Two Diverse Worlds Explored as The Shaw Previews Maria Severa and Topdog/Underdog

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The Shaw Festival’s 50th season features Topdog/Underdog and Maria Severa at the Niagara-on-the-Lake’s theatre

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Set in a seedy urban studio apartment in the 1980’s, Topdog/Underdog explores the volatile relationship between two brothers, Lincoln (Nigel Shawn Williams) and Booth (Kevin Hanchard), so named as a dark joke by their father.

Exploring two very distinct worlds, Maria Severa and Topddog/Underdog begin previews July 19 at the Court House Theatre and Studio Theatre, respectively. The Shaw is theatrically going where it has never gone before showcasing Maria Severa, the new musical from Jay Turvey and Paul Sportelli and Topdog/Underdog by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks.

The stirring tale of legendary Portuguese songstress Severa comes to life in the world premiere of the musical Maria Severa. Using the dark heart of fado as their inspiration, co-creators Jay Turvey and Paul Sportelli have woven a highly-charged, romantic story where the world of a young prostitute is spun on its axis by a passionate affair with an aristocratic bullfighter. Fate, the ruling hand of fado, starts to wield its inexorable power, however, and the affair, and those close to it, become endangered and finally changed forever. The Shaw Festival presentation is an almost operatic tale in the heat of a sun-suffused 19th century Lisbon.

Maria Severa features Julie Martell as Maria Severa, and Mark Uhre as Armando de Vimioso, with Neil Barclay, Saccha Dennis, Sharry Flett, Jonathan Gould, Jeff Irving, Jacqueline Thair and Jenny L. Wright. Directed by Jackie Maxwell, Maria Severa has music direction by Paul Sportelli, choreography by Eda Holmes, set design by Judith Bowden, costumes by Sue LePage and lighting design by Kevin Lamotte. The stage management team includes Stage Manager Diane Konkin and Assistant Stage Manager Annie McWhinnie.

Set in a seedy urban studio apartment in the 1980’s, Topdog/Underdog explores the volatile relationship between two brothers, Lincoln (Nigel Shawn Williams) and Booth (Kevin Hanchard), so named as a dark joke by their father. A Cain and Abel story that author Suzan-Lori Parks has given her own unique spin, the play combines aggression and despair with poetry, theatrically creating an unforgettably powerful evening of theatre. First produced at the Public Theater and on Broadway in 2001 and winner of the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for drama, the first awarded to an African-American woman.

Directed by Philip Akin, Topdog/Underdog is designed by Camellia Koo, with lighting design by Kevin Lamotte and stage managed by Meredith Macdonald.

Maria Severa and Topdog/Underdog both begin preview performances Tuesday, July 19. Maria Severa opens Friday, August 5 and plays in repertory until Friday, September 29. Topdog/Underdog opens Saturday, August 6 and plays in repertory until Saturday, August 27. Topdog/Underdog is sponsored by Paradigm Capital Inc.

The Shaw Festival’s milestone season began April 7, 2011, runs until October 30, 2011 and also features productions of My Fair Lady, Candida, On the Rocks, The Admirable Crichton, Drama at Inish – A Comedy, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The President, Heartbreak House and When the Rain Stops Falling on the Festival’s four Niagara-on-the-Lake stages. The 2011 season also includes a special 50th season two-day event, The Speed of Ideas, a theatrical forum featuring award-winning playwrights Tony Kushner and Suzan-Lori Parks and author and renowned theatre critic Michael Billington on July 23 and 24. For more information on our 50th season celebrations, please visit http://www.shawfest.com/Home/Our-50th-Season. For tickets and information on theatre packages, visit http://www.shawfest.com or call 1-800-511-7429 or 905-468-2172 (local).

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About The Shaw Festival
In the spirit of Bernard Shaw, the Shaw Festival provokes the mind and stirs the soul through a theatre experience so compelling that, year after year, ever-broadening groups of artists, audiences and supporters are drawn to our work in Niagara-on-the-Lake and beyond.

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