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September 8, 2012 - September 30, 2012

Written and Directed by Suzan-Lori Parks

Rechnitz Theater

Single ticket prices start at $20. Click here to buy your tickets!

“Suzan-Lori Parks is a remarkable playwright.”
                August Wilson
Topdog/Underdog is one of the most powerful dramas of our time. Acclaimed for its taut theatricality and surprising humor, the play tells the story of two brothers, Lincoln and Booth—names given to them as a joke by their father. Each day, Lincoln puts on a top hat and a fake beard and goes to work in a seedy arcade, where tourists come for the chance to shoot Honest Abe. Booth is obsessed with a street con game, three-card monte. Striving for a better life, bound by their love for each other, they are haunted by their own pasts—and our country’s history.
Our production will star real-life brothers Brandon J. Dirden and Jason Dirden as Lincoln and Booth. Last season, Brandon made a sensational Two River debut as Youngblood in August Wilson’s Jitney; he most recently appeared on Broadway in Clybourne Park. Jason co-starred in the Broadway revival of Wilson’s Fences opposite Denzel Washington and Viola Davis.
In 2002, Topdog/Underdog was honored with the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and Suzan-Lori Parks made history as the first African-American woman to receive the award. To launch Two River’s season she will, for the first time, direct a production of her own darkly comic fable. Parks most recently adapted the book of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess for its award-winning Broadway production. She has written screenplays for Spike Lee, Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster, and Oprah Winfrey. She teaches at New York University and is Master Writer Chair at The Public Theater.
Topdog/Underdog contains adult language and content and is recommended for mature audiences.  


-- Real-life brothers Brandon J. Dirden (Youngblood in August Wilson’s Jitney at Two River last season) and Jason Dirden will play Lincoln and Booth.

-- Suzan-Lori Parks most recently adapted the book of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess for its award-winning Broadway production.

-- She has written screenplays for Spike Lee, Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington, Jodi Foster, and Oprah Winfrey.





Play Guide



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Suzan-Lori Parks
Suzan-Lori Parks

Playwright and Director

Suzan-Lori Parks (Playwright and Director) won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Topdog/Underdog, becoming the first African-American woman to do so. Her work is the subject of the PBS film The Topdog Diaries. Named one of Time magazine’s “100 Innovators for the Next New Wave,” her plays include The Book of Grace, Father Comes Home from the Wars, Fucking A, In the Blood (Pulitzer Prize finalist), Venus (Obie Award), The America Play, The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World, and Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom (Obie Award for Best New American Play). She adapted the book of the classic opera The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, winner of the 2012 Tony Award for Best Musical Revival. In 2007, her project 365 Days/365 Plays was produced in more than 700 theaters worldwide, creating one of the largest grassroots collaborations in theater history. A student of James Baldwin, with whom she credits the launch of her interest in playwriting, Parks is a MacArthur “Genius” Award recipient and has been awarded grants by the National Endowment of the Arts, Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation, and New York State Council on the Arts. She is the recipient of a Lila-Wallace Reader’s Digest Award, CalArts/Alpert Award, and Guggenheim Foundation Grant, and she is an alumna of Mount Holyoke College and New Dramatists. She’s written screenplays for Brad Pitt and Denzel Washington, Girl 6 for Spike Lee, and she adapted Zora Neale Hurston’s classic novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, which premiered on ABC’s “Oprah Winfrey Presents.” Parks’ first novel, Getting Mother’s Body (Random House, 2003) is set in the west Texas of her youth; she is currently at work on her second novel. In addition to her writing, she had a lead acting role in The Making of Plus One, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. She teaches at NYU, and is currently performing her experimental solo show, Watch Me Work, at The Public Theater, where she serves as Master Writer Chair. Please visit

