WAM Theatre Announces Casting for Fresh Takes Reading of “Native Gardens”

LENOX, MA (April 2, 2019) — Artistic Director Kristen van Ginhoven, Associate Artistic Director Talya Kingston, and the WAM team are proud announce the cast for their first Fresh Takes Reading of the season Native Gardens by Karen Zacarías, directed by Estefanía Fadul, at 3pm on Saturday, May 4.

“It’s wonderful to welcome our Co-Founder Leigh Strimbeck back for our 10th Anniversary season”, Kingston, curator and producer of the Fresh Takes series, exclaimed. “We’re also thrilled to be back in the Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre at Shakespeare & Company for this reading and to have their Artistic Director, Allyn Burrows, join our cast.”

Burrows and Strimbeck headline an exciting cast that also include Stephen Pugh and Julissa Lee Rodríguez in their WAM Theatre debuts.

Director Estefanía Fadul last worked with WAM in 2016, directing a Fresh Takes reading of Bekah Brunstetter’s play The Oregon Trail. “I’m so excited to return to WAM to direct Native Gardens,” Fadul said. “In a time when there is so much division in our country, this play deconstructs some of the biases and privilege that thrive in even our most liberal communities. I look forward to diving into Karen’s clever language and humor with this cast and sharing in this conversation with the Berkshires audience.”

From the pen of one of the most produced playwrights in the nation, Native Gardens is a brilliant new comedy, where cultures and gardens clash, turning well-intentioned neighbors into feuding enemies. Pablo, a rising attorney, and doctoral candidate Tania, his very pregnant wife, have just purchased a home next to Frank and Virginia, a well-established D.C. couple with a prize-worthy English garden. But an impending barbeque for Pablo’s colleagues and a delicate disagreement over a long-standing fence line soon spirals into an all-out border dispute, exposing both couples’ notions of race, taste, class and privilege.

This reading of Native Gardens is presented in memory of artist Wendy Rabinowitz, in honor of her tireless dedication to social justice and her commitment to WAM.

The second Fresh Takes Play Reading – Paradise by Laura Maria Censabella – will take place on November 2. These readings correlate directly to the two Mainstage productions – Lady Randy by Anne Undeland, running April 18-May 5; and Pipeline by Dominique Morisseau, presented in partnership with Multicultural BRIDGE, which runs October 24-November 9. All performances and readings take place in Shakespeare & Company’s Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre.

Also this season WAM Education is launching a new Elder Ensemble program for women 65 and older, in tandem with the successful, established Teen Ensemble. Both Ensembles will debut their original devised theatre pieces at the WAM 10th Anniversary Gala on Wednesday, July 24 from 5:30-8:30 pm at the Stationery Factory in Dalton.

The Fresh Takes Reading of Native Gardens takes place on Saturday, May 4 at 3 pm, in Shakespeare & Company’s Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre, 70 Kemble St, Lenox, MA. Tickets are $25 and are available at the Shakespeare & Company Box Office Tuesday-Saturday 11 am -3 pm, by calling 413-637-3353 or online at https://www.wamtheatre.com/nativegardens/

For more information on Native Gardens, visit: https://www.wamtheatre.com/nativegardens/

For more information about WAM’s 10th Anniversary Season visit: https://www.wamtheatre.com/2019-season/

Quick Facts

Native Gardens

by Karen Zacarías

Directed by Estefanía Fadul

Featuring Allyn Burrows, Stephen Pugh, Julissa Lee Rodríguez, and Leigh Strimbeck

Saturday, May 4


Presented at Shakespeare & Company’s Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre

70 Kemble St, Lenox, MA

Tickets $25

Available at the Shakespeare & Company Box Tuesday-Saturday 11 am -3 pm, by calling 413-637-3353 or online at https://www.wamtheatre.com/nativegardens/



