Note: The following remarks by DEATH OF A DRIVER Playwright Will Snider originally appeared in the production's playbill under the title "In the Room with Will Snider"

 

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Salt Lake Acting Company and DEATH OF A DRIVER

By 2017, DEATH OF A DRIVER was dead. I wrote the first draft three years earlier and sent it to theaters hoping it would get a production. It didn’t. So I moved on. I wrote other things and filed this one away. Every six months I would reread the script and find myself missing the story of Kennedy and Sarah, wanting to see it on stage, but I didn’t think it would happen.

Then, just before Christmas 2017, I got an email from [former Associate Artistic Director] Shannon Musgrave inviting me to Utah. SLAC was hosting writers to work on plays without the pressure of a final presentation. They called it the Playwrights’ Lab. We were given a week in a room with a team of collaborators to do whatever we thought the play needed. I was lucky to have Patrick and Cassie, the two actors you will see tonight, and Andra, their director. We worked through the script scene-by-scene and staged it in several configurations. All the while I got feedback from Cynthia Fleming, David Kranes, and other Lab artists and made adjustments to the final scenes. By the end of the week, the play was back to life - it went on to have a world premiere starring Patrick in New York earlier this year. And now it’s come home to Utah, to the place responsible for its rebirth. Thank you to Cynthia and everyone else at SLAC for all you do for writers like me. Without the Lab, this play would never have been produced.

The Origins of the Play

“No one has a right to work in a place where their family doesn’t deal directly with the consequences of the work they do.”

I paraphrase words delivered by one of my college professors, Mahmood Mamdani, an anthropologist critical of foreign aid in his home country of Uganda. I listened to him, loved his writing and lectures, and immediately upon graduation violated his dictum. For three years I worked for an agricultural nonprofit in Kenya and Ethiopia that offered microloans of seed and fertilizer to small-scale farmers. We conducted rigorous harvest measurements to determine impact. We ran longitudinal household surveys to determine our effect on health and education.I believed then, and still do, that a good deal of development work is flawed and ineffective, but I felt our methods were different, we were different, I was different. Was I?

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Alexandra Harbold, Kareem Fahmy, and Will Snider at the 2018 Playwrights' Lab

My language back then was the language of management consultants, of tech entrepreneurs, of MBA programs, and the use of this language resulted from, and reinforced, a reflexive anti-government stance, a feeling that solutions to socioeconomic problems were found far from polling stations, often in places that looked more like boardrooms. To me, electoral politics was a sideshow, a competition between elites, the result of which mattered little to the subsistence farmers I hoped to help. Anthropologist James Ferguson takes exception this. In his book The Anti-Politics Machine he criticizes development work for serving state needs above local needs, for being anti-political in the ways it ignores, and therefore supports, the political establishment. The more materially transformational foreign-led work is, the more it “helps,” the more it sustains the political status quo, which, in many places with significant foreign aid, is often ineffective if not outright oppressive. A bad government takes credit for good work.

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Patrick J. Ssenjovu and Cassandra Stokes-Wiley rehearse during the 2018 Playwrights' Lab

But another part of me finds this argument too easy, a case for inertia, for ignoring pressing problems because they should be solved by local politics and therefore not solving them. Bad governments also have the ability to co-opt this anti-development discourse to defend their own legitimacy. And there is no way to close borders completely – the asymmetric exchange of resources, ideas, languages, and people cannot simply end, even if some wish it could. And so how do we go about transnational work ethically? Is there a way? DEATH OF A DRIVER is much more than the dramatization of my own cognitive dissonance around my early professional life, but I name it as one of the animating anxieties in the writing. It’s one way to watch the play – there are many others. This is the story of two people, of what we like to call the “personal,” and the way that this “personal” is transformed and constrained by national, cultural, economic, and gender difference. And I hope it’s not boring.

Thanks for coming.

Published in Blog & News
Wednesday, 21 August 2019 15:53

Death of a Driver

by Will Snider

September 11 - October 20, 2019

Published in 2019-2020 Season

As we prepare to launch our historic 49th season, we're excited to unveil the artwork for the year's line-up of Utah premieres. With the exception of PETE THE CAT, which was designed by the book's creator James Dean, all artwork was designed by Salt Lake City-based branding agency Third Sun.

Orders for season tickets are currently being accepted. For more information, visit our season subscription page or call our Audience Services team at 801.363.7522. Single tickets (with the exception of SATURDAY'S VOYEUR 2020) will be available August 26th. SATURDAY'S VOYEUR 2020 tickets will be made available September 16th, 2019.

