By Lynn Nottage
“Call me selfish… but remember, one of us has to be left standing to fight.” Internationales Theater Frankfurt and Shakespeare Frankfurt kicks off its 2022-23 season, “Us and Them”, with Lynn Nottage’s extraordinary Pulitzer Prize-winning play Sweat, about the breakdown in fraternity and the rise in violence and racism that economic hardship brings about.
Nottage conducted extensive interviews with the residents of Reading, Pennsylvania, to create this “tale of friends pitted against each other by big business and the present and poignant decline of the American Dream”.
Cast: Trisha Fiss, Anthony C.J. Hemmersbach, Jim Phetterplace Jr., Isabella Pizarro, Matt Posada, Anna Rogers, Jennifer Trippel, Keith Wilson, Renard Yearby
Premiere September 15th at 8:00 PM
September 16th at 8:00 PM
October 19th and 20th at 8:00 PM
November 3rd and 4th at 8:00 PM
December 15th, 16th, 18th and 19th at 8:00 PM
January 27th and 28th at 8:00 PM
Photography by Stephan Junek
Lynn Nottage is a playwright and a screenwriter. She is the first and remains the only, woman to have won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama twice. On Broadway, Lynn’s plays include MJ the Musical (Tony nomination), Clyde’s (Tony nomination), an opera adaptation of her play Intimate Apparel (commissioned by and performed at the Met/Lincoln Center Theater), and Sweat (Pulitzer Prize; Obie Award). Her other work includes the musical adaptation of Sue Monk Kidd’s novel The Secret Life of Bees at Atlantic Theater Company; Mlima’s Tale at The Public Theater; By The Way, Meet Vera Stark (Drama Desk Nomination) at Second Stage and Signature Theatre Company; Ruined (Pulitzer Prize, Obie Award, Lucille Lortel Award) at Manhattan Theatre Club and the Goodman Theatre; Intimate Apparel (New York Drama Critics’ Circle Awards for Best Play) at Baltimore Center Stage and Roundabout Theatre Company; and Fabulation, or The Re-Education of Undine (Obie Award) at Playwrights Horizons and Signature Theatre Company, as well as Crumbs from the Table of Joy; Las Meninas; Mud, River, Stone; Por’knockers; and POOF! She was a writer and producer on the Netflix series She’s Gotta Have It (directed by Spike Lee) and a consulting producer on the third season of Dickinson (Apple TV+). Her many awards include a MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship, a Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award, a William Inge Theater Festival Distinguished Achievement in the American Theater Award and she was an Honoree at the inaugural Black Women on Broadway Award Ceremony. She is a graduate of Brown University and the Yale School of Drama, and an Associate Professor of Theatre at Columbia University School of the Arts.
Jim Phetterplace Jr. (he/him)
Jim has been performing and directing since the late 1980s. With Shakespeare Frankfurt, in its various guises, he has performed Stephano and Alonso in The Tempest, Orsino in Twelfth Night, Rodorigo in O, Macduff in Macbeth, and multiple Shakespearean roles in Antony and Cleopatra and Travellers, Fools and Thieves. He was in the company’s first film, Spiritus Vitae – The Breath of Life, as Nurse in Romeo and Juliet. In Germany, he has additionally performed for Oper Frankfurt, Frankfurt English Speaking Theatre, including this year’s The Madness of Lady Bright, and for the Interkulturelle Bühne (in German), and directed for FEST, the English Theatre Frankfurt, and the European Central Bank Theatre Ensemble. He has appeared in two German-language short films and one music video. As a playwright, he has adapted three works by Native American poet Beth Brant for the stage, an homage to his Cree Nations mother.
