By Suzan-Lori Parks
Directed by Jaki Bradley
Main Season · Peet’s Theatre
September 26–November 10, 2019
West Coast premiere
Running time: 2 hours and 45 minutes, plus one 15-minute intermission
An uncompromising new drama
“Racism is a virus. And we’ve all got it. Ok, some more than others, ok. The workings of the virus are getting more complicated and the rewards are getting more sophisticated.”
Leo, Dawn, Ralph, and Misha are old friends. The two 30-something couples are educated, progressive, and cosmopolitan. But when a racially motivated incident with the police leaves Leo shaken, he makes a radical proposition to Ralph that forever alters the relationship between these four friends—and their view of the world.
Brave, intelligent, and eviscerating, White Noise by Pulitzer Prize winner Suzan-Lori Parks is one of the most talked about new plays tackling our rapidly unraveling social contract. We’re proud to be the only regional theatre outside New York to present White Noise this year.
Wednesday night speaker series on White Noise
White Noise is a big play to get your head around. So we’ve invited some of the smartest thinkers in the Bay Area to talk about what they see when they watch the play. Come to the show on the following dates, and stay after for a 20-minute discussion with these illustrious professionals as we unpack the play together. Learn more about the speaker series.
- October 16: Journalist Taylor Crumpton
- October 23: Pendarvis Harshaw from KQED
- October 30: Brandi Catanese from UC Berkeley
- November 6: Mark Sabb from MoAD
An important note regarding health and content advisories:
White Noise includes use of an herbal cigarette, flashing lights, and light atmospheric haze. Berkeley Rep offers an advisory about any stage effect of potential concern to patrons’ health. We don’t offer unsolicited content advisories as sensitivities vary from person to person. If you have concerns about content or themes, we are happy to provide details. Please call our box office at 510 647–2949 or email email@example.com.
Suzan-Lori Parks · Playwright
Suzan-Lori Parks was named one of TIME magazine’s “100 Innovators for the Next New Wave,” and is the first African American woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for her play Topdog/Underdog. She is a MacArthur “Genius Grant” prize recipient and she’s also received The Gish Prize for Excellence in the Arts. Broadway credits include The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, which was awarded the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical, and Topdog/Underdog, which starred Jeffrey Wright and Mos Def and was directed by George C. Wolfe. The play received a Tony nomination and recently was named by the New York Times as the most important American play within the last 25 years. Other plays include In the Blood (Pulitzer Prize finalist), Fucking A, The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World aka The Negro Book of the Dead, and, more recently, Father Comes Home from the Wars (parts 1,2&3) (Pulitzer Prize finalist). In 2003 Parks wrote a play a day culminating in 365 Days/365 Plays; the plays were produced globally in over 700 theatres, which, at the time, was said to be the largest theatrical grassroots undertaking of its kind. More recently, to reflect on the current presidential administration, Parks wrote 100 Plays for the First Hundred Days. Parks has authored a novel: Getting Mother’s Body, which is published by Random House. Her screenplays include Girl6 (directed by Spike Lee), Their Eyes Were Watching God (produced by Oprah Winfrey), Anemone Me (produced by Christine Vachon and Todd Haynes), and an adaptation of Richard Wright’s Native Son (directed by Rashid Johnson), which opened the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. New work includes The United States vs Billie Holiday (directed by Lee Daniels), a stage-musical adaptation of the film The Harder They Come, and she’s currently the show-runner for GENIUS: Aretha Franklin for The National Geographic Channel. A former writing student of James Baldwin, Parks is now The Public Theater’s Master Writer Chair, where she performs Watch Me Work, a weekly writing performance/class free of charge and open to all. She also writes songs and fronts her band: Suzan-Lori Parks & The Band.
