There's a New Director in Town
Mauritius opens Thursday at the Gamm, and it’s being directed by this season’s visiting artistic director at Perishable Theatre, Rachel Walshe.
Long-time theater lovers might sit up and take notice; Walshe has had brief gigs with the Gamm and Perishable before, as well as Brown’s Writing is Live Festival. She’s also a native and the first URI grad to have been a Rhodes Scholar – so, no slouch. Her friendship with the Gamm’s Tony Estrella harks back to college days.
The Gamm is billing Mauritius as a comic thriller, and Walshe says the play is that and more. When she first heard of it, she thought, "How can there be a play about stamps? How boring." But playwright Theresa Rebeck "just writes really entertaining plays," Walshe says. Along with a dose of philately, expect family tension, money woes, a shady stamp dealer, a heist and, Walshe says, "girls kicking ass."
The wonderful Casey Seymour Kim will play one of the sisters who inherit the stamp; Amanda Ruggiero, Richard Donnelly, Steve Kidd and Jim O’Brien round out the cast. Look for an online review here next week.
It’s not all we’ll be looking for from Walshe this year. She and her husband and 18-month-old daughter just moved back here from Chicago ("It was either live in a really expensive city with no help, or move to a small one with lots of help" she says of being closer to baby Alice’s grandparents) and she was initially concerned about professional opportunities. Not for long: she had coffee with an old friend and, presto!, ended up being Visiting Artistic Director at Perishable for the year. (Vanessa Gilbert wanted a year’s sabbatic to work on personal projects.)
Walshe specializes in new plays, particularly plays by women, so the first thing she did at Perishable was the Women’s Playwriting Festival, which wraps up Oct. 23. (Nicole went a couple of weeks ago – see what she thought here.) And next spring, Perishable will stage Carson Kreitzer’s 1:23, the New England premiere of this play, which examines the lives of Andrea Yates and Susan Smith. Although it’s grim subject matter, Walshe says the play appealed in part because she’s a new mother. "It explodes ideas about motherhood and challenges the narrow picture that the media painted of these two women," she says. "It’s by no means a sympathetic portrait, but it looks deeply at their marriages and history of abuse and post partum depression, and the role the media played in demonizing them and not just their acts – at how there’s more culpability to go around than just two rogue mothers."
She’s also maintained ties with Chicago, flying back this winter to direct a play there – toddler Alice is already an old hand at navigating airplanes – and will be directing in Brown/Trinity Rep’s Consortium For New Playwrites. Phew! Not surprising she had to turn down a teaching gig at URI for lack of time. Moving back "has been a great decision and I feel lucky that the theater community has welcomed us in such a generous way," she says. Here’s to a dynamic new voice in the local theater scene.