The Body’s Midnight: New Spring Play by Tira Palmquist Opens at Boston Court this April

By Hayden Dobb, Pasadena Weekly Staff Writer Apr 4, 2024

    The Body’s Midnight: New spring play opens at Boston Court this April
    “The Body’s Midnight” cast. (Makela Yepez/Submitted)

    A new play is coming to Boston Court this spring. “The Body’s Midnight,” written by playwright Tira Palmquist, is a co-production with IAMA Theatre Company. Directed by Jessica Kubzansky, “The Body’s Midnight” explores the idea of what it means to get lost in America — characters Anne and David are set to search for this meaning while they embark on their version of the perfect American road trip. With them is a map, a long list of sights to see and an itinerary that is planned to land them in St. Paul just in time for the birth of their first grandchild. Soon, however, their tidy plans are disrupted by a troubling diagnosis and the breathtaking, fleeting world around them. As the two are skewed from their initial path, they are met with an unavoidably messy and bewildering journey of their lives.

    “It’s beautiful and it’s incredibly funny,” Kubzansky said. “It’s a play about a rite of passage in some ways. It’s a play about different relationships regarding husbands and wives or parents and children. It covers the beautiful impermanence of our lives and the choices that we start to make when something in us feels threatened. I think everyone can relate to this, especially through what we all experienced with the pandemic — it’s really a play about what happens when something disrupts and limits your life.”

    The cast that will be acting out this grand story is Keliher Walsh, playing Anne; Jonathan Nichols-Navarro, playing David; Sonal Shah as Katie; and Ryan Garcia as Wolf. Before these characters were conceptualized, an acting friend of Palmquist noted that at the peak of her talent in her career, it was becoming harder for her to find roles in theater due to the lack of middle-aged and older women in plays.

    “I accepted the challenge, and know that there are things I’m really interested in as a playwright — one of those is the stories I choose to tell. I want to be mindful of the stories and represent all ages in theater, and to mostly represent women without the ties to being a mother or caregiver, showing that side of womanhood is important to me,” Palmquist said.

    Another aspect to “The Body’s Midnight” is Palmquist’s nod to the good, stable marriage that is showcased in the play, juxtaposing broken relationships that are usually told in the industry.

    From her home state of Minnesota, Palmquist also finds joy in writing stories involving the state, along with highlighting the sense of adventure shared throughout the country.

    “This intensely theatrical and wondrously strange piece leans into the visually arresting and textually rich — it’s what IAMA Theater Company and Boston Court values in new playwriting. ‘The Body’s Midnight’ shows the best and worst parts of a road trip experience, and the most interesting characters are met along the way. It’s a great performance on how vast and odd it can all be,” Kubzansky added.

    If Palmquist had to sum up “The Body’s Midnight” in three words, they would be “discovery, bravery, legacy.”

    Palmquist is known for her writing that merges the poetic, personal and political. Her most produced play, “Two Degrees,” was produced by places like the Tesseract Theater in St. Louis and Prime Productions at the Guthrie, after its premier at the Denver Center. As an established playwright, her work “The Way North” was a finalist for the O’Neill, an Honorable Mention for the 2019 Kilroys List and was featured in the 2019 Ashland New Plays Festival.

    Tickets for the preview shows from April 18 to April 26 cost between $19 to $39 as the play is honed, and tickets through opening night to the play’s close from April 27 to May 26 cost between $24 to $59. Please view the Boston Court website for ticket price details.

    With special events surrounding specific showings of “The Body’s Midnight,” guests can expect pre- and post-show illuminations following themes of the play or examining closely at how the play came to be. Special events include an art reception, playwriting conversations with Palmquist, ASL interpreted performances, Mother’s Day celebrations and more.

    For more information on show details, ticket prices and before and after show events, visit

    “The Body’s Midnight”
    WHEN: April 18 to May 26
    WHERE: Boston Court Pasadena, 70 N. Mentor Avenue, Pasadena
    COST: Tickets start at $19

    The Subtext: Mashuq Mushtaq Deen Befriends the Lion and the Rottweiler

    This month Brian talks to playwright Mashuq Mushtaq Deen about building a writing career, pushing audiences out of their comfort zone, and finding his place in the theatre.

