Written by Sharr White
Directed by Terry Averill
Oct 26 - Nov 17
Run time: 2.25 hours
Matthew Gibbon, liberal lion and university president, may have finally gone too far in his battle against the politically conservative Dean of the law school - his son-in-law and former protégé Vincent. In a frustrated culmination of a steady program of undermining Vincent’s position at the school, Matthew has vandalized his office and records. Caught between them, Matthew’s daughter Charlotte is desperately trying to protect her father and negotiate a solution against a Board of Regents and faculty up in arms because of his actions. As the play progresses, the differences between the two men become as apparent as America before 9/11 and after. This family drama explores change and the abuse of power within a tight circle of people who, despite loving each other, are rocked by the convictions of their hearts.
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About the Playwright
Sharr White is one of the most accomplished authors currently writing for American theater. He won the 2009 Skye Cooper New American Play Prize for Sunlight and a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship for Six Years. He will have his Broadway debut when The Other Place opens in January at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater. The Other Place is a recipient of the 2010 Playwrights First Award and the 2011 Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation’s Theatre Visions Fund Award. An earlier off-Broadway production of The Other Place was an Outer Critics Circle Award nominee for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play. White’s plays have been produced across the United States and in Europe, including Nationaltheater Mannheim in Germany.
About the Director
Terry Averill got his start as a director for Colonial Players during the 2002 One-Act Play Festival. Since then, he has directed Romantic Comedy, Kindertransport, and the 2010 musical, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change He has appeared on stage at CP in Two Rooms and Earth and Sky. Terry has also designed lights for Colonial Players and won a lighting award for Earth and Sky in the Washington Area Theatre Community Honors competition. Most recently, he acted in a number of productions at Bowie Community Theatre and directed their productions of Language of Angels and Love, Sex and the IRS. Terry is an architect and is in his second term as president of Colonial Players.
What is it about Sunlight that drew me to direct it? Well, it’s Sharr White’s characters. They are people I know and love. They are members of my family. They are my friends. If I’m honest with myself, they are also part of me. At times they can be narcissists, petty and self-serving. But they are also impassioned, loving, intelligent, and caring individuals Their personal and ethical struggles in the aftermath of September 11 are mine and I believe yours, too.
I love a good debate as much or more than anybody. I’m from a family of eight, and everyone must have their say. Well, in Sunlight, though there is a lot of debate and a lot of posturing as in any family debate, there are real life consequences. We are not merely playing the “who’s got the ticking bomb” game. We are not in a lecture hall, though Vincent would like to draw the comparison as the dean of the law school. No. Real people have died as a result of the attacks on September 11 and as a result of policies enacted by our government following these attacks. What real justification is there for such killing? For torture?
I hope today’s production prompts you to ask yourself about some of the questions America has debated following September 11. Was war in Iraq necessary? How about torture? Is the suffering and inhumanity resulting from war -- whether the war on terror, the two world wars, the Civil War, or any other war morally repugnant to you? Of necessity, innocents die. What justifies war? Revenge? Moral superiority? Personal loss?
Ostensibly, Sunlight is a philosophical and moral debate. But more importantly, it is a personal journey of reconciliation. It is about honesty and acceptance of the many things about those we love that we cannot ever really understand. It reflects the sacrifice of our self or, at the very least, a setting aside of deeply held beliefs when they undermine the love and commitment to family member or close friends.
But honesty is painful for a family or for a country. After September 11, after the loss of a child, after the loss of our innocence, our youthful idealism about ourselves and about America, “How will (we) live again,” as Charlotte asks? Somehow we will endure, we will piece together the remnants of ourselves that the war on terror shattered. That is what we must do. “Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” and with that we can rebuild.
After the show today, I hope you will go home and discuss the intricacies of the play, Share your insights with your family and friends. And with me. Feel free to email me about reactions, your thoughts. What do you believe? Let me know.
Millie Ferrara (Maryanne) -- Twenty-one years ago Millie appeared in Colonial Players’ production of The Autumn Garden. Four years ago she appeared in Colonial Players’ highly regarded production of Rabbit Hole. Working with talented casts, crews, and directors made both experiences memorable and enjoyable. Millie is grateful to be working again with a dedicated and talented director and cast. Some of her favorite past roles include Eleanore in The Lion in Winter, Mrs. Erlynne in Lady Windemere’s Fan, Dolly Levi in The Matchmaker, Dr. Livingston in Agnes of God, and Fanny Church in Painting Churches. Millie has been nominated for WATCH awards for her role as Fanny in Painting Churches and Nat in Rabbit Hole. Her most recent roles were in Harvey and Deathtrap. Millie is a retired Prince George’s County teacher, a mother of two, and a grandmother of five. Now if only they lived nearby!