Brandon J. Dirden
Brandon J. Dirden


Brandon J. Dirden (Lincoln) made his Two River debut last season in August Wilson’s Jitney. Broadway: Clybourne Park, Enron, Prelude to a Kiss. Off-Broadway: The First Breeze of Summer and Day of Absence (Signature Theatre); Peter and the Starcatcher (NYTW); Bottom of the World (Atlantic); Edgewise (The Play Company/Page 73). Proud volunteer, 52nd Street Project. Regional: Trouble in Mind (Arena Stage); Magnolia (Goodman); Fences (Huntington Theatre and South Coast Repertory); Topdog/Underdog (Playmakers Rep); Ceremonies in Dark Old Men (True Colors Theatre); Othello, Twelfth Night, Metamorphoses, Comedy of Errors, and others (Georgia Shakespeare Festival); A Death in the House…, A Christmas Carol, and The Breach (Alliance); Take Me Out (Theatre in the Square); Come On in My Kitchen (7 Stages); Miss Dessa (Ensemble Theatre); Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (Alley); Harvey (Utah Shakespeare Festival); and Julius Caesar and As You Like It (North Carolina Shakespeare Festival). Training: BA, Morehouse College and MFA, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Proud member of Actors’ Equity Association.

Jason Dirden
Jason Dirden


Jason Dirden (Booth) is making his Two River Theater debut. Broadway: August Wilson’s Fences. Off-Broadway: The First Breeze of Summer (Signature Theatre). Regional: A Raisin in the Sun (Ebony Repertory Theatre), August Wilson’s Century Cycle (The Kennedy Center), Every Tongue Confess (Arena Stage), Stick Fly (Huntington Theatre). TV: Tyler Perry’s House of Payne. Training: Morehouse College and University of Illinois. Twitter: @jasondirden. 1127.

Christopher Akerlind

Scenic and Lighting Design

Christopher Akerlind (Set and Lighting Design) has designed lighting and sometimes scenery for over 600 productions at theater and opera companies across the country and around the world. Broadway credits include: End of the Rainbow, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess (Tony nom.), Superior Donuts, Top Girls, 110 in the Shade (Tony nom.), Talk Radio, Shining City, Awake and Sing (Tony nom.), Well, Rabbit Hole, A Touch of the Poet, In My Life, The Light in the Piazza (Drama Desk, Outer Critics, Tony Awards), Reckless, The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, Seven Guitars (Tony nom.), and The Piano Lesson, among others. Recent projects include: David Adjmi’s new play Marie Antoinette (American Repertory Theater); Martha Clarke’s new pieces L'altra meta del cielo (Teatro alla Scala), Angel Reapers (Joyce Theater, NYC), and the revival of Garden of Earthly Delights (Minetta Lane Theatre); King Lear (Public Theater, NYC), Franco Dragone’s Kdo! (Forest National, Brussels), Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail and the world premiere of Philip Glass’s Appomattox (San Francisco Opera), Janos Szasz’s production of The Seagull (American Repertory Theater), Dimitri Kourtakis’ Kafeneion (Athens/Epidaurus Festival), Anne Bogart’s production of I Capuleti e i Montecchi (Glimmerglass Opera), and Robert Woodruff’s production of Rinde Eckert’s Orpheus X (TFANA, Edinburgh & Hong Kong Festivals). He is the recipient of the Obie Award for Sustained Excellence in Lighting Design, the Chicago area’s Michael Merritt Award for Design and Collaboration, and numerous nominations for the Drama Desk, Lucille Lortel, Outer Critics Circle, and Tony Awards among many others. He has taught on the faculties of CalArts, the University of Southern California, and the Broadway Lighting Master Class and as a guest teacher for the graduate Design Department of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, University of Connecticut, Carnegie Mellon School of Drama, and at his graduate alma mater: the Yale School of Drama.


Costume Design

ESosa (Costume Design) Broadway: The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess (Tony nom), Topdog/Underdog. Off-Broadway credits include By the Way, Meet Vera Stark (Lucille Lortel Award), Trust, Crowns (Second Stage); Break of Noon (MCC; also Geffen Playhouse); The Capeman (Delacorte); Juan and John, Father Comes Home from the Wars, Romeo and Juliet (Public Theater); The Misanthrope, All That I Will Ever Be (New York Theatre Workshop). La Jolla/Center Theatre Group: American Night; Arena Stage: Ruined, Cuttin' Up, Senor Discretion Himself (Helen Hayes Award nominee); Alliance: Twist; Pasadena Playhouse: Twist (2011 Ovation Award); A.R.T.: Best of Both Worlds; Geva Theatre: Fences; Berkeley Rep: The Blue Door; Bay Street Theatre: Big Maybelle: Queen of the Blues, Turandot: The Rumble for the Ring, Ain’t Misbehavin’; Centerstage: Once on This Island, Gleam. Williamstown Theatre Festival: Whaddabloodclot!!!.