    By American Theatre Editors

    Each month on The Subtext, Brian speaks with a playwright about life, writing, and whatever itches we are scratching.

    On this month’s episode, Brian speaks with playwright and essayist Mashuq Mushtaq Deen. They discuss his approach to staying ahead of the audience, the choice to remove the character of Deen from his autobiographical play (Draw the Circle), and his experience revisiting prose writing. Deen earned an MFA in theatre with a playwriting concentration from the now-separate Actors Studio Drama School/New School for Drama.

    Mashuq Mushtaq Deen is a CORE writer at the Playwrights’ Center, and winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Draw the Circle, which was produced at PlayMakers Rep, Mosaic Theatre, and Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre (published by Dramatists Play Service). His other full-length plays include: The Vessel, which was commissioned by the NYU graduate acting program); Flood, which had its world premiere at Kansas City Rep in 2023, and its Chicago premiere at Shattered Globe in 2024; The Betterment Society, which is published in The Methuen Drama Book of Trans PlaysThe Shaking Earth, which has won two 2nd place international playwriting awards (International Woodward Prize, and the India’s International Sulthan Padamsee Prize), and has been nominated for both a Weissberger Award and a Venturous Fund award; and The Telegram, a live-staged radio play which was commissioned and produced by Keen Company.

    This episode can also be found here.

    Contemporary Asian Theater Scene (CATS) Collaborate with Jeffrey Lo on Inaugural Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Playwright Festival

    Read more from the Digital Journal here.

    CATS collaborates with local award-winning director and playwright for a one-of-kind AAPI theater experience.

    Jeffrey Lo

    SAN JOSE, Calif. – Contemporary Asian Theater Scene (CATS), in collaboration with award-winning director and playwright Jeffrey Lo, announces the launch of its inaugural Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Playwright Festival, a one-of-a-kind theater arts experience that fosters and showcases the talent of existing and emerging local Bay Area AAPI theater artists, from writers and actors to directors, stagehands and others. Scheduled for Saturday, July 27, 2024, at San Jose Stage theatre (The Stage), the CATS 2024 AAPI Playwright Festival is proudly co-produced with San Jose Stage Company, amplifying the vibrant creativity of both organizations.

    The inaugural AAPI Playwright Festival features staged readings of six AAPI short plays written by the following AAPI playwrights: Victoria Chong Der, Anthony Doan, Reed Flores, Kausar Mohammed, Conrad Panganiban, and Christina Ying. The plays will be performed by local Bay Area artists.

    “This festival shines a spotlight on these works and their creators, as well as encourages young, emerging artists to discover new and existing plays, performed on stage in front of a live audience who love live theater,” says Leianne Wong Lamb, president of CATS.

    Lamb continues, “It also brings in new community members who have never experienced live theater and want to support AAPI artists.”

    Jeffrey Lo, the Artistic Producer for the AAPI Playwright Festival, adds, “It is an exciting time to be an Asian American Theatre maker in the Bay Area. From the early roots of the Asian American Theatre Company to the works being done today by playwrights like Lauren Yee, Jessica Huang and Madhuri Shekar – the Bay Area has always been a center for the development of new AAPI voices and stories. This festival helps us continue that history of lifting up the next generation of storytellers and highlight exciting and emerging artists in our community.”

    CATS has committed to presenting The AAPI Playwright Festival for at least three years, as it is deemed a notable addition to CATS’ roster of high-quality productions. These presentations include, but are not limited to, three prior staged readings with a fourth staged reading in June 2024, its upcoming 10th Annual Silicon Valley Asian Pacific FilmFest in October 2024, past music concerts, most recently Hiroshima in 2022 and last fall’s Maui Benefit concert featuring Hawaii-based pop boy band Crossing Rain.

    In addition, CATS showcases AAPI artists with intimate artist interviews throughout the year on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and the CATS website.

    Collectively, the productions and programs further CATS’ mission of supporting and showcasing AAPI artists locally in San Jose and Silicon Valley and beyond.

