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Cassie Workman in Aberdeen. Photo by Brett Boardman.

Aberdeen, written and performed by the multi-award winning, multi-disciplinary artist Cassie Workman, premiers in the U.S. this weekend as part of SoHo Playhouse's 2024 International Fringe Encore Series. Winner of a Scotsman Fringe First Award, this performance is magnificently inventive in its simplicity.

Audiences entering the performance are immediately greeted with an empty stage, an unusual choice for a solo performance. An artist will typically craft a space reflective of the character they'll be portraying- usually with some simple furniture to create levels in the performance and some props to draw our attention to or signify individual characters. To opt against tools for storytelling, to elect to capture the audience's suspension of disbelief with only one's own body and voice, is pretty bold.

And Workman does just that. The ensuing performance is an hour-long epic poem told in rhyming couplets, in which Workman, 'playing' herself, informs us she's going to save grunge rock icon Kurt Cobain from his 1994 suicide. Her conviction is so strong that one is inclined to believe it could be so.

Workman uses an Edgar Allen Poe-esque style of poetry for the entire performance, describing her journey through space, time, and the void, with the ghost of Kurt Cobain, in her attempt to save her savior. What she achieves within this poetic structure is staggering. The world of each scene and moment is so clear that one cannot help but hold it in vivid imagination. Aberdeen is a carefully crafted vessel that effortlessly carries its audience to its core, its grim and hopeful destinations. It is nothing short of genius.

This focus becomes fully realized as Workman examines herself and her conviction to alter Cobain's past. The depression and suicidal ideation Cobain experienced are intimate, personal, and familiar to our storyteller. In this confrontation, Workman precisely balances the depth of her personality and the universality of the broader theme, the eternal contemplation of "to be or not to be," to choose between life and death, once and for all.

Workman, an expert storyteller, keeps the focus on the language over the acting, holding the audience in a space where they can hear and see how each moment affects her and simultaneously fully imagine each scene that her poetry conjures. It is impossible to get away from it in the best way. In the world we live in, of bright lights and constant stimuli competing to dwindle our attention spans, I sat, spellbound, unable to leave Workman's tapestry long enough to consider which train I should take home.

Sarah Ruhl writes, "Theatre in its most basic form is a kind of reading aloud… In the theater, we ask adults to be children again, to sit in a circle and be read to." Aberdeen is this sort of theater: dark, brilliant, yet comforting. And to sit down and be told a story sends us civilized adults a primal reminder: You are safe. In its execution, this show pushes boundaries without lifting a finger. It is Cassie Workman's voice that breaks the barrier.


Written and performed by Cassie Workman

January 30- February 11, 2024

SoHo Playhouse (15 Vandam St. NYC)


Rita Frances Welch is… Wait, who’s asking? There are a few answers depending on the context. Rita is A) A New York playwright, actor, and director, B) The owner of 5 discrete copies of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, C) A force of nature, controlled by the tides and called to by the wind, disappearing and returning like the seasons. More material than their author, Rita’s plays have been produced by The Tank, Theatre X, Playwrights Performance, and Rogue Theatre Festival. They hold a B.F.A. in Acting from Shenandoah Conservatory, during which they studied under LAByrinth Theater’s Martha Wollner and Padraic Lillis. Rita’s writing functions as an experiment- a combination of characters in the petri dish of their world, their personal challenges and delusions in a vacuum, isolating for every variable but one: Human nature, which reveals itself every time.



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