By Caryl Churchill
Directed by Gavin Hawk
Jul. 14 – Aug. 6, 2017
Preview Performances: Jul. 12 – 13 | Tickets: $14
Shimberg Playhouse, Straz Center for the Performing Arts
Theatre Tampa Bay Award
2003 Production Awards
Caryl Churchill’s farcical, gender-bending, timey-wimey Cloud Nine is a hilarious comedy that will leave you with loads to think about. Churchill likes to mix things up get rid of any preconceived notions about gender, sexuality, romance, or “lifestyle!” Cloud Nine mocks colonial and sexual repressions in a farce that employs racial and gender cross-casting to make its points.
Think of it as what Monty Python might have come up with to present at a LGBT+ Pride festival back in the 1970s. Caryl Churchill sets in motion characters whose sexual identities and alliances shift constantly. She asks audiences to accept that most of the characters make an impossible leap in time, from colonial Africa in the Victorian age to contemporary Britain. She then asks audiences to ignore the fact that certain men are played by women, certain women are played by men, children can be played by adults and that even black can be white.
Caryl Churchill has become well known for her unique use of dramatic structure, often overshadowing the context of her works. She is a playwright of ideas with her primary concern being the individual’s struggle to emerge from the ensnarements of culture, class, economic systems and the imperatives of the past. Not surprisingly for a contemporary female writer, she primarily employs female characters to deal with such themes. In Cloud Nine, a parallel is suggested between Western colonial oppression and Western sexual oppression. This oppression is seen first in the family structure, then in the power of the past to influence the present.
No one in Cloud Nine can successfully escape from the ghosts of established practices and traditions. Act I presents an English family living in 1879 Victorian colonial Africa. Clive, the father, is not only father to his children, but to the natives as well. To underscore this male-influenced world, Churchill uses a male actor to portray Clive’s wife Betty, since the women aspire to be like the men. Reinforcing this theme, she uses a white actor to play the part of the Joshua, their black servant who does not identify with his own people. Victoria, Clive’s daughter, is represented by a doll in the first act. Clive’s less-than-manly son, Edward, is played by a woman. Despite the race and gender of the performers, the characters become whatever the white father wishes them to be.
In Act II the colonial family has returned to England without their father and all the actors in the show switch characters. The now grown-up children and their newly-liberated matriarch seek to realize their separate identities, but freedom to be complete individuals still eludes them.
Churchill, who was once described by the Minneapolis Star and Tribune as “England’s foremost female playwright,” has always taken a playful attitude toward the conventions of both theater and society. As Frank Rich observed in The New York Times, “Churchill sees the theater as an open frontier where lives can be burst apart and explored, rather than a cage that flattens out experience and diminishes it.”
This show contains adult language, situations and subject matter and is intended for mature audiences. It’s dirty!
Shortly after being offered residency at the Straz Center, Jobsite produced a relatively low-budget, low-profile version of Caryl Churchill’s wildly entertaining little play ion June 2003. They would have no idea that it would go on to pack the house night after night while going on to win three Best of the Bay Awards and be named a top 10 production of the year by both The Tampa Tribune and Creative Loafing. By some folks’ estimation the show was a defining moment, cementing that the company had finally arrived and proved their worth to the region.
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When we began talk of Jobsite in the fall of 1998, we were greatly inspired by artist-centered organizations like Steppenwolf Theatre Company and Berliner Ensemble.
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Cast & Crew
- Gavin Hawk – Director
- Matthew Ray – Stage Manager
- Tatiana Baccari – Edward/Betty
- Giles Davies – Clive/Cathy/Soldier
- Amy Gray – Maud/Victoria
- David Jenkins – Betty/Edward
- Spencer Meyers – Joshua/Gerry
- Katrina Stevenson – Ellen/Mrs. Saunders/Lin
- Hugh Timoney – Harry Bagley/Martin
- Jo Averill-Snell – Lighting Designer
- Jerid Fox – Scenic and Properties Designer
- Isabella Mencia – Assistant Stage Manager
- Katrina Stevenson – Costume Designer
- Jessica Uphold – Assistant Stage Manager
2003 Cast & Crew
- Ami Sallee – Director
- John Hagner – Stage Manager
- Summer Bohnenkamp – Ellen/Betty
- Jason Evans – Harry/Martin
- David M. Jenkins – Clive/Cathy
- Michael C. McGreevy – Joshua/Edward
- Shawn Paonessa – Betty/Gerry
- Brandy Pedersen – Edward/Victoria
- Katrina Stevenson – Maud/Lin
- Dickie Corley – Set Designer
- Brian M. Smallheer – Light Designer
- Kevin Spooner – Composer
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