    About the Contemporary Asian Theater Scene (CATS)
    Founded in 1995 by the late Dr. Jerry Hiura, the late Steve Yamaguma, and Miki Hirabayashi Bellon, CATS has been a beacon for Asian American artists in the South Bay and the greater San Francisco Bay Area. With a rich history of supporting, mentoring, and presenting Asian American artists and cultural disciplines, CATS has become a pivotal platform for showcasing talent through events, including comedy nights, music concerts, film festivals, and now, the AAPI Playwright Festival. CATS also produces the annual Silicon Valley Asian Pacific FilmFest (formerly known as San Jose J-Town FilmFest). CATS continues to fulfill its founders’ dream of enriching the cultural landscape of San Jose and Silicon Valley by promoting AAPI artists and their stories. CATS is in San Jose’s Japantown and is a 501c3 non-profit organization. More info at

    About Jeffrey Lo
    Jeffrey Lo (He/Him/His) is a Filipino-American playwright and director based in the Bay Area. He is the recipient of the Leigh Weimers Emerging Artist Award, the Emerging Artist Laureate by Arts Council Silicon Valley and Theatre Bay Area Director’s TITAN Award. Selected directing credits include The Language Archive, Little Shop of Horrors and The Santaland Diaries at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, Chinglish, The Paper Dreams of Harry Chin and Hold These Truths at San Francisco Playhouse, Vietgone and The Great Leap at Capital Stage, A Doll’s House, Part 2 and Eurydice at Palo Alto Players and  The Grapes of Wrath, The Crucible and Yellow Face at Los Altos Stage Company. As a playwright, his plays have been produced and workshopped at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, BindleStiff Studio, City Lights Theatre Company and Stanford University. He is the Associate Producer of Casting and Literary Manager at the Tony Award Winning TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, a graduate of the Multicultural Arts Leadership Institute and a proud alumnus of the UC Irvine Drama Department.

    About San Jose Stage
    San Jose Stage Company (The Stage) is recognized as the South Bay’s leading professional theatre company, having earned a reputation for artistic excellence through imaginative and edgy theatrical experiences that spark ideas and dialogue with the audience. Through powerful, provocative and profound theatre, San Jose Stage Company (The Stage) seeks to expand community, forge creative partnerships and challenge individuals in order to illuminate the human condition. The Stage is a multi-award-winning theatre company, including the 2018 Paine Knickerbocker Award for continued contributions to Bay Area theatre from the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle. The Stage has produced over 200 productions, including 20 world premieres and 50 new works and is ranked as the 2nd largest professional theatre and 8th largest performance arts organization in Silicon Valley attracting over 30,000 patrons to downtown and employing more than 150 local artists annually, San Jose Stage Company is a vital force in the region’s economic and creative landscape. More info at

    Interview: Theatre Life with Psalmayene 24

    The all around brilliant DC area artist on his latest work for Arena Stage and more.
    By: Elliot Lanes Mar. 06, 2024

    Today’s subject Psalmayene 24 is someone we can aptly classify as the whole package when we talk about artists in the DC theatre community. He is an accomplished writer/actor/performer and educator whose work has been enjoyed by audiences of all ages over the years. Currently Psalmayene 24 is the director of Arena Stage’s current Power Play entitled Tempestuous Elements. The show is currently playing in the company’s Fichandler space through March 17th.

    Psalm’s (Yes, we can call him that for short) work as a director includes many productions at some of the area’s finest theatres. He recently directed the World Premiere of Good Bones at Studio Theatre where he had previously staged Flow and Pass Over. Other directing credits include Necessary Sacrifices: A Radio Play at Ford’s Theatre, Native Son at Mosaic Theater Company and Word Becomes Flesh at Theater Alliance. The latter won Psalm a Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Direction of a Play.

    Psalm’s prolific playwriting credits include Monumental TravestiesDear Mapel, and Les Deux Noirs for Mosaic Theater Company and Out of the Vineyard which was performed at Joe’s Movement Emporium.

    If you have young theatregoers in your household, you might have seen Psalm’s work both on and off stage at Imagination Stage in the form of his Hip-Hop Trilogy. He wrote and directed all three of these productions while performing the title role in one of the plays as well. That would be P.Nokio.

