productions / seasons / 2022 - 2023 / Bulrusher


Eisa Davis
costume design:
lighting design:
scene design:
production design:
technical direction:
photo credit:
John Flak

Tickets: $5 w/ Penn ID, $8 General, free on Thursday 4/13

Bulrusher by Eisa Davis delicately explores the intricacies of an emerging racial awareness and self-identity in a small, isolated, idyllic town in the redwood country north of San Francisco. Set in 1955 with the murder of Emmet Till distantly haunting the background, Bulrusher, is about an orphaned multiracial girl, with a gift for clairvoyance that makes her feel like a stranger even amongst the strange: the taciturn schoolteacher who adopted her, the madam who runs her brothel with a fierce discipline, the logger with a zest for horses and women, and a guitar-slinging boy who is after Bulrusher’s heart. Just when she thought her world might close in on her, she discovers an entirely new sense of self when a black girl from Alabama comes to town. In the process, a nuanced coming of age story, set within the complex interconnections of black, white, and indigenous people in US, is revealed.

Thursday, April 13th at 7pm
Friday, April 14th at 7pm
Saturday, April 15th at 7pm
Sunday, April 16th at 2pm

“Bulrusher” is presented by arrangement with Concord Theatricals on behalf of Samuel French, Inc.


Logger: Marcus Ramirez
Madame: Katrina Machetta
Vera: Nandi Ndoro
Bulrusher: Erin Brown
Boy: Asher Raduns-Silverstein
Schoolch: Shaun Moran 

Artistic and Production Staff:

Director: Margit Edwards
Production Manager, Tecnical Director, and Set Designer: Cat Johnson
Costume Designer: Millie Hiibel
Lighting Designer: Michael Lambui
Projections and Sound Designer: Ted Knighton
Stage Manager: Molly McCaffrey
Publicity: Noah Levine
Program Design: Kevin Chun
Dramaturg: David Xi
Dialect Coach: Sarah Doherty
Fight Directer: J. Oliver Donahue
Music Coach and Arrangement: Osei Kweku
Square Dance Specialist: Alex Kramer

Performance Crew:

Wardrobe and Costume Build: Hannah Bernstein
Backstage Crew: Andi Cui
Scenic and Props Build: Nicole Muravsky

Director’s Note

Eisa Davis’ Bulrusher asks how do we face the truth of our histories when our histories were shaped by impossible choices? How do we reconcile the past with the present? And how do we move forward? How many paths are there through the countless truths and consequences of the past? We are in the grips of these questions now. Naming can be a powerful tool to guide us. Naming can ground us. A name can tell us who we are or are not, where we are or are not, where we have been and when we have been. A name can act as a tether or a golden thread connecting you to places and times and peoples and truths. 

Set in an idyllic and isolated valley in northern California in 1955, Bulrusher is a nuanced coming of age story of a multi-racial girl with the gift of clairvoyance but no knowledge of her own origins. Raised in the mostly white town of Boonville, Bulrusher, our main character, has been given a freedom of spirit, freedom from the kinds of survival skills embedded in Black life, but her uniqueness imposes other kinds of limitations on her. The River guides her through.  

The River guides Bulrusher and our inhabitants of Boonville to truth, acknowledgement, and reconciliation, and love.  

Margit Edwards, Director

Dramaturg’s Note 

A poetically poignant tale of love and belonging, Bulrusher tells the story of a young black woman struggling to find her identity and her place in a community that has afforded her freedoms anachronistic to the 1950s. Set in a town oblivious to the pain and anguish of the outside world and built on the grounds that witnessed the massacre of a once-prosperous indigenous people, the story is an elegant testament to the complexity of one’s relation to themselves, their loved ones, and the very environment in which they grow and live.

When another black girl arrives in Boonville, she opens Bulrusher’s eyes to a world plagued by endless suffering and injustice yet brimful of hope. Yet with hope comes heartbreak. Perhaps ironically, gifted with the ability to pique behind fate’s mysterious curtain, Bulrusher herself is caught in the vortex of destiny's cruel sense of humor. With the specter of the past resurfacing and the future in peril, Bulrusher is confronted by not only her own history of abandonment and discovery, but that of others whose actions, advertently or not, made her the woman she is.

When the individual’s struggle for survival, inclusion, and purpose intersects with the systemic barriers constructed by an unforgiving and oppressive society, what happens is beyond any one person’s control. Rather than judging the characters for the choices they’ve made and expecting them to be the flawless person we—or even themselves—want them to be, we should take a step back and understand that behind the facade of their carefree lives lie the ruins of dreams shattered by history’s tide of displacement and deprivation.

David Xi, Dramaturg