GU Theater & Performance Studies Presents D.C. Premiere of Timberlake Wertenbaker’s “The Grace of Mary Traverse"

Celebrating award-winning work’s 25th anniversary, acclaimed playwright returns for residency

March 16, 2010 — Washington, D.C. — Internationally acclaimed British playwright and recent GU Visiting Faculty Member Timberlake Wertenbaker returns to Georgetown’s campus for the D.C. premiere of her award-winning “The Grace of Mary Traverse” April 8-17, 2010 (showtimes below), celebrating the work’s 25th anniversary. The Georgetown University Theater & Performance Studies Program’s humorous and haunting production runs in the Davis Performing Arts Center’s Gonda Theatre, directed by Professor Maya E. Roth, Theater & Performance Studies Program Director and a leading international scholar on Wertenbaker’s work. The opening night performance will be followed by a Q&A session with Wertenbaker and reception.

A boldly inventive historical drama set in the 18th-century which resonates powerfully with contemporary life, “The Grace of Mary Traverse” chronicles an 18-year-old woman’s Faustian quest for identity, access, power, and grace. The daughter of a wealthy merchant, Mary yearns for experience beyond her privileged existence and pays the family housekeeper to take her on a tour of forbidden London. With dizzying wit, intellect and speed, the play follows Mary’s brutal and often darkly comic spiral within male-dominated realms of commerce, sex, politics, and religion. “The play attempts to do no less than explore ‘the moral cost of knowledge and the possibility of grace in an age of despair,’” said the London Telegraph.

The play traverses theatrical genres to explore the world — moving from an incisive comedy of manners to a Hogarth-inspired social satire to a haunting human drama — and hurtles between locations as well, shifting from the parlor to the streets, gaming halls to Parliament. Roth notes that the protagonist’s surname, “traverse,” has at least 29 definitions, including to travel, to cross, to turn and point a gun, to contradict or deny. “I would argue that all of them are in this play.”

Roth says it’s especially significant to stage the premiere of “The Grace of Mary Traverse” in this city. “As the play is set during the French and American Revolutions, it evokes our ideals of democracy and its messy misdirections. It’s a very D.C. play—questioning conservatism, populism, democracy, feminism. Like Faust it questions the human soul, but unlike Faust this play takes on politics, trying to re-imagine grace and society with all perspectives in play. Timberlake wrote this just following race riots in England in the 1980s when social orders were changing—and not. The beauty, madness, corruption, hope, and injustices of our here and now refract in her Faustian fable.”

Wertenbaker has won the London Critics’ Circle Award, the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Foreign Play, and the Writers’ Guild Award, among other honors. She has translated works by Racine, Sophocles, and Euripides, and written screenplays for film adaptations of Edith Wharton’s “The Children” and Henry James’ “The Wings of the Dove.” The daughter of a foreign correspondent for Time Magazine, she began her career as a journalist before turning to the theater. “The Grace of Mary Traverse” was Wertenbaker’s breakout play, premiering in 1985 while she was Playwright in Residence at the Royal Court Theatre and winning that year’s Plays and Players Most Promising New Playwright Award, given by London Theatre Critics. The work led to a commission for “Our Country’s Good,” her modern classic set in the first penal colony of New South Wales, directed by the legendary Max Stafford-Clark, her frequent collaborator.

Wertenbaker was the 2005-06 Royden B. Davis, S.J. Visiting Professor at Georgetown University during the inaugural season of the Davis Performing Arts Center. During the year-long residency, Roth directed “Our Country’s Good,” also staging a workshop reading of Wertenbaker’s “Galileo’s Daughter” in its first American foray, and hosting a developmental workshop of “Jenufa” (directed by Russian director Irina Brown). Roth’s 2008 anthology “International Dramaturgy: Translations and Transformations in the Theatre of Timberlake Wertenbaker, co-edited with Sara Freeman, brings together scholars and artists from six countries to discuss the politics and poetics of cultural and historical crossings in theater.