    His other acting credits include RuinedCuttin’ Up, and Anthems at Arena Stage Dear Mapel at Mosaic Theater Company and HBO’s The Wire.

    During the pandemic he wrote and directed Arena Stage’s short film The Freewheelin’ Insurgents.

    For many years Psalm was the Master Teaching Artist at Arena Stage and is currently the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Playwright in Residence at Mosaic Theater Company.

    It doesn’t matter if you know today’s artist as Psalmayene 24, Psalm, or Greg Morrison because no matter what the name, the artistry is astounding. Grab some seats to a world premiere play at Arena Stage that follows my mantra that theatre is meant to educate as well as entertain. Tempestuous Elements definitely fits the criteria for that.

    Psalmayene 24 is one of the best examples of someone living his theatre life to the fullest. We in this rich and vibrant theatre community are indeed lucky to have his presence among us.

    Those of us in the DC theatre community know you as a triple threat artist (writer/director/performer). When your theatrical journey began, which came first and how did the other two come into play?

    My first love was actually dance. That’s the first artform I remember doing. My earliest memories include dancing at family parties when I was about four or five years old. That love for dance somehow morphed into a love for acting. I did school performances and plays in elementary school, junior high school and high school. When I became a professional actor, I was confronted with the dearth of quality roles for young Black men. Instead of wasting precious time and energy complaining, I started writing plays. Playwriting was initially a means of manifesting my own opportunities, but it quickly turned into a way of creating opportunities for people in my various communities. Directing was an organic result of my playwriting. I was commissioned by Imagination Stage to write a play—Zomo the Rabbit: A Hip-Hop Creation Myth—and the artistic director, Janet Stanford, asked me to direct it. I said yes and became a director.

    Did you go to school for theatre? If yes, where did you receive your training?

    I went to Howard University. I started out as a film production major, then switched to dance and left as an acting major before starting my career in theatre. But a good deal of my training came when I was an actor with the now defunct Living Stage Theatre Company. Living Stage was an initiative of Arena Stage and basically functioned as its own de facto theater company. A staff of full-time actors received conservatory-style training that was rooted in improvisational-based acting methods and theatre for social change. We created short plays that we did for school and community groups. That work was grounded in the egalitarian notion that all people are artists at heart. That ethos still informs my work today.

    What was your first professional job in the theatre?

    My first professional acting job was a tour of Pinocchio that I did with a children’s theatre company in Richmond, Virginia. I had three roles in the play: Master Cherry, the old woodcutter who possessed the magical log that Pinocchio was carved out of; Harlequin, a marionette; and Fox, one of the villains. That gig was a disastrous adventure. I tell the full story in my play, Dear Mapel, but that was one of the experiences that was the impetus for my playwriting career.

    Can you please tell the origins of your name?

    My name is an attempt to escape the confines of reality. It represents an effort to jolt us out of the mundane, humdrum rhythm of our everyday existence. Ultimately, it’s a device that provides an opportunity—however brief—to connect with other people. I created the name in my early 20s when I was immersed in a community of musicians, songwriters, poets, rappers, and alternative thinkers who made up a vibrant creative scene in DC. This was in the mid-90s when I was doing music and was part of a band. For a while I used to just go by “24”. Then, after entering an altered state of consciousness that didn’t involve drugs, I added “Psalmayene” to the equation.

    Interview: Theatre Life with Psalmayene 24
    Gina Daniels, Brittney Dubose, Ro Boddie, Joel Ashur, and Jasmine Joy
    in Arena Stage’s production of Tempestuous Elements.
    Photo by Kian McKellar.

    Can you please give us a brief overview of Tempestuous Elements?

    Tempestuous Elements uplifts the remarkable, if little known, legacy of Anna Julia Cooper. Anna J. Cooper is known as the “mother of Black feminism” and she was a teacher, writer, orator, feminist, intellectual, playwright, poet, activist, and so much more. The play centers on her tumultuous years as principal of the all-Black M Street High School in the early 1900s when she battled forces that wanted to change the classical curriculum at the school to a curriculum focused on vocational studies. The play also deals with gossip surrounding her personal life and how it factors into the turbulence Anna experienced during those years.