Jaki Bradley · Director
Jaki is a Brooklyn-based director. Recent projects: Radio Island and Good Men Wanted (New York Stage and Film), Playing Hot (Ars Nova/Pipeline), 1969: The Second Man (New York Theatre Workshop), and Breeders (Tony Critic’s Pick). She has developed and presented work with The Public Theater, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Denver Center, Clubbed Thumb, Goodspeed Musicals, Arena Stage, and the O’Neill Theater Center. She has been a member of the Civilians R&D Group, an artist-in-residence at Ars Nova, a Drama League artist-in-residence and TV/Film directing fellow, a member of the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab, Williamstown Directing Corps, Lincoln Center Director’s Lab, and a U.S. Fulbright Scholar. Her second feature film, Detox, is currently in development with XYZ Films. jakibradley.com
Adam Rigg · Scenic Design
Adam is a New York-based set and costume designer. Credits include Soho Rep, Mark Taper Forum/Center Theatre Group, New York Theatre Workshop, LA Opera, Theater An Der Wien in Austria, Signature Theatre Company, the Guthrie Theater, Seattle Rep, Teatro Municipal in Brazil, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Yale Rep, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Opera Philadelphia, Cincinnati Opera, Manhattan Theatre Club, The Kennedy Center, and Theatre For A New Audience. Adam has been a resident artist with their performance collective I Am A Boys Choir at The Public Theater (Devised Theater Working Group) and Mabou Mines. Adam is a Princess Grace Award winner, a two-time American Theatre Wing Henry Hewes Design Award nominee, a Connecticut Critics Circle Award nominee, and a multiple Ovation Award nominee. They were a recipient of the Donald Oenslager Fellowship in 2012 and the Pierre Cardin Fellowship in 2015. BA, UCLA. MFA, Yale School of Drama.
Tilly Grimes · Costume Design
Tilly is an English set/costume designer based in New York. New York: Playwrights Horizons, Roundabout Theatre Company, The Atlantic, Ars Nova, WP Theatre, Red Bull, La MaMa, Clubbed Thumb. Regionally: American Repertory Theater, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The Wilma, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Goodspeed Opera, Alley Theatre, Two Rivers, Trinity Repertory, Pittsburgh Public, Boston Lyric Opera, and Philadelphia Opera. Recent recognition: Lucille Lortel nomination for Underground Railroad Game and The Government Inspector, Balsamo Grant for Immigrant Artists, Outer Critics Circle Award, Irish Design Award, Irish Times Theatre Award, and Onstage Critics Award. Guest teacher: NYU Abu Dhabi, Duke, University of Rochester, NYU, Brown-Trinity Graduate Directing, and Trinity College Dublin. MFA: NYU. Instagram: missTgrimes tillygrimes.com
Alexander V. Nichols · Lighting and Video Design
Alexander’s design work extends from lighting, video, and projections to scenery, props, and performance environments, and spans from dance, theatre, music, and opera to architectural lighting and art installations. He returns to Berkeley Rep for his 45th production after most recently designing Angels in America (projections), The Good Book (lighting and projections), and Kiss My Aztec! (lighting). His work has been seen on Broadway, off Broadway, and in opera houses, concert halls, theatres, warehouses, and vacant lots throughout the world. Upcoming projects in the Bay Area include Fidelio at San Francisco Opera, Rocky Horror Picture Show at American Conservatory Theater, Harvey Milk at Opera Parallèle, and the Margaret Jenkins Dance Co. 45th Anniversary Season Premiere.
