While other theatres in town are gearing up for their upcoming season, Trustus Theatre will be producing the final show of its 28th Season – the last production under the leadership of Jim and Kay Thigpen. South Carolina playwright Jon Tuttle's new show The Palace of the Moorish Kings will make its world premiere on the Trustus Main Stage under the direction of incoming Artistic Director Dewey Scott-Wiley on Friday, August 10th 2012 at 8:00pm.
Every August, Trustus Theatre debuts a new script on their Main Stage. This tradition started in 1988 when the internationally praised Trustus Playwrights' Festival began. South Carolina playwright Jon Tuttle joined the ranks at Trustus as a festival-winner in 1994 with his play The Hammerstone. Trustus has produced various Tuttle scripts over the past 18 years including Drift (1998), Holy Ghost (2005), and The Sweet Abyss (2009). "One of our most important missions here is to produce a new script each season," said out-going Artistic Director Jim Thigpen. "Jon told me after a show one night that he was working on a new script based on a short story by Evan S. Connell – I told him he should bring it to us and we'd produce it as a commissioned work for the Playwrights' Festival. I couldn't be happier to have another one of Jon's stories brought to life on our stage – a great way to go out with a bang, doing what we love to do: producing new works."
The Palace of the Moorish Kings, based on a short story by Evan S. Connell, begins on Thanksgiving Day, 1970. Old friends converge to celebrate a familiar ritual of middle-class American life--turkey and football--when they are interrupted by a phone call from an old friend who tells them that, after a lifetime of freedom, travel and leisure, he's coming back. The unexpected call makes them confront all of the choices they have made, all the choices they never knew they had, and that part of themselves that has withered along the way. This show asks us to consider what we will accept in order to belong and what we must abandon in order to stay free.
"I read the short story the play is based on when I was in graduate school and at first it didn't resonate with me…but after I'd taught it a time or two to my freshman English students I had a better sense of its scope and gravity," said Playwright Jon Tuttle. "I realized that The Palace of the Moorish Kings is about everything. It's about time, culture, class, mortality, sacrifice, duty, and...just everything." Some 25 years after his last reading of the story, Tuttle said he found himself lying awake one night imagining how the story could become a play. The next morning he reported to his wife that he was going to start a new script (she jokingly groaned according to Tuttle). After contacting Evan S. Connell's agent, he was given the go-ahead by Connell to write a script based on the short story. "After that," said Tuttle, "everything happened remarkably quickly and easily."
Incoming Trustus Artistic Director Dewey Scott-Wiley was put at the helm of this world premiere show. Since this is the third time they've collaborated on a premiere at Trustus, Tuttle is excited to have her directing this show. "[Dewey] is very respectful of a script, very conscious of making the words work," said Tuttle. "Most of what our relationship boils down to is a nice chemistry that I don't understand and she probably doesn't either. We're learning each other's habits and rhythms and we trust each other."
Dewey Scott-Wiley assembled a talented cast of eight actors to bring this world premiere show to the Trustus Main Stage. Trustus Company members Christopher Cockrell (Spring Awakening) and Becky Hunter (The Little Dog Laughed, Jewtopia) return to the Main Stage. Trustus alumni Gene Aimone (White People, The Lieutenant of Inishmore) and Kim Harne (Assassins) join them along with actors Shane Walters and Christina Whitehouse-Suggs, theatre-critic James Harley, and a young actress returning to Columbia from Los Angeles - Erin Huiett.
Trustus Theatre is eager to produce Tuttle's The Palace of the Moorish Kings – allowing Columbia to be at the forefront of the current theatrical landscape by producing a new work by one of our own successful South Carolinian playwrights. The show opens Friday, August 10th at 8:00pm and runs through Saturday, August 18th, 2012. Shows on Thursdays start at 7:30pm, Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00pm, and Sundays at 3:00pm. Tickets are $20 on Thursdays, $22.50 on Fridays & Saturdays, and $17.50 on Sundays. Half-price student tickets are available 15 minutes prior to every curtain.