Before Wednesday evening performances of Mud Row, Resident Dramaturg Gina Pisasale hosts cast members for Scoop, a lively pre-performance discussion that provides a behind-the-scenes look into the play. Tiffany Rachelle Stewart (Elsie) is Gina’s guest on July 10 and 17, and both Bjorn DuPaty (Davin) and Eric Robinson Jr. (Tyriek) join Gina on July 3 and 24.
Gina: How did you get into acting?
Eric: My dad was Superman and I took everything he said as golden truths. When I was seven, my dad, an actor in college, pulled a quick emotional response out of me and convinced me that I had a gift. He said, "Eric, your sister just got hit by a bus and is lying in the middle of the street. Scene!" I went with it. From that morbid approach, twenty-two years later, here I am.
Tiffany: I first got into acting as a little girl of about nine. I was extremely rambunctious—a total tomboy—but I had no direction. And my mother (a valiant single mother of four, and a truck driver for Amoco Oil Company—oh yeah, she’s amazing) looked at me one day and thought I needed somewhere to funnel all that energy. So she enrolled me in an Arts school for the following year, my fifth grade year, and I went kicking and screaming—terrified of trying something new. But once there I got to engage daily with dance, acting, music, and writing, and it was literally like someone had turned the lights on in my soul. I was forever changed. I’d go on to get a BFA and MFA in Acting from Florida State University and then Yale School of Drama.
And to this day the act of telling stories has always felt and continues to feel like my home—the one space that has always held the most light for me. The light of endless curiosity and belonging. I feel very lucky to do this work. Not many people get to do something that truly lights them up. My mother definitely never got to, and I am aware that she sacrificed so that I could. So I try to always stay mindful and grateful for this path, no matter how difficult the business itself can be.
Gina: What has been a highlight of this process so far?
Eric: My most memorable experience is an excursion we took of the West Chester community with a very respected local, Miss Penny Washington. She represents the strength of the Black community that helped lay the foundation for the advancement of colored folk all across America.
Tiffany: Working with my castmates, our director Steve, and the entire artistic team has been (hands down) the best part of this process. We laugh A LOT in the rehearsal room, even on days when the work makes us cry. Our artistic space has been a very safe one, thanks to the maturity, sensibility, and leadership of our director as well as the entire cast.
Gina: What kinds of conversations are you excited to have with your friends and/or our audiences about this play?
Eric: My friends and family love to hear about the experiences, relationships, and juicy happenings with each production. I’m also looking forward to using this play to open conversations on love and forgiveness, generational residue, and ownership.
Tiffany: I’m excited to hear what thoughts people may have in regards to their OWN families and histories. I’m curious to hear if the story we’re telling can create space for folks to sit with their own unfinished business—where they can possibly consider with fresh eyes that the imperfect people they come from perhaps really did the best they could at the time.
Gina, Tiffany, Eric, and Bjorn invite you to join them at Scoop each Wednesday. Hear stories from behind the scenes, learn how Dominique Morisseau developed this play, and much more – while sharing snacks and conversation with a group of fellow theatre-lovers.
Scoop starts at 6pm in the Congdon Center (the Steinbright Stage building). Add it to your ticket for $5 when purchasing Mud Row tickets online, buy separately (you can even come back to discuss the show after you've seen it, without having to stay for another performance), or call the Box Office at 610.644.3500.