Church & State
by Jason Odell Williams
October 21 - November 12 (2017)
directed by Michael Kissin
Good-natured and popular Republican Senator Charlie Whitmore is up for re-election in North Carolina. Just three days before voting, he lets slip to a blogger his new and not-so-popular thoughts on God and the second amendment. As his bible-thumping wife, Sara, works to retain religion in their marriage, Alex, his New York Jewish liberal staffer, fights to keep the campaign from spinning out of control. Pioneer Press hailed Church & State as "a thought-provoking play about faith and politics" while Star Tribune declared it as a "Top 10" must-see this fall.
Meet the Artists
Kim Kivens (Sara), a nice Jewish girl born in New Jersey and raised in St. Louis Park, is happy to be making her MJTC debut! Stage credits include work with Children’s Theatre Company, Daleko Arts, Theater Latte Da, Hennepin Theatre Trust, Casting Spells Productions, The Catalysts, Park Square Theatre, and Theatre Mu. Lavender Magazine honored Kim as a Best Supporting Actress (Musical) for her role as Muriel in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels with Minneapolis Musical Theatre in 2011. Kim is a voice-over and on-camera actor, but her favorite roles are mom to Lily and wife to Joe.
Matthew Rein (Senator Charlie Whitmore) is excited to be returning to MJTC where he was previously seen as Jamie in The Last Five Years, David in My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding (twice), a few different people (and a puppet) in Compulsion or The House Behind, and multiple roles in The Triangle Factory Fire Project. Other Twin Cities credits include Children’s Theater Company, History Theatre, Theater Latte Da, and Gremlin Theatre. He was previously partnered with Ms. Kivens at Theater Latte Da (David in Company) and Theatre Mu (Marcus in Yellow Face).
Miriam Schwartz (Alex Klein) is a Seattle native and graduate of the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater BFA Actor Training Program. She is thrilled to be working again with MJTC where she was previously seen in the one-woman piece DAI (Enough), and as Daphna in Bad Jews, Dr. Ruth in Becoming Dr. Ruth, Jessica in Jericho, and Ayelet in Handle With Care (also written by Jason Odell Williams). Other theater credits include Walking Shadow Theatre Company, 7th House Theater, Workhaus Collective, Guthrie Theater, and Theatre Forever.
Josh Zwick (Tom/Marshall/Security Guy) was born and raised in San Francisco, and is a recent graduate of the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater BFA Actor Training Program. Josh was last seen as Peter in Peter and the Starcatcher at Theater at Monmouth in Maine. Other credits include Creede Repertory Theatre, Minnesota Centennial Showboat, and Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival. Some of Josh’s favorite roles include Moritz Stiefel in Spring Awakening, Doug in Gruesome Playground Injuries, and Lebedev in Ivanov. Josh is incredibly excited to be making his debut with MJTC.
Michael Kissin (Director) is an actor, director, musician, and college educator. A company member at Mixed Blood Theatre for over 20 years, Michael has also served as Artistic Director at Minnesota Festival Theater in Albert Lea, and Artistic Director of Bemidji’s Paul Bunyan Playhouse. At MJTC, he directed Talley’s Folly, Goats, My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding, and Stars of David, and starred in The Twenty-Seventh Man and the one-man show Boychik. His broad range of onstage roles includes the Fiddler in A Christmas Carol for 13 seasons at the Guthrie Theater.
Kirby Moore (Scenic Design) began his Twin Cities career on a design internship at Children’s Theatre Company. He’s pleased to have designed for MJTC for 18 years for such shows as King of the Kosher Grocers, Rose (2002), Sight Unseen, The Magic Dreidels, and The Chanukkah Guest. Other design credits include Park Square Theater, History Theatre, and Theatre in the Round, and the films Runaway Train and Purple Rain, as well as television commercials. He received Kennedy Center’s College Theatre Festival Award for design for Metropolitan State University’s My Soul: And Other Broken Things.
