Spooky Action to stage U.S. premiere of play by Brazilian Newton Moreno

Based on real events, 'Agreste (Drylands)' is newly translated and directed by DC newcomer Danilo Gambini, associate artistic director at Studio Theatre.

Spooky Action Theater begins its 2023-24 season, BEYOND BORDERS, with Newton Moreno’s Agreste (Drylands), a contemporary myth about love and intolerance set in the Brazilian drylands. For its professional U.S. premiere, the play is being newly translated and directed by Danilo Gambini, Associate Artistic Director at Studio Theatre. The production will feature Raghad Almakhlouf, Irene Hamilton, Kate Kenworthy, and Miss Kitty.

The cast of ‘Agreste (Drylands)’: Raghad Almakhlouf, Irene Hamilton, Kate Kenworthy, Miss Kitty.

In the drylands of northeast Brazil, a kingdom of sand and thirst, Maria and Etevaldo fall in love across a fence. After living together as husband and wife for 22 years, the sanctity of their union gets invaded by the gossip and gibes of a conservative community. Four storytellers breathe life into this tale of love and loss, desire and death, ignorance and illumination. Based on real events, Newton Moreno’s stunning narrative shows that love can bloom even in the harshest climate. (Content warning: bigotry, transphobia, arson.)

“By turns lyrical, funny, surprising, tragic, Agreste (Drylands) achieves folkloric power.” —New Haven Review

“This is the kind of tale that would live on in the minds of locals, a defining act of bloodletting that makes us confront the fate that outsiders too often find in communities that fearfully maintain conformity.” —New Haven Review

“Agreste (Drylands) has become one of Brazil’s new classics since its first production in 2004. Multiple Ph.D. theses have been written about this show and its author, Newton Moreno — a playwright who became one of the loudest most powerful voices in the queer Brazilian theater. Coincidentally, a movie adaptation of Agreste premiered in a film festival in northeastern Brazil a few weeks before we started rehearsals. There is no doubt of the power of Newton’s poetry, nor the relevance of his voice.

This is a play about love. About love that is untouchable — no matter who thinks they can taint, deny, or destroy it. A tale about grief, about loss. About what we (the audience, the community, the world) lose when we lose empathy. It is a Brazilian Tragedy. It is the tragedy of the failure of allyship. The hubris is the lack of understanding. The hubris is Ignorance. Not illiteracy, or lack of education — the tragic flaw is the voluntary idiocy of intolerance. But Agreste is a story about love. Simple, pure, incontestable love — and about the monstrosity of those who try to destroy it.”


Danilo Gambini. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

Danilo Gambini (Translator/Director) is a director, writer, and producer, originally from São Paulo, Brazil. He is currently the Associate Artistic Director at Studio Theatre. Upcoming productions include the opera The Rake’s Progress, by Igor Stravinsky, at Yale Opera in 2024. His recent directing credits include the world premieres of Ni Mi Madre (Rattlestick Theater/OBIE Award Winner, Drama Desk Nom., New York Times Critics Pick), and the musical Sabina (Portland Stage Maine, co-directed with Daniella Topol). Other credits include Fun Home, The Tempest, Rock Egg Spoon (Yale School of Drama), Agreste (Drylands), Bakkhai, The Swallow and the Tomcat, and Truck (Yale Cabaret). Opera credits include Don Giovanni, Ariadne Auf Naxos, and Eugene Onegin (Theatro São Pedro). Before Studio Theatre, he was the Associate Artistic Director at New York’s  Rattlestick Theater, Co-Artistic Director at Yale Summer Cabaret, and a member of the Roundabout Director’s Group. He has developed work at The Public Theater, Joe’s Pub, The Old Globe, Ars Nova, Vineyard Theatre, Milwaukee Rep, Chautauqua Opera, Yale Opera, Gulfshore Playhouse, amongst others. Danilo holds an MFA in Directing from the Yale School of Drama (David Geffen School of Drama at Yale), a BFA in Film and Television (Curso Superior do Audiovisual) and an artist diploma as an actor from the School of Dramatic Art (Escola de Arte Dramática – EAD) both from the University of São Paulo.

