ST. PETERSBURG — American Stage will continue its 2019-20 season — defined by the theme “An American Dreamscape” — with a production of Dominique Morisseau’s “Skeleton Crew.”
The show will run Jan. 22 through Feb. 23. Performances will take place at Raymond James Theatre, 163 Third St. N., St. Petersburg. Ticket prices vary by performance. For information and tickets, call 727-823-7529 or visit Americanstage.org.
Morisseau, a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant in 2018, is also the playwright of last season’s “Pipeline.” The show will be directed by L. Peter Callender, who directed “Pipeline” as well as August Wilson’s “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” and “Jitney” at American Stage.
“‘Skeleton Crew’ is a beautiful, heart-wrenching, yet humorous look at the rigors of survival of four souls in a failing stamping plant in a blighted city,” Callender said. “In our fast-paced, automated click-and-swipe existence, it was the generations of laborers who made it all possible. This is a story of a brave, kind, ambitious few who will remind us of our empathy and compassion.”
According to the MacArthur Foundation website, Morisseau’s plays juxtapose beauty with destruction, hope with despair, and bring to light the complicated realities of urban African American communities. She draws upon her experience as both an actor and a spoken-word poet to apply lyrical dialogue to her characters, instilling them with sweeping emotional intricacies. Humor, vulnerability and fortitude come through in her characters as they grapple with desperate circumstances.
Morisseau received a bachelor's degree in fine arts in 2000 from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. She is a Residency 5 Playwright at the Signature Theatre in New York City. She has had work commissioned by the Steppenwolf Theatre, the Hip Hop Theater Festival, the South Coast Repertory, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Her work also has been staged at the Public Theater, the Williamstown Theatre Festival, and the Atlantic Theater Company.
“Last season, American Stage audiences were riveted by the work of MacArthur Genius award-winning playwright Dominique Morisseau, through our production of ‘Pipeline,’” said Stephanie Gularte, chief executive and producing artistic director at American Stage. “With her Detroit Project play ‘Skeleton Crew,’ Morisseau takes us to the heart of America’s motor city, the playwright’s beloved hometown, at the start of the Great Recession and reminds us of the living, breathing, fighting, and hoping human beings behind the corporate machine, keeping the engine of our nation running.”
“Skeleton Crew” is the final play in the Detroit Projects, a three-play cycle. It revolves around a group of auto-plant workers facing a bleak and uncertain future due to an economic downturn.
It’s 2008, and one of the last auto plants in the city is on shaky ground. The remaining factory workers are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Each of the workers must navigate unemployment and the likelihood of foreclosure.
As power dynamics shift and they are pushed to the limits of survival, the line between blue collar and white collar gets blurred. With moments of heartbreak and humor, “Skeleton Crew” is a beautiful homage to the American blue-collar worker.
The cast of “Skeleton Crew” features some familiar faces as well as a few actors new to the theater. Camille Upshaw and Rasell Holt will make their American Stage debut, while alumni Enoch Armando King and Dee Selmore return.
Dee Selmore portrays Faye. Selmore received her bachelor’s degree in theater performance from Florida A&M University and her master’s in theater from Florida State University. Her regional credits include “A Raisin in the Sun” at American Stage, “Sister Act” at Round Barn Theatre, “The Color Purple” at Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, “Doubt” at Crane River Theatre, “Hairspray” at Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre, and “Footloose” at Jenny Wiley Theatre.
Enoch Armando King plays Reggie. King was previously seen at American Stage in “Between Riverside and Crazy” and “A Raisin in the Sun.” His recent credits include “Tuna Christmas” at G.E.T., “Paradise Blue” at True Colors Theatre, “Hands of Color” at Synchronicity Theatre,” “Skeleton Crew” at True Colors Theatre, “A Christmas Carol” at Shakespeare Tavern, and “The Mountaintop” at the Heritage Theatre Festival.
Rasell Holt takes on the role of Dez. Holt received his bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and continued with the Professional Training Company at the Actors Theatre of Louisville and a 2019 apprenticeship at American Players Theatre. He was most recently seen in “Romeo+Juliet” at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. Other credits include “Twelfth Night” and “She Stoops to Conquer” at American Players Theatre, “Dracula” at Actors Theatre of Louisville, and “A Story Told in Seven Fights” with the Neo-Futurists. His television and film credits include “Chicago P.D.” and “Drive Slow” by Terrance Thompson.
Camille Upshaw portrays Shanita. Upshaw is a Detroit native. She earned her bachelor’s degree in fine arts from SUNY Purchase College. Her most recent credits include “Scraps” at the Flea Theatre, “Letters in the Dirt” at the Brick Theatre and “As You Like It” at the Scranton Shakespeare Festival.
Callender returns to American Stage to direct “Skeleton Crew.” Last January, he directed Morisseau’s “Pipeline.” He also directed productions of “A Raisin in the Sun,” “Joe Turner’s Come & Gone” and “Jitney” at American Stage. With his work, he has accumulated 10 Tampa Bay award nominations, winning six including outstanding director for both “Jitney” and “Joe Turner’s Come & Gone.” Callender also serves as artistic director of African-American Shakespeare Company in San Francisco.
Due to its adult language and situations, “Skeleton Crew” is recommended for audiences 12 and older. The run time is approximately two hours with one intermission.
Throughout the run of “Skeleton Crew,” ticket holders are invited to arrive early for an exclusive prologue 30 minutes prior to each performance to gain more insight about the play. Additionally, chatbacks will be presented Thursday, Jan. 30; and Sundays, Feb. 2, 9 and 16. Audience members are invited to stick around immediately following select performances to chat with artists about the play, the characters and the ideas stimulated by the production.