Chelsea Langley-Kolbe (Charlotte) -- Chelsea is a newcomer to Annapolis and is making her Colonial Players debut in Sunlight. She began acting at a very young age, appearing as the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz when she was just 5 years old. When she was 19, she moved to Los Angeles, where she attended The New York Film Academy at Universal Studios, studying Meisner, Acting for Film, Comedy and Improvisation, Textual Analysis, Movement, Voice, and Film Craft. She created numerous short films with fellow students and portrayed Harper Pitt in scenes from Angels in America at The Victory Theater in North Hollywood, CA. “I am thrilled to be returning to the stage as a member of Colonial Players after what has seemed a very long hiatus from acting. My life and love affair with acting can be best described in the words of my favorite artist, Vincent van Gogh”: “If I can succeed in putting some warmth and love into my work, it will find its friends. The point is to continue to work.”
Timothy Sayles (Matthew) -- Tim is delighted to be back on stage at Colonial Players, where he has played a variety of characters in recent years -- from Chicago thug Julius Gatz in Earth and Sky (2010) to the goofy pajama-clad Delbert Snow in last season's Cinderella Waltz. Tim has also worked with 2nd Star Productions in Bowie, most recently in the British murder-mystery spoof Bloody Murder and as Lazar Wolf in Fiddler on the Roof. As a longtime barbershop singer, he has of course crooned "Lida Rose" on stage in The Music Man. A member of the Colonial Players artistic team this year, Tim supports his theater habit by working as editor-in-chief of Chesapeake Bay Magazine. He lives in Annapolis and has three indisputably brilliant grown children, two unarguably adorable grandchildren, and two undeniably cute cats.
Jeff Sprague (Vincent) -- Jeff is happy to be returning to CP. Previously he appeared in Chapter Two; I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change; Over My Dead Body; Les Liaisons Dangereuses; Kiss Me, Kate; Kindertransport (2007 WATCH Award recipient); and Jekyll and Hyde. His work with other area theatres includes roles in Anything Goes, Hairspray, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Sight Unseen, The Crucible, and Blue/Orange. Like Vincent, Jeff is an attorney, and he works for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in DC. He sends his thanks to the cast, crew, and production team and sends his love to his beautiful wife, Kathleen.
The Production Staff
Lois Banscher (Properties Designer) - With this production of Sunlight, Lois begins her third season as a Colonial Players volunteer, working on props and other CP projects. Her most recent play was Going to St. Ives, which involved scouring the Internet to assemble a collection of blue willow china from across the United States and Great Britain. She continues to enjoy the challenge of the hunt for each play’s props and working with the team. Other shows at Colonial Players include The Curious Savage; I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change; Mrs. California (2010 WATCH nomination); The Diviners; Lettice and Lovage; Little Women; and The Spitfire Grill. “I want to thank all of the CP folks who have helped me along the way (and there are many). I will continue to bring the very best that I can to the table. Thank you to my friends who continue to support my efforts and Colonial Players.”
Frank Florentine (Lighting Designer) - Frank’s background includes a wide array of lighting projects from ballet to museums to special events to show caves. He retired as the lighting designer of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum on December 31, 2009, after 25 years in that position. Frank has also designed the lighting for three show caves over the past 10 years. He resides in the Annapolis area and has designed lighting for a sail boat in the Eastport Yacht Club's annual Christmas Parade of Lights for the last 20 years. Most recently, he designed the lighting for Colonial Players’ Chapter Two last season and for Anne Arundel County’s 9/11 Memorial. Frank worked in professional theater as a production manager, stage manager, and associate lighting designer and traveled nationally and internationally with several ballet companies, including a 65,000-mile tour with the late Rudolf Nureyev. Frank is a Fellow of the Illuminating Engineering Society and Lighting Certified by the National Council of Qualified Lighting Professionals.
Edd Miller (Set Designer) - Edd has worked with Colonial Players since 1964 in any capacity they would have him: actor, director, crew, sweeper, usher, whatever. This time it is set design that is the assignment, and he gets to apply some of the things he learned as an interior designer. Last season, he also designed the set for Chapter Two and directed Going to St. Ives. Edd has directed and acted in many shows at Colonial Players. Among the shows for which he has designed sets are The Diviners, The Philadelphia Story, Moon Over Buffalo, The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, and, to go back a ways, I Never Sang for My Father, On Golden Pond, and Blythe Spirit, among others. Edd has chosen color schemes for our lobby, dressing rooms and green room and created the hangings in the lobby.
Kaelynn Miller (Costume Designer) - Kaelynn is back on the designing wagon after spending most of her time last season on the stage instead of behind the scenes. Kaelynn is particularly thrilled that this show has given her the chance to do something at which she excels: shopping with other people's money. Other CP costume design credits include Bits ‘n Pieces, Company, and Inventing van Gogh. She served as Secretary on the Board of Directors, but offered to fill the role of Treasurer when it became vacant this summer. It has proven to be quite the learning experience. With a BA in Vocal Performance and Music from McDaniel College, Kaelynn works by day as a customer service representative for a musical instrument accessory supply company. Many thanks to those who fill her days with kittens and rainbows including, but not limited to, Wes, Adeline, Laurel, and Karen, plus anyone who gives her coffee.
