“Hazardous Materials” by Beth Kander opens this weekend, presented by Perisphere Theater. The play deals with the death of a Jane Doe who died in an apartment in Chicago. Jane Doe was a hoarder and two county inspectors try to figure out her identity looking through the debris. The play jumps to 1955 where we see a bright and clean apartment inhabited by a Jewish refuge from Czechoslovakia. In the end, we find out how people need to reach out to others in their loneliness and to make connections despite racial and gender differences.
“Hazardous Materials” is directed by Lizzi Albert. The cast is Kullan Edberg, Jessica Ludd, Dawn Thomas Reidy, and Seth Rosenke. The production team includes Jessica Utz (costumes), Hailey LaRoe (lighting) Jessica Trementozzi (scenic design), Cheryl J. Williams (sound), Liz Long (props), and Holly Morgan (stage management).
Cheryl J. Williams is the founder of CJ Williams Consultant and is happy to make her debut at Perisphere Theater. Ms. Williams has been a sound designer and professor of theatre for over 25 years. She has worked both national and international as a professional lighting and sound designer as well as a director. She holds a MFA from Rutgers University, Mason Gross School of the Arts in Stage Management, a BA from Iowa State University, and M. Div. from Virginia Union University School of Theology. Currently Ms. Williams is directing “For Colored Girls…” in Kenya.
Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself?
I was born in Smithfield, Virginia and returned home three years ago after 43 years. For the last 30 years, I have been a professor of theatre at various universities in the U.S. and abroad. As a professional director, sound, and lighting designer I have worked and continue to work both nationally and internationally.
How did you find out what the sounds of Bronzeville in Chicago were in the 1950s for “Hazardous Materials?”
Living in Iowa, I visited Chicago quite often. However, as in any design project, I did a lot of research. Most of the music, especially in the 50s, I heard in my home as a kid, so the 1955 scenes in the play came naturally.
I see you also direct? Which do you prefer directing or designing?
I feel fortunate to be grounded in both so they become one for me.
You are presently directing “For Colored Girls…” in Kenya. What drew you to do that production there, and what are the challenges you have found directing there if any?
In 2019, I worked with ACT New Nordic Voices based in Copenhagen, Denmark as the lighting and sound designer for “For Colored Girls….” Almost two years ago, we started working on taking the production to Kenya. Directing this production has been so amazing because the script is universal. The actors are discovering that the issues they are dealing with here in this country are no different than what we are dealing with in the States.
Is there a play you would like to design sound for or direct in the future?
I’m in the planning stages with ACT New Nordic Voices to direct “A Raisin in the Sun.” It will tour Denmark, Finland, and Norway in 2025. I think that will be fun.
Perisphere Theater’s “Hazardous Materials” will run Thursday-Sunday, November 3-18, 2023 at The Writers Center, 4508 Walsh Street, Bethesda, MD 20815. For more information and tickets, go online.