1501 14th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005
Arthur Przybyszewski, a burnt-out hippie whose guilt over avoiding military service has alienated everyone he loves, has little interest in life anymore. Even an act of vandalism to his donut shop, Superior Donuts, which outrages his irascible neighbor Max, an ambitious Russian immigrant with designs on purchasing the shop, fails to bring Arthur out of his haze. However, when a charismatic young African-American man named Franco Wicks talks his way into a job, Arthur begins to recover his spark. He begins paying attention to the female police officer with a crush on him, connects with the local homeless woman who stops in for free donuts and encourages Franco’s goal of publishing the next Great American novel. When Luther Flynn, a middle-aged gangster, and his thug Kevin confront Franco about an outstanding debt, Arthur takes the matter into his own hands.
The Ups and Downs of Superior Donuts' Uptown
Originally filled with personal summer resorts, happening jazz clubs, and the most exclusive cemetery in Chicago, Uptown has perhaps one of the most colorful histories of the 77 neighborhoods that make up the Windy City. A place to see and be seen, Uptown was Chicago’s “Entertainment District” in the early 20th century playing a significant role in ushering in the Gilded Age, the jazz age, the silent film era, and even the age of swing. Yet after WWII, Uptown’s hip reputation suffered when it became home to many migrating Southerners. In the wake of the white exodus to the suburbs, Uptown’s beautiful mansions, now unforgivably out of fashion, were subdivided to create Chicago’s ultra-affordable “Hillbilly Haven.” Starting in the 60s, waves of Asian, Hispanic, Middle-Eastern, and African-Americans made their way to Uptown, spicing up its cultural and commercial scene. Since then, locally owned stores have flourished in this often overlooked northern neighborhood, which can boast only one Starbucks and two McDonalds. Uptown is now in the process of rejuvenating its neighborhood while trying to maintain its reputation for diversity and locally owned and operated businesses, such as the ones found in Letts’ Superior Donuts.
Superior Donuts introduces the audience to an eclectic group of characters that encompasses a range of ethnicities and races, including Irish, Polish, Russian and African American. The donut shop serves as a microcosm of Chicago, a city rich in diversity. As of the 2000 census, the racial makeup of the city was 42% white, 38% black, 4% Asian, less than 1% Pacific Islander, less than 1% Native American, 14% from other races, and 3% from two or more races. 26% of the population identified as Hispanic or Latino of any race. The city has the third largest African American population in the nation, only behind New York City and Atlanta.
Approximately 20% of Chicago’s population consists of immigrants, giving it the third largest foreign-born population of all cities in the United States. The main ethnic groups in Chicago include African, Irish, German, Italian, Mexican, Arab, English, Bulgarian, Greek, Chinese, Indian, Filipino, Lithuanian, Polish, Romanian, Serbian, Swedish, Ukrainian, Dutch and Puerto Rican. Many of Chicago's citizens trace their ancestry from massive Irish and German immigrant populations. Poles in Chicago constitute the largest ethnically Polish population outside of the Polish capital, Warsaw. Today, however, Chicago’s foreign-born population is dominated by Mexican and Filipino immigrants. As we launch into the 21st century, Chicago is retaining its diversity, but its ethnic makeup continues to shift.
Tracy Letts: From Darkness to Light
The New York Times described Tracy Letts as “a recovering alcoholic and former pack-a-day smoker who could have majored in profanity had he not dropped out of college,” but also observed his “surprising sweetness and exuberant humor.” This mixture of darkness and light reflects Letts’s own background. He was born in 1965 to an artistic Southern family in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His mother Billie was a successful professor and writer who went on to author the best-selling novel Where the Heart Is, among others. His father Dennis was an academic-turned-actor. Letts’s parents were extremely supportive of the arts, taking him to see films like Serpico when he was only six years old. He recalls writing a story in his youth called “The Psychopath,” explaining, “The cover showed a man hanging in the closet, and he had also shot himself in the head.” His first-grade teacher gave him an A+. Another major figure was his grandmother, whose husband’s suicide sent her into depression and drug addiction. The combination of love and support, mixed with darkness and instability, is one that informs his writing.
