2024 Season

Griswold

A Bridge Street Theatre Production

August 8 - August 18, 2024 Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30, Sunday at 2:00

GRISWOLD (First Full Production)
by Angela J. Davis
August 8 – August 18
, 2024.

Directed by M. Burke Walker
Sets and Lights by John Sowle
Costumes by Michelle Rodgers
Production Stage Manager – Hannarose Manning

With Margo Whitcomb, Leyla Modirzadeh, Andre G. Brown

It’s 1960. America is on the eve of a sexual revolution, and an improbable but unstoppable 60-year-old woman, Estelle Griswold, decides to challenge the late 19th century Connecticut law that criminalized contraception. Angela J. Davis’ timely new play, GRISWOLD, is a moving, humorous, and thrillingly theatrical look at Estelle Griswold’s initially frustrated but ultimately successful legal challenge that did nothing less than change the course of modern American history.

As the Executive Director of Planned Parenthood New Haven, Estelle Griswold had to contend with an antiquated law, an unmovable state legislature, and a board of directors afraid to rock the boat, all while dealing with her husband’s deteriorating health. Her first two legal challenges met with failure.  She got back up every time. The third challenge (following her own arrest!) hangs in the balance as ghosts from the past fight it out over legal principles and popular superstition. The Supreme Court’s decision, establishing a right of privacy in intimate, personal relationships, became foundational in many subsequent decisions, up to and including the decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

Estelle is a self-taught, forward-thinking woman starting a new job at the age of 60. She makes a mean martini and is unafraid of ruffling feathers. Margo Whitcomb plays her with compassion and a wicked sense of irony, while Leyla Modirzadeh and Andre G. Brown take on the 20-plus characters that Estelle contends with (and is inspired by) along the way. These include P. T. Barnum, birth control pioneers Katharine McCormick and Dr. Hilda Standish, Planned Parenthood staffers and Board members, lawyers, judges, protestors, police officers, as well as two contemporaries who together embody the extraordinary reach of Estelle’s legacy. The play personalizes and dissects a debate of great historical (and present-day) consequence with humor and humanity, transforming Estelle’s personal and legal battle into a provocative, highly theatrical, time-traveling saga for three accomplished actors.

GRISWOLD is the winner of the 2022 ‘A is for’ Playwriting Prize (affiliated with Broadway Acts for Women and Broadway Cares), and the Playhouse Creatures 2022 Rodriguez Award. The play has previously received readings at Middlebury Acting Company’s American Dreaming New Works Festival (with Ms. Whitcomb as Estelle Griswold), at NYC’s Cooper Union (co-produced by Playhouse Creatures and A is For with five-time Academy Award nominee Annette Benning as Estelle), and at the Playground Theatre in London (with Emmy Award winner and two-time Tony nominee Martha Plimpton in the title role).

Bios

Margo Whitcomb (Estelle Griswold). This is Margo’s third “rodeo” with Bridge Street having previously directed Hannah Moscovitch’s Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes and East of Berlin (“Outstanding Production,” Berkshire Theatre Critics Association).  Since then, she has directed the critic’s pick Hundred Days by The Bengsons and Sarah Gaucher (MACO) and Imogen Says Nothing at the University of Vermont where she also teaches acting. A more frequent director and educator these days, acting returns Margo to her roots where her love of theatre (and training) first bloomed. She was last on stage in the premiere staged reading of Griswold for the Middlebury Company Playwright’s Festival, as Anne Hathaway in the one woman show Shakespeare’s Will (Lost Nation Theater) and as Mariah in Twelfth Night (Wyoming Shakespeare Festival). Next up, she plays Charlotta in The Cherry Orchard at Middlebury Acting Company. Margo is thrilled to excavate this fascinating and pioneering woman’s story – which, like too many others – has remained silent and invisible. We are ALL Estelle’s descendants, offspring of the victories made and rights won by Estelle and countless others. There has never been a more important moment to acknowledge such histories – ACT and VOTE! Thanks to Angela, Steve, John, and Burke for premiering Griswold.

