THE RED LETTER PROJECT: IN THE BLOOD and FUCKING A By Suzan-Lori Parks
An experiment in community performance Presented by The Illyrian Players Theatre Company In Association with Watts Village Theatre Company
These two plays will be performed... ...in rep ...on alternating Mondays ...in a new performance space every week
11 or 12 actors -- see breakdown below
Every actor cast will have a meaty role in one of the two plays. Some will only be cast in one play only, while others will be in both (with a larger role in one play, supporting role in the other).
The majority of the roles in of each play will be cast with actors of color.
Some roles will sing and play instruments.
We are specifically looking for actors who are interested in being involved in a long-term project that can develop over time and potentially travel. You will get to grow with an ensemble and a script (or two) over time.
IN THE BLOOD and FUCKING A are two plays, both inspired from Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. They both poetically explore the tragic toll of poverty, mass incarceration and society's complex relationship with abortion. They have never been performed together, until now.
The ensemble will act as traveling players, bringing these two plays to living rooms, community centers, schools, parks, theaters and wherever we can! Costumes/props/set will be minimal – just the bare bones and most important symbols. Sound and music will be live, created by the ensemble.
Rehearsals: May - July (4 nights a week for 10 weeks) Performances: July - September (Monday nights and occasional pickup rehearsals) Plays will alternate every week (Week 1: In the Blood, Week 2: Fucking A, Week 3: In the Blood, etc.). The initial run will be for about 3 months, but we hope to continue performing and evolving this project into the future. If we extend, we will renew agreements in three month blocks -- continuing to do Monday night performances with occasional pickup rehearsals.
Mon April 17 --- 7pm-11pm Tues April 18 --- 7pm-11pm Tues April 25 --- 7pm-11pm At initial auditions we will have a scheduled time on one night for you to show up and read a side from one of the plays. You will be considered for any role(s) in either of the plays. If you sing and/or play an instrument please bring in something short to share with us.
Callbacks: Weds April 26 --- 7pm-11pm At callbacks we will need to see pairings and groups, and possibly how you work/play in a group. We will provide more details closer to this date if we would like to see you there.
Please email email@example.com to request an audition time/with your availability on these two nights. Make sure to put “AUDITION REQUEST” in the subject heading.
Emphasis during rehearsals will be on ensemble building, text work, character, relationship, the powerful ritual of storytelling, and discussion that can come out of these stories. There will be very basic blocking on top of this strong foundation of story, and the actors will adapt the play to physically fit whatever space we are in (be it a tiny living room or a large stage). The plays will always be followed by a discussion/sharing with the audience. The tickets will be entirely donation-based, so that money will not be an obstacle for anyone who wants to see these plays.
Rehearsals: May - July (4 nights a week for 10 weeks) Performances: July - September (Monday nights and occasional pickup rehearsals)
alternating plays every week (Week 1: In the Blood, Week 2: Fucking A, Week 3: In the Blood, etc.). The initial run will be for about 3 months, but we hope to continue performing and evolving this project into the future. (There will be a break and check in around the 3 month period.) We are specifically looking for actors who are interested in being involved in a long-term project that can develop over time and potentially travel. You will get to grow with an ensemble and a script (or two) over time. If we extend, we will renew agreements in three month blocks -- continuing to do Monday night performances with occasional pickup rehearsals.
This project is unpaid for all collaborators. All performances will be free, so we'll be operating at a loss to start. The idea is to figure out what this new form is, then we can find a path to funding it further down the line. We are looking for folks who have the flexibility to invest some of their time and talent over the long term on a developmental project with no guarantee of financial payoff, but with a certainty for revelation and exploration.
We are still exploring how we can make this Equity compliant. There is no easy category to fit this experimental framework. If you are an AEA member, we cannot guarantee that we’ll be able to cast you, but you are welcome to audition regardless.
If you are interested in Assistant Directing either of the plays, please send me an email with your interest. Each play will have its own AD. You are absolutely welcome to audition to act and also apply to AD (you will only be chosen for one or the other).
We are also looking for a Music Director and a Designer to join our creative team.
We would like to fill the majority of the creative team roles with women/non-binary POC, though male POC are also welcome to apply.
Please feel free to share this information with anyone you know who may be interested.
Fucking A calls for 11 actors and In The Blood calls for 6 actors. We will be casting 11-12 actors in total. The casts will overlap; 5-6 of the actors will act in both productions. Every actor will have a meaty role in one of the plays. The majority of the roles will be cast with actors of color. Actors of all genders are encouraged to audition. Bonus if you can sing and/or play an instrument. This is not a musical – we are primarily looking for strong actors who have musical skills. Please come prepared to read sides and to sing/play something short.
