WHEN CHURCHYARDS YAWN WORLD PREMIERE AT BRUKA THEATRE IN MARCH 2023
RENO, NEVADA — The newest celebrated Hamlet sequel is slated for a world premiere at Bruka Theatre in Reno next March.
“The script is clever, replete with snide banter befitting a satire of the Bard’s illustrious tragedy. We meet the usual suspects – the upright, the guilty, and the aggrieved – primed to settle a score or two. As they move through various gates and a chaotic mess of random earthly objects, actors are made to piece together a set of uneven stairs, a theatrical metaphor devised in real time and inspired by the work of Polish theater artist Tadeusz Kantor.” – Robert Encila, Broadway World
When Churchyards Yawn is a “Divine Comedy,” a fast-paced, witty, and masterfully rendered story of all Hamlet’s dead characters in Purgatory. It’s Jeanmarie Simpson’s latest play, following a slew of hits, beginning with her award-winning A Single Woman, commissioned by the California Stage Company and premiered at the Oats Park Arts Center in Fallon in 2004. Simpson is remembered in northern Nevada as Founding Artistic Director of the Nevada Shakespeare Company, Piper’s Opera House resident company at the turn of the millennium.
Simpson shares, “During the pandemic, I felt as if I were in Purgatory. Stuck at home, with no way to rehearse, perform, or even hang out and have coffee with others, and no way to plan anything. I happened upon Franco Zeffirelli’s Hamlet film somewhere in the streamiverse, and it gave me the idea to write a sequel, putting all the dead characters in Purgatory. We’ve since had several readings online, and we had a live one last summer at the Potentialist Workshop in Reno. Thanks to the magic of collaboration, the script has gotten sharper and more clear with each reading and discussion. I’m thrilled to work again with Mary Bennett and Bruka Theatre. Mary and I met a thousand years ago when we were both cast in a children’s theatre production at Bruka. It feels poetic to be doing Churchyards there and with Mary creating a role that fits her like a second skin.”
The cast is a who’s who of beloved northern Nevada actors:
Mary Bennett (Gatekeeper) is the Producing Artistic Director of Brũka and The Carson City Ghost Walk. She has created her own solo shows and historical character portrayals, including Dorothy Parker . . . Shivering and Sighing, a theatrical piece incorporating the short stories and poetry of Dorothy Parker that won “Best of the San Francisco Fringe Festival” and tours nationally. Mary works as a stage, film, and voice-over actor. She has a deep interest and fascination with history and the creation of original work. Mary has played many cherished roles, including Shirley Valentine, Lady Macbeth, and Clara in The Buttcracker series. She has received numerous grants from the Sierra Arts Foundation and the Nevada Arts Council and was voted “Best Actor” in Reno’s News & Review ten times. She earned an Honorable Mention in Performing Arts from the Nevada Arts Council’s Artist Fellowship program. She is a member of Actors Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States. Acting and devising theatre from an early age, Mary has worked professionally as a theatre and teaching artist for over 20 years. Her training experience includes Kennedy Center Teaching Artist Training, American Conservatory Theatre Company, Dell Arte’ International Theater Company, Bay Area Theatre Sports, New York Stage & Film at Vassar College, The B Street Theatre, and the dance, culture, and masks of Bali. Mary teaches improvisation, arts integration, team building, movement, theatre, and mask making/movement for character creation and performance. She enjoys working as a Kennedy Center teaching artist and collaborating with teachers.
Terri Gray (Gertrude) is thrilled to be playing Gertrude in this wonderful homage to her favorite Shakespearean play. She is also grateful to work with this outstanding cast and director/writer. Terri has appeared in numerous Reno theater productions during the past 40 years including Death of a Salesman (Linda Loman), Dancing at Lughnasa (Kate), Crimes of the Heart (Lenny), On the Verge (Alexandra), and Nunsense I & II (Reverend Mother). More recently, she has been seen in Bull in a China Shop (Dean Welsh), and Admissions (Roberta). Terri is a retired elementary school teacher. She thanks her husband and daughter for their continual love and support.
Cathy Gabrielli (Ophelia) has been performing on local stages for five decades. She has a degree in Theatre from the University of Nevada and is excited to collaborate with some of the old Nevada Rep gang (including husband, Bob) once again. Her most recent credits include Reno Little Theater’s production of The 24-hour Plays and The Children at Bruka Theatre. Some of her favorite roles include The Little Foxes (Regina), The Glass Menagerie (Amanda), You Can’t Take It With You (Penny), The Love Song of J Robert Oppenheimer (Kitty), Our Town (Mrs. Gibbs) and Calendar Girls (Celia). Cathy is a retired court clerk who enjoys singing barbershop with High Desert Harmony Chorus, volunteering with local non-profits and traveling anywhere that offers exceptional theater. Many thanks to family and friends for their steadfast love and support.