Mikaal Sulaiman · Sound Design
Off-Broadway: Continuity (Manhattan Theatre Club); Passage, Fairview (Soho Rep; Lucille Lortel and Drama Desk Award nominations); Recent Alien Abductions, Time’s Journey Through a Room (Play Co.); Meet Vera Stark (Signature Theatre); Blue Ridge (Atlantic Theatre); The Thanksgiving Play (Playwrights Horizons); Rags Parkland (Ars Nova; Drama Desk Award nomination); Underground Railroad Game (Ars Nova); Light Shining in Buckinghamshire (New York Theatre Workshop); Master (Foundry Theatre Co.); Skittles: The Broadway Musical. Regional: Berkeley Rep (Fairview), Alley Theatre, Woolly Mammoth, Trinity Rep, Pig Iron, Arden Theatre, Syracuse Stage, Early Morning Opera. mikaal.com
Caparelliotis Casting · Casting
Recent and select Broadway: King Lear; Hillary and Clinton; The Nap; The Waverly Gallery; The Boys in the Band; Three Tall Women; Meteor Shower; A Doll’s House, Part 2; Jitney; The Glass Menagerie; The Front Page; Les Liaisons Dangereuses; It’s Only a Play; Blackbird; Fish in the Dark; Disgraced; Fences. Also: Signature, Atlantic, Ars Nova, Old Globe, McCarter, Goodman, and others. Film/TV: New Amsterdam (NBC), American Odyssey (NBC), How to Get Away with Murder pilot (ABC), Ironside pilot (NBC), Steel Magnolias (Sony for Lifetime).
Chris Waters · Stage Manager
Chris was the stage manager for Berkeley Rep’s production of Paradise Square last season. He has worked internationally at the Shanghai Children’s Art Theatre, off Broadway at The Public Theater, and locally at American Conservatory Theater, Aurora Theatre Company, California Shakespeare Theater, Magic Theatre, Santa Cruz Shakespeare, and Z Space. Favorite past productions include The Great Leap, Office Hour, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations, Hand to God, Orlando, and A House Tour of the Infamous Porter Family Mansion with Tour Guide Weston Ludlow Londonderry. Chris holds an MA in theatre management from University of California, Santa Cruz.
Caity Mulkearns · Associate Costume Designer
Irene Wilson and Tim Cagle II · Bowling Coaches
Joe Gery · Casting Associate
Dave Maier · Fight Consultant
Maya Herbsman · Intimacy Consultant
Tait Adams · Production Assistant
Therese Barbato · Dawn
Therese is delighted to be at Berkeley Rep for the first time. She made her Broadway debut this year in King Lear with Glenda Jackson. Her off-Broadway credits include Prometheus Bound (Classic Stage Company), Mourning Becomes Electra (The New Group), and numerous productions with Slant Theatre Project. She has worked regionally with Actors Theatre of Louisville, Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, the Huntington Theatre, Boise Contemporary Theater, Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles, Geva Theatre Center, and Olney Theatre Center. Film: Prom King, 2010. Therese trained at Boston University and the Juilliard School and is the host of “that’s what she said” podcast: thatswhatshesaidpod.com.
Nick Dillenburg · Ralph
Nick is thrilled to make his Berkeley Rep debut. Previous credits include The Real Thing (Broadway) with Ewan McGregor and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Off-Broadway credits include Mary Page Marlowe by Tracy Letts (New York premiere at Second Stage), Teenage Dick (The Public Theater), Henry V in Into the Hazard: Henry V (Walkerspace), Hater with Merritt Wever (Ohio Theatre), and Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More. He has been seen at the Guthrie Theater, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Utah Shakespeare Festival, Berkshire Theatre Group, Portland Stage, and many more. He is perhaps best known for playing CO Ryder Blake on Orange Is the New Black. Other TV credits include: Law & Order, Elementary, Person of Interest, and Blue Bloods. He is a proud alum of the University of Connecticut where he holds an MFA in Acting.
Chris Herbie Holland · Leo
Chris is making his Berkeley Rep debut in White Noise. Regional: The Box (Z Space), 12 Angry Men (Northern Stage), Six Degrees of Separation (Theatre Workshop of Nantucket). Williamstown Theatre Festival: Tempo, Soft. NYU: Zooman and the Sign, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Othello, Hamlet, Animal Farm. BA: Dartmouth College. MFA: NYU Grad Acting.
