Immigration, Incarceration, and Social Justice: Hart Island at Village Theatre ends this weekend

Village Theatre will close out the 2019 Season of the Beta Series with Hart Island, an emotional tale of an immigrant woman fighting for her child, and the unexpected compassion of a disillusioned Rikers Island inmate who is the only person who can help her. This hauntingly beautiful new musical observes two people on the fringe of society as they change each other’s lives forever. Written by Danny Haengil Larsen (composer & co-lyricist) and Michelle Elliott (bookwriter & co-lyricist), the show will run at Village Theatre’s First Stage Theatre in Issaquah through June 16, 2019.

Until a New York Times feature in 2016, Hart Island was one of America’s best-kept secrets. The largest potter’s field in the United States, Hart Island is a public burial ground for New York City’s unclaimed – people who experienced homelessness, immigrants, and stillborn babies, with burials performed by the incarcerated men of Rikers Island. In a system trying to literally bury the unwanted away from society, Hart Island is about two outsiders brought together by their shared grief and experience of the island which allows them to affect each other in a positive, redemptive, and healing way.

After receiving Village Theatre’s first Writer’s Residency in 2016, a reading during The 2017 Festival of New Musicals, and a two-week workshop in New York City through the At The Table program, the Beta Series production will allow the show to continue its developmental process by providing the writers with actors, basic sets and costumes, and an audience of smart and savvy theatre-goers. After each performance, attendees are invited to ask questions and share their feedback with the writers. As the writers often make continuous changes during the Beta Series process, patrons are encouraged to witness the evolution by seeing the performance multiple times. “This will be the first opportunity for us to see Hart Island up on its feet,” said Larsen and Elliott. “A show can only be developed so far in staged readings. At some point, you have to see how it lives and breathes on stage. We are incredibly excited about this production.”

The cast features an exciting mix of Village Theatre favorites and new performers from around the country. Rodney Hicks and Rocky Vega will play Charles and Marielena respectively, the two figures at the center of this beautiful story. A Broadway regular, Hicks was part of the original casts of Come From Away, RENT, and The Scottsboro Boys, and was last seen on Village Theatre’s Mainstage in the 2012 production of Big River. Vega starred in the Off-Broadway production of Anne of Green Gables in 2017, and more recently in Hair at Geva Theatre Center. The ensemble will include the talents of Antonia Darlene (Show Boat), Alexandria J. Henderson (Gregory Award recipient for Dreamgirls), Rafael Molina (Into the Woods), Jesse Smith (Dreamgirls), Fune Tautala (The Spitfire Grill at Showtunes Theatre Company), and Saxton Jay Walker (Afterwords).

Village Theatre artistic director Jerry Dixon (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) will direct the developmental production. Joining Dixon on the creative team is choreographer Amber Willett, music director Tim Symons (Into the Woods), scenic designer Christopher Mumaw (The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes, Newsies), costume designer Brynne McKeen, lighting designer Amber Lynne Parker, and sound designer Natalie Kinsaul.

Hart Island is onstage at Village Theatre’s First Stage Theatre in Issaquah through June 16, 2019. For tickets, please visit www.VillageTheatre.org or call the Box Office at (425) 392-2202.