McCarter Theatre to produce ‘Bulrusher’ for 2022-23 season


McCarter Theatre Center is set to produce Eisa Davis’ “Bulrusher” on the mainstage of the Roger S. Berlind Theater in Princeton.

The production for “Bulrusher” – a Pulitzer Prize finalist for Drama in 2007 – will be directed by Nicole A. Watson, McCarter’s associate artistic director – and joins the 2022-23 season recently announced from May 6-28, 2023. Casting is yet to be announced.

“Bulrusher” was a recent breakout “streaming” success, garnering wide attention during the height of the pandemic when Tony-nominated (“Indecent”) and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright (“How I Learned to Drive”) Paula Vogel launched the popular digital theater series Bard at the Gate, which is now co-curated by Vogel and Watson in association with McCarter, according to McCarter Theatre Center through a press release on June 29.

The play is set in 1955 in the redwood country north of San Francisco, a multiracial girl grows up in a predominantly white town whose residents pepper their speech with the historical dialect of Boontling.

Found floating in a basket on the river as an infant, Bulrusher is an orphan with a gift for clairvoyance that makes her feel like a stranger even around those who think they know her best: the taciturn schoolteacher who adopted her, the madam who runs her brothel with a fierce discipline, the logger with a zest for horses and women, and the guitar slinging boy who is after Bulrusher’s heart. Just when she thought her world might close in on her, she discovers an entirely new sense of self when a Black girl from Alabama comes to town, according to the press release.

The “passionate, lyrical and humorous coming of age story” had its world-premiere in New York City at Urban Stages in 2006 and was subsequently produced at Shotgun Players, Pillsbury House and Intiman Theatre, according to the press release.

“I am thrilled to direct ‘Bulrusher’ and share Eisa’s artistry with McCarter audiences,” Watson said. “I have admired Eisa’s work as a writer and performer for such a long time and this play is a joyful, refreshing and powerful story for audiences of all ages. I love that it features a young woman of color who even in the midst of uncertainty is certain about following her own heart and dreams.”

‘Bulrusher’ was a perfect fit for Bard at the Gate to provide overlooked and underappreciated new American plays with a platform at what turned out to be the new dawn of digital theater when the pandemic shut down live productions for nearly two years, according to the press release.

“As playwright [Davis] says, ‘Bulrusher’ has a timeless, vintage quality to it that
speaks to the current moment, in the midst of an urgent call for equality and repair, a
movement that has been going on for centuries’,” Sarah Rasmussen, McCarter artistic director, said. “This play is at the very heart of what Bard at the Gate is about and it reinforces the special nature of McCarter’s partnership with [Vogel.] We couldn’t be more excited to produce this play on our mainstage and share it with audiences.”

Davis is a writer, composer and performer. She is a recipient of a 2020 Creative Capital Award, a Herb Alpert Awardee in theater and an Obie winner for Sustained Excellence in Performance, according to the press release.

To date, the Bard at the Gate series has presented eight new works that “otherwise might
have languished on unproduced script piles were it not for Vogel and Bard’s advocacy,” according to the press release.

“Our goal with Bard is to bring new life to neglected works, and ‘Bulrusher’ is a prime example of our dream realized,” Vogel said. “Theatergoers who crave lyrical, refreshing and challenging plays will not want to miss it.”

The Bard at the Gate series has emphasized a diverse offering of plays representing voices in the American theatrical canon such as women, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color), LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer) and disabled artists, according to the press release.

Bard at the Gate continues to produce and stream readings of plays curated by Vogel, Watson and the Bard Advisory Council comprised of top leaders in the theater industry and plays filmed and edited by Jared Mezzocchi, according to the press release.

McCarter Theatre Center is an independent not-for-profit performing arts center located between New York City and Philadelphia and on the campus of Princeton University, 91 University Place.

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