Before she was a saint, she was a woman. Based on the novel “Sister Teresa” by New York Times bestselling author Bárbara Mujica and developed at the Actors Studio in collaboration with the novelist, the world premiere of God’s Gypsy by Coco Blignaut brings the dangerous and controversial life of Teresa of Àvila to life on stage. Directed by Elina de Santos and featuring original music composed and performed by Lili Haydn, performances of God’s Gypsy take place Nov. 15 through Jan. 12 at the Lillian Theatre.
God’s Gypsy is a bold, sexy and humanizing portrait of the 16th century mystic who became one of the most controversial reformers of the Catholic Church. Spoiled with beauty and riches, Teresa was sent to a convent as a young girl to learn discipline, but instead discovered an unparalleled spiritual fervor. Adapted for the stage from Mujica’s painstakingly researched novel “Sister Teresa,” Teresa’s days of youthful romance, secret Jewish ancestry, cloak-and-dagger political dealings during the Spanish Inquisition and fits of spiritual rapture unfold in a riveting account of sisterhood, faith, and the miracle of salvation through one woman's personal relationship with God.
“Teresa was able to find a way for women to be powerful in the 16th century, and she had to fight the Inquisition to do it,” explains de Santos. “She was a great businesswoman who was able to raise money and found convents throughout Spain. She prayed to God in a more direct way, without the intervention of priests, and the Catholic Church wanted to suppress that.”
“Teresa believed that an immediate, direct connection to God could be experienced through meditation, by turning inward,” notes Mujica. “It’s a very modern concept, and one of the reasons she has been called ‘a saint for our age.’ ”
Playwright Coco Blignaut, who also stars as Teresa, Tsulan Cooper (Sister Angelica), Colin McCabe (Father Braulio) and Edison Park (Father Javier) are all members of the Actors Studio, where the play was previously workshopped for over three years. As part of the development process, excerpts have also been performed at Georgetown University where Mujica is a professor. Also in the cast are Abbe Rowlins, Carole Weyers and Jeanne Witczak.
“When Coco approached me about adapting the novel, we hit it off instantaneously,” Mujica says. “Coco looks like Teresa, so it’s very believable for me. I’ve watched over the years as the scenes evolved, always getting closer in truth to Teresa’s experience.”
Celebrated violinist Lili Haydn will record her own original score and play live at select performances. Set design for God’s Gypsy is by Joel Daavid, lighting design is by Leigh Allen, sound design is by Christopher Moscatiello and Mike Abramson produces for God’s Gypsy Productions.
Born in South Africa, Coco Blignaut got her start as the winner of Sarie magazine’s “Face of the 80s” modeling competition, which sent her all over Europe as a model. While studying theater and literature at La Sorbonne in Paris, she had her first breakthrough as an actress, playing Sandy in a French production of Grease at the renowned Theatre Trianon in Pigalle. Studying at La Comedie Francaise honed her sense of comedic timing, but it was studying with Jack Waltzer that led her to the legendary Actors Studio. Following Waltzer to London, she starred as Nina in The Seagull, Salome in Oscar Wilde’s Salome and the Bride in Blood Wedding.
Bárbara Mujica is an award-winning novelist, short story writer, scholar and theater director. In addition to “Saint Teresa,” her novels include the international bestseller “frida” (Overlook 2001; paperback, Plume 2002) and “The Deaths of Don Bernardo” (1990). Her latest novel, “I Am Venus” (Overlook 2013), explores the identity of the model for the famous Rokeby Venus, the only extant nude of 17th century Spanish painter Diego de Velázquez. Other fiction includes “Sanchez across the Street” (stories, 1997), and “Far from My Mother’s Home” (stories, 1999; French edition 2007). Her short stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. She has received prizes from the Maryland Writers’ Association, the Trailblazers Award from Dialogue on Diversity, the Theodore Christian Hoepfner Award for short fiction and the Pangolin Prize for short fiction. She is a winner of the E. L. Doctorow International Fiction Competition and a two-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize for Fiction. Mujica’s essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Miami Herald, The Dallas Morning Star, and hundreds of other publications. In 1990 her essay “Bilingualism’s Goal” was named one of the best 50 op-eds of the decade by The New York Times. A Professor of Spanish at Georgetown University, Dr. Mujica writes extensively on Spanish literature, and her articles have appeared in many academic journals.