Martin A. David (old Hamlet) is a multifaceted American artist and activist, whose impressive and extensive mixed media collections of professional work span a range of genres, regions, and decades. He is a kaleidoscope of talent in action. He earned his B.A. Degree in Theatre from Brooklyn College in 1961. Trained as an actor, modern dancer, and general theatre person, after a fruitful creation of arts in his field, he continued to branch off and build upon his professional career path as a writer, visual artist, voice actor, and multi-talented craftsperson. The Art Name, MARDAV, was born in the early 1960s when first used to sign a painting. His works for sale have been exhibited worldwide. His pieces have been expertly performed across the nation, and his creative influence has had a far reach. His latest book, About Two Families, is available on all the usual online booksellers and you are advised to buy it. He also exhibits and sells his artwork and his handmade jewelry. He has known Jeanmarie Simpson for more than 30 years and is happy to work with her again. Currently, he is Doom’d for a certain term to walk the night,And for the day confined to fast in fires,Till the foul crimes done in his days of nature Are burnt and purged away.
Bob Gabrielli (Claudius) worked as a fundraiser for several Reno non-profits including UNR, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Nevada Museum of Art, and the National Judicial College before retiring in 2018. He has also been active writing, acting, and directing in local theater off and on for 40 years. Some of his favorite roles this century at Reno Little Theater have been in Henry V,Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Clybourne Park, August Osage County, The Foreigner, The Humans and Native Gardens. He also directed his original script Excerptsfor RLT’s 2013-14 season. He is currently focusing on writing and producing his own ten-minute plays primarily because that’s about the extent of his attention span. Thanks always to Cathy.
Ron Flesher (Rosencrantz) started on stage in Northeast Ohio and eventually landed in the Reno/Sparks area. He has played a slew of roles in the region at many different theatres and a few years acting in Ventura County. He was a company member of the Nevada Shakespeare Company and most recently appeared in the Restless Artists Theatre’s The Lifespan of a Fact.
David Richards (Guildenstern) is a prolific theatre artist, having participated as an actor, producer, director and writer in far too many regional shows to count. He has worked in most of the theatres in Reno/Sparks, Berkeley Rep, Idaho Shakespeare Festival, and Chicago’s iconic Goodman Theatre. He studied at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. He will direct Bruka’s upcoming production of The Lifespan of a Fact this fall.
Bob Ives (Polonius) first played Puck in Midsummer Night’s Dream 45 years ago. About 80 roles, (plus directing, tech, stage managing, etc.) later, he still keeps getting cast. Some of his most satisfying roles have included Alex Priest in Heisenberg, the title role in Titus Andronicus, Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, Torvald in A Doll’s House: Part 2, Orlando in As You Like It, Tony Reilly in Outside Mullingar, Edmund the Bastard in King Lear, Joe Ryan in When the Rain Stops Falling, and Riff Raff in the Rocky Horror Show. From the south coast to the east coast, to Nevada, he has had opportunities to meet, work with, and learn from, Pulitzer Prize winners Edward Albee and Marsha Norman, Corin Redgrave (brother to Vanessa and Lynn), members of the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre, the Tony Award winning Alley Theatre, and Kenneth Branagh, among others. He was honored with a Best Actor in a Drama Award in 2016, and The Bob Ives Season in 1998 from a Shakespeare Festival in Texas.
Kevin Karp (Laertes) started performing in Los Angeles when he was 6 years old. He also lived on the East Side of Cleveland, where he did mostly musicals. Since moving to Northern Nevada in 1978, he has performed at Sparks Civic Theatre, the Space Theatre, Reno Little Theatre, Proscenium Players, Western Nevada Community College, Brewery Arts Center, The Riverfront Theatre, TMCC, CVCT, Restless Artists Theatre and Bruka. As soon as he read the script of When Churchyards Yawn, he wanted to be in it. He has also been the lead Singer in Baker Street Band from 2008-2022. Among the roles and productions he has been in include Private Life of the Master Race, Tevye in Tevye and His Daughters, Oscar in The Odd Couple, J. Pierpont Finch in How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Cucurucu in Marat Sade, Sir in Roar of the Greasepaint Smell of the Crowd, Kid in Oh Dad Poor Dad, Charlie Brown in You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, Reporter in Inherit the Wind, Woodly in Happy Birthday Wanda June, Orphan in Celebration, Tevye, Mendel and Motel in Fiddler on the Roof, Lysander in Midsummer Night’s Dream, Charlie Brown in Snoopy, Captain/Director in Dames At Sea, Hucklebee in The Fantasticks, McMillan in Nuts– Marcellus in The Music Man, Barney in The Last of the Red Hot Lovers, – Sancho in The Man of LaMancha, Vito in It Had to Be You, Zangara in Assassins, Howard in Meshugahnuns, and John in Marjorie Prime. Sometimes he gets to perform with his wife Kathryn, who is this show’s stage manager.