Olga Petrovic (Assistant Director) - Olga made her first appearance at Colonial Players, as well as her first in the United States, as Goneril in last season’s Cinderella Waltz. She performed at Cabaret 13 and Theater Left in her native Serbia and appeared in a short movie at the Center for Visual Communications. She recently completed a class at Center Stage in Baltimore, her first experience with Shakespeare in English. Olga came to the U.S. five years ago to study English and is pursuing a BA in business management. She is gaining her first directing experience as the assistant to Sunlight director Terry Averill. “I am so super excited about this chance, which will give me a broader perspective and understanding of acting. I am really thankful to Terry for giving me this chance.”
Tom Stuckey (Producer) - Tom has been involved with Colonial Players since 1969, when he appeared as a member of the ensemble in Carousel. He was the producer for Going to St. Ives last season and for The Diviners and Company during the 2010-2011 season. He also produced Hauptmann, winner of the award for best play in the annual WATCH competition for community theaters in the Washington area. Tom has held five positions on the CP Board of Directors and is currently vice president. He is also a member of the marketing team, handling newspaper publicity and editing the program for each show.
Joe Thompson (Sound Designer) - Joe’s association with Colonial Players dates to 1969 when, as a high school student, he appeared as a chorus member in Carousel. During the intervening years, he has acted, directed, and worked on many CP shows. Most recently, during the 2011-2012 season, he appeared in The Diviners and directed Company. A soundtrack of original songs for Bowie Community Theatre’s production of Dearly Departed won him a WATCH award for sound design. For Children’s Theatre of Annapolis, he directed Beauty and the Beast, which was first runner up for best musical in the British Players Ruby Griffith Award competition. Colonial Players has produced three of his short plays as well as six years of Cabaret for Kids, a review of Joe’s original songs, skits, and poems.
Bob Walker (Stage Manager) - Bob is returning as stage manager for Sunlight after handling the same duties for Moonlight and Magnolias, the final show of the 2011-2012 season, when the stage ended up littered with peanuts and peanut shells. He is happy that there are no peanuts in Sunlight. Prior to Moonlight and Magnolias, Bob worked in the tech booth handling sound and light cues for Cinderella Waltz and Earth and Sky. By day, Bob works in the Annapolis area maritime business. His association with Colonial Players began when he was asked to help usher, just for a night or two. “If it hadn’t been for that, I never would have met all the wonderful people who make this theater work.”
The United States Post 9/11
Most of us remember precisely where we were on that infamous Tuesday morning 11 years ago. I was a First Lieutenant in the Air Force and was 100 feet under North Dakota on a nuclear alert for the Minuteman III ICBM system. Message traffic was confusing, and for about twenty minutes, I thought the end of the world was pretty close at hand. It wasn’t until I was able to turn on our site TV that I realized that, while nuclear Armageddon might not be forthcoming, a new “reality” was upon us.
It sounds clichéd to say “everything changed that day,” and the fact is, it really didn’t. When you are the big guy in the room, no matter how much you think size will protect you, somebody is going to pick a fight. This is something that isn’t new to our nation. At the end of the 19th century, we had reached our “manifest destiny” of having a republic between the oceans. The objective soon became one of establishing respect for the United States on a world stage. The language of global dominance in this era was that of imperialism. It is what Rudyard Kipling famously dubbed “the white man’s burden.” Western powers formed alliances and jockeyed to have the broadest international influence. This was based on how much land was held and how many people became, willingly or unwillingly, new subjects of the realm. It was a ploy that would lead to the slaughter of a generation of young men in the fetid trenches of France, Belgium, Turkey, and Russia. The United States was not immune to the lure of colonialism in the years preceding the First World War.
Indeed, following the defeat of Spain in the Spanish-American War of 1898, the United States gained control over the Philippines and sought to maintain governance over the islands as a convenient middle point for trade routes with China. Philippine citizens resisted American occupation, and what was dubbed “The Philippine Insurrection” soon ensued. The Philippine rebels used guerilla tactics to kill U.S. troops, and they were deemed savage for not fighting in a “civilized manner.” When one thinks of a colonial militiaman hiding behind a tree in 1775 Massachusetts with sights pointed on a brilliant scarlet coat, the irony is not lost. It is in these Phillippine jungles that water-boarding was invented.
The pretext for the war that would give us control over the Philippines was given to the American people by news agencies that would make Fox or MSNBC seem content-neutral. Sound familiar? This is where America entered the world stage, and the Philippine guerilla of 1902 might have more in common with Mohamed Atta than we care to think. Perhaps, then, we can conclude that the world did not magically change on that fall morning 11 years ago. Perhaps we had just chosen to ignore the nastier parts of it. 9/11, for better or worse, should make us confront that reality.
All of this certainly doesn’t justify what happened in September of 2001. However, as poisonous as the beliefs of an Islamic fundamentalist may be to most Americans, the events of 9/11 must, if nothing else, serve to make us face the reality of America’s place in the world. It should makes us think about what that place is, and what it should be. To add another cliché that Vincent uses in this play, there is no going back.
This production shows the debates that exist when one is forced to confront the reality of America’s position on the world stage in the most personal of ways. We are now the sole superpower. What are we, as individuals, willing to give up to remain in that position? What have we already given up? If America is an exceptional nation, what must be done to maintain such a status? If we do it, do we remain a “beacon for liberty”?
Sunlight won’t give us answers. This production is about questions.
Jeff Sprague (Production Dramaturg)