As Letts grew, “from an eager-to-please kid into a tortured teenager,” he began acting. Encouraged by his parents, he dropped out of college and moved to Dallas to become an actor, waiting tables and telemarketing to scrape together a living. By the age of twenty, Letts moved to Chicago. Soon after, he began acting with Steppenwolf Theatre Company, where he is still an active member. Today, the displaced Southerner calls Chicago his home, describing Superior Donuts as a love letter to his chosen hometown.
In 1991, Letts was struggling with drug addiction. He was “ripped most of the time” when he wrote his first play Killer Joe, about a man who plans to murder his mother to buy drugs with her insurance money. After the play’s premiere Letts ceased using drugs, and has been sober ever since. His next play, Bug, premiered in London in 1996. Bug depicts the destructive relationship between a lonely cocktail waitress and a psychotic war veteran. Man from Nebraska (2003) portrayed a religious couple undergoing a crisis of faith. Man from Nebraska was a Pulitzer-Prize finalist in 2004. It was August: Osage County (2007), however, that won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play. This portrayal of a Southern family straining to deal with death, drug addiction, and incest firmly established Letts as a master of dark humor and comic pathos. Letts acknowledges the autobiographical impact of his work: “the characters are all representative of me – what I’m capable of at my best and at my absolute worst.” He also cites Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, Jim Thompson, and friend Martin McDonagh as influences.
Letts continues to act and write, recently beginning work on the screenplay of August: Osage County, as well as adapting Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters. He lives with his girlfriend, and has no children, remarking, “Families are wonderful things, but we’re all flawed by design.” This ability to see flaws, and yet still feel wonder, so clear in his writing, is part of what makes Letts’s drama so compelling.
The Rise and Fall of the American Donut Shop
The donut’s genesis in America began in the mid-19th century with a surge of Dutch immigrants, but the donut industry didn’t begin to burgeon until the early 20th century. Originally known as olykoeks (“oily cakes”), the donut’s humble origin as a home-made treat or a selection among pastries at local bakeries, specialty donut shops didn’t enter national consciousness until the early 1930s.
Until the late 1920s, donuts were generally made at home, or were found in bakeries, sold alongside other pastries; there were few stores solely dedicated to the donut. Donuts were first mass-produced during WWI, when Salvation Army volunteers baked them by the thousands for U.S. soldiers in France. Russian immigrant Adolph Levitt invented the mechanized doughnut machine in 1920 in order to meet growing demand. In 1931 he opened the first Mayflower Doughnut Shop. Each box of donuts was imprinted with the motto “as you ramble on thru life, Brother, whatever be your goal, keep your eye upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole.”
Throughout the 1930s, donut shops popped up across the country, most family-owned and operated. As large chains emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, however, smaller family shops began to close including Levitt’s Mayflower Doughnut Shop. In Tracy Letts’s play, an independent donut shop struggles to contend with encroaching chains such as Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts.
Ironically, many popular donut shops, such as Krispy Kreme, began as family-run stores before evolving into major franchises. Krispy Kreme developed into a national chain in 1990, with a current focus on international expansion. Today’s largest international donut chain is Dunkin’ Donuts, which opened its first store in Massachusetts in 1950. It began expansion in 1955, with 6,395 U.S. stores and 2,440 international stores currently in operation.
The connection between donuts, immigration, and commerce makes a donut shop the ideal location for Superior Donuts. The great equalizer, the donut’s popularity in the U.S. is unparalleled regardless of race, gender, or class. With this idea in mind, a rundown donut shop becomes a meeting place for a diverse set of characters, unlikely to cross paths otherwise.
Gregor Paslawsky (Max Tarasov)has performed at theatres throughout the country including in The Kite Runner at San Jose Repertory Theatre and Arizona Theatre Company; The Unseen with Actors Theatre of Louisville; Pericles, Two Noble Kinsman, and As You Like It at San Diego’s The Old Globe; Travesties, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and The Skin of Our Teeth at the Williamstown Theatre Festival; and Inana at The Contemporary American Theater Festival. In New York, he has worked with Katt Lissard on her piece Outpost and performed in numerous productions with Mixed Mess@ge including The Sadness of Others, Pegleg!, and Not Knowing. He is delighted to be making his Studio Theatre debut.