Anthony Charles Jerome Hemmersbach (he/him)
Anthony is of African-American/German descent and discovered his fascination with entertaining early in German elementary school, where he played in the school production of The Brother’s Grimm’s The Golden Goose. Whilst in high school he started to perform in German TV and Movie productions in the Frankfurt area as an extra with occasional speaking roles attached to it. In college he joined The Chaincourt Theatre Company to further develop his interest in becoming an actor playing in The Last of Mrs. Cheney and New Found Land/Dirty Linen. After a short stint with film production company Neopol Film working as a translator for Love Sarah and Eine Handvoll Wasser Anthony began honing his craft as an actor joining the Kellertheater Frankfurt for Liebe & Geld, Von Mäusen und Menschen, Der Seelenbrecher and Ein Yankee bei King Arthur. He followed with the productions Good Morning Boys and Girls and Die Arabische Nacht with theatre group Ankunftshalle T. In-between performing on stage and on film he works as a DJ for private events and weddings and as a model for commercials such as Volkswagen, Hyundai and Melitta. SWEAT is his first play with Shakespeare Frankfurt.
Anna Rogers (she/her)
At a young age, Anna took speech and acting lessons, participated in drama competitions and passed exams of the Poetry Society and LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art). Today she works in Frankfurt as a voice actor, actor, playwright and translator. Her plays have been produced in Europe and the USA, the latest being An English Angst (Kulturhaus, Frankfurt 2022). Over the years, she has performed in London, Frankfurt and other European locations, including Dundalk (Theatre Festival) and Edinburgh (Fringe Festival), and also for the English Theatre Frankfurt as part of their educational program. Her roles with Shakespeare Frankfurt (SF) include Hovstad in Enemy of the People (Ibsen), Ross in Macbeth (Shakespeare), Hecuba in Trojan Women (Euripides), and most recently she was one of the readers for the SF presentation of Reflections, part of the Worldwide Ukrainian Play Readings project, in support of the Theater of Playwrights in Kyiv.
Matt Posada (he/him)
Alongside his training, Matt has gathered sensible stage and screen experience. His credits include ‘Jason’ in Adam Gwon’s Ordinary Days, for Double A Productions, ‘Eric’ in An Inspector Calls for the Frankfurt English Speaking Theatre, as well as ‘Lally’ in Vernon God Little, ‘Creon’ in Antigone and ‘Captain Hook’ in Peter Pan as part of the acting programme at the IAB. Recently, Matt produced his first short film, Sweetness of Vacancy, which is expected to tour film festivals during the 2022/2023 season. His appearance in the Spanish horror feature film, Amigo Invisible, is due to premiere in Spanish cinemas and streaming platforms in October 2022.
Sweat marks Matt’s third appearance with Shakespeare Frankfurt, after Macbeth in 2019 and the company’s first film, Spiritus Vitae: The Breath of Life. He is thrilled to get on stage and share this amazingly written story with the audience alongside this fabulous cast and creative team.
Jennifer Trippel (she/her)
Jennifer grew up in a small village outside of Frankfurt and got into acting at the age of 8. She took classes in Frankfurt, Cologne and Los Angeles and by taking an unconventional route has managed to become a full-time freelancing artist. In the last couple of years, she did mostly theater in and around Frankfurt including productions at Mousonturm, Kellertheater, Kulturhaus Frankfurt, Megalomania Theater and Theater Mollerhaus in Darmstadt. In April of 2022 she moved to Berlin but then she was offered the part of Jessie in SWEAT, so she commuted between Frankfurt and Berlin for this production. SWEAT is her first production with Shakespeare Frankfurt. Apart from her work on stage she is involved in numerous projects in front of and behind the camera.
Renard Yearby (he/him)
Renard Yearby is an award-winning slam poet and spoken word artist. Renard started his acting journey in 2018 and since then has performed in productions ranging from Shakespeare Frankfurt’s production of Othello as the titular character, Amelia Earhart Playhouse’s(AEP) award winning production of Blue Door by Tanya Barfield, Wiesbaden Performing Arts Center production(WPAC) of The Drawer Boy, WPAC’s production of Every Brilliant Thing by Duncan Macmillan and Jonny Donahoe and was last seen in AEP’s production of The Mountaintop as Martin Luther King Jr. Renard is a member of Shakespeare Frankfurt Ensemble, Frankfurt English Speaking Theatre and Wiesbaden English Language Theatre.