Jeffrey Bentley (Hamlet) is a northern Nevada actor and voice over artist who is known for his versatility, hard work and impersonations, including such celebrities as Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, Eddie Izzard, Patrick Stewart and Christopher Walken, just to name a few. Jeff studied live performance at Millikin University in Decatur, IL. He has starred in many musical productions including The Producers (Spring, 2015), The Full Monty (Summer, 2015), The Rocky Horror Show (Fall, 2017), Young Frankenstein: The Musical (Fall, 2018), and Murder Ballad (Spring, 2022). He also has lent his voice talents to the plant, Audrey II, Little Shop of Horrors. He has been featured in such indie films as Tickets to Paradise (2013), Dinner With God (2016) where he literally did play God. He also made an appearance in John Wynn’s One Hour (2022) on The Wynn Network. Jeffrey played Rosencrantz in the 2021 reading of When Churchyards Yawn at the Potentialist Workshop.
Virginia Vogel (costume designer) is Professor Emerita at the University of Nevada Reno. She taught theatre and museum studies for decades at UNR and designed hundreds of productions. She was resident designer for the Nevada Shakespeare Company, for whom she designed Sailing to Byzantium, Macbeth, Richard III, and The Trojan Women. For Arizona Theatre Matters, Virginia designed Heretic – the Mary Dyer Story. She recently designed and built Symphony in C for the Lake Tahoe Dance Collective. She also designed for the Lake Tahoe Dance Festival and its professional dancers and choreographers, both national and international. In 2010, the State of Nevada commissioned Virginia to design and create the inaugural ball gown for Kathleen Sandoval, Nevada’s First Lady. A prolific lecturer, Virginia’s essays and articles have been published in many academic journals and art publications. She earned her Master of Fine Arts in 1975 at Texas Christian University.
Kathryn Weber-Karp (Stage Manager) has been involved with theater for the last 50 years, on stage, behind the scenes, and as a High School theater teacher (Reno H.S.). Some of her favorite roles were playing Velma Bleau in It Had to be You, Louisa Ravioli in Joey and Maria’s Italian Wedding, and most recently, Tess in Marjorie Prime. She looks forward to working with this multi-talented and creative cast and director/writer.
Jeanmarie Simpson (playwright, director) wrote and performed her first solo show in Toronto in 1972. She wrote and performed hundreds of times (including Off-Broadway) A Single Woman about Jeannette Rankin, the first US Congresswoman. She performed the piece at CalArts as Surdna Distinguished Guest Artist in 2005 and starred in the film version with Judd Nelson, the voices of Martin Sheen and Patricia Arquette, and Joni Mitchell’s music. After winning the Sacramento News and Review’s Best Theatrical Surprise award, A Single Woman toured 53 countries on five continents. Tony Award winner Zakes Mokae directed her as Elsa in his 2003 staging of The Road to Mecca, and in 2007, Leonard Nimoy directed her in the US premiere of Vern Thiessen’s solo-tour-de force, Shakespeare’s Will. She again toured the world with Coming In Hot, playing 19 military women. From 2011-19, she toured globally with her original solo performance HERETIC – the Mary Dyer story. In 2021, her play Pineapple and Other Options played in a Longbeach new works festival and was staged and filmed in Phoenix, and her play The Jewish Question won Honorable Mention by the New York-based Jewish Plays Project. In 2022, she won a Living History Foundation grant for Bambino Mio – Bright Little Flame about Maria Montessori. She is recipient of six Sierra Arts Foundation and twelve Nevada Arts Council grants to artists and a National Endowment for the Arts Theatre grant. Founding Artistic Director of Universal Access Productions/Arizona Theatre Matters, based in Arizona, Nevada, and on the company’s YouTube channel, she served on the panel for the 2023 National Endowment for the Arts Theatre Grants for Arts Projects. Jeanmarie is a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographer’s Society, the Dramatists Guild of America, and is retired from Actors Equity Association and Screen Actors Guild/AFTRA.
Brüka Theatre is a leader in northern Nevada, recognized for its innovative productions, exceptionally talented artists and acclaimed Theatre for Children series since its founding in 1992. Central to Brüka is the commitment to the re-investigation of contemporary and classic plays and developing new plays within Brüka’s Artistic Collective, a group that includes winners of the Nevada Arts Council and Sierra Arts Foundation artist grants and nine local best actor honors. Brüka Theatre is a small professional, not-for-profit member theatre company of Theatre Communications Group. Brüka Theatre has produced over 100 shows in downtown Reno.
When Churchyards Yawn will play in March, 2023, tickets may be purchased at bruka.org.