Powerful and Surprisingly Funny: Lettie by Boo Killebrew Comes to Malvern’s People’s Light Theatre

lettieImage via People's Light

MALVERN, PA — Beginning June 17, Malvern-based theatre People’s Light (39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, PA) presents the regional premiere of Lettie by award-winning playwright and TV writer Boo Killebrew. In the family drama, Lettie is a recovering addict who was recently released from prison and is desperate to regain custody of her teenage children. Training to be an iron welder, she stops at nothing to reclaim her family and start her life anew. The play is directed by Abigail Adams and features a cast of local and regional theater actors Kevin Bergen, Melanye Finister, Teri Lamm, Bryanna Martinez-Jimenez, Jacob Orr, and Danielle Skraastad. Lettie runs from June 17 to July 13, with 27 performances presented on the Steinbright Stage, an intimate, flexible 140-seat theatre.

Boo Killebrew is a notable playwright, actress, and TV writer for the hit Emmy Award-nominated Netflix series Longmire. As a playwright, her work has been presented at theatres around the United States, including The Roundabout Theatre in New York City, Boston Playwright’s Theatre, and Portland Center Stage. Her play Lettie received its world premiere at Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theater in 2018 and was instantly met with glowing reviews. Variety praised the production as “over-the-top superb,” while Chicago Sun-Time hailed Killebrew for writing dialogue that “pops and crackles like a downed livewire.”

In this “airtight masterpiece,” (Chicago Reader) Lettie (Skraastad) is released from prison after seven years and struggles to make a fresh start. She is desperate to regain custody of her teenage children, Layla (Martinez-Jimenez) and River (Orr), but they want nothing to do with her. During their mother’s incarceration, they have been cared for by Lettie’s half-sister Carla (Lamm) and her husband Frank (Bergen). As Lettie navigates familial turmoil, she takes a re-entry job in the dark, harsh world of iron welding with Minny (Finister), a new friend who is also on parole. Trying again and again to create a non-criminal life, Lettie is confronted by her past and must make impossible choices to protect her future.

Inspired by real stories of re-entry from Killebrew’s research in Chicago, Lettie is a powerful, moving, and surprisingly funny play about a woman who’s come out the other side of prison and addiction. Killebrew’s masterful story depicts a genuine-yet-problematic protagonist struggling to change as she wrestles with society’s expectations, her troubled family dynamic, and her own uncompromising attitude.

This presentation of Lettie features several People’s Light Company Members, including Kevin Bergen (King Lear, Man from Nebraska), Barrymore Award-winner Melanye Finister (Skeleton Crew, Fences), and Teri Lamm (The Vinegar Tree, Sweat). Danielle Skraastad (Project Dawn) returns to People’s Light as the titular character in Lettie. The ensemble also features People’s Light Graham Smith Fellow Bryanna Martinez-Jimenez (Alice in Wonderland: A Musical Panto), with Jacob Orr rounding out the cast in his People’s Light debut.

“People’s Light is thrilled to introduce Boo Killebrew to Philadelphia audiences with the regional premiere of Lettie,” said Zak Berkman, Producing Artistic Director at People’s Light. “We love to reunite veteran People’s Light collaborators, on stage and off. Melanye Finister, Danielle Skraastad, Teri Lamm, and Kevin Bergen have all worked together in various constellations, often with Abigail Adams at the helm. For a play focused on the intricacies of family, it’s very fitting to have this family of artists come together to tell this story.”

Abigail Adams, Senior Director of Special Projects and Executive Artistic Director Emerita at People’s Light, helms Lettie’s regional premiere presentation at People’s Light. The two-time Barrymore Award-winning director shared that she found Killebrew’s play “remarkable in its specificity and scope.”

Lettie asks big questions that we all ask at some time or another, none more important than how do you recover lost time – especially with children,” said Adams. “The answer is you don’t, so what do you do then? With fierce clarity, sly wit, and huge compassion, Boo Killebrew invites us to walk in the shoes of Lettie and her family as they struggle to reconnect. The play is sometimes funny, often a painful journey that provides no answers but offers tremendous heart.”

Adams has been associated with People’s Light for over 40 years, serving as artistic leader for over two decades and chief executive for the past 10 years. She also established the New Voices Ensemble at People’s Light in 1990, which received the White House Coming Up Taller Award in 2000.

Adams will lead the production’s creative team, which features Company Members Costume Designer Marla J. Jurglanis, Lighting Designer Dennis Parichy, and Stage Manager Audrey M. Brown. Joining them are fellow crew members Scenic Designer Daniel Zimmerman, Sound Designer Carsen Joenk, Composer Lee Kinney, Dramaturg Geoff Proehl, Fight Director Erik Raymond Johnson, and Dialect Coach Melanie Julian.

Before the show, attendees can also enjoy scratch cooking and theatrical sensibilities in the laid-back atmosphere of the theatre’s newly renovated on-site restaurant, The Fern & Fable. Located steps away from the Leonard C. Haas Stage, the restaurant occupies three rooms of a 1700s farmhouse, complete with two working fireplaces and plenty of historic quirks. During warmer months, guests dine al fresco among the lush gardens on the People’s Light campus. Reservations can be made through OpenTable here. Learn more by visiting www.thefernandfable.com/reservations.

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