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Charly Evon Simpson's Behind the Sheet Announces Casting for World Premiere

The new work is presented by Ensemble Studio Theatre and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Casting has been announced for Behind the Sheet by Charly Evon Simpson.
(© Jackie Abbott)

Ensemble Studio Theatre and The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation have announced casting for the world premiere of Behind the Sheet, written by Charly Evon Simpson and directed by Colette Robert. Part of the EST/Sloan Science & Technology Project, Behind the Sheet will begin previews at EST's Curt Dempster Theatre on January 9 with an opening night set on January 17, for a limited run through February 3.

The cast of Behind the Sheet will include Stephen James Anthony (War Horse) as Edward/Samuel, Nia Calloway (All One Forest) as Betty, Naomi Lorrain (Orange is the New Black) as Philomena, Cristina Pitter (Balls) as Sally, Shawn Randall (Travisville) as Benjamin/Lewis, Joel Ripka (American Jornalero) as George, Megan Tusing (Mope) as Josephine, Amber Reauchean Williams (No King In Israel) as Mary, and Jehan O. Young (Think Before You Holla) as Dinah.

Behind the Sheet is inspired by the story of Dr. J. Marion Sims, who is widely known as the controversial "father of modern gynecology." Inventor of the speculum and creator of a technique to cure severe gynecological ailments, he was a champion for women's health when medical schools taught nothing about female reproductive anatomy. However, he made his discoveries by repeatedly performing experimental surgery on his female slaves, including three, Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsey, about whom no more is known than their names.

Playwright Charly Evon Simpson imagines the experiences of these women lost to history. In her play, Dr. George Barry purchases slaves who developed painful fistulas during labor. Simpson dramatizes their involuntary participation in Barry's surgeries, as they yearn for a cure and dread the pain of each new surgical experiment. Alongside their suffering, Simpson traces the friendships, loyalties, and rivalries that develop between the women as they endure a string of failures in pursuit of the slim hope of relief.

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