WAM Theatre: debut.  Other plays: The Book Club Play, Just Like Us (adapted from the book by Helen Thorpe), Legacy of Light (Steinberg-citation award), Mariela in the Desert (Francesca Primus Award), The Sins of Sor Juana (Helen Hayes Award), How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents (adapted from the book by Julia Alvarez).  Her Theatre for Young Audiences musicals with composer Debbie Wicks la Puma include: Jane of the Jungle, Einstein is a Dummy, Looking for Roberto Clemente, Cinderella Eats Rice and Beans, Ferdinand the Bull and Frida Libre. Her musical Chasing George Washington premiered at The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and went on a National Tour.  Her script was then adapted into a book by Scholastic with a forward by First Lady Michelle Obama.  Karen is currently working on an adaptation of Edith Wharton’s “The Age of Innocence”, a drama for Oregon Shakespeare Festival and a Brazilian themed Oliver Twist musical: Oliverio: A Brazilian Twist on Dickens for The Kennedy Center.  She wrote the libretto for The Legend of Sleepy Hollow with Washington Ballet Artistic Director Septime Webre and is proud to be currently commissioned to write new plays for Arena Stage, Cincinnati Playhouse, Ford’s Theater, Adventure Theater and First Stage.  Education: BA with distinction from Stanford University and a Masters in Creative Writing from Boston University.  Et Cetera: Born in Mexico, Karen lives in Washington D.C. where she is the first playwright-in-residence at Arena Stage, has taught playwriting at Georgetown University and is the founder of Young Playwrights’ Theater. an award-winning theater company that teaches playwriting in local public schools in Washington, DC. YPT won the 2010 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from the White House as one of the most innovative arts programs in the nation. The YPT curriculum is currently being used in public schools in DC, VA, MD, New Orleans, Detroit, and Texas and is published on Amazon as “Write to Dream”. On-line: www.karenzacarias.com


WAM Theatre: The Oregon Trail (Fresh Takes 2016) Elsewhere: Select credits include Azul by Christina Quintana (Southern Rep, world premiere), The Same Day by Stefan Ivanov (Sfumato Theatre, Bulgaria, world premiere), Scissoring by Christina Quintana (INTAR, world premiere), Pranayama by James Anthony Tyler (Juilliard), Old Friends Who Just Met by Amy E. Witting (Strasberg/NYU, world premiere), so go the ghosts of méxico, part 1 by Matthew Paul Olmos (Repertorio Español), and Óye Oyá book by Rebecca Martínez and music by Rodolfo Ortega (Milagro, world premiere) Film/TV: Directing shadow on Doubt (CBS) Training: B.A. Vassar College Awards: O’Neill National Directors Fellowship (2017-18), Bill Foeller Fellowship at the Williamstown Theatre Festival (2017), Drama League Directors Project (2015 Fall Fellow/2016 TV Fellow), Repertorio Español Van Lier Directing Fellowship (2014-15) Et Cetera: Member of the New Georges JAM, The Latinx Theatre Commons steering committee, the Civilian’s R&D Group, the Lincoln Center Theatre Directors Lab, and SDC. Online: www.estefaniafadul.com


Allyn Burrows (Frank) WAM Theatre: debut. Elsewhere: Shakespeare and Company: King John (King John), Much Ado About Nothing (Benedick), Henry V (Henry V), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Oberon), Henry IV, Part 1(Hal), Measure for Measure (Angelo), Betrayal(Jerry), The House of Mirth (Lawrence Selden), Love’s Labours Lost (Berowne), Macbeth(Macduff), and The Complete Works of Shakespeare. Actors’ Shakespeare Project include The Winter’s Tale (Leontes), Henry VI Part 2 (Gloucester and Jack Cade), Henry VIII ( Henry VIII), Twelfth Night (Malvolio), Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2 (Hotspur and Pistol), Timon of Athens (Timon), All’s Well that Ends Well (Parolles), King Lear (Kent), Measure for Measure (Duke Vincentio), and Richard III (Duke of Clarence).  The Huntington Theatre: Can You Forgive Her. The Underground Railway Theatre: Breaking the Code. Lyric Stage: Shipwrecked, Merrimack Repertory Theater: Oceanside, The Seafarer, Pursuit of Happiness, and The Homecoming, and Five by Tenn, at Speakeasy Stage. Directing: Artistic Director of Shakespeare & Company, former Artistic Director of Actors’ Shakespeare Project in Boston for 8 years, directing credits there include Romeo & Juliet , Pericles, Jon Lipsky’s Living in Exile, Richard II, and The Tempest. He has worked at a number of theaters around the country, including Actors’ Theatre of Louisville, The American Conservatory Theatre, Long Wharf Theatre, The Denver Center, and The Walnut St. Theatre. TV/Film: Television credits include The Broad Squad, Law and Order, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, and Against the Law, and he can be seen in the films The Company Men, Julie & Julia, and Manchester by the Sea. Awards: He was the 2006 Elliot Norton Award recipient for The Homecoming, King Lear, and Five by Tenn and a 2011 IRNE Award Winner for Breaking the Code. Off-Broadway: credits include Bug, Killer Joe, Louis Slotin Sonata, Closetland, and The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd.

Stephen Pugh (Pablo) WAM Theatre: debut. Elsewhere: Orlando Fringe Festival: Meet the Replacements, Autobahn, Orlando Repertory: Madagascar the Musical, Newsies, Curious George, Garden Theater: Into the Woods, Singing in the Rain, Orlando Shakespeare: O-Town, Baystreet Players: Phantasmagoria, Universal Orlando: The Grinch, Beetlejuice, Disasters, Dr. Phillips Center of the Arts: The Giver, Homer P Figg.  Education: Seminole State College.

