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October 23 - November 18


Thurgood spans the impressive 58-year career of Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American to sit on the Supreme Court. From his early days as the civil rights lawyer who argued the landmark case of Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954, leading to the end of institutionalized segregation, to his appointment to the highest court in the land, Thurgood is a fitting tribute to Marshall’s enduring legacy.

By George Stevens, Jr.

Running time:2 Hours and 10 minutes including intermission

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LESTER PURRY | Thurgood Marshall

Veteran actor LESTER PURRY was introduced to the world of theatre during his senior year in high school, which led to 17 lead roles while attending Mars Hill University.  Lester started acting professionally with summer stock but, it was what seemed an ambitious move to Minnesota for an actor of his “type” with only $13 in his pocket, that proved to be the key to launching a long and thriving career filled with extraordinary acting opportunities. A highly respected Regional Theatre performer, Lester has graced numerous stages over his thirty-year tenure in the business, including Penumbra Theatre Company, Baltimore’s Center Stage, The Philadelphia Theatre Company, Studio Theatre in Washington D.C., Arden Theatre in Philadelphia, Dallas Theatre Company, The Southern Appalachian Theatre Company, Savannah Theatre Company, Nebraska Shakespeare Festival and The Alabama Shakespeare Festival where he met lovely his wife Toni Johnson-Purry.  The long time company member, credits Penumbra founder Lou Bellamy and his performance in Fool for Love during his first year in the Twin Cities, that inspired him and it was attending August Wilson’s play Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom at Penumbra that fueled his determination to become a Penumbra company member where he has performed in Two Trains Running, King Hedley II, Jitney, The Piano Lesson and Fences as Cory Maxson. Lou portrayed Troy Maxson


George Stevens, Jr. | Playwright

GEORGE STEVENS, JR’S interest in Thurgood Marshall began with a miniseries he wrote and directed, Separate But Equal, the story of the Brown vs. Board of Education school desegregation case on which Marshall was the lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Thurgood is his first play. Stevens is the founder of the American Film Institute and a writer, director, and producer. Motion pictures: The Thin Red LineGeorge Stevens: A Filmmaker’s JourneyJohn F. Kennedy: Years of LightningDay of DrumsThe Diary of Anne Frank. Television: Separate But Equal (Sidney Poitier , Burt Lancaster), The Murder of Mary Phagan (Jack Lemmon, Peter Gallagher, Kevin Spacey), The Kennedy Center Honors (1978 – 2007), The American Film Institute Life Achievement Awards (1973 – 1998), America’s MillenniumD-Day to Berlin. Alfred A. Knopf recently published his book, Conversations With the Great Moviemakers of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Awards include eight awards from the Writers Guild of America, two George Foster Peabody Awards, and two Emmys.

LOU BELLAMY | Director

LOU BELLAMY is the founder and artistic director emeritus of Penumbra Theatre. During his 40 year tenure, Penumbra evolved into one of America’s premier theatres dedicated to dramatic exploration of the African American experience. Under his leadership, Penumbra has grown to be the largest theatre of its kind in America and has produced over 40 world premieres, including August Wilson’s first professional production. Penumbra is proud to have produced more of Mr. Wilson’s plays than any theatre in the world. Bellamy is an OBIE Award-winning director, an accomplished actor, and for 38 years was appointed as an Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota in the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance.  Mr. Bellamy most recently directed Penumbra’s production of For Colored Girls….  Selected directing credits include plays at Indiana Repertory, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Arizona Theatre Company, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Signature Theatre, Cleveland Play House, Guthrie Theater, Kennedy Center, Kansas City Repertory, Gem Theater, Round House, Portland Playhouse, and Hartford Stage.

VICKI SMITH | Scenic Designer

VICKI SMITH returns to Geva where she designed the scenery for Wait until Dark, Pump Boys and Dinettes and Tuesdays with Morrie. Regional credits include Denver Center Theatre Company (54 productions), Penumbra Theatre Company, Children’s Theatre Company, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Cincinnati Playhouse, Cleveland Play House, Arizona Theatre Company, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Utah Shakespeare Festival, Guthrie Theatre, Kansas City Repertory Theatre, San Jose Repertory Theatre, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Actors Theatre Louisville, Repertory Theatre St. Louis, Dallas Theatre Center, ACT (Seattle), Pittsburgh Public Theatre, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Alley Theatre and Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Opera credits include Anchorage Opera and Minnesota Opera. International work includes  Vigszinhaz (Budapest) and Nemzeti Szinhaz (Miskolc) – Picasso at the Lapin Agile. She is the recipient of Bay Area Critics Awards for Kite Runner and Execution of Justice; Dramalogue Award for Cyrano; Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Award for Mariela in the Desert, Plainsong and Doubt; Denver Ovation Awards for Pierre and I’m Not Rappaport; Prague Quadrennial Design Exposition 2007 –Pierre. She received an M.F.A.in Theatre from the University of Washington; an M.F.A. in sculpture from the University of Washington (sculpture) and a B.A. from Reed College.

CASEY McNAMARA | Costume Designer

CASEY McNAMARA is a Rochester-based theatrical designer and costume shop manager.  He received a B.F.A. in Theatrical Design and Technologies from Avila University and a M.F.A. in Scenography from the University of Kansas.  His credits include Costume Design for Million Dollar Quartet and Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End at Geva, Assassins at the Polsky Theatre (2017), Associate Costume Design for the SALT-nominated production of Parade at the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse (2017), Lighting and Scenic Design for Reckless at the William Inge Theatre (2016), Co-Costume Design for Evil Dead: The Musical for Egadz! (2016), Lighting Design for A Raisin in the Sun at the Crafton-Pryor Theatre (2015), and Lighting Design for A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline at Canterbury Theatre (2015).