Julie-Ann Elliott (Officer Randy Osteen)most recently played Karen in Dinner with Friends at Olney Theatre Center. She has appeared there in dozens of productions, including leading roles in The Constant Wife, The Millionairess, Night Must Fall, Hedda Gabler, The Mousetrap, Crave, Arcadia, Tartuffe, and Trip to Bountiful. Locally she has also performed with Rep Stage in God’s Ear and Faith Healer; as well as at Theater J, Everyman Theatre, Folger Theatre, The Kennedy Center, The Shakespeare Theatre Company, MetroStage, and Washington Stage Guild. Superior Donuts marks her Studio Theatre debut. Ms. Elliott narrates books for Potomac Talking Book Services, Inc. She holds an M.F.A. in Acting from The Catholic University of America.
Jason McIntosh (Officer James Bailey) returns to The Studio Theatre where he previously appeared in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and Jerry Springer: The Opera (2009 Helen Hayes Nominee for Best Ensemble) and Fucking A in The Studio 2ndStage. He recently appeared in Twisted at the 2010 Capital Fringe Festival; The Constellation at Active Cultures Theatre; The F Word at The Inkwell; and Antigone at Forum Theatre. Jason is a graduate of The Studio Theatre Acting Conservatory.
Barbara Broughton (Lady Boyle) last appeared at The Studio Theatre as Big Edie in Grey Gardens. She has performed on Broadway in Music Music at City Center and Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George. Her Off Broadway credits include Grey Gardens at Playwrights Horizons; Concertina’s Rainbow at The Cherry Lane Theatre; The Red Truck at The Epic Theatre; Johnny Pye and the Foolkiller at The Lamb’s Theatre; and A Little Night Music at York Theatre. Regional appearances include The Bird Sanctuary and Beauty and The Beast at Alabama Shakespeare Festival; The Comedy of Errors at Connecticut Repertory Theatre; Pride and Prejudice at Dallas Theatre Center; The Price at Northern Stage; Les Liaisons Dangereuses and George Washington Slept Here at Pittsburgh Public Theatre; My Fair Lady at Pioneer Theatre; Quilters at Actors Theatre of Louisville; and Dolly in Hello Dolly at The Hangar Theatre. National Tours include Company, Cover Girls, and George M! Television and film appearances include Law and Order, The Sunset Gang (PBS), and The Producers Movie Musical.
Richard Cotovsky (Arthur Przybyszewski) is a founding member of Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co. in Chicago and is their current Artistic Director. He has performed there in many productions including as Dodge in Buried Child, Davies in The Caretaker, Weston in Curse of the Starving Class, Paddy in The Hairy Ape, Edmond in Edmond, Stanley in The Birthday Party, Max in The Homecoming, Eddie in Fool for Love, and Azdak in The Caucasian Chalk Circle. He performed in Mother Courage and her Children and The Time of Your Life at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, and he also understudied the role of Arthur in Superior Donuts at Steppenwolf. Mr. Cotovsky has performed at numerous Chicago theatres including Bailiwick Repertory Theatre, The Hypocrites, Strawdog Theatre Company, and Red Orchid Theatre. He also toured with Remains Theater as Melville in Moby Dick. He will soon be seen in the movies Janie Jones, A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas, and Little Fockers, and in the television series Ride Along.
Johnny Ramey (Franco Wicks) makes his Studio Theatre debut with Superior Donuts. He has appeared Off Broadway as Fedotik in Three Sisters with the Classical Theatre of Harlem; Hector in God is a Puerto Rican at Manhattan Theatre Source; and Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Nylon Fusion Collective. A graduate of The Juilliard School, Mr. Ramey performed there as Lincoln in Topdog/Underdog, Seth in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, Flip in Our Lady of 121st Street, Orsino in Twelfth Night, Jackson in St. James Infirmary, Kent in King Lear, Posthumous in Cymbeline, and Antigonus in The Winter’s Tale. His film appearances include A Happy Ending, Prodigal, The Three Way, and Sealed.