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DEATH OF A DRIVER

By Will Snider | Directed by Alexandra Harbold

September 11-October 20, 2019

When Sarah, an American engineer, moves to Kenya to build a road that will shape the country’s future, her charismatic African driver, Kennedy, becomes her first employee and trusted friend. But when a dispute over a local election lands him in jail, she questions the integrity of their alliance. DEATH OF A DRIVER is a sharp political drama about the complexities of “doing good” abroad.

 

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FORM OF A GIRL UNKNOWN

By Charly Evon Simpson | Directed by Melissa Crespo

October 16-November 17, 2019

Navigating adolescence is not for the faint of heart, but Amali’s got this. She is twelve years old, she is wise, and she is fascinated – by A Midsummer Night’s Dream; by her changing body; by the story of the children killed in the woods. With humor, magic, blood, and fire, FORM OF A GIRL UNKNOWN is not your typical coming-of-age story.

 

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PETE THE CAT*

By Sarah Hammond and Will Aronson | Directed by Penelope Caywood

December 6-30, 2019

A Utah premiere based on the popular children’s book and Amazon Prime series! When Pete the Cat gets caught jamming after bedtime, the cat-catcher sends him to live with the Biddle family to learn his manners. But for Pete, life is an adventure no matter where you wind up, and the minute he walks in the door, he gets the whole family rocking. The whole family that is, except for young Jimmy Biddle, the most organized second grader on planet Earth. But when Jimmy draws a blank in art class during the last week of school, it turns out Pete is the perfect pal to help him out. Together, they set out on a mission to help Jimmy conquer second grade art, and along the way, they both learn a little something new about inspiration.

*Season subscription add-on

 

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A DOLL’S HOUSE, PART 2

By Lucas Hnath | Directed by Nancy Borgenicht

February 5-March 8, 2020

Nora Helmer leaving her husband and children at the end of Ibsen’s 1879 masterpiece was the “door slam heard ‘round the world.” Fifteen years later, there’s a knock at that same door. Nora’s back. But why? And where has she been? Lucas Hnath’s brilliantly funny sequel to Ibsen’s classic was nominated for 8 Tony Awards and now makes its Utah premiere at SLAC.

 

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HOW TO TRANSCEND A HAPPY MARRIAGE

By Sarah Ruhl | Directed by Adrianne Moore

April 8-May 10, 2020

A dinner party gone wild. Two married couples invite a mysterious woman (who hunts her own meat) along with her two lovers to a New Year’s Eve party. From the adventurous and provocative Sarah Ruhl comes a comedy that pushes the boundaries of marriage and the limits of friendship.

 

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SATURDAY’S VOYEUR 2020

By Allen Nevins & Nancy Borgenicht | Directed by Cynthia Fleming

June 17-August 23, 2020

SLAC’s ever-original musical satire and Utah’s biggest summer party. Not to mention, one of the longest-running shows of its kind in the nation. Now in its 42nd year of raucous, tongue-in-cheek fun.

 

 

 

Published in Blog & News

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Following on the heels of an incredibly beloved season, which included audience favorites A FUNNY THING…, THE WOLVES, PINKALICIOUS THE MUSICAL, and THE CAKE—SLAC’s 49th season offering is comprised of six works never before produced in Utah. Two of the productions are receiving world premieres.

The season opens with Will Snider’s African-set drama DEATH OF A DRIVER, which was workshopped through SLAC’s Playwrights’ Lab last year. Snider’s Utah premiere will be followed by the world premiere of FORM OF A GIRL UNKNOWN by Charly Evon Simpson. FORM OF A GIRL UNKNOWN has the distinction of being awarded a David Ross Fetzer Foundation Emerging Artists grant, which allowed for the play to receive a weeklong workshop at SLAC in 2018.

We'll kick off our second decade of providing unparalleled professional children’s theatre to Salt Lake audiences with the Utah premiere of PETE THE CAT, a new musical adaptation of the popular book series by James Dean and Kimberly Dean. It has been adapted for the stage by Sarah Hammond and Will Aronson.

2020 will see the Utah premiere of the Tony Award-winning A DOLL’S HOUSE, PART 2 by Lucas Hnath, followed by Sarah Ruhl’s HOW TO TRANSCEND A HAPPY MARRIAGE. The season will conclude with the 42nd iteration of Utah’s longest-running theatre tradition, SATURDAY’S VOYEUR, by Allen Nevins and Nancy Borgenicht.

“When looking to further SLAC’s dedication to showcasing exciting new works for Utah audiences, we knew we must continue to be thoughtful about the current political and social climates,” said Executive Artistic Director Cynthia Fleming. “My team and I sought stories that would continue to captivate, touch the heart, illuminate, and ultimately inspire our very discerning audiences. We’re confident that these six new plays accomplish that goal and then some.”

