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Behind the Sheet

Ensemble Studio Theatre/Alfred P. Sloan Foundation present

Behind the Sheet

by Charly Evon Simpson
directed by Colette Robert*



featuring Stephen James Anthony, Nia Calloway, Naomi Lorrain, Cristina Pitter, Shawn Randall*, Joel Ripka, Megan Tusing*, Amber Reauchean Williams, & Jehan O. Young

Charly Evon Simpson confronts the history of a great medical breakthrough by telling the forgotten story of a community of enslaved black women who involuntarily enabled the discovery. In 1840s Alabama, Philomena assists a doctor - her owner - as he performs experimental surgeries on her fellow slave women, trying to find a treatment for the painful post-childbirth complications known as fistulas. Reframing the origin story of modern gynecology, Behind the Sheet tells how these women supported each other, and questions who, and what, history remembers.

Behind the Sheet runs one hour and 45 minutes with no intermission.

Please note, this performance includes theatrical fog/haze and explicit depictions of medical procedures.

Scenic Design: Lawrence E. Moten III | Costume Design: Sarah Woodham | Lighting Design: Adam Honoré | Sound Design: Fan Zhang | Production Stage Manager: Fran Acuña-Almiron | Assistant Stage Manager: Dayana Isabel Sanchez | Assistant Director: Sifiso Mabena

Photos by Jeremy Daniel Photography


Behind the Sheet may be a quiet play. But its echoes are thunderous.”

“It’s the developing and changing bond among the slave women that gives the play its heart.”

- Ben Brantley, The New York Times, Critic’s Pick

“Simpson must be commended for giving a voice to the voiceless…it's a brave, unflinching piece from top to bottom".

- TheaterMania

About the Playwright


Charly Evon Simpson’s plays include JumpBehind the Sheet, Scratching the Surfaceform of a girl unknown, and more. In 2019, Jump will be produced at PlayMakers Repertory Company, Milagro, and Actor's Express. Her work has been seen, heard, and/or developed with Ensemble Studio Theatre, Ars Nova, The Tank, Salt Lake Acting Company, PAGE 73’s Summer Residency, National New Play Network at its Kennedy Center MFA Playwright’s Workshop and National Showcase of New Plays, and others. She’s currently in The Amoralists’ 18/19 ‘Wright Club and she’s The Pack’s current playwright-in-residence. Charly was a Philadelphia Dramatists Center Playwright-in-Residence at Plays & Players Theatre and is a former member of SPACE on Ryder Farm’s The Working Farm, Clubbed Thumb’s 17/18 Early Career Writers’ Group, Ensemble Studio Theatre’s Youngblood, Pipeline Theatre Company’s PlayLab, and Fresh Ground Pepper’s PlayGround PlayGroup. BA: Brown. MSt: Oxford. MFA: Hunter College.

Earlier Event: January 1
Later Event: January 13
Brunch Away From BRUNCH