Chris Genebach (Luther Flynn) previously appeared at The Studio Theatre as Laurence in Shining City. His local credits include Helen of Troy/Menelaus/Pylades/Trojan Slave in Orestes: A Tragic Romp at the Folger Theatre; as well as Lucius in Titus Andronicus and Cornwall in King Lear (also at The Goodman Theatre) with The Shakespeare Theatre Company. He has appeared on Broadway understudying Ian/Laurence in Shining City and The Other Side at Manhattan Theatre Club. Off Broadway credits also include Cardinal Winchester/Lord Saye/Lord Clifford in Rose Rage: Henry VI Parts 1, 2 & 3 at The Duke on 42nd Street (also at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater). Regional credits include Nicky in The Seafarer at TheatreWorks - Hartford; and Demetrius in Short Shakespeare! A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Mercutio in Short Shakespeare! Romeo and Juliet, and Peter of Pomfret/Count Meloon/English Herald in King John at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre.
Logan Bennett (Kevin Magee) is delighted to make his professional debut at The Studio Theatre. Other credits include Christy in The Playboy of the Western World, the Young Mariner in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and Charles Lang in The Water Engine at Tidewater Community College. He has also appeared in Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Merchant of Venice, Macbeth, and As You Like It for TCC's annual Shakespeare in the Grove; and as Katurian in The Pillowman at Source Theatre in Norfolk, VA. Mr. Bennett also recently completed a summer workshop at the Atlantic Acting School in New York City. He will be appearing next in The Last Days of Judas Iscariot in Richmond, VA.
Aaron Tone (Kiril Ivakin) has been onstage at The Studio Theatre twice before in The Pillowman and in The Studio 2ndStage’s All That I Will Ever Be. Mr. Tone has also appeared as Shane Mungitt in Take Me Out with Counter Productions; Dr. Gibbs in Our Town at CTEK Arts; and Frank Stark in Slap & Tickle. He received his B.A. in Fine Arts from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, MI and is a graduate of The Studio Theatre Acting Conservatory.
Serge Seiden (Director) most recently directed In the Red and Brown Water for The Studio Theatre. His other Studio Theatre credits include Grey Gardens, My Children! My Africa!, Souvenir: A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins, which received 3 Helen Hayes Awards and 5 Helen Hayes nominations including Outstanding Director and Outstanding Resident Play, The Long Christmas Ride Home, Guantanamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom, Black Milk, The Cripple of Inishmaan, The York Realist, and A Class Act. He also directed A New Brain, which received a Helen Hayes Award nomination for Outstanding Resident Musical; Two Sisters and a Piano; Blue Heart; The Last Night of Ballyhoo, and Old Wicked Songs, which received seven Helen Hayes Nominations, including Outstanding Director. For The Studio Theatre 2ndStage, Mr. Seiden directed Sixty Miles to Silver Lake, All That I Will Ever Be, This is Our Youth, Ecstacy, Mad Forest, Hot Fudge, Sincerity Forever, and Durang/Durang. As an actor, he appeared in The Studio Theatre productions of Shooting Magda, The Gifts of the Magi, The American Plan, and numerous productions at other area theatres including The Shakespeare Theatre’s Beggar’s Opera and DC Cabaret Company’s A Dance Against Darkness for which he was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award. Since 1990 Mr. Seiden has held various positions for The Studio Theatre including Literary Manager, Production Stage Manager, and Production Manager. He is currently the Associate Producing Artistic Director. Mr. Seiden is a graduate of Swarthmore College and completed the curriculum at The Studio Theatre Acting Conservatory in 1989. He has been a faculty member of The Conservatory since 1997.
Russell Metheny (Set Designer) has designed more than 50 productions at The Studio Theatre. Some of his Studio Theatre designs include American Buffalo, Rock ‘n’ Roll, The Seafarer, Grey Gardens, The History Boys, Shining City, Ivanov, Topdog/Underdog, The York Realist, A Class Act, The Play About the Baby, The Invention of Love, Indian Ink, Bash, Far East, The Three Sisters, and The Slab Boys Trilogy. Regional credits include productions at Indiana Repertory Theatre, Great Lakes Theater Festival, Idaho Shakespeare Festival, The Old Globe, Geffen Playhouse, Dallas Theater Center, Missouri Repertory Theatre, Studio Arena Theatre, Geva Theatre Center, Goodman Theatre, Portland Stage Company, and Weston Playhouse. Recent productions include Sherlock Holmes’ Final Adventure, The Light in the Piazza, Iron Kisses, The Piano Lesson, Measure for Measure, Love’s Labour’s Lost, The Gentleman from Indiana, The Lady From Rwanda, Searching For Eden, Two Rooms, King Lear, Julius Caesar, and Machinal. He most recently designed The Comedy of Errors and The Seagull at Great Lakes Theatre Festival.