Additionally, for the first time in the theatre’s 49-year history, the lineup of directors will be entirely female. Returning to SLAC are Alexandra Harbold (THE WOLVES, CLIMBING WITH TIGERS); Penelope Caywood (PINKALICIOUS THE MUSICAL, HOW I BECAME A PIRATE); Adrianne Moore (CIRCLE MIRROR TRANSFORMATION, 4000 MILES); SLAC Executive Artistic Director Cynthia Fleming (SATURDAY’S VOYEUR); and Nancy Borgenicht (ANGELS IN AMERICA, SATURDAY’S VOYEUR). Making her SLAC debut will be Ars Nova and Atlantic Theatre Company alum Melissa Crespo.

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Pictured clockwise from top left: Alexandra Harbold, Melissa Crespo, Penelope Caywood, Cynthia Fleming, Adrianne Moore, and Nancy Borgenicht

In regard to SLAC’s first-ever lineup of all-female directors, Fleming stated, “This season, we examined each of our productions and sought the best storytellers to bring each to its fullest life. It just so happens that these productions will be best-served by these fierce females at the helm.”

Orders for season tickets are currently being accepted. For more information, visit our season subscription page or call our Audience Services team at 801.363.7522. 

 

 

More on our 49th season lineup

 

DEATH OF A DRIVER

By Will Snider | Directed by Alexandra Harbold

September 11-October 20, 2019

When Sarah, an American engineer, moves to Kenya to build a road that will shape the country’s future, her charismatic African driver, Kennedy, becomes her first employee and trusted friend. But when a dispute over a local election lands him in jail, she questions the integrity of their alliance. DEATH OF A DRIVER is a sharp political drama about the complexities of “doing good” abroad.

 

FORM OF A GIRL UNKNOWN

By Charly Evon Simpson | Directed by Melissa Crespo

October 16-November 17, 2019

Navigating adolescence is not for the faint of heart, but Amali’s got this. She is twelve years old, she is wise, and she is fascinated – by A Midsummer Night’s Dream; by her changing body; by the story of the children killed in the woods. With humor, magic, blood, and fire, FORM OF A GIRL UNKNOWN is not your typical coming-of-age story.

 

PETE THE CAT*

By Sarah Hammond and Will Aronson | Directed by Penelope Caywood

December 6-30, 2019

A Utah premiere based on the popular children’s book and Amazon Prime series! When Pete the Cat gets caught jamming after bedtime, the cat-catcher sends him to live with the Biddle family to learn his manners. But for Pete, life is an adventure no matter where you wind up, and the minute he walks in the door, he gets the whole family rocking. The whole family that is, except for young Jimmy Biddle, the most organized second grader on planet Earth. But when Jimmy draws a blank in art class during the last week of school, it turns out Pete is the perfect pal to help him out. Together, they set out on a mission to help Jimmy conquer second grade art, and along the way, they both learn a little something new about inspiration.

*Season subscription add-on

 

A DOLL’S HOUSE, PART 2

By Lucas Hnath | Directed by Nancy Borgenicht

February 5-March 8, 2020

Nora Helmer leaving her husband and children at the end of Ibsen’s 1879 masterpiece was the “door slam heard ‘round the world.” Fifteen years later, there’s a knock at that same door. Nora’s back. But why? And where has she been? Lucas Hnath’s brilliantly funny sequel to Ibsen’s classic was nominated for 8 Tony Awards and now makes its Utah premiere at SLAC.

 

HOW TO TRANSCEND A HAPPY MARRIAGE

By Sarah Ruhl | Directed by Adrianne Moore

April 8-May 10, 2020

A dinner party gone wild. Two married couples invite a mysterious woman (who hunts her own meat) along with her two lovers to a New Year’s Eve party. From the adventurous and provocative Sarah Ruhl comes a comedy that pushes the boundaries of marriage and the limits of friendship.

 

SATURDAY’S VOYEUR 2020

By Allen Nevins & Nancy Borgenicht | Directed by Cynthia Fleming

June 17-August 23, 2020

SLAC’s ever-original musical satire and Utah’s biggest summer party. Not to mention, one of the longest-running shows of its kind in the nation. Now in its 42nd year of raucous, tongue-in-cheek fun.

 

NOTE: Due to an unforeseen scheduling conflict with our previously announced line-up, HOW TO TRANSCEND A HAPPY MARRIAGE will now be directed by Adrianne Moore.

 

Published in Blog & News