Inis Nua Theatre presents Nigerian-British playwright Inua Ellams’ UNTITLED in its American premiere, directed by Jerrell L. Henderson. UNTITLED is a monologue play in two parts, with one actor playing twin brothers born on Nigeria’s Independence Day. But on the night of their traditional naming ceremony, one infant brother cries out and refuses to be named plunging him into a life of chaos.
Previews begin Wednesday, April 24, with opening night on Friday, April 26. The show runs through May 12, 2019 for a total of 15 performances. All performances will take place at the Louis Bluver Theatre at the Drake, 302 South Hicks Street. Tickets are $15 - $35. For reservations, visit inisnuatheatre.org.
“Inua Ellams’ writing is a masterful use of language and character. The audience is met with two competing narratives that at once directly contrast each other while at the same time remain hopelessly intertwined.” says Director Jerrell L. Henderson.
Inua Ellams’ mysterious and wild play UNTITLED tells the story of twin boys born in Nigeria. Under the first full moon of their lives, they are given a traditional naming ceremony: one brother responds to his name with a baby’s laugh, the other cries out and rejects his name. These first moments shape their lives with the named brother (Y) leading a life of order with a plan, education, and predictable career and the unnamed brother (X) existing in a world of chaos, tumult and lack of follow-through. The two brothers are separated at 7 months old when Y is taken to England by their mother. X stays behind in Nigeria, until their deep connection forces them back together.
UNTITLED was first read by Inis Nua’s Literary Manager in 2015 and was presented as a reading in their successful 2016/2017 Reading Series – Immigration Stories. The passionate audience response and unique theatrical style prompted the theatre company to produce a full production. Artistic Director Tom Reing wanted to bring the show to Philadelphia because “I like the blending of tradition and modernity. It's a great role for an actor to perform.”
The Stage called UNTITLED “bewitching” and The Guardian praised the show, saying “there is a great deal to enjoy in a piece that feels both modern and ancient, touched by the otherworldly yet grounded in reality.” UNTITLED was developed by England’s Fuel and Soho Theatre and first performed at the Bristol Old Vic in 2010.
Originally performed by the playwright, Inis Nua will be the first company to mount their own production of UNTITLED, exploring this play that asks whether our fates are decided by ourselves, our cultures, or our family histories.
The director and solo actor are both new to Inis Nua. Keith Illidge will be performing both brothers X and Y. The show is helmed by Guest Director Jerrell L. Henderson who Artistic Director Tom Reing says “Has a reputation as a great collaborator with passion. He directed Salt, Pepper, Ketchup at InterAct and Passage Theatres this year and his status in Philadelphia theatre has grown. I felt his interest in folklore and mythology made him a great fit for the piece.”
The dual nature of the play poses unique design challenges, with two locations (London and Nigeria) and two characters portrayed by the same actor.
ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT:
Inua Ellams is a Nigerian-British poet, playwright, and performer and one of the most exciting voices in British theatre today. His play Barbershop Chronicles debuted at the National Theatre, London and Yorkshire Playhouse before an American tour which included Berkeley Repertory Theatre and American Repertory Theatre in Boston
His first play The 14th Tale won the prestigious Fringe First Award at the 2009 Edinburgh Festival and transferred to England’s National Theatre the following year. Ellams was admitted to the Royal Society of Literature in 2018. He is the recipient of a Live Canon International Poetry Prize, an Arts Council England Award, a Wellcome Trust Award, and the Liberty Human Rights Award.
ABOUT THE TEAM:
Guest Director Jerrell L. Henderson is a South Philadelphia native now based in Chicago. Previous Philadelphia area credits include Salt, Pepper, Ketchup co-produced by InterAct Theatre and Passage Theatre and Caged, created in collaboration with the NJ Prison Cooperative and Passage Theatre. Henderson has also directed for Children’s Theatre of Charlotte and in Chicago at Eclipse Theatre and Boho Theatre.
Actor Keith Illidge takes on the challenging role of playing both brothers. Keith is a Delaware native who has worked in film, tv, and theatre in Philadelphia, New York, and Chicago. He received a Black Theatre Alliance Award nomination for his portrayal of Lincoln in Suzan Lori Park’s Topdog/Underdog at Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre in Chicago. In Philadelphia, Keith has performed with Theatre in the X, Allens Lane, and the Prince Music Theatre.
Daniel Ison (Box Clever, Our Few and Evil Days) returns to Inis Nua as sound designer. Abby Toll (Box Clever, The Monster in the Hall) will stage manage. Longtime Inis Nua collaborators Flannel and Hammer serve as production manager (Lauren Tracy) and technical director (Joe Daniels). Avista Custom Theatrical Services will design props.
A number of first time Inis Nua designers will be joining the team. Set Designer Marie Laster has extensive credits with Stagecrafters in Chestnut Hill and works professionally as an architect. Lighting designer Dan Schreckengost has designed around the country including at Passage Theatre Company, Great River Shakespeare Festival, Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts, Cleveland Public Theater, and Great Lakes Theatre Festival. Costume designer An-lin Dauber has previously designed for Yale Repertory Theatre, Brown/Trinity Rep, and Passage Theatre. Dialect coach Tinuke Oyefule draws from her own Yoruban heritage for this production. She has appeared on numerous TV shows including All My Children, Days of Our Lives, and The X Factor. And dramaturg Adrena Williams is currently pursuing her MA in Theatre at Villanova where she was the dramaturg on James Ijames’ play Youth.
UNTITLED opens Friday, April 26, 2019 at 8pm, with preview performances Wednesday, April 24 and Thursday, April 25, at 7pm. It runs for a total of 15 performances through Sunday, May 12, at 2pm. All performances will take place at the Louis Bluver Theatre at the Drake, 302 South Hicks Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102. South Hicks Street is right next to The Drake apartment building at 1512 Spruce Street.
The Takeaway – special post-show talks – will be held after the 7pm performances on Wednesdays, May 1 and 8. The Takeaway is a post-show exploration of the play’s themes and relevant events by guest scholars and theatre practitioners. The May 1 Takeaway will feature a conversation with Nigerian-American textile artist Yemisi Ajayi about her work. The May 8 Takeaway will feature the actor and members of the production team.
Tickets are on sale for $15-$35 by calling (215) 454-9776 or visiting inisnuatheatre.org. To learn more, please like Inis Nua Theatre Company on Facebook and follow @InisNua Theatre on Twitter and @inisnuatheatre on Instagram
ABOUT INIS NUA THEATRE COMPANY
Inis Nua’s mission is to produce contemporary, provocative plays from Ireland, England,
Scotland and Wales which reflect those cultures’ new identities in today’s world. Inis Nua also seeks to cultivate and produce contemporary, provocative work from American playwrights who deal with the Irish-American, Welsh-American, Scottish-American and Anglo-American experiences.
To date, Inis Nua has produced one world premiere, twenty-two American premieres and
fourteen Philadelphia premieres. Inis Nua Theatre Company has been the recipient of grants from the William Penn Foundation, the Wyncote Foundation, the Independence Foundation, the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, the Charlotte Cushman Foundation, MKM Foundation, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, PNC Arts Alive, and the Virginia Brown Martin Fund of The Philadelphia Foundation. Inis Nua Theatre has also had nine playwrights visit during production of their shows.