A 'roaming' play around Ridgefield invites guests to explore the theme of 'the suburbs'

After having to cancel its 2020 season, Thrown Stone Theatre Company in Ridgefield has reimagined this summer’s season, presenting not one but three world-premiere plays at three outdoor locations in town Aug. 28 through Sept. 12.

Created as short, site-specific works, the plays are conceived as a single “roving production under the aegis of suburbs,” in partnership with The Keeler Tavern Museum and History Center, the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum and West Lane Inn, during which audiences will follow the action from one location to the next.

Thrown Stone's co-artistic director Jonathan Winn said the "roaming production" casts the town of Ridgefield as a "starring role" and that the them of "The Suburbs" is a "chance for all of us to reflect on some important questions about who we are, who we were and who we might be in the future.”

The three playwrights, representing diverse backgrounds and interests, are Tony Meneses, Phanésia Pharel, and Catherine Yu. Each has written a play that can stand on its own, but together they explore the overall theme of the suburbs.

Pharel said she began reading up on Ridgefield current events and learned that there was an Underground Railroad and prominent Black community. “When I began writing the play, an image of people coming out of tents got stuck in my head,” she said. “These were Underground Railroad folk seeking to return to Ridgefield in 2021. The play is different now but I can assure you, we’ve got magic.”

Meneses said Ridgefield was pitched to him as this ‘affluent suburb’ — two words he knew nothing about. Born in Mexico, he grew up in a working class immigrant family in the cities of Albuquerque and Dallas. 

“For me what was important was finding an access point into a location like that and what ended up being fruitful was thinking about the working class people I grew up with and often write about anyway,” he said. His play celebrates Ridgefield’s working class people.

“The play specifically is about a group of ragtag caterers working a bougie event at the Aldrich Museum, and all sorts of hijinks ensue with some class commentary and comedy too,” he said.

Yu found inspiration for her play in a New York Times article she happened upon earlier this year, profiling a classics professor. 

“A Latin education in the suburbs felt like a way into a play — to marry the topic of the suburbs with a study in the classical world and an education,” she said. “It felt timelier as I wrote it as other academic fields seemed touched by demand for restructurings. In June, a university ultimately ended its language requirements for the classics — which I drafted into the play, which changed the direction of the play from one initially about race, into one about why the study of language and its history matter in an education.”

Director Kholoud Sawaf said she finds it fascinating to work on projects inspired by a place, town or city. “It presents a very interesting dynamic of making it so specific to that place, and yet so universal to the human story,” she said. “When this project came to my attention ... to be created with Ridgefield in the focus, that possibility of dancing between specificity and universality was what captured my attention and raised my excitement at first.”

Sawaf said the playwrights have listened to each other and flirted with a variation of the same themes but with a different lens and take. As an example, a name or a place dropped in one play becomes prominent in a later play.

“It’s also always exciting to see actors so innovatively bring different worlds to life through their work, and that’s part of what makes this exciting for me as a director,” she said.

For more information about the play or in-person and streaming tickets, visit thrownstone.org

This article was updated to note the revised show dates. The show's opening was pushed back from Aug. 26 to Aug. 28.