Elina de Santos is a multi-award-winning director and recipient of the 2012 Los Angeles Drama Critic Circle’s Katselas Career Achievement Award in Directing. She is co-artistic director of Rogue Machine, where she helmed world premiere productions of Falling by Deanna Jent, Dirty Filthy Love Story by Rob Mersola (LA Times “Critic’s Choice,” LA Weekly nomination for Production of the Year), Razorback by John Pollono and Yard Sale Signs by Jennie Webb. Also for Rogue she directed West Coast premieres of Bhutan by Daisy Foote and Vivien by Rick Foster (Backstage “Critic’s Pick”), and co-directed Stop Kiss by Diana Son with Matthew Elkins. Other directing credits: New Jerusalem by David Ives and Broken Glass by Arthur Miller (West Coast Jewish Theatre); West Coast premiere of Vincent in Brixton by Nicolas Wright starring Stephanie Zimbalist (Pasadena Playhouse); Speed the Plow by David Mamet, Clifford Odets’ Awake & Sing! and Arthur Miller’s All My Sons (Odyssey Theatre); Odets’ Rocket to the Moon (LADCC direction nominee and winner Best Revival), Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, Tennessee Williams’ Orpheus Descending (LADCC Awards for direction, performance and production); and the L.A. premiere of Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance (Pacific Resident Theatre); Ibsen’s A Doll’s House – LA Weekly nominations for Direction, Production and Ensemble (Ark Theatre); Orphans by Lyle Kessler (International City Theatre – OC Weekly Best Production), Romeo &Juliet: Circus Verona (Deaf West Theatre Ovation nomination); and Awake & Sing! (Berkshire Theatre Festival and Pittsburgh Public Theatre).
Called “the Jimi Hendrix of the violin” by George Clinton, Lili Haydn has released four critically acclaimed major label recordings as a solo artist: “Lili” (Atlantic Records), “Light Blue Sun” (BMG Music), “Goodbye Stranger EP” (Nettwerk Music Group), and “Place Between Places” (Nettwerk Music Group), which was praised by NPR as “a mix of neo-psychedelic flower child and rock star virtuoso...Heifetz meet Hendrix.” Lili performed the single “Strawberry Street” on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and on HBO’s Californication. Known for her legendary collaborations, Lili has played with, sung with and opened for Roger Waters, Herbie Hancock, Sting, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Josh Groban, Seal, Cyndi Lauper, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and George Clinton's P-Funk All Stars to name a few. Both as a solo artist and as support, Lili has toured the world, performing at venues such as Carnegie Hall, the Vienna Opera House and the Hollywood Bowl. In addition to her extensive recording and touring career, Lili's music has been licensed for TV, film and commercials, and she is the featured voice and violin on Pirates of the Caribbean 3 and 4 among others. Lili is also a film composer, with six feature films to her scoring credit, “Additional Music” credits on several films, and a Film Composing Fellowship to the prestigious Sundance Film Institute.
God’s Gypsy opens on Friday, Nov. 15, with performances on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 6 p.m. through Jan. 12 (dark Nov. 28 and Dec. 26-29). There will be two previews on Wednesday, Nov. 13 and Thursday, Nov. 14, both at 8 p.m. Tickets to all performances are $30 except previews which are $15. The Lillian Theatre is located at 1076 Lillian Way, Hollywood, CA 90038 (1½ blocks west of Vine). For reservations and information, call (866) 811-4111 or go to www.godsgypsy.com.
God’s Gypsy – The world premiere of a bold, sexy, and humanizing portrait of Teresa of Avila, the 16th century mystic who became one of the most controversial reformers of the Catholic Church. Based on the novel “Sister Teresa” by New York Times bestselling author Bárbara Mujica and developed at the Actors Studio in collaboration with the novelist, this highly sensorial theater piece explores Teresa’s Jewish roots, her unconventional prayer life, her clashes with the Inquisition and her profound spirituality. Publishers Weekly called the feisty and funny Teresa a “mystic for our times.” God’s Gypsy brings her to life.
Written by Coco Blignaut
Based on the novel “Sister Teresa” by Bárbara Mujica
Developed in collaboration with Bárbara Mujica
Directed by Elina de Santos
Original music composed and performed by Lili Haydn
Starring Coco Blignaut, Tsulan Cooper, Colin McCabe, Edison Park, Abbe Rowlins, Carole Weyers, Jeanne Witczak
Produced by Mike Abramson for God’s Gypsy Productions
Previews: Nov. 13 and Nov. 14
Performances: Nov. 15, 2013 – Jan. 12, 2014
Wednesday at 8 p.m.: Nov. 13 only (preview)
Thursdays at 8 p.m: Nov. 14 (preview), 21; Dec. 5, 12, 19; Jan. 2, 9 (dark Nov. 28, Dec. 26)
Fridays at 8 p.m: Nov. 15 (Opening Night), 22, 29; Dec. 6, 13, 20; Jan. 3, 10 (dark Dec. 27)
Saturdays at 8 p.m: Nov. 16, 23, 30; Dec. 7, 14, 21; Jan. 4, 11 (dark Dec. 28)
Sundays at 6 p.m: Nov, 17, 24; Dec. 1, 8, 15, 22; Jan. 5, 12 (dark Dec. 29)
1076 Lillian Way
Hollywood, CA 90038
(1½ blocks west of Vine at Santa Monica Blvd.)
(866) 811-4111 or www.godsgypsy.com
General admission: $30