Pulitzer finalist Will Arbery’s latest work Corsicana explores ideas of community and caretaking in the story about half-siblings Ginny and Christopher. Ginny, a woman with Down syndrome, and Christopher, her younger brother, have recently lost their mother, leaving it to them to find a way to move forward and take care of each other with help from family friend Justice and local outsider Lot.
The world premiere run of Corsicana opens June 22 at Playwrights Horizons and plays through July 10, starring Jamie Brewer as Ginny, Will Dagger as Christopher, 2022 Tony winner Deirdre O’Connell as Justice, and Harold Surratt as Lot.
Playbill chatted with Brewer about her return to theatre after her Drama Desk-winning performance in the 2018 Off-Broadway production of Amy and the Orphans at Roundabout Theatre. Read on for her thoughts on the character of Ginny, and how she approached the process of bringing her story to the stage.
How is it returning to theatre?
Jamie Brewer: It's incredible and amazing. And being back in New York after several years. I did Amy and The Orphans in January of 2018.
What about this show and playing Ginny captured your interest?
One big thing is being back in New York, for sure. And my interest with Corsicana is that I finally get to show who I am, showing the life of someone with Down syndrome being laid back, being at home most of the time.
When I was younger, I was in a couple of musicals. In Doctor Doolittle, I played his wife Gertie, I got to dance around in a hoop skirt and everything. And it's really exciting to me that I get my dancing and singing debut with this.
That was a fun part of the show.
Yeah, that's a thing that Ginny and I have in common.
What are some of the other similarities that you share with Ginny, and some of the things that were kind of a challenge for you as an actor?
Well, some of the ones that are a bit of a challenge is showing more confidence, for one. And there aren’t a lot of challenges for me, actually, to be honest with you. But, the similarities are my personality exactly. She loves music, she's always very outspoken, speaks her mind. And, at times, she can be religious.
An important part of the play is this song Ginny is working on. How did you develop the song?
Organically myself, as Ginny. And that is something that Ginny is. She has the chance to find the love, and it’s her anthem song. It's her love song. It's her song. And also a huge thanks to Joanna Sternberg [the show’s composer] as well, their music is truly incredible.
Let’s talk about the rehearsal process.
There was some table work in the beginning. Then after a while, Sam Gold was like, "let's get this on its feet." I love being on my feet. I had to memorize on my feet and doing sign language; because when I do sign language, it gets the lines into me a little faster because I'm working with my hands.
Playwright Will Arbery, whose sister Julia has Down syndrome, noted in the show's program that he wrote this play in part because he’s “always wanted to create a play about what it’s like to be her brother.” Did you meet Julia as part of the process?
I haven’t met her, yet. But, she's coming! His family's coming, his parents, Julia; they're all excited about it. I’m excited to meet them.
Were there any kind of nerves with taking on the role?
There’s some, but I use nervousness throughout the show. And there are areas where she's nervous. I show it on stage.
What is this play about in your opinion?
My opinion is it takes a village to take care of each other, in some way. Because it may be a four-person cast, but the play is amazingly written by Will Arbery. And being Ginny, it means something to me to be her and be in this play as basically a small-town gal, showing her life at home, going out in the town when she needs to.
The whole thing in its entirety is really incredible, what Will has written, and it's an amazing cast. Harold Surratt, Didi O'Connell, myself, Will Dagger, the connection there is incredible. And I love that Ginny, she finds the connections, and she brings them back to light in a neat way. She reconnects with her brother, her brother comes back home to find a way to take care of Ginny after their mom passed. Even though she is independent, and she speaks her mind and says "I'm an adult. I'm 34 years old, I'm older than you." And she also knows what she wants in life. She is very confident and confident in what she wants.