Philadelphia Theatre Company is once again welcoming audiences into the Suzanne Roberts Theatre for a return to live, in-person performances. The new season opens with Lindsay Joelle’s play, “The Garbologist,” a co-world premiere with the City Theatre of Pittsburgh.
Running now through Dec. 5, the play centers on Danny, a white, blue-collar worker hiding a heart of gold, and Marlowe, a Black, Ivy League-educated newbie who just joined his route. Charged with picking up so much of what others have discarded, when these two polar opposites are thrown together on Marlowe’s first day at the city sanitation department, they’re forced to find a steady rhythm, despite their differences.
Accomplished actor and writer Ngozi Anyanwu takes the role of Marlowe, a woman Anyanwu describes as “a person who has suffered from trauma and is reorganizing herself to do honor to someone else. I believe the message here is you can’t judge a book by its cover so you have to read the whole thing.”
She continues to discuss Marlowe by explaining that you can find your likeness in almost any character you play – which is the way to bring that character to life. “In fact, I believe you can find a connection everywhere if you just look hard enough.”
And she believes the only challenge in doing this play came during the rehearsal process. “There are only two of us (Steven Rishard plays Danny) in the play, so it’s been a lot to handle in order to give the playwright her due. But I think it’s all turning out great.”
Anyanwu was born to Nigerian parents and raised in Bensalem. Now living in New York City, she says she was always a “creative person” and dabbled a bit with acting in high school, but did not really become interested in the theater until her college days at Point Park University.
“The people at Point Park came to me to audition and that’s when I really got serious about the theater and my future,” she explains. “That’s when I started reading every play I could get my hands on to learn all about them.”
After receiving her BA from Point Park, Anyanwu went on to the University of California at San Diego for her MFA in Acting. In the beginning of her career, she worried about how she would achieve all her goals. But she needn’t have worried.
Today, writing for her always begins with acting and she encourages other writers to do the same. “I think more writers should take acting classes so that if they make one of their characters do something, they understand why. You should be writing from the standpoint of understanding why an actor says certain words and does certain actions. A successful playwright should really understand what they’re putting their actors through.”
Anyanwu explains her dual career this way: “I think the business world prefers me as a writer. I have more power and more autonomy as a writer. But for me, my first love is acting. I consider acting more satisfying, more precious.”
However that writer in her is never very far away. In fact, she’s in the process of writing a Broadway musical, as well as her first animated feature.
“I think in this world in order to succeed you have to really love what you do,” she concludes. “It took me many years to finally ‘arrive,’ and sometimes I wonder why. But if you can keep it together, work hard, endure, and still stay positive, I think you can make it too.”
For more information, visit philadelphiatheatrecompany.org