(September 25, 2015)

Centenary's Marjorie Lyons Playhouse opens season with Tennessee Williams play


SHREVEPORT, LA — The Department of Theater at Centenary College will open its 2015-2016 season on October 8 with the Tennessee Williams prison drama Not About Nightingales. Directed by Assistant Professor of Theater Logan Sledge, Not About Nightingales will run at Marjorie Lyons October 8-10 at 7:30 p.m., adding a 2:00 p.m. matinee on October 11. John Bogan will guest star as "Warden Whalen."

"I am a longtime Tennessee Williams fan, and this is an opportunity to see (and perform) the great writer's soaring narrative style written in a period of learning and experimentation," said Bogan. "It's easy to hear notes of a style that would later coalesce in memorable characters like Harold 'Mitch' Mitchell in A Streetcar Named Desire, Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Laura Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie."

Tennessee Williams penned Not About Nightingales in 1938 at the age of 27. The story focuses on a group of inmates who go on a hunger strike in an attempt to better their situation in prison, and also highlights a love story between Eva, the new secretary at the prison, and Jim, an inmate who works for the warden and is trying to get out on parole. Williams crafted his narrative after reading newspaper accounts of inmates in a Philadelphia prison who were locked in a steam room for three days as punishment. Four of the inmates died, and the incident became known as the "Holmesburg Horror."

Although Not About Nightingales was written in the 1930s, it was never produced during Williams' lifetime. Actress Vanessa Redgrave read about the play while researching another role and made it her personal mission to track down the manuscript. Not About Nightingales finally premiered at The Alley Theatre in Houston, Texas in 1998.

Freshman Tessa Anderson is playing the role of Eva in her first show at Centenary.

"I'm so grateful to have been cast in this role, especially as a freshman," said Anderson. "This show is historic, as it shows how people like Eva were affected by the Great Depression. What I really think is important about the show, though, is that it focuses so much on both physical and mental abuse. It is so imperative that we acknowledge that these things exist."

On opening night, October 8, Centenary faculty and staff will facilitate a post-performance "talk back" exploring the 2015-2016 theater season theme "Why Unto Others..."

"Not About Nightingales deals primarily with the cruel and unjust treatment that prisoners were subjected to as punishment for their reaction to their already inhumane living conditions," said director Logan Sledge. "Our season theme, Why Unto Others, asks a question. It is not merely an observation of the fact that humans don't always treat other humans with dignity or even decency. It prompts people to investigate the various reasons why these events take place."

Tickets for Not About Nightingales can be purchased online at centenary.edu/playhouse/tickets or by calling the Marjorie Lyons Box Office at 318.869.5242. All performances will be held at the Marjorie Lyons Playhouse on the campus of Centenary College, 2700 Woodlawn Avenue, Shreveport, 71104.