Aimé Donna Kelly · Misha
Aimé is thrilled to make her Berkeley Rep debut. She has appeared off Broadway in Exit Strategy (Primary Stages) and Macbeth (Epic Theatre), in major regional productions of Byhalia, Mississippi (The Kennedy Center), Father Comes Home from the Wars (Goodman Theatre), and The White Snake (Baltimore Center Stage), and in the world premieres of James Ijames’ Moon Walk Man, Applied Mechanics’ We Are Bandits, and Jen Silverman’s The Dangerous House of Pretty Mbane. Film: Out of Order. TV: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Marvel’s Iron Fist. Three-time Barrymore nominee.
The actors and stage manager are members of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
Reviews for White Noise
Realism has never limited Parks, the Pulitzer Prize winner for Topdog/Underdog…Maybe no one would ever do what Leo does, but this is what the world feels like. White Noise insists that its audiences feel it, too. It knows that American slavery flourishes all around us, and it knows that more polite or so-called realistic theater about race hasn’t spurred change.”
San Francisco Chronicle
The brilliance of Suzan-Lori Parks’s eviscerating new play White Noise is that underneath the finely crafted, often sharply funny apparent realism of its surface, its roots stretch deep away into archetype. The hints that Parks is doing something beyond contemporary realism are subtle at first, but they’re there…White Noise pulses with this same recognition, bracing against the pain, that all the destruction of our moment needn’t—mustn’t—be the be-all and end-all. That our moment is in fact a moment—not a death but a guts-rearranging transformation.”
New York Magazine
Excellent performances…exciting and sophisticated…The finest sections of White Noise are the four powerful soliloquies, during which Parks’ writing shines and enables the audience to experience the three-dimensionality of her well-drawn characters. It is also where the talented actors deliver their best work.”
Provocative play beautifully performed.”
Riveting performances, thought-provoking discussions, insightful look at nuances of white privilege and racism.”
White Noise in the news
- Suzan-Lori Parks speaks with Lily Janiak of the San Francisco Chronicle.
- Suzan-Lori Parks discusses her racially charged play with the Mercury News.
- Black Renaissance’s Jan Mabry got a chance to meet the cast.
Official trailer: White Noise
Get a sneak peek at the West Coast premiere of Suzan-Lori Parks’ play that examines nuances of white privilege and racism in America today. Directed by Jaki Bradley and featuring Therese Barbato, Nick Dillenburg, Chris Herbie Holland, and Aimé Donna Kelly.
Behind the scenes: White Noise
The cast and director Jaki Bradley share their thoughts on Suzan-Lori Parks’ new play.
REPISODES: The Berkeley Rep Podcast presents a series of conversations with artists and experts around the shows in Johanna Pfaelzer’s inaugural season. Subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, or SoundCloud to keep up with the whole series.
Photos courtesy of Alessandra Mello/Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Photos may not be used for commercial or personal use without written permission from Berkeley Rep, and unauthorized alteration, reproduction, or sale of these images is strictly prohibited. Journalists and other members of the media, please visit our online press room.
Docent talks and discussions
Pre-show docent talks
Meet us in the Theatre 55 minutes before the show on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings and Sunday matinees for a discussion about the themes in White Noise. This special edition of the docent talk is half video viewing, half response group in order to best get our minds moving around the play before stepping into the theatre.
Post-show docent-led discussions
Join your fellow audience members after all matinees and share your thoughts on the show.
Teen Night gives local teens the opportunity to meet for dinner and a behind-the-scenes discussion with a member of the artistic team before attending each subscription-season production at an extremely discounted price.
- Friday, September 27, 2019
Teen Night begins at 6:30pm at the Berkeley Rep School of Theatre. Learn more and reserve your space.
Actor Q & A’s
Stick around after the show on select Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday nights for lively Q & A sessions with our artists.
- Thursday, October 17, 2019
- Tuesday, October 22, 2019
- Friday, November 1, 2019
Wednesday night speaker series on White Noise
How does Taylor Crumpton, a music, pop culture, and politics writer, look at the gender politics at play in White Noise? And what story does she think the sound design is telling to the audience?