Brendan Connelly

Sound Design

Brendan Connelly (Sound Design) is a sound designer and composer, splitting time between Brooklyn and New Orleans. Recent credits include Atmosphere of Memory (dir. Pam MacKinnon), En La Jungla de Las Ciudades (dir. Gisela Cardenas), and A Streetcar Named Desire (dir. Jason Kirkpatrick). In 1998, he co-founded the Obie-winning theater company The Two-headed Calf with director Brooke O’Harra, and has composed scores for all of its productions. His non-theatrical compositions have been performed by the S.E.M. Ensemble, Wet Ink, Yarn/Wire, Hunter-Gatherer and great musicians such as Sam Hillmer, Alex Mincek, Matthew Hough, Charlie Looker, Erin Lesser, Aurora Nealand, Sean LaRocca, and Jacob Garchik. He was a participant in the 2009-11 TCG/NEA Career Development Program in Sound Design.

Thomas Schall

Fight Director

Thomas Schall (Fight Director) made his Two River debut last season with August Wilson’s Jitney. Broadway: Don’t Dress for Dinner, The Columnist, The Lyons, Death of a Salesman, War Horse, Venus in Fur, The House of Blue Leaves, A Free Man of Color, The Merchant of Venice, A View from the Bridge, After Miss Julie, Mary Stuart, Waiting for Godot, The Seafarer, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Coram Boy, Journey’s End, The Woman in White, Wicked, Noises Off, Art. Off Broadway: King Lear, Titus Andronicus, Mother Courage, Hamlet, The Book of Grace, Why Torture Is Wrong…, Singing Forest, The Good Negro (The Public Theater), Blood and Gifts, Bernarda Alba, Dessa Rose, Belle Epoque, A Man of No Importance (Lincoln Center), Regrets, Close Up Space, Ruined (MTC), Look Back in Anger (Roundabout), The First Breeze of Summer (Signature Theatre), Beast (New York Theatre Workshop), The Pride (MCC), Homebody/Kabul (BAM).

Heidi Griffiths


Heidi Griffiths (Casting) has been a casting director for more than two decades working in theater, film, and television. She previously cast August Wilson’s Jitney for Two River Theater. She has worked for more than 20 years at the Joseph Papp Public Theater in NYC, casting over 200 productions Off-Broadway and at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, including Shakespeare, new plays, and musicals. On Broadway: the original production of Topdog/Underdog (Pulitzer Prize, 2002); Chinglish; The Motherf**ker with the Hat; The Merchant of Venice; Hair; Passing Strange; Caroline, or Change; Take Me Out (Tony Award, Best Play 2003); The Wild Party; Bring in ’Da Noise, Bring in ’Da Funk; On the Town; and The Tempest. She also cast the films The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love, Murder and Murder, and Saving Face.

Amanda Michaels

Production Stage Manager

Amanda Michaels (Production Stage Manager) Previous PSM credits at Two River: August Wilson’s Jitney, Intimate Apparel, A Thousand Clowns, Orestes: A Tragic Romp, Heartbreak House, and Craig Wright’s Melissa Arctic. Broadway: On a Clear Day You Can See Forever with Harry Connick Jr., PA; Side Show (reading, Roundabout), ASM; A Bronx Tale (Walter Kerr), PA. Off-Broadway: My Children! My Africa (Signature), PSM; Dutch Masters with LAByrinth Theater Company (Cherry Lane), SM; How to Be a Good Italian Daughter (Cherry Lane), PSM; 24 Hour Play Series (American Airlines Theatre), ASM; Two Trains Running (Signature), PA. Regional Cyrano and Orestes: A Tragic Romp (Folger Shakespeare Theatre), PSM; To Kill a Mockingbird, I Capture the Castle, School for Wives, and Private Lives (Shakespeare Theatre of NJ), PSM.


playTOPDOG/UNDERDOG Preview Trailer




playCard Tricks at TOPDOG/UNDERDOG rehearsal

Card Tricks at TOPDOG/UNDERDOG rehearsal