It says something about Ithaca’s perceptive and receptive theatre audience that actress, writer, and “directress” Esosa Edosomwan decided to premiere the latest draft of her one-woman show Hatshepsut, The Female Pharaoh, at Cornell’s Risley Theatre.
Edosomwan’s performance is the latest production from the Actor’s Workshop of Ithaca theater company. Not only does the Actor’s Workshop train actors, now it is mounting productions and performer showcases. Edosomwan studied with the AW while she was attending Cornell. She won the Heermans-McCalmon Playwriting Award in her senior year and was an active member of the Cornell University theater and film department.
Edosomwan was recently named one of the “30 Most Intriguing Africans in New York” by Applause Africa magazine, and a 2011 “Young African Visionary” by Obaseema magazine. Her recent projects include the television pilots Brooklyn Shakara and An African City, and roles in the independent films Ma George, Unguarded, The Exposure, and The Imperialists Are Still Alive. Her work as an actress has appeared on VOX Africa, BET, BET-J, and MTV and screened in numerous festivals and art circles worldwide including: Sundance Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Milano Festival, the MOMA, and the Whitney Biennial.
Hatshepsut is written by Washington, D.C.-based playwright Timothy Lawrence about the first female pharaoh and will be performed January 12 through 14 at Risley Theater. Edosomwan said, “There is no place better for me to begin my one-woman show. I am elated to begin the tour of the show on Cornell’s campus, with the Actor’s Workshop of Ithaca theater company where my journey as an actress began. I am incredibly passionate about the material. Hatshepsut was a woman before her time, ignored societal limitations, and went for the dream of being pharaoh.”
“There is nothing more rewarding that when an alum of the workshop gives back by returning to Ithaca and performing with us,” says Eliza VanCort, director of the workshop and Edosomwan’s former instructor. “Esosa is a force. I’m so thrilled she’s chosen to bring such a powerful show to our community.”
VanCort is especially pleased that Hatshepsut and the workshop’s follow-up, Mitzi’s Abortion, are both about women and written by emerging playwrights. In the case of the latter, VanCort was skittish about producing “another unmarketable title,” but gave in to pleas to read the script and fell in love with it. “It’s funny and beautiful and we’ve decided to do it.
“We’re really trying to do works that are by playwrights that are good stories and good plays that other people won’t do, because I think it’s important to do that. Luckily, we’re in the position that sometimes people will actually come see some of these crazy things we put on,” she laughed. “We will always be primarily a theatre-training studio. The reason why we’re in the position where we can be a theatre company is that we have all these great actors that we trained, that we can work with. But our first love is always training people, and that will always be.”
Edosomwan auditioned for the play in New York, and contacted VanCort about this amazing piece she was determined to get to play. When she was cast, the production was going to premiere in Washington, D.C. but she convinced the company that Ithaca was the place to start. As VanCort says, the actress had a sense that “this might go on a national tour, and I want to make sure it’s as ready as it can be, and I want to support the workshop.” VanCort was sure there was “no way in hell” the producer would say yes, but they did agree to the idea.
Hatshepsut, The Female Pharaoh, plays at Risley Theatre January 12-14. For more information, visit actorsworkshop.biz.