Trisha Fiss (she/her)
Jamaican born Trisha Fiss moved to Germany in 2000 to start a family. Her interest in language led her to a profession as a business English trainer, which she pursues enthusiastically in her adopted hometown of Wiesbaden. However, when an opportunity in 2016 arose for Trisha to play in the staged reading adaptation of John Patrick Shanley’s 2005 Pulitzer prize winning play Doubt, she made the decision to follow her passion in the arts.
Since then, Trisha has been involved in other Spring Reading projects with the Theatre Language Studio (TLS) Frankfurt, including The Clean House by Sarah Ruhl in 2017, as well as the 2011 Pulitzer prize winning play, Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris in 2018. Steadily active on stage in Wiesbaden, Trisha has had the privilege of working with the Hessisches Staatstheater in the opera Anna Nicole by Mark-Anthony Turnage in 2020 and the German performance of Three Sisters by Russian play-write Anton Chekov in early 2022.
Sweat is Trisha’s first production with Shakespeare Frankfurt and her first major role as an actor.
Keith Wilson (he/him)
Keith Wilson, a native Tennessean currently residing in Germany, has been successfully working as a singer, dancer, actor and choreographer. Keith has a diverse educational background with Diplomas in Musical (American Musical Dramatics Academy), Speech & Theatre (Austin Peay State Univ), Elementary Education (Austin Peay State Univ), and EL Training Certification (Cambridge University, England). Keith has performed nationally and internationally in the German Productions of The Lion King, Starlight Express, La Cage Aux Folles, Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar and Dream Girls (in concert). European productions of the opera Porgy & Bess – Rome Opera, Theatro Bellini, Semeper Oper, Frankfurt Opera, Magnetic Opera Festival Italy, Dahala Opera Festival, Sweden and Japan Tour in Tokyo and Osaka. Choreography success: Song & Dance (Landestheater Eisenac Germany), Some Like It Hot (Anhaltisches Theater Dessau), La Cage Aux Folles (Ass. Choreo/Dance Captain), Ain’t Misbehavin (U.S.), Jesus Christ Superstar (U.S.), U.S. Youth Prod. Asst. Choreographer for Will Rogers Follies, Grease, Once on This Island, Little Shop of Horrors, and Guys and Dolls. Keith is a member of AEA and has performed in Equity Productions such as Ain’t Misbehavin, Big River, La Cage Aux Folles, Guys and Dolls, Five Guys Named Mo, Anything Goes, Sophisticated Ladies and starred as Tony Witcomb in Shear Madness at the Kennedy CTR.
Isabella Pizarro (she/her)
Isabella Pizarro has performed on stages such as the Frankfurt English Speaking Theatre, Amelia Earhart Playhouse in Wiesbaden. A few of her other acting credits include ‘Orlando’ in As You Like It, ‘Pump’ in Detainee, ‘Fiona’ in Shrek the Musical ‘Meg’ in Little Women the Musical, for wich she won a Toppers award for Best Female Supporting role in a musical. In 2020 she won an Award at the One Act Play Festival in Kaiserslautern for an Outstanding Youth Performance as ‘Erda’ in Sleeping Beauty Briar Rose. In 2021 Isa was Awarded First Place at a Monologue Competition for her Interpretation of ‘Trudy’ from The search for Signs of intelligent life in the Universe. Art Music and Theatre have always been Isa’s favorite subjects in school, so she hopes to make her way towards a Drama School soon to make this a lifelong Adventure.
