Activist company

Aurora Theater Company presents WIVES by Jaclyn Backhaus

Aurora Theater Company concludes its 30th season with the West Coast premiere of Jaclyn Backhaus’ Wives.

Chicago-based director, adapter and activist Lavina Jadhwani directs Anisha Jagannathan, Kunal Prasad, Jasmine Sharma and Rebecca Schweitzer (Bull in a China Shop; Rapture, Blister, Burn; The First Grade) in this powerful and playful feminist play.

The brides will be featured in person on Aurora’s main stage from June 24 through July 24.

Aurora will also feature a week of streaming performances from Wives for audiences to enjoy at home. The streaming performances will run concurrently with the in-person performances from July 19-24.

Artistic Director Josh Costello said, “I am thrilled to bring the local premiere of Wives to Aurora. I can’t think of any other play that so successfully combines big intellectual ideas, cutting edge feminism, pop culture, history and literature. contexts and critiques, and hilarious, irreverent humor.”

From Hemingway’s widow to a Rajasthani maharani, from 16th century France to the University of Oxbridge campus today, Great Men are being left behind as their wives claim center stage in this irreverent celebration of female abilities and power. Can Catherine de Medici, queen of Henry II of France, overcome her rivalry with Henry’s mistress, Diane de Poitiers? Will Hemingway’s death bring his former wives together or tear them apart? Can a pact between a maharaja, his wife and a witch survive the forces of British imperialism? Can a new student club devoted to witchcraft conjure a spell to manifest a new way of being in the world? Aurora is proud to present the West Coast premiere of this tumultuous and powerful story from playwright extraordinaire Jacklyn Backhaus.

“Jacklyn Backhaus is a rising star in American theater…We’ve assembled an amazing team for this production; I can’t wait to share this story with our community,” Costello said.

Jaclyn Backhaus (her) is a playwright, co-founder of Fresh Ground Pepper and new member of The Kilroys. His plays include Men On Boats (New York Times Critics’ Pick, Clubbed Thumb, Playwrights Horizons, published by Dramatists Play Service), India Pale Ale (Manhattan Theater Club, recipient of the 2018 Horton Foote Award for Promising New American Play), You Across From Me (co-written with three other writers for the Humana Festival), Folk Wandering (book author and co-lyricist with 11 composers, Pipeline Theater Company) and you On the Moors Now (Theater Reconstruction Ensemble), among others. She was the 2016 Tow Foundation Playwright-in-Residence at Clubbed Thumb and is currently in residence at Lincoln Center.

Lavina Jadhwani (her) is a Chicago-based filmmaker, adapter, and activist. His adaptation of A Christmas Carol premiered at the Guthrie in Minneapolis in 2021 and will remain on stage for years to come. Directing credits include Asolo Rep, The Guthrie, Mixed Blood, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Teatro Vista and Rasaka Theater Company, where she served as Artistic Director for seven years. His critical writing has been featured on HowlRound and Rescripted and is regularly broadcast to classrooms across the country.

Lavina serves on the board of the National New Play Network and the Chicago Inclusion Project; she volunteers with Unlock Her Potential, a national mentoring program for women of color. She is a proud alumnus of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (aka “Hogwarts for Hackers”), where she received the Choir’s Bob Fosse Choreography Award and the Drama Club’s “Lifetime Achievement” Award. Wives is the first full production that Jadhwani will direct in Aurora.

“I’m so thrilled to be making my Aurora debut working on this fabulous piece with this amazing company of artists! This is Jaclyn’s third piece I’ve done in 18 months and her work is always fresh, fierce and unique. Wives is no exception: it’s an incredible playground for creators, an exciting challenge for actors, and a gift for me to work as a director.” said Jadhwani.

Jadhwani has assembled an all-star cast for Wives.

Anisha Jagannathan (she/her) (Wife 3) is an actress, singer, and comedian based in the Bay Area and Los Angeles. She is a USC alumnus, performer and producer of improvisation and sketching, and was featured at SF Sketchfest in 2020. Her recent credits include Lady Mortimer in Henry IV at the Orange County Shakespeare Festival, Kayla in Hollywood Fringe’s Production of Best Friend, Shai in FreeForm’s Good Trouble and “Wendy” in Showtime’s Shameless.

Kunal Prasad (he/they) (Male) is an actor, artist and educator. He studied acting at the American Repertory Theater and the Moscow Art Theater and also studied long-acting advanced improvisation at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York. He is featured in the independent film The Cow, starring Winona Ryder, which premiered at SXSW in Austin and will be released in wide release this fall. Kunal has been seen performing in Baloney at The Oasis nightclub, A Thousand Splendid Suns at the American Conservatory Theater, and Wisdom from Everything at the Local Theater Company in Colorado. Other theater credits include: Taylor Mac: A 24-Decade History of Popular Music (SF Curran), Vignettes on Love (Playground SF), Hedda Gabler (The Cutting Ball Theatre), Our Enemies: Lively Scenes of Love and Combat (Golden Thread Productions) and A Dreamplay (The Cutting Ball Theatre). He has worked at the California Shakespeare Theatre, the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, the Magic Theater and the Berkeley Repertory Theatre.

Jasmine Sharma (her) (Wife 1) is a South Asian actress/writer/activist and is thrilled to be a part of Wives. Jasmine has recently worked with The 24 Hour Plays both as an actor and writer, and has been Script PA on several Broadway musicals. Recently, Jasmine was named the 2022-2023 Reel Sisters Fellow by GRO UP: A Web Series, in which she is involved as both an actor and a writer. She is currently commissioned by Moxie Arts NYC and Jackalope Theater.

Rebecca Schweitzer (her) (wife 2) is thrilled to be back at the Aurora where she was last seen in Bull in a China Shop. In addition to the Aurora, Rebecca has appeared at Center Rep, SF Playhouse, Marin Theater Company and PCPA. Favorite roles include Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in the New World; Rapture, Blister, Burn; Book club game; The tigers are motionless; Coronado; The story; Small Tragedy, as well as the world premieres of Love and The First Grade. Rebecca is a graduate of the Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts. His voice can be heard on various video games (The Walking Dead, Back to the Future, World of Warcraft: Legion, League of Legends, SimCity, CSI Hard Evidence, CSI Deadly Intent), TV and radio commercials, movie videos business and reservations. lines (CSAA, Disney). This and all efforts are dedicated to his mother and grandfather whose love and support were the basis of his success. She would also like to thank her husband for his unwavering support.

Wives’ creative team includes Marie Shell, stage manager; Lauren Quan – Assistant Stage Manager; Mikiko Uesugi–Scenic; Srikar Srinath–Illumination; Courtney Flores Kerrigan–Costume; Elton Bradmon–Sound; Ishika Seth–Choreographer; Shaun Tuazon – Main Props; Malia Sittler–Wardrobe; Cindy Ngu–Costume Shop Support.

Aurora Theater Company concludes its 30th season with the West Coast premiere of Jaclyn Backhaus’ Wives. Chicago-based director, adapter and activist Lavina Jadhwani directs Anisha Jagannathan, Kunal Prasad, Jasmine Sharma and Rebecca Schweitzer (Bull in a China Shop; Rapture, Blister, Burn; The First Grade) in this powerful and playful feminist play.

The brides will be featured in person on Aurora’s main stage from June 24 through July 24.

Aurora will also feature a week of streaming performances from Wives for audiences to enjoy at home. The streaming performances will run concurrently with the in-person performances from July 19-24.