Leyla Modirzadeh* (Actor 1) was most recently seen as Roya in the second iteration of the 2023 Pulitzer Prize winning play English at Speakeasy Stage in Boston.  Leyla has collaborated with Obie Award winning theatre artist Ping Chong for over 25 years on projects as performer, co-writer, and director. Her one person shows, Lubbock or Leave It! and Together Tea, have also had successful national tours. Professional acting credits include shows at Lincoln Center, A Contemporary Theatre, The Group Theatre, The Kennedy Center, Wisdom Bridge Theatre, La Mama ETC and New York Theatre Workshop. She has also enjoyed teaching acting at institutions including at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, SUNY New Paltz, and UC Berkeley.

Andre G. Brown* (Actor 2). Debut: Bridge Street Theatre. Selected credits: King Hedley ll (A Noise Within) Midsummer Nights Dream (Pittsburgh Public), Choir Boy (Dezart Performs), Blues for an Alabama Sky (Playmakers), Afterwords (5th Avenue Theatre), The Mountaintop (AAPAC Albuquerque, Garry Marshall), Wine in the Wilderness (EgoPo), Milk Like Sugar (ArtsWest), And In This Corner Cassius Clay (Seattle Children’s Theatre), Hooded: Or Being Black for Dummies (Theatre Battery), F*cking A (UW), Hoodoo Love (Sound Theatre). Currently Andre is completing a feature length documentary titled A Soul Cleansing (Instagram: @asoulcleansing). Education: M.F.A., University of Washington and M.A. New York University. 

Angela J. Davis (Playwright) is the author of the multi-award winning AGATHE (2024 World Premiere –
London, Playground Theatre), The Spanish Prayer Book (The Road Theatre Company 2019-20 season; L.A. Times Best Bet, “a literate meditation on the boundaries of art and social responsibility”), Clara and Serra and the Talking Bear (commissioned and produced in audio format by Antaeus Theatre Company), among other plays. Recent work presented/forthcoming at The Playground Theatre (London), Orlando Shakespeare Festival, Playhouse Creatures (NYC), Playhouse on the Square, The Landing Theatre, Antaeus Theatre Company, Chameleon Theatre Circle, HRC Showcase, The Road Theatre Company, The Blank Theatre, Theatre In the Raw (Vancouver), The Dayton Playhouse and elsewhere. Playwriting honors include: A is For Playwriting Prize, Playhouse Creatures (NYC) Emerging Playwrights Celebration Winner (twice), Marsha A. Croyle Award for Achievement in Playwriting, Henley Rose Playwriting Award, Jane Chambers Award top-four finalist, Eugene O’Neill semi-finalist (four times). Degrees from Stanford and UCLA; member of Dramatists Guild, PEN America, and the Antaeus Theatre Company Playwrights Lab. More at: AngelaJDavis.com

M. Burke Walker (Director) spent most of his professional career in the NW as the founder and artistic director of Seattle’s Empty Space Theater.  He has guest directed widely:  Seattle Rep (Born Yesterday, A Delicate Balance); Act Theatre (Miss Witherspoon, Crimes of the Heart); The Village Theatre (Bus Stop, Noises Off); Berkeley Rep (Hedda Gabler, The Normal Heart); ART/Portland (Take Me Out); Delaware Theatre Co. (Of Mice and Men); Syracuse Stage (Stones in his Pockets, Doubt, The Beauty Queen of Lenane); Merrimack Rep (The Weir); American Stage Festival (Artichoke); and Milwaukee Rep (The Crucible).  Notable Empty Space productions:  Killer Joe; Etta Jenks; The Puppetmaster of Lodz; The Workroom; Mensch Meier; The Rocky Horror Show; K2; Fefu and Her Friends; American Buffalo; A Prayer for my Daughter; and Emily Mann’s Execution of Justice, about the assassination of Harvey Milk.  With Empty Space, he conceived and directed the earliest production of Smokey Joe’s Café. Acting: at West of Lenin (Seattle) he directed himself in Samuel Beckett’s La Derniere Bande (Krapp’s Last Tape). NYC directing credits: Ensemble Studio Theater, American Academy of Dramatic Arts (AADA), and Origin Theater.  He lives in Manhattan with his longtime partner and best friend, Carol Skyrm.

*Members of Actors’ Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United State.