
NATALIA DE LA TORRE
De La Torre (Costume Designer) is a freelance costume designer, crafts artisan and scenic painter based in Philadelphia. Natalia is one of five Resident Designers at the Philadelphia Design Center for the 2016/17 season. She previously served as costume shop manager for the Lantern Theater Company and has designed for Ohio University, Drexel University, Lantern Theater Company, Azuka, Interact, EgoPo, Almanac Dance Theater, Team Sunshine, Revolution Shakespeare, Simpatico Theater Company, MIRO Dance Theater, Flashpoint Theater Company, Shakespeare in Clark Park, Commonwealth Classic Theater Company, BRAT Productions, Philadelphia Shakespeare Company, Johnny Showcase, Tribe of Fools, and Upper Darby Summer Stage. Education: M.F.A. in Production Design, Ohio University.
Jones (Scenic Designer) has designed with Inis Nua for several seasons; highlighted designs include Radiant Vermin, The Radicalization of Bradley Manning, Spine, and My Romantic History. Recent designs in the Philadelphia community include Villanova’s Lagan, Lantern Theater Company’s Coriolanus, An Iliad, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf with Theatre Exile. Upcoming designs include CCTC’s Romeo and Juliet. She is currently the Production Manager for Lantern Theater Company. She holds her MFA in scenic design from Temple University.Most appreciation to Inis Nua’s staff, cast, and crew for all their support. www.mcjonesdesigns.com
Kaufman (Dramaturg) is a playwright and devised theater artist working in New York and Philadelphia. Their work has been seen at the Huntington Theatre, New York Theater Workshop, the New Museum, Colt Coeur, Yale School of Drama, Lark Play Development Center, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Aurora Theater, Crowded Fire, Fresh Ink Theatre, New Harmony Project and performed in Russian in Moscow. Kaufman has received awards and commissions from the Program for Women in Theater, the Playwrights Foundation, the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts, Young Playwrights Inc., and the Huntington Theatre, where they are also a playwriting fellow. Kaufman received the 2013 ASCAP Cole Porter Prize in Playwriting, the 2013 Global Age Project Prize, and the 2010 Jane Chambers Prize in Feminist Theatre. Kaufman is currently a member of the Public Theater’s Emerging Writers’ Group, a core playwright at InterAct Theatre, and a member of the WP Theater’s Lab.
Sullivan previously stage managed Inis Nua’s Barrymore Recommended Production of Radiant Vermin. Highlighted Stage Manager Credits Include: Luna Theater Co. (The Pillowman), Flashpoint Theatre Co. (Lulu’s Golden Shoes), New Freedom Theater (Liberty to Go to See). Recent Asst. Stage Manager Credits Include: People’s Light (Ring of Fire, A Single Shard, Sense & Sensibility, All My Sons), Wilma Theater (Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead, Hamlet, The Body of an American; Rapture, Blister, Burn). Training: B.A. in Theater from Temple University. Sending love to her family, friends, and Wesley.
Tracy (Production Manager) is thrilled to be returning to Inis Nua after production managing last season! She serves as the production manager for Azuka Theatre, Simpatico Theatre Project, InterAct Theatre Company, Philadelphia Artists’ Collective, Revolution Shakespeare and Cheltenham High School. She holds a B.F.A. in Stage Management from Syracuse University. She would like to thank her friends, family and Andrew for all of their love and support.