By Brian Robin
Why Voices of America is the Theatrical Event of the Season
An A-list cast. Two acclaimed directors creating chemistry you can’t find anywhere else but on our stage. Two timeless stories of history, family and legacy speaking across the decades about money, power, family, status, race and the role of women in society.
This is why Voices of America, the double-header of Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes and Appropriate by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins is the theatrical event of the season. The two plays alternate performances through Feb. 26 on the Segerstrom Stage.
Here is what awaits you at the theatrical event of the season:
- The Experience: You’re first in line to see something nobody else has seen before on the stage: these two plays exploring similar themes of family, history and legacy, alternating performances on the same stage. One is an 84-year-old American classic, the other an award-winning modern work.
- Lillian Hellman: Never mind “Succession,” “Empire,” “Dallas” or “Dynasty.” Hellman wrote The Little Foxes 40 years before American TV figured out that scheming, manipulative, rich families who can never have enough are ratings gold. Regina Giddens is the ancestral matron to everyone from J.R Ewing of “Dallas” to Logan Roy of “Succession.” Smart, funny, owner of a wit that took no prisoners, and possessing an unceasing eye for injustice, Hellman was a woman far ahead of her time in numerous ways. Even though it was written in 1939, The Little Foxes is a play every family with a troublesome member or three can instantly relate to—for better and worse.
- Branden Jacobs-Jenkins: Among his many awards is a MacArthur “Genius” Grant, which is "appropriate," given his world-class talent as a wordsmith and storyteller. You wouldn’t invite the Lafayette family to your Thanksgiving dinner, because they’re unpleasant, but they’re also gripping, engaging and utterly fascinating. Watching them duel, bicker and trip over themselves trying to outmaneuver each other is akin to watching a car crash—you simply can’t look away. And you don’t know what will happen next. This is Exhibit A why Jacobs-Jenkins is a storytelling genius.
- The Cast: Who you’re seeing in both plays is a All-Star team of talented veterans and newcomers to the Segerstrom Stage. And six of the 12: Jess Andrews, Tessa Auberjonois, Shannon Cochran, Lea Coco, Jamison Jones and Hunter Spangler are in both plays. Now, add talented SCR returners like Bill Geisslinger and Marco Barricelli, mix in two creative SCR newcomers like Safiya Fredericks—and two prodigies from the SCR Conservatory in Natalie Bright and Isaac Person, and you have dynamism, electricity and talent.
- Lisa Peterson: Later this spring, the accomplished director of The Little Foxes will make her Broadway directing debut with Good Night, Oscar, starring Sean Hayes. A two-time Obie Award winning director, Peterson has helmed plays on most of America’s most prominent stages, off-Broadway and around the country, including four productions at SCR. Her knowledge of Hellman’s work and her skill bringing it to life make this a must-see production for fans of American classics.
- Delicia Turner Sonnenberg: The award-winning director of Appropriate makes her SCR debut after establishing herself as one of the most dynamic directors in the country. Turner Sonnenberg’s skill and chemistry working with her cast, creative team and fellow director Lisa Peterson is real and tangible to audiences. It’s rare you see two A-list directors collaborating. Her grasp of Jacobs-Jenkins’ multi-layered work and ability to unwrap those layers to audiences is a gift.