DON DARNUTZER | Lighting Designer

DON DARNUTZER returns to Geva where he previously designed Tuesdays with Morrie, Pump Boys and Dinettes and Wait Until Dark. Broadway credits include It Ain’t Nothin’ But The Blues and Off-Broadway credits include Hank Williams:Lost Highway, The Immigrant, and Almost Heaven: John Denver’s America. Don has designed for theatres around the country including Guthrie Theatre, Arizona Theatre Company, Seattle Repertory Theatre, The Denver Center Theater Company, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, The Shakespeare Theatre, American Conservatory Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Actors Theatre of Louisville, The Alley Theater, Cleveland Play House, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Cleveland Play House, Penumbra Theatre, The Shakespeare Theater, The Arena Stage, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, The Old Globe Theater, The Alley Theater, Geffen Playhouse, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Children’s Theatre Company of Minneapolis, Mark Taper Forum, Coconut Grove Playhouse, San Diego Repertory Theatre. Opera credits include Portland Opera, Palm Beach Opera, New Orleans Opera, Atlanta Opera, Florentine Opera, Chautauqua Opera, Central City Opera, San Antonio Festival and Opera Grand Rapids. International work includes Picasso at the Lapin Agile, Vigszinhaz (Budapest), Nemzeti Szinhaz (Miskolc), Israel Opera. He is the recipient of Best Creative Achievement in Opera, Lighting and Projection Design for Rusalka at New Orleans Opera; Bay Area Critic Award Lighting Design for The Rainmaker; Denver Post Ovation Award for John Brown’s Body; Denver Westword for The Immigrant; Denver Drama Critics Circle for  A Midsummer Night’s Dream; and Arizona Zoni Award for Amadeus.


JUSTIN ELLINGTON is pleased to make his Geva Theatre Center debut with Thurgood. Broadway credits include Other Desert Cities. Off Broadway credits include The House That Will Not Stand and Fetch Clay Make Man at New York Theatre Workshop; Pipeline, Pass Over, and Other Desert Cities at Lincoln Center; He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box, and The Winter’s Tale for TFANA; and The Pride at MCC . Regional/International credits include work at the Guthrie Theatre, Goodman Theatre, People’s Light, The Wilma Theater, PlayPenn, Alliance Theater, Royal Shakespeare Company, and the National Theatre in London. He is the receipient of the Obie Award for Sound Design. www.justinellington.com

RASEAN DAVONTE JOHNSON | Projection Designer

RASEAN DAVONTE JOHNSON returns to Geva Theatre Center where he previously designed Smart People. A Chicago-based video artist and theatrical designer, he has had the opportunity to work Off-Broadway and regionally with institutions such as The Sheen Center, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Yale Repertory Theatre, McCarter Theatre Center, Long Wharf Theatre, Berkshire Theatre Group, Alliance Theatre, Court Theatre, The Hypocrites, The Kitchen Theatre, Teatro Vista, Olney Theatre Center, Writers Theatre, Manual Cinema, and internationally with the Ningbo Song and Dance Company. Additionally his video and installation work has been seen at the Yale Art Gallery, The Bridgeport Film Festival, the Logan Center for the Arts, and the Columbus International Film Festival. M.F.A. Yale School of Drama. raseandavontejohnson.com.


JEAN GORDON RYON serves as New Plays Coordinator at Geva Theatre Center where, among other duties, she produces the Regional Writers Showcase and the Young Writers Showcase. She was dramaturg for 1776, John Bull’s Other Island, That Was Then, Shear Madness, The Underpants, The Clean House, Almost Maine, The Music Man, Company, Perfect Wedding, The 39 Steps, Last Gas, Wait Until Dark, Little Shop of Horrors and Geva’s current production of A Christmas Carol, and she has contributed dramaturgical research and written program articles for several other productions. Ms. Ryon holds a degree in drama from Tufts University and a master’s degree in Arts Administration from Goucher College. Her most recent directing credits in the community include Grace and Glorie, Master Class, Blithe Spirit, Pride’s Crossing, and The Gin Game for Blackfriars and The Chosen and The Immigrant for JCC’s CenterStage. For RCP’s Irish Players, she has directed Philadelphia, Here I Come; Juno and the Paycock; Da; Translations; Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me; Waiting for Godot; The Kings of the Kilburn High Road; Dancing at Lughnasa; Faith Healer; The Hostage; Love in the Title; The Cripple of Inishmaan; Dublin Carol and A Moon for the Misbegotten for RCP’s Shakespeare Players she has directed Romeo and Juliet and Much Ado About Nothing. Ms. Ryon is also the Artistic Director of The Geriactors, a traveling troupe of mature actors. 


TIMOTHY TOOTHMAN is excited to return to Geva and to work with Director Lou Bellamy again. Mr. Toothman was Geva’s first Equity Stage Manager and was the Production Stage Manager here from 1974 – 1979. He then spent five years as a member of the Performing Arts Department at NTID at RIT and was the Company Manager for Sunshine Too, a national touring ensemble of deaf and hearing actors. He has managed both producing and presenting theatre companies in Indiana and Maryland, stage managed the National Heritage Fellowship Awards for the National Endowment for the Arts for ten years (1987 – 1996) and spent eleven years as a program and grants director for the Maryland State Arts Council and the Connecticut Commission on the Arts. Mr. Toothman recently retired after 15 seasons as the Artistic Associate at Arizona Theatre Company where he was responsible for union relations, obtaining rights to plays and actor negotiations and contracting. He also stage managed over 20 productions at ATC including King Charles III; Fences (directed by Lou Bellamy) and the Geva / ATC co-production of Wait Until Dark.