TheatreLAB’s ‘Grand Concourse’ explores sensitive themes around faith
“What are the limits of compassion?” said Chelsea Burke, the director of TheatreLAB’s latest production, Grand Concourse, which explores faith and friendship through witty dialogue set in a Bronx soup kitchen.
As part of the ongoing 2017 Acts of Faith Festival, Heidi Schrek’s tragicomedy will be performed at TheatreLAB’s The Basement from February 3rd to the 18th.
Grand Concourse places the religious aspect of faith a bit more downstage. The play depicts a religiously devoted woman, Shelley, who has grown disheartened and worries her efforts are meaningless. She meets a young and idealistic college dropout-turned-volunteer named Emma, who has a reckless mix of generosity and self-involvement…but there’s a twist.
“Heidi Schreck’s witty, penetrating, and delicate writing explores community, pain, faith, and forgiveness,” said Burke. “I’m thrilled to be exploring these themes with a sensitive, intelligent, and fiercely talented group of actors and designers and I cannot wait to bring the Richmond community into this conversation.”
Burke claimed that she was raised by “ex-Catholic hippies,” so exploring faith in things has been a recurring theme in a lot of her work.
“The impact and return on ‘doing good’ is becoming increasingly complex and more often than not is leaving us wondering ‘why bother?’,” Burke said. “This is a central struggle for Shelley and knowing Dawn Westbrook was slated to play Shelley really sealed the deal for me.”
Dawn Westbrook is starring in the role of Shelley. Westbrook, who is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in American Sign Language, has been professional acting and directing across the country for years. Burke and Westbrook first met while Westbrook was directing a play at Richmond Triangle Players where Burke was the stage manager. Now, working as an actor under Burke’s direction, Westbrook called Burke “the real deal.”
“She is an actor’s director,” Westbrook said. “She gets to the gut of the piece. She lets actors find things intrinsically, and yet you know she’s shaping it the way it needs to be shaped.”
The Basement, located at 300 East Broad St in Richmond’s Arts District. offers a cozy venue with an intimate experience for cast, crew, and audience.
“I almost feel like I’m on the set of a TV show and it feels like we’re doing a live recording,” Westbrook said of performing in the space. “You can do things in this space that you can’t do if you’re on a huge stage. The set is very wonderful.”
Seating is limited and ticket prices range from $10-30. Tickets are on sale now at TheatreLABrva.org.
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“While the politics of the conflict are very much a center of the piece, the real message is a story of conflict with a message of peace and I hope that’s what people walk away with.”March 6, 2017
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