The cast of the 1995 production of Redwing.  Top row, left to right: Joe Camerieri, Janea Boyles, Roger Silverstein.  Bottom row, left to right: Laurie Strickland, Jennifer Akin (with Sammy), Jerome Fulford.  Not pictured: Nathaniel Gentile. Photo by John Gentile. 

In 1995, Kennesaw State University produced Redwing for the first time under the direction of John Gentile. The production team included Brad Herring as set designer, Donna Yandle as costume designer, and Chip Parmley as the lighting designer.  Therey Tippett served as both assistant director and stage manager.  We contacted the original cast members and asked them to share their memories of working on this production.  Their responses are listed below, along with accompanying images (when applicable). 

Jennifer Akin: " I remember the show felt like an ensemble, before I knew what that really meant. Everyone working together to make these poems a cohesive whole of real people. It was so much fun to create the people and the town based on what was in the script and what the characters said about each other and then adding our own element. I was so glad that Katharyn was there and seemed pleased with what we had done with her work. Neat lady. The language [of the poems] seemed so heightened and yet so accessible. It was a unique experience. I hope the students have as much fun as we did."

Photo: Jennifer Akin as "Elsie Fenton," by John Gentile.

Roger Silverstein: "The people of Redwing are the people of the town and though it was a fictional town in a fictional time, the characters are here and now. The confused. The hopeful. The deluded. The used. The abused. The rebels. The entrepreneurs. They were all there then as they are here now. . . . I have a poster of our production of Redwing on my wall in my home. Reminds me of where I come from." 

Photo: Roger Silverstein and Joe Camereiri as "Philetus Findley" and "Merville Findley," by John Gentile. 

Laurie Strickland:  "To this day, Redwing was one of my favorite shows I have worked on and hope one day to get to work on it again. It was an immensely challenging project on so many levels. First of all, we got to meet the writer and really get a glimpse into her process of writing and where she wrote this beautiful piece from which taught me to really learn the write so I can begin to approach the role. . . . Of course, as an actress, I was thrilled that I got to work on so many multi- faceted characters and truly transform, making sure each one was specific and distinct from the inside out and from each other. It was a great challenge to find each character's "voice" as well as making them physically unique with only the change of a hat or scarf. This experience taught me so much and helped me when later I worked on plays like Laramie Project or Gross Indecency."

Photo: Laurie Strickland as "Laura Pearce," by John Gentile.

Janea Boyles: "There is so much to say about Redwing. It was by far, my favorite and perhaps most influential experience in undergraduate productions. In Redwing, I remember this sort of galvanizing silence we experienced from the audience when we each reached past that fourth wall with our characters, looked our guests face to face and told the stories of lives lived a hundred years ago through Katharyn Howd Machan’s economic, yet beautiful and lyrical poetry. Redwing, for me, was learning the value of telling a story well and the immense impact of a story well told. Each night the poems which came through us landed on the audience and we felt the power of a story touching someone."

Photo: Janea Boyles as "Selina Mayborn," by John Gentile.

Nathaniel Gentile: "Redwing was a great learning experience. It was my first acting experience and I was very young. It was my introduction into the world of theatre. It was the first time I had to memorize lines and deliver them in front of an audience. Although I did not pursue acting, I learned valuable skills that I can use today, skills that are helpful for public speaking or even interviewing for jobs. Before any presentation I have to give I think back to the exercises and rehearsals in that little black box at KSU."

Photo: Nathaniel Gentile as "Andrew Wicks," by John Gentile. 

Jerome Fulford: "I'm excited that you have chosen to remount Redwing. It was a great experience and I think would be great for the school. The thing that stands out the most about my experience is the accessibility of the characters. I loved working directly with the poet as well. It was an honor to be trusted with her words and I appreciate the direction I received . . . ."

Photo: Janea Boyles and Roger Silverstein as "Martha Simmons" and "Everette Simmons," by John Gentile. 

John Gentile, director, and Katharyn Howd Machan, poet, on the set of Redwing, 1995.

Katharyn Howd Machan giving a poetry reading, 1995.