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Going to St Ives

March 3-19, 2011

WRITTEN BY Lee Blessing

DIRECTED BY Laura Gordon

May N’Kame, the mother of an African dictator, travels to England to see Dr. Cora Gage about medical treatment for her failing eyesight. During a pre-surgery consultation it becomes clear that both women have other agendas. The surgeon hopes to win the release of colleagues held captive in Africa, while the patient seeks the means to rid her country of her murderous son. May and Cora face difficult questions of personal ethics, global politics, and moral responsibility as they sip cups of tea and trade confidences across a wide cultural divide.

Overture Center for the Arts

201 State St,
Madison, WI 53703

Sponsored By: 

Madison Community Foundation
Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission
Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin

About the show


Performance Dates:
March 3-19, 2011

Age Recommendations:


We strive to make our performances available to the entire community. This guiding principle captures the theater we aim to be.

We’re proud to be a resident company at Overture Center, which provides practical accessibility for a variety of needs.

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Lee Blessing, head of the Playwriting Program at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, has become a major voice in modern American theater. His plays have been nominated for Tony and Olivier awards and a Pulitzer Prize. Recent plays in New York, Thief River, Cobb and Chesapeake, received Drama Desk nominations and an award, plus nominations from the Outer Critics Circle. He’s had two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts as well as from the Guggenheim, Bush, McKnight and Jerome Foundations. His plays include A Walk In The Woods, Eleemosynary, Two Rooms, Down The Road and Going To St. Ives among many others, and have been performed throughout the world. His work has been stage-read in eight different summers at the O’Neill Playwrights Conference in Waterford, CT.


Thoughts from Director Laura Gordon:

“Lee Blessing has written a challenging, eloquent, provocative, moving, witty, poetic, political, human story in Going to St. Ives ‑ one that just happens to contain two extraordinarily great roles for women. I was fortunate enough to be able to experience this play as an actress, in Next Act Theatre’s lovely production directed by Mary MacDonald Kerr in 2009, and I am thrilled to revisit it again now as a director for Forward Theater.

It’s rare to find a play that is able to explore such big, geopolitical ideas in such an accessible, down-to-earth way. The story is global in scope, while never losing touch with the immediate and the personal. It’s a play about two mothers. Two women who are wrestling with who they are, who they have become, and where they belong.”


American Theatre Wing
Downstage Center Interview Program at American Theatre Wing
Excerpt from an Interview with Lee Blessing

How did you come to write Going to St. Ives?

LB: Really the way it began, oddly enough I had a show at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center years ago, a play called A Walk in the Woods, a play that later played on Broadway and it had a man who was in his 50s and another man who was slightly younger and they were an American and a Soviet negotiator. It went very well obviously. But while I was up there there were two actresses who said one day (and they were about the same age as these actors), “You should write a play like that for women sometime.” So, I said “I’m going to get right on that”. Ten years later I started this play. [Laughter] What was interesting was in trying to write another play that was [for] two people that dealt geopolitical issues, but you know, these were woman. I sort of took a different tack and I did not allow them to be people who were in government for example as the men in Walk in the Woods are. The one is the mother of the leader of a country and a rather monstrous leader at that. The other one doesn’t want anything to do with politics at all. So it instantly became a very different kind of play and the themes in it became very different. In the case of both women there’s a big issue about their sons – life and death issues about their sons. So it quickly became a play very much about motherhood. About . . .what it is to be a mother, what it is to lose a son or at least contemplate losing a son. And, that became a large part of the play. And, also the play is a murder suspense story and that differentiated it a great deal from Walk in the Woods.


Excerpt from A CurtainUp Review

Some artists are settlers. Whether painters or playwrights, once they find a style to which the public responds, they settle in and work within that comfort zone. Other artists are lifelong explorers, not content to keep mining familiar territory to insure success. Lee Blessing falls into this latter category. While you might say he’s stuck to a writing formula in the sense of using a small canvas for stories that revolve around big ideas, he keeps trying out new styles and taking on previously unexamined themes. Consequently, audiences and critics are likely to be all over the map in their response to his plays.

The Blessing play that has garnered the most unanimous praises was of course his 1988 Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-nominated A Walk in the Woods.

Colleen Madden
Dr. Cora Gage
Olivia Dawson
May N'Kame
Creative Team
Jen Trieloff
Set Designer
Jason Fassl
Set Designer
Joe Cerqua
Sound Designer
Scott Rott
Costume Designer
Jen Trieloff
Jacqueline Singleton
Stage Manager
Kim Patch
Frank Hontz
Richard Ganoung
Assistant Director
Ric Lantz
Technical Director

“Madison’s Forward Theater is giving “Ives” the sort of production we’ve come to expect when Laura Gordon directs: smart, intense and clear, while nevertheless true to the ambiguities in a script that refuses easy answers.”
~ Mike Fischer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“[Director Laura] Gordon keeps the focus tight in this well-acted, beautiful production. Even in sleepy St. Ives, lives can change around tea sets while women quietly change the world.”
~ Lindsay Christians, 77 Square

“Director Laura Gordon, coaxes what may be career-defining performances out of actors Colleen Madden, a member of American Players Theatre’s acting company, and Olivia Dawson. The narrative by Blessing, who has won both Tony Awards and Pulitzer Prizes for his work, balances the play’s emotional and intellectual facets with ruthless precision. All components combine beautifully in this production to signal that the two-year-old company may have come of age.”
~ Michael Muckian, Wisconsin Gazette

“Both [Colleen] Madden and [Olivia] Dawson are up to the task as they flawlessly weave together a masterful story of power, revenge and empathy.”
~ Amanda Connors, The Badger Herald

More from this season

In The Next Room, Or The Vibrator Play
November 4-21, 2010
Moonlight and Magnolias
April 28 – May 15, 2011
The Love That Changed My Life
February 11 and 12th, 2011