Grantee Spotlight: Soho Rep Studio presents world premiere of “Fairview”

Charles Browning and Heather Alicia Simms during a performance of Fairview, by Jackie Sibblies Drury, at the Soho Repertory Theatre.Photo courtesy of Julieta Cervantes, Soho Rep

Fairview, the latest play by Jackie Sibblies Drury, officially opened at the Soho Repertory Theatre in New York City this past Sunday. The play begins as the Frasier family prepares for Grandma’s big birthday dinner, but soon outside forces start to upend their best-laid plans.

Soho Rep is known for staging works that are experimental and socially challenging, and Fairview is no different. “We consistently work with artists who are risking something of themselves in their own work and providing a destabilizing experience for audiences,” says Sarah Benson, the artistic director of Soho Rep and a former recipient of the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise Prize in Theatre.

The play was developed in the Soho Rep Studio, with support from the Vilcek Foundation. The studio program commissions new works with a commitment to production; instead of working in isolation without any guarantee of publication, the unique model allows playwrights to take risks with their material and to write in collaboration with a full creative team.

MaYaa Boateng during a performance of Fairview, by Jackie Sibblies Drury, at the Soho Repertory Theatre.Photo courtesy of Julieta Cervantes, Soho Rep

“The artists we are most interested in working with are pushing the theatrical form forward in some way, and often they need time and space to work through a design or other production challenge as they are creating their piece,” says Sarah. “Our current production of Fairview is a prime example of this process in action: The final act of the show cannot take place without an audience, so the studio process allowed Jackie to explore the experience of having people in the room in workshop while she made rewrites.”

Jackie’s previous play, We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as South West Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915—billed as humorous and harrowing play about genocide—was met with enormous artistic and critical success when it had its New York premiere at the Soho Rep in 2012.

The theatre, in collaboration with the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, continued its relationship with Jackie by giving her carte blanche to develop a new project through a studio commission; the result was Fairview, which confronts issues of race, spectatorship, and the white gaze. Named a New York Times Critic’s Pick, Ben Brantley called the play “a glorious, scary reminder of the unmatched power of live theater to rattle, roil, and shake us wide awake.”

Fairview is Jackie Sibblies Drury’s fifth play; in addition to We Are Proud to Present…, her previous titles include Really and Social Creatures. This production was directed by Sarah Benson, and will be running through July 22nd; tickets are available through the Soho Rep website.

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