- Wednesday, October 16, 2019
Taylor Crumpton is a music, pop culture, and politics writer transplanted in Oakland, originally from Dallas. As an undergraduate at Abilene Christian University, her experience organizing for Black students, in addition to her advocating for abortion rights and reproductive justice, were critical stepping stones to informing her editorial approach. During her junior year, she was selected to be a fellow for Young People For’s Blueprints for Social Justice program, which she was able to channel a wealth of insight from her on-the-ground equity work. In 2016, she became a student journalist for Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity (URGE) where she continued to write about reproductive and abortion issues. She’s been welcomed to speak on the Netflix-produced podcast “You Can’t Make This Up,” and has even been recognized amongst her peers by way of her Jack Jones’ cultural critics index placement. Taylor’s bylines has appeared on a variety of publications, including Teen Vogue, Pitchfork, Nylon, Playboy, Marie Claire, and others.
What does Pendarvis Harshaw, a journalist at KQED, think about how the characters in this play embody and push up against hipster culture in the Bay Area?
- Wednesday, October 23, 2019
Pendarvis Harshaw is a journalist and educator from Oakland. He is a graduate of UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, as well as Howard University’s School of Communications. Pen is a published journalist with bylines from Youth Radio, Fusion, The Huffington Post, National Public Radio, and more. From 2011 to 2016, he ran a website dedicated to documenting the wisdom of elder African American men in his community, called OGToldMe.com. From this project, he produced a coming of age memoir, which has garnered attention from The Fader, KQED’s Forum, and the LA Times. He is currently an arts and culture columnist for KQED and the host of Rightnowish on KQED-FM.
How does Brandi Wilkens Catanese, a professor of Performance Studies and African American Studies at UC Berkeley, look at playwright Suzan-Lori Parks’ career and where this play falls in it?
- Wednesday, October 30, 2019
Brandi Wilkins Catanese is an associate professor of Performance Studies and African American Studies at UC Berkeley. She received her PhD in Drama and Humanities from Stanford University. She teaches African American Theater and popular culture; performance theory; performance and politics; performance and diaspora; and Black Theater Workshop. She has a joint appointment in African American Studies and is affiliated faculty in Gender and Women’s Studies. Her articles have appeared in Theatre Journal, Performance Research, Journal of American Drama and Theatre, and Contemporary African American Women Playwrights: A Casebook. She has forthcoming articles on black women’s diaspora performance, whiteface performance, the politics of representation in black theatre, and black political culture. Brandi is currently completing Racial Transgressions, a book-length study of the impact of multiculturalism and colorblindness on black performance practices. In addition to her scholarly work, she occasionally directs workshop productions (Lab Run, I Ain’t Yo Uncle, 365 Days/365 Plays) for TDPS.
What does Mark Sabb, an internet artist and director of marketing at the Museum of the African Diaspora, see in the character of Leo, a blocked visual artist navigating the fine art world?
- Wednesday, November 6, 2019
Mark Sabb, aka Mark Digital, is an internet artist, digital curator, founder of FELT Zine, and the director of marketing at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco. Mark’s work focuses on themes related to contemporary culture, global politics, and technology, earning him features in Paper Magazine, Hypebeast, Vice’s The Creator’s Project, Nylon Magazine, and more. Experimental digital art and interactive conceptualization act as launching pads for projects created by Mark’s art collective, FELT Zine, which he founded in 2011. Through FELT Mark has been able to collaborate with companies such as Vice, Epic Records, and more via a unique visual aesthetic. FELT’s creative output includes content curation, merchandising, interactive promotional art, and creative and art direction for fashion campaigns, music visual direction, feature writing, and more. As a department director at the Museum of the African Diaspora Mark approaches every collaboration, client, and project on an individual basis with an excitement to tackle unanswered questions, and a thirst to lead the future through creative technology.