Director – PJ Escobio
Assistant Director – Laura Nikolich
Costume Design – James E. Bailey
Lighting Design – Thomas Rösener
Sound Design – Aaron Hoffman
Set Design and Construction – Damian Ntuk
Props Construction – Dirk Conrad
Videographer – Charles O’Donnell
Trailer Creation and Editor – Michael Kinzer
Photography – Stephan Junek
Stage Crew – Conor Doyle and Patrick Joyce
Technician – Johannes Schmidt
Online Program and Webmaster – Leanne Maksin
To our Producers, Jim Phetterplace Jr. and Varvara Pomoni, for carrying quite a bit of the load while the team was working through a Covid outbreak.
To the U.S. Consulate General for their generous support.
To the Internationales Theatre Frankfurt as a producing partner.
To the Hessen Ministerium fur Wissenshaft und Kunst for their generous support.
To Mike Vandercook of Picaro Farms for his generous support.
NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, was meant to create a stronger economic zone consisting of the US, Canada and Mexico. It was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 1992. One of the major effects of the agreement was the dismantling of American manufacturing. Many major companies in the States saw the opportunity to move their factories to Mexico to exploit a cheaper labor force. To give you an idea of the significant difference in employee costs: Indiana-based Rexnord, which pays its manufacturing workers an average of $25/hour plus benefits, is moving jobs to Mexico, where its workers’ average wage will be $3/hour with no benefits. According to estimates by the Economic Policy Institute, companies had moved 683,000 jobs south of the border by 2010; 60% of these were in manufacturing. The plant closures and job losses were devastating to many smaller and mid-sized communities whose local economies were dependent on those factories. For many of the newly unemployed, moving to another town for work wasn’t an option; they were uneducated workers earning a very good living from years at one factory and, other than the skills they had from that particular factory, they couldn’t compete with the younger members of the workforce who were more upwardly mobile and technologically more educated. This generation of workers went from earning upwards of $50,000+ a year to minimum wage ($5.85/hour) almost overnight.
The social safety net in the US doesn’t exist; if you get cancer, you may lose your house due to the cost of your recovery. The wealth gap is currently wider than it has been since the late 1800s before collective bargaining and a strong union presence. Social media and opinion-based news reporting has replaced the traditionally neutral stance once mandated by the Fairness Doctrine, which was established in 1949 but was repealed by the FCC in 1987, while Reagan was in office. Reaganomics, the so-called “trickle-down effect” of his administration, has worn away at the working class since before the Cold War ended. The communities most affected by these policies have been those of color and it is not uncommon to see local laws which support the continued oppression of people of color throughout the suburbs, factory towns and rural communities of the US.
Thankfully, we are seeing a rise in unions but that has always been and continues to be a struggle within the US. Germany had its own struggles to achieve rights for the workers, but most of those days are in the past and the workers in Germany are now a well-protected group with 5-6 weeks of vacation a year, strict working hour limits and numerous other perks such as subsidized lunches and train passes. In the US, that is not the case. Just look at the struggles that workers at Amazon and Starbucks are having with unionization, and it’s 2022.
I am often asked here in Europe how someone like the 45th president could be elected, a person with no experience and lacking in all the required skills for leadership and governance, someone who is openly racist and filled with hateful rhetoric. A story like SWEAT helps people to understand how American workers and the population at large have become disenfranchised over the last few generations and could be taken in by a con artist who insisted he was representing their interests.
My hope with this production is to help our community empathize with all the victims of decades of toxic American policy, institutionalized racism, and the classism those policies have created.
Born in Wiesbaden, Germany in 1994, Laura Nikolich studied Comparative Literature and Philosophy, as well as theater directing, which she will finish next spring. This is her second time working with PJ Escobio as assistant director. Her next piece will premiere in November at Frankfurt LAB.
JAMES E. BAILEY
Although new to costuming, James is not new to Shakespeare Frankfurt, directly after performing in their production of Twelfth Night, he took his first sewing course at a local trade technical school. Since then, he has had the opportunity to assist in costume construction for Trojan Women and As You Like It. Sweat marks James’ first foray into theatrical costume design, and added to his previous experience, he looks forward to future projects.