Peter West (Lighting Designer) makes his debut at The Studio Theatre. Recent designs include Neighbors at the The Public Theater; Love’s Labour’s Lost and Othello with Shakespeare Santa Cruz; The Life of Galileo at Asolo Repertory Theatre; Mrs. Warren’s Profession at The Shakespeare Theatre Company; A Midsummer Night’s Dream with California Shakespeare Theatre; and Absurd Person Singular with Barrington Stage Company. Other credits include 9 Parts of Desire at Manhattan Ensemble Theatre; Amistad at Spoleto USA, and Martha Clarke’s Garden of Earthly Delights at the American Dance Festival; as well as designs with The Public Theater, New York Theatre Workshop, Baruch Performing Arts Center, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, The Juilliard School, The Shakespeare Theatre Company, Geffen Playhouse, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Arena Stage, Geva, Huntington Theatre Company, Great Lakes Theatre Festival, and The Barbican in London. Mr. West has taught at Williams College and currently teaches at Brooklyn College. He is a proud associate of the Red Bull Theater Company.
Kate Turner-Walker (Costume Designer) has previously designed costumes for Reasons to Be Pretty, Blackbird, This is How it Goes, Red Light Winter, and Fat Pig at The Studio Theatre. Ms. Turner-Walker’s other design credits include Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical, Kennedy Center Theatre for Young Audiences; The Talented Mr. Ripley, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, A Prayer for Owen Meany, and A Murder a Mystery and a Marriage at Round House Theatre; Arcadia, Henry IV Part 1, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night's Dream (Helen Hayes Award nomination), The Game of Love and Chance, Much Ado About Nothing, Clandestine Marriage, and Two Gentlemen of Verona (Helen Hayes Award nomination) at the Folger Theatre; Dead Man’s Cell Phone, Vigils, Martha, Josie and the Chinese Elvis, Starving, and many more at The Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. Ms. Turner-Walker holds an M.F.A. in Costume Design and is a member of United Scenic Artists.
Gil Thompson (Sound Designer) has designed more than 70 productions and received six Helen Hayes Award nominations. He received the 2000 Helen Hayes Award for The Studio Theatre’s Indian Ink. More recently, his work was heard at The Studio Theatre in American Buffalo, Moonlight, Rock’n’Roll, Grey Gardens, The Road to Mecca, The History Boys, Shining City, The Pillowman, Souvenir, and A Number. He was sound engineer for The Passion of the Crawford, and he also designed lights and sound for Crestfall at The Studio 2ndStage. Other credits include Black Milk, Far Away, Privates on Parade, and The Invention of Love at The Studio Theatre, Angel's Voices and Children of the Sun at The Kennedy Center, and several productions at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. He has also worked at The Shakespeare Theatre Company, Source Theatre, Horizons Theatre, Theater of the First Amendment, and The Opera Camerata of Washington. He is Production Stage Manager for The Christmas Revels and Resident Lighting Designer and Technical Director for Sidwell Friends School.
Robb Hunter (Fight Choreographer) has directed violence and movement for many area productions including last season’s American Buffalo and Reasons to be Pretty at The Studio Theatre; Hamlet at The Washington National Opera; Stick Fly, Noises Off, The Heidi Chronicles, and Frankie & Johnny in the Claire de Lune with Arena Stage; The Alchemist at The Shakespeare Theatre; Bus Stop, The Millionairess, Oliver, Carousel, and 13 Rue de L’Amour at Olney Theatre Center; The Heavens are Hung in Black with Ford’s Theatre; A Little Night Music at Centerstage; In the Heart of America at Rep Stage, and Macbeth with Baltimore Shakespeare Festival. Mr. Hunter is a Certified Teacher for the Society of American Fight Directors and member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, AEA, SAG and AFTRA. He is currently Artist in Residence at American University and also teaches stage combat in the M.F.A. program at Catholic University and privately in the DC area.