Julissa Lee Rodríguez (Tania) WAM Theatre: debut.  Elsewhere:  Julissa is a teaching artist with Enchanted Circle Theater, a member of Real Live Theatre Company based in the Pioneer Valley and an associate artist with Serious Play! Theatre Ensemble with whom she has trained and toured to NYC, London, and Edinburgh, Scotland.  Music: She is half of the teaching and performing percussion duo called PUERTOMINICANA. Incorporating theatre, dance, and drums, the duo focuses on Afro-Caribbean Latino cultural roots and rhythms as a way to connect deeply with audiences and participants, raise vibrations, uplift the people and empower women and girls. Education: Associate of Arts Degree in Fine Arts as well as a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre and Dance from Trinity College.  Etc: Based in Springfield, MA, Julissa is fiercely committed to using the arts to promote positive youth development and empowerment and has been doing so for the past ten years. She has taught and performed at various venues and conferences as well as many educational institutions and youth programs all over New England, in New York City, including at the famed Nuyorican Poets Café, and as far as South Africa.

Leigh Strimbeck (Virginia) WAM Theatre: Co-Founder & Board Member Emeritus, Joan in Melancholy Play.  Elsewhere: Understudied Tina Packer in Mother of the Maid (Shakespeare & Company); Kate Keller All My Sons Voice (Theatre Woodstock); Beth in Tribes (Theatre Institute at Sage); Lady Macduff in Macbeth (Saratoga Shakespeare): Clare in Kingdom of the Shore (The Rep Albany). Film/TV: Lifetime Movie, Off the Rails; Feature films –Fighting for Freedom (across from Bruce Dern); Little Bi Peep; Uncivil Liberties; Short, Key Transitions. Etc: director & actor with Berkshire Playwrights Lab Radius Festival; member of Voice Theatre; associate member Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble; Communications Coach NY State Public Defenders Association. Training: Bennington College & NYU, BFA; Master Classes Tadashi Suzuki, Toga Mura, Japan; Anne Bogart, Actors Center, NYC SAG/AFTRA. Online: Reel and other credits, voice overs, commercial, etc. leighstrimbeck.com

WAM 10th Anniversary Sponsors

WAM’s 2019 sponsors include Adams Community Bank, Annie Selke, Berkshire Gas, Berkshire Hand to Shoulder Center, Berkshire Magazine, Berkshire Sterile Manufacturing, Blue Q, Blue Spark Financial, Brabson Library & Educational Foundation, Canyon Ranch, Chez Nous, Custom Business Solutions, Dr, Jay Wise, DDS and Dr. Casey Jones, DMD, The Dylandale Foundation, Frankie’s Ristorante Italiano, Greylock Federal Credit Union, Guido’s Fresh Marketplace, Haven Cafe and Bakery, Health Professional Coaching, Heller & Robbins, Interprint, J.H. Maxymillian, Inc., Lee Bank, Maggie Barry, NEPR, Massachusetts Cultural Council, Only in My Dreams Events, Onyx Specialty Papers, OUTPOST, RB Design Co., The Rogovoy Report, The Rookwood Inn, Salisbury Bank, T Square Design Studio, Toole Insurance, and a. von schlegell & co.

WAM Theatre is also supported in part by grants from the Alford-Egremont Cultural Council, Cultural Council of Northern Berkshires, Hinsdale-Peru Cultural Council, Lenox Cultural Council, New Marlborough Cultural Council, Otis Cultural Council, Richmond Cultural Council, Sandisfield Cultural Council, Sheffield Cultural Council, Washington Cultural Council, West Stockbridge Cultural Council– local agencies that are supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

LADY RANDY is sponsored in part by an anonymous donor and PIPELINE is sponsored in part by Carolyn Butler.


Based in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, WAM Theatre is celebrating its 10th anniversary of being a place Where Arts and Activism Meet. The company was co-founded in 2010 by Canadian director, actor, educator, and producer Kristen van Ginhoven. WAM’s vision is to create opportunity for women and girls through the mission of theatre as philanthropy.

Inspired by the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, WAM donates a portion of the proceeds from its theatrical events to organizations that benefit women and girls.

Since 2010, WAM Theatre has provided paid work to more than 200 theatre artists and donated more than $56,500 to fifteen local and global organizations taking action for women and girls in areas such as girls education, teen pregnancy prevention, sexual trafficking awareness, midwife training and more. In addition to the main stage productions and special events, WAM Theatre’s activities include a comprehensive educational outreach program and the Fresh Takes Play Reading Series. For more information, visit www.WAMTheatre.com

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