In this raucously funny and deeply spiritual play, a group of childhood friends reunite in Harlem for the wake of their beloved, yet feared teacher, Sister Rose. Gathered together for the first time in years, passions are ignited, tensions are heightened and old wounds are opened. Playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis brings his trademark intensity and a unique, urban style to this moving, hilarious story.
Terry Kinney and Philip Seymour Hoffman were on different coasts, on their respective cell phones, in the middle of their busy days. The street noise on Terry's end in New York was intense, sirens, car horns. In his Los Angeles hotel room, Phil wasn't feeling well, talking quietly and intensely. Yet these two artists, both acclaimed director/actors, both leading members of their ensemble companies got together at Backstage's request, to talk about playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis, working within an ensemble, and the principles of great acting.
Stephen Adly Guirgis's plays have been called raw, streetwise, and intense. Our Lady of 121st Street is no exception. It is the story of a group of acquaintances who are reunited by the death of their old teacher, a nun by the name of Sister Rose. It has all of the edginess of Guirgis's earlier works, yet it is also surprisingly funny, spiritual, and touching.Backstage wanted to know more about this rising star in American playwrighting, so we sent Artistic Assistant Kerri White out on Guirgis's trail to find out more about him.
Our Lady of 121st Street is a beautifully deceptive play. It seems like a slice–of–life play: a series of encounters by people gathered for an event, randomly organized, without an obvious narrative trajectory. It is, in fact, a carefully orchestrated series of scenes, timed to the rhythm of redemption.
In Our Lady of 121st Street, the funeral of the much–beloved and much–feared Sister Rose is the initiating event for the reunion that occurs in the play. This got us thinking about our favorite teachers, and not so favorite ones, and we asked Steppenwolf ensemble members to talk about some of the most influential teachers in their early school careers.