NOTE: The actors playing the non-Hester roles in In the Blood will also be cast as the 5 ensemble roles in Fucking A. See ** --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- IN THE BLOOD
Hester, La Negrita – female, 30s-50s, black. Single mother of five young children (ages 2-13), by five different absent fathers. Tries to keep her family going through extreme poverty. Lives under the bridge. Goes without food to feed her children, develops a pain in her gut. Failed by the institutions and people who claim to serve her, and (sexually) taken advantage of by the people who claim to be there for her. Harshly judged, shunned and used, despite her strength of spirit. Worn down. Illiterate. Lies about it. Starts seeing an eclipse in the sky where there isn’t one. “I don’t think the world likes women much.”
Chilli/Jabber ** – male, 30s-50s, any non-white ethnicity. Chilli – Father of Hester’s oldest son, her first love who left after knocking her up. Charming and romantic, but a fair weather friend (and lover). He comes back years later with an idea of Hester and her life that doesn’t fit into the reality she’s been living. “…looking for someone/could it be you?” Jabber – Hester’s oldest and favorite son, her treasure. Sweet and a little slow - or does he just act slow because it’s what folks expect? He’s teaching Hester to read, but doesn’t want her to be able to read degrading graffiti written about her under the bridge where they live. Thirteen years old and still wets the bed. “Theres always bad news.”
Reverend D./Baby ** – male, 20s-30s, any non-white ethnicity. Rev D – Father of Hester’s youngest son, a more recent lover. A reverend, a performer. Pulled himself out of the gutter and into the Church. Preaches what he cannot practice in his own life. Not a man of his word. Sexually turned on by suffering. Had a sexual relationship with Hester a couple years ago, got her pregnant. Now pretends not to know her when she seeks his help. Sells tapes of his sermons. Doesn’t sleep. “I want my poor to know that it was me who bought the such and such. I want my poor on tv. I want famous poor, not miscellaneous poor.” Baby – Hester’s youngest son, still a baby, two years old. Smashes soda can. Not much for words yet. Youngest of five. “Mommie!”
The Welfare Lady/Bully ** – female, 20s-40s, black. Welfare – Hester’s case worker. Cares because she is paid to care. Married with children. Has lots of money and lives in a beautiful house (her husband works long hours). Takes comfort in distancing herself from Hester, emphasizing their class difference. Uses Hester in a threesome to spice up her marriage and acts like it didn’t happen. “The world is not here to help us, Hester. The world is simply here. We must help ourselves.” Bully – Hester’s oldest daughter. A fighter and a snitch. Doesn’t take shit and looks out for herself. Sleeps with her hands tensed up into fists. Tough because she has to be. Beats on her little brother, Trouble. “Jabber is bad and Trouble is bad and Beauty is bad and Baby is bad but I’m good. Bully’s a good girl.”
The Doctor/Trouble ** – male, 20s-40s, any ethnicity. Doctor – Hester’s doctor, works for the Higher Ups who recommend that he spay her so she doesn’t have any more homeless children. Has a streetside practice, carries his office paraphernalia on his back. Often offers (and takes) pills. Hester’s been one of his neediest patients for the last several years. Once had sex with her when he was lonesome. “My hands are tied. The Higher Ups are calling the shots.” Trouble – Hester’s middle son, lives up to his name. Steals and lies about it. Likes fire. Picked on and beaten on by his older sister, Bully. Has a foul mouth and likes the taste of soap, so he can’t be punished for it. The middle child. “I found it. I did. It was just lying on the street. I was minding my own business.”
Amiga Gringa/Beauty ** – female, 20s-30s, white. Amiga – A hustler. Hester’s friend. (Is she?) Can talk her way into money and out of trouble. Uses her charm and sex appeal to her advantage. Has three fatherless kids under the age of three, sold them to a “bastard home” where rich people can buy them. Has some real chemistry with Hester, but still is able to justify using her in a girl-on-girl live sex show. “Im just trying to help her out./And myself too, ok. They dont call it Capitalizm for nothing.” Beauty – Hester’s youngest daughter. Quiet and sweet. Likes feeling pretty. Wears a ribbon in her hair. “Is that a diamond?”
Hester Smith – female, 30s-50s, black. An abortionist, a working woman. Law requires her to wear a visible “A” branded into her chest so everyone knows what she does. Has a reputation of being quick, cheap, thorough and discreet – better than the clinic. Her branded “A” stinks. Wears a bloody apron. Scorned by many even though she provides a necessary service. Works to make money to buy visits with her son, who has been in prison since he stole food as a boy. It’s never enough money so she hasn’t seen him since he was very young. In denial that her son has ever done anything bad. Obsessed with vengeance on the rich girl who snitched and sent him to prison. Illiterate. Lonely. Strong. Unforgiving. Full of deep, powerful motherlove. “They tell me yr bad but I dont believe them. You shouldnt believe them either.”