The Production Team includes Giorgos Tsappas (Set Design), Colin K. Bills (Lighting and Projections Design), Aria Velz (Sound Design), Danielle Preston (Costume Design), Samuel Morreale (Dramaturg), and Caroline Johnson (Production Stage Manager).

The Cast features Raghad AlmakhloufIrene HamiltonKate Kenworthy, and Miss KittyRaghad Almakhlouf has appeared locally at Spooky Action this year in Sonnets for an Old Century and a workshop of Syrena, in Signature Theatre’s Selling Kabul, and Shakespeare Theater Company’s Timon of Athens. She recently performed in Vermont in Shakespeare in The Woods’ rep of Hamlet and The TempestIrene Hamilton’s local credits include roles at Imagination Stage (The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show/La Oruga Muy Hambrienta Espectáculo), Rorschach Theatre (Angel Number Nine), the Kennedy Center Concert Reading Series (Voir Dire). She is also a performer and company member at both Arts on the Horizon (Birds of a Feather, and more) and Synetic Theater. Kate Kenworthy is a queer actor and writer most recently seen in the Royal Court and The Merry Wives of Windsor at the Maryland Renaissance Festival. Prior to that, they performed as Angel in Rorschach Theatre’s Angel Number Nine, as well as Barbara McClintock in Washington Women in Theatre’s staged reading of In McClintock’s Corn and Freja in Rorschach’s staged reading of Even When the World BurnsMiss Kitty is an AMAB/non-binary/genderqueer/transfemme stage and film actor/actress, dancer, and chanteuse. She has performed with Avant Bard in Suddenly Last Summer, Illyria or What You Will, and She Speaks!, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Much Ado About Nothing with Prince George’s Shakespeare in the Parks, Brunch With The Boys at Capital Fringe), as well as numerous performances on the cabaret circuit.

Newton Moreno was born in Recife, Brazil, and holds a Performing Arts bachelor’s degree from Universidade Estadual de Campinas (Unicamp), and both Master and Doctoral degrees from Universidade de São Paulo (USP). He taught at ELT (Escola Livre de Teatro de Santo André) and at São Paulo School of Drama (SP Escola de Teatro), chairing their Playwriting programs. He participated as an actor and director in several plays, and in 2001 he staged his first text, Deus sabia de tudo e…/God knew all about it and…. Since then he has written many other plays, including Agreste/Drylands, which won several awards in 2004, including the APCA and the Shell Award, the two most important awards in Brazil. Agreste was also performed in London, Mexico City, and Buenos Aires. His most recent play, Sueño, is currently playing in São Paulo, Brasil.

Agreste (Drylands) runs from October 26 to November 19, 2023, with performances on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7:30 pm and Sunday at 3 pm and 7 pm. The performance runs for approximately 75 minutes. The venue is currently not wheelchair accessible.

All tickets are General Admission and are $37.50.
Tickets for the opening week are 1) Pay-What-You-Can on Thursday, October 26 at 7:30 pm; and 2) $20 on Friday, October 27 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, October 29 at 3 pm and 7 pm.
Other discounts: Student Admission is $20 with a valid Student ID to be shown at will call. Senior Citizens, 65 years of age and over, will receive $5 OFF General Admission Prices. Purchase at https://www.spookyaction.org/tickets.html

Spooky Action Theater
is an award-winning small professional theater located near DC’s DuPont, U Street Corridor, and Logan Circle neighborhoods. Founded in 2004, the company takes its name from a quantum mechanics phenomenon, “spooky action at a distance,” in which two particles become entangled such that a change in one is instantly mirrored by a change in the other, no matter the distance between them. Spooky Action produces work that creates this kind of deep connection between actors and audience.  https://www.spookyaction.org/


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