Barb Portinga (Costume Design) makes her home and living designing costumes in the Twin Cities area. Her design work has been seen at over 40 theaters throughout the Midwest. Prior MJTC designs include The History of Invulnerability and Mizlansky/Zilinsky. She received her on-the-job training at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres where she is a cutter/draper and tailor for each main stage show. Barb is the proprietor of Portable Costumes.
Paul Epton (Lighting Design) discovered theater lighting at Carleton College, and was an award-winning designer and master electrician for Detroit’s Attic Theatre. Since returning to Minnesota he’s designed over 60 shows for MJTC including The Whipping Man, Stars of David, My Name is Asher Lev, Photograph 51, The Triangle Factory Fire Project, Rose, Old Wicked Songs, and The Chosen. Paul also designs regularly for Mixed Blood Theatre, Torch Theater, Day Trippers, and Off-Leash Area where he was on the design team for two Ivey Award productions.
Reid Rejsa (Sound Designer) returns to MJTC where he previously designed Family Secrets, Shadow of the Valley, and King of the Kosher Grocers. Other design credits include Guthrie Theater (A Christmas Carol, The Cocktail Hour, Freud’s Last Session, Clybourne Park, The Sunshine Boys, Hay Fever, Charley’s Aunt, Much Ado About Nothing, The 39 Steps, Dollhouse, A Delicate Balance, Private Lives, The Home Place, Boats on a River, Boston Marriage, The Chairs, Lysistrata), Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, Jungle Theater, Arizona Theatre Company, Minneapolis Planetarium, Frank Theatre, Theater Mu, Mixed Blood, Penumbra Theatre, Eye of the Storm, and Children’s Theatre Company.
Robert J. Smith (Properties Design) has designed props for Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company’s The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, The Chanukkah Guest, Jericho and New Jerusalem. He’s designed props for 21 shows at Theatre in the Round (Fahrenheit 451, Black Coffee, Treasure Island) and stage managed several shows. Other local credits include Gray Space, Starting Gate, Tedious Brief Productions and Walking Shadow Theatre Company. In Salt Lake City, he was resident stage manager for the Children’s Theater at Promised Valley Playhouse.
Jonathan Gross (Projections Design) previously designed projections for Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company’s productions of Becoming Dr. Ruth, The History of Invulnerability, Photograph 51, and My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding as well as an independent production of They Called Her Captain. He has been a technical assistant to lighting and set designers for several productions at MJTC including We Are the Levinsons, The Chanukkah Guest, Moonlight and Magnolias, My Name is Asher Lev, Our Class, The Whipping Man, The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, and Aunt Raini. Jon is a visual artist and photographer.
Joy Donley (Stage Manager) is a freelance director, producer, teacher and publicist. Currently she’s the publicist for Bucket Brigade’s production of Sam’s Son. Directing credits include Shadowlands, The Lilies of the Field and An O. Henry Christmas (Open Window Theatre); ‘Til Death: A Marriage Musical, Amnesiac Jack (Bucket Brigade). She has an M.A. in Theatre Education from the University of St. Thomas. Joy is married to Triple Espresso creator, Michael Pearce Donley, and together they own Front Porch Theatre.
Jason Odell Williams (Playwright) is an Emmy-nominated writer and producer and an award-winning playwright and novelist. Hailed as a “postmodern Clifford Odets” by the L.A. Times and “this country’s newest Eugene O’Neill” by the Santa Monica Daily Press, his play Church & State was nominated for Best New Play by the Off-Broadway Alliance and L.A. Ovation Awards and was selected to be an NNPN Rolling World Premiere with productions in Los Angeles and Rochester before running for over 100 performances Off-Broadway at New World Stages. Jason’s first play, Handle With Care, was a New York Times Critics’ Pick, ran for over 100 performances Off-Broadway starring Carol Lawrence, has been produced over twenty times since 2011 in the U.S. and Canada, and won three Theatre Bay Area Awards including Outstanding Production. Other plays: Baltimore in Black & White, Someone Else, The Science of Guilt, Going Offline, The Jungle Gym. Jason was a winner of the 2012 Hudson Valley Writers’ Center contest and the winner of the 2011 Fixitsolife Theatre playwriting contest. He lives in New York City with his wife and daughter.