    Interview: Theatre Life with Psalmayene 24
    Playwright Kia Corthron and Psalmayene 24 during rehearsals for Arena Stage’s 
    current prodcution of Tempestuous Elements.
    Photo courtesy of the artist.

    When you were first given the script for Tempestuous Elements what stood out to you in the writing that made you say yes to directing the project?

    It all starts with the playwright, Kia Corthron. Kia is an extraordinary and extremely well-regarded writer, so honestly, I would have probably agreed to direct the play sight unseen. But the power of the script lived up to Kia’s reputation as one of our most brilliant playwrights. She has a knack for writing language that really sings in the theater. Her writing just works on stage. Aside from the rich language of the play, the subject matter is right up my alley. I love working on projects that shed light on the Black experience through content and/or form. I sheepishly admit to not knowing about Anna Julia Cooper until I read Kia’s play. I’m thrilled that many other people who don’t know about Anna Julia Cooper will be introduced to this phenomenal woman through this play.

    Can you please talk about how your Hip-Hop Trilogy of plays came to be at Imagination Stage?

    As mentioned, Imagination Stage commissioned me to write Zomo the Rabbit: A Hip-Hop Creation Myth. That play tells the fictionalized origin story of hip-hop culture and features a trickster character from African folklore, a rabbit named Zomo. During rehearsals for the world premiere production of Zomo, I was thinking about how to continue exploring hip-hop culture through theatre for young audiences and that’s when the idea to examine the past, present, and future of hip-hop through a Hip-Hop Children’s Trilogy came to me. Zomo is about the past of hip-hop, P.Nokio: A Hip-Hop Musical is about the present, and Cinderella: The Remix is about the future. I shared the idea of a trilogy with Janet Stanford and Kate Bryer, Associate Artistic Director of Imagination Stage, and they were both excited about the idea. That’s basically how the Hip-Hop Children’s Trilogy was born.

    Do you have a preference as to which discipline in the performing arts you enjoy the most?

    Whichever discipline I’m doing at the time tends to be the discipline I enjoy doing the most. This gets tricky when projects overlap and I’m writing one or more projects while being in pre-production or rehearsals for another project. I find each discipline equally gratifying in its own unique way. Early on in my career, the answer would have been performing hands down. These days I get an equivalent kick out of being at home, lounging on the couch cracking jokes with my wife, and knowing that there is a project I directed or wrote that is (hopefully) enthralling people somewhere at the same moment.

    Interview: Theatre Life with Psalmayene 24
    Lolita Marie and Gina Daniels in Arena Stage’s production of 
    Tempestuous Elements.
    Photo by Kian McKellar.

    What would you like audiences to take away with them after viewing Tempestuous Elements?

    More than anything, I want all audience members—of all races, genders, and persuasions—to see themselves in Anna Julia Cooper. While Anna was a Black woman who wrote and spoke in startlingly incandescent terms about what it was like to be both Black and a woman during her lifetime, the trials and triumphs of her life have something important to say about the human condition. I hope audiences connect with her integrity, her resilience, and her unwavering belief in the ability of education to empower all people.

    What advice can you give to a recent college graduate that is pursuing a career in the theatre.

    Generate your own material. Don’t wait for people to give you opportunities. Do the projects you love. Don’t stop learning. Experiment. Strengthen your weaknesses. Focus on your strengths. Leap outside of your comfort zone. Listen to De La Soul. Take refuge in nature. Read James Baldwin. Trust your instincts. Watch the film Symbiopsychotaxiplasm. Build your tribe. Fall in love. And dance.

    What does the rest of 2024 look like for you workwise?

    I’ll be directing Metamorphoses at Folger then directing The Colored Museum at Studio. I’m also writing a couple of musicals—one of which is about John Lewis’ younger years. And I’ll still be with Mosaic as the Mellon Foundation Playwright in Residence. I’m thankful to be doing work that I love.

    Special thanks to  Arena Stage’s Lead Associate, Public Relations Anastasia St. Hilaire for her assistance in coordinating this interview.