Azuka Theatre opens its season with the World Premiere of Pookie Goes Grenading. The show will be performed at Azuka's new home at the Off-Broad Street Theater at First Baptist Church, 1636 Sansom Street. The show starts previews on Halloween, tonight, October 31, at 8 p.m. It opens Saturday, November 3 at 7 p.m., and closes Sunday November 18. Tickets cost $18-$27. Discounts are available for students with a valid I.D. Tickets are available online at www.azukatheatre.org or by phone at (215) 563-1100.
Lee originally wrote the opening sequence of Pookie Goes Grenading as an audition piece for a friend. The piece went over very well for the actress and people started asking if they could read the rest of the play (which didn't exist). Lee went to work creating his full story. "I had been seeing LOTS of terrible theatre at the time; some really self-indulgent, confusing and abstracted stuff that people kept calling "art" so other people couldn't say it was bad. I just thought this 14 year-old girl was the perfect prism through which to parody all that was wrong in the theatre. Hence Pookie was born," recapped Lee.
Pookie Goes Grenading centers around Pookie: an uber-motivated smart 14 year old girl with dreams bigger than most girls her own age. From the other side of the Delaware River, in Camden, she sets out with her friends and an arsenal of weapons grade explosives to make the most epic play in history. Determined to not let her guidance counselor get in the way, Pookie is joined by her best friend Dynamo, Benny the most popular gay kid in school, and Greta the best techie this side of the Schuylkill. Together they set out on a larger than life journey of art, revolution, and the pursuit of more Facebook friends.
"The play was sent to us by JC's agent as almost an afterthought" says Azuka Theatre's Producing Artistic Director Kevin Glaccum. "They said they had just received this play and it sounded like something we would like. Boy were they right! Everyone at Azuka who read the play instantly fell in love with it and the decision was quickly made to put Pookie in our theater."
Lee grew up in New York City, but summered in New Jersey. That experience has shaped the plays he has set in the Garden State. "Growing up in New York City, my mother would send me to Jersey for the summer and call it 'going to the country,' and the insanity of what suburban kids did while their parents were away continues to haunt and traumatize me to this day. I always thought I was pretty bad-ass, but I was an Amish prude compared to these Jersey kids, who'd joyride at 110mph down the highway with pills and booze in one hand and a voodoo doll in the other. I think writing plays set in New Jersey has helped me work through those experiences and saved me money on therapy."
Lee is an NNPN Playwright in Residence at the Marin Theatre Company and a recent writing fellow at The Playwrights Realm. For several years he was the Founding Artistic Director of the Omicron Theatre Project and a member of the Theatre Faculty at the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Performing Arts (Bethlehem). His plays have been seen/staged/developed throughout the United States including South Coast Repertory, The Magic Theatre, The Williamstown Theatre Festival, the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, and many others. He's a recent graduate of the Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program at The Juilliard School and a current member of the Just Theatre Lab.
Mary Tuomanen is cast in her first Azuka Theatre show as Pookie. She recently played Clara in New Jerusalem at Lantern Theatre Company. Eric Scotolati also makes his Azuka debut as Dynamo. He has worked with Curio, Commonwealth Classic, and A Play, A Pie And A Pint, with Inis Nua Theatre Company. Jamison Foreman is playing Benny. Foreman appeared in a dress last season as one of the actors in Act A Lady with Azuka. Brandi Burgess, who made her professional debut at Azuka in Hazard County, returns as Greta. Brian McCann, who is in Inis Nua's season opener, will appear as the guidance counselor, Larry.