Plans for April residency events include Wertenbaker’s presence at opening night, visits to classes at Georgetown, and an invited reading of select scenes from “Jefferson’s Garden,” a work she began researching during her first Georgetown residency. Davis Performing Arts Center artistic director Derek Goldman says, “It is so wonderful for us to be able to welcome back Timberlake Wertenbaker, one of the world’s most important playwrights, whose year-long residency during the year the Davis Center opened had such a foundational impact on our Program, with its continued emphasis on new work of international and political significance. ‘The Grace of Mary Traverse’ is a remarkably rich and timely play, and no one understands it more deeply than Professor Maya Roth, a frequent and long-time collaborator of Wertenbaker, who, both as an artist and a scholar, is one of the foremost interpreters of her work anywhere.”

“The Grace of Mary Traverse” showtimes include the following:

Thursday-Saturday, April 8-10, 2010 at 8 p.m.
Sunday, April 11, 2010 at 2 p.m.
Wednesday-Saturday, April 14-17, 2010 at 8 p.m.

The design team includes Deb Sivigny and Laura Verardo-Goodrich, costume designers; Tobin D. Clark, lighting designer; Robbie Hayes, scenic designer; and Jeff Herrmann, sound designer.

Tickets for Friday and Saturday evenings only are $18 general; $15 GU faculty/staff/alumni/senior (65 or older); and $10 student. Tickets for all other performances are $15 general; $12 faculty/staff/alumni/senior (65 or older); and $7 student. To order or for more information, visit or call (202) 687-ARTS (2787) Monday through Friday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. This show wraps up the Davis Performing Arts Center’s 2009-10 “Going Mad: Shattering & Re-Imagining the Real” season, which also featured world premiere adaptations of Pirandello’s “Six Characters in Search of an Author” (Oct. 2009), Foucault’s “Madness and Civilization” (Feb. 2010), and Kushner/Tesori’s “Caroline, or Change” (Nov. 2009). Georgetown University’s main campus is located at 3700 O St. NW, in Washington, D.C.

About the Georgetown University Theater & Performance Studies Program
Part of Georgetown University’s Department of Performing Arts, the Theater and Performance Studies Program integrates creative and critical inquiry, emphasizing artistic excellence, interdisciplinary learning, socially-engaged performance, and the spirit of collaboration. Now offering a dynamic major in Theater and Performance Studies, the Program features a nationally-recognized faculty, including a number of the field’s leading scholar/artists, and many of the region’s leading professional theater practitioners. One of the country’s only undergraduate programs in Theater and Performance Studies, the fast-growing program has rapidly attracted significant national attention for its distinctive curriculum, reflecting the political and international character of Georgetown, as well as for its commitment to social justice, and its high-quality, cutting-edge student production seasons. The Theater and Performance Studies Program is distinctive for its focus on adapting, devising and developing new work, civic theater and community-based performance, political theater, international and crosscultural performance, playwriting, performance art, solo and multimedia performance, ensemble-created performance, physical theater, world theater history, and innovative approaches to design and technology, acting, directing, dramaturgy, technical theater, and more.

A partial and rapidly growing list of theatrical luminaries who have had sustained contact with Georgetown students in the Davis Center includes: Quinn Bauriedel, Theodore Bikel, Irina Brown, The Civilians, Dan Conway, Nilo Cruz, Peter DiMuro, David Dower, Joe Dowling, Olympia Dukakis, David Edgar, Rick Foucheux, Michael Friedman, Marcus Gardley, Ed Gero, Danny Hoch, David Henry Hwang, Moises Kaufman, Liz Lerman, Emily Mann, Sister Helen Prejean, Heather Raffo, Clint Ramos, Stephen Richard, Ari Roth, Christopher Sivertsen, Molly Smith, Tony Taccone, Irina and Paata Tsikurishvili, Timberlake Wertenbaker, Charles Randolph Wright, Karen Zacarias, and Mary Zimmerman