Monster – male, 20s-30s, black. Boy Smith, Hester’s son. Was sent to prison for stealing food as a young boy, snitched on by the rich girl in the family he and Hester worked for. De-humanized by incarceration. Grew up in prison. Kept getting additional time for bad behavior. Became the kind of person he was treated as. Newly escaped and being hunted. “That’s the trick with things that hurt. Outlast them, they stop hurting. Sooner or later.”
Canary Mary – female, 20s-40s, any ethnicity. A whore, a working woman. Hester’s best friend, deeply loyal and loving to her. She would do almost anything for Hester, who once gave her an abortion on credit when she was younger and desperate. Cares for Hester when she’s not well, and reads Hester letters from her son in prison. The Mayor owns her exclusive rights now. He buys her nice clothes and gives her gold coins. Wants the Mayor to marry her after he kills his wife, but he never will. “And when you find out just how much your freedom costs/ You may just give it up/ For a gorgeous gilded cage.”
The Mayor – male, 30s-40s, any non-white ethnicity. The mayor of a small town in a small country in the middle of nowhere. A self-important buffoon. Obsessed with his patriarchal lineage. Proud of his sperm. Married for his wife for her family’s money. Considering having his wife killed because she’s not getting pregnant. Believes the people of his town deeply depend on him. Keeps Canary Mary as his paid private mistress, fucks her in front of his wife. “I promised them a greatness that would last for a hundred-thousand years but my right hand is dangling empty, Woman.”
The First Lady – female, 20s-30s, any ethnicity. Daughter of the Rich Family. The Mayor married her for her money. When she was a girl she snitched on Boy for stealing food and got him sent to prison. She can’t get pregnant, even after trying all the doctors and pills and potions money can buy. Knows her husband wants to have her killed if she doesn’t give him a son soon. Hated and cursed by Hester. Lonely. “But you could spend more time with me.”
Butcher – male, 30s-50s, black. The town butcher. Has feelings for Hester. Courts her with gifts of meat. Follows the rules, does well enough, a law-abiding citizen. Like Hester, he wears a bloody apron. Has an adult daughter in prison. Wants Hester to marry him. Loves his jobs, spiritually connected to serving the community as a butcher. Spent years perfecting the painless slaughter. “I feel like Im right in the middle of the great chain of being. Passing life from one group to another.”
First Hunter ** – male, 20s-50s, any ethnicity. Hank. Catches and tortures escaped convicts for money (and sport). Gets to keep body parts are trophies. Poor. Believes what he is fed. Scorns Hester, even though his daughter has needed her services. The leader of his pack of hunters. Grossed out by periods. Not the sharpest guy. “He screamed good, though didnt he?”
Second Hunter ** – any gender, 20s-50s, any ethnicity. Harry aka Hal. Catches and tortures escaped convicts for money (and sport). Gets to keep body parts are trophies. Poor. Believes what he is fed. Scorns Hester, even though he forces himself on his wife and then sends her to Hester for her services. Considers himself to be an unlucky guy. “I’ll smash your face for blabbing that!”
Third Hunter ** – any gender, 20s-50s, any ethnicity. Harv. Catches and tortures escaped convicts for money (and sport). Gets to keep body parts are trophies. Poor. Believes what he is fed. The least skilled hunter of his pack, though he has the strongest bloodlust. “All I got was a finger. Off the left hand. My wife thinks Im a loser.”
Freedom Fund Lady/Guard/Waiting Woman #1/Freshly Freed Prisoner ** – any gender, 20s-50s, any ethnicity. FFL – Works for the Freedom Fund Guard – Works at the prison. WW1 – Woman waiting for Hester’s services. FFD – Prisoner who has just been released. “Paying extra! Wonderful. ‘Freedom Aint Free!’ Glad you understand our motto, Mrs. Smith.” (FFL)
Scribe/Jailbait/Waiting Woman #2/Freshly Freed Prisoner ** – male, 20s-50s, any ethnicity. Scribe – Town scribe. Has beautiful penmanship. Often drunk. Jailbait – A prisoner, mistaken for Boy Smith. Has a picnic with Hester in his place and takes advantage of her, energetically and sexually. Claims to have killed Boy himself. WW2 – Woman waiting for Hester’s services. FFD – Prisoner who has just been released. “Bad things happen. All the time. But hey, no use crying.” (Jailbait)