By Charlayne Woodard

Streaming On Demand extended through Sunday, April 18 at midnight, CST!

Adult language. Recommended for audiences 13 and up.


Barbara Johnson and Sandra Zingler


Saint John's On The Lake logo

Suzan Fete

Marti Gobel

90 minutes



Virtual Opening Night Party
Friday, 3/19 at 8:00 pm
Click on this zoom link

Virtual Talkbacks
Sunday, 3/28 at 3:00 pm
Click on this zoom link

Thursday 4/8 at 8:00 pm (date change)
Click on this zoom link


About the Play

Back by popular demand, Renaissance Theaterworks presents its 2012 hit, with Marti Gobel reprising her tour-de-force role.

NEAT is a magical, often humorous, coming-of-age story. Based in the oral traditions of the African Diaspora, award-winning playwright, Charlayne Woodard is a modern-day griot. NEAT is based on the playwright’s lived experience. As an infant, Woodard’s beloved Aunt Beneatha (Neat), is denied treatment at the local “white” hospital, leaving her with permanent brain damage. But Neat possesses an enormous heart. With love and simplicity, Neat teaches young Charlayne to embrace black pride and cherish life through the turbulent 1960s and 1970s.

“In NEAT, Woodard is a magnificent storyteller who spins her own exquisite real-life remembrances of love and resilience. I’m so excited to bring NEAT back to Milwaukee. A sell-out hit for Renaissance Theaterworks in 2012 followed by a successful South African tour in 2013, NEAT is an inspiring story that reminds us all of what really matters, especially at times when we need it most,” shares Artistic Director Suzan Fete.

How "Neat" came into being

Before she was an award-winning playwright, Charlayne Woodard was a successful actress living in New York City, where she received a Tony for her performance in AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’, among many theatrical accomplishments. But when she moved to Los Angeles, Woodard found herself less than satisfied with acting opportunities. She took inspiration from a quote by Maya Angelou, however: “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, then change the way you think about it.” The Angelou quote inspired her to “stop complaining”. Instead, Woodard says, she started “telling stories” to her friends. “The result was my first play, PRETTY FIRE, and it changed my life.” A one-woman play performed by Woodard, PRETTY FIRE was produced in Los Angeles and received the LA Drama Critics and NAACP awards for best play and best playwright. It went on to be produced at prestigious theaters across the country.

One day as she was performing PRETTY FIRE, the actress/playwright remembers thinking, “This is absolute madness… Never again.!” Talking with her director, she shared the story of her Aunt Neat who had moved north from Savannah to live with her family. His reaction: “That’s the play I want you to write...  We’ll workshop it next spring.” Woodard began exploring her memories and after a few months, called her director, saying, “I’ve got the story. It’s called NEAT and I know the four actors I’ll need for the workshop: Angela Basset, Mary Alice –”. He cut her off with “Charlayne, not four actors, only you. You’re the only one who does what you do.”

That’s how Woodard’s second play, NEAT came into being. NEAT was developed at Seattle Repertory Theatre and subsequently produced at Manhattan Theatre Club, where it received the Irving and Blanche Laurie Theatre Vision Award and an Outer Critics Circle Award nomination. At Seattle Rep and the Mark Taper Forum, the play received a Backstage West Garland Award.

Streaming On Demand extended through Sunday, April 18 at midnight, CST!

Director's Notes

Bringing back NEAT, a 2012 audience favorite followed by a successful South African tour, had always been my dream. Most importantly, because the story captivated me immediately. Woodard’s writing is lyrical and her characters are so full of life! I’m sure Marti would agree – there is an awful lot of action in the script's thirty-nine pages! Back in 2012, NEAT was the second offering in our Diversity Series, which ran for three seasons. For each of them, fifty percent of our productions were written by playwrights of color. I believe we were the first professional theater company in town to make that kind of tangible commitment to diversity. 

For our 2020-21 season we had other plans, but COVID-19 intervened. Like most performing arts organizations, we were forced to reimagine our season more than once. Being a one-actor play, NEAT would be much safer to perform than a larger cast production, so this was the perfect time to bring it back. And I couldn’t be more excited to work with Marti again! Her beautiful versatility as she plays 24 different characters is just priceless and something to be admired more than once. Like a fine work of art. 

So, last October, I called Marti. I said, "Hey, I wanna do NEAT again. Are you..." Before I could finish, Marti said, "YES! Wait, when is it? Never mind, I'll cancel everything else!" I adore working with her! She is everything I love in an actor – immensely talented, brave, and a lot of fun. Marti and I have worked together in different capacities over thirteen different productions in as many years. Even though I’m so proud of our 2012 production of NEAT, this time around we’ve gone deeper – it’s subtler, more nuanced, more vulnerable.

When we started rehearsing, it all just felt right, like coming back home to old friends and family...

Safely creating work, however, is a challenge, but it has presented opportunities that we all have welcomed. Learning what's possible, working with cameras, finding new ways to bring the story to life, have been exciting challenges and have proven how creative and resilient we all are. I'm so fortunate to be working with such a brilliant production team! Lighting designer Noele Stollmack, set designer Lisa Schlenker, the experts at Studio Gear, and the editing skills of Kathy Wittman, made NEAT come to virtual life. 

We are also fortunate to have Jayne Pink as choreographer and movement director. Trained at the Royal Ballet School, Jayne is considered one of the finest dramatic dancers of her generation. Having her wealth of talent and experience is beyond what I ever imagined. And she's so much fun! Her movement suggestions bring each character to life in ways that bring us closer to the stage...even from the distance.

I assure you – NEAT will stay in your heart for a long time.

~Suzan Fete

About The Playwright

Charlayne Woodard

Charlayne Woodard – Playwright & Actress, is a two-time Obie Award winner and Tony Award nominee.

Ms. Woodard has written THE GARDEN; PRETTY FIRE (LA Drama Critics and NAACP awards for best play and best playwright); NEAT (Irving and Blanche Laurie Theatre Vision Award and an Outer Critics Circle Award nomination and Backstage West Garland Award); IN REAL LIFE (Backstage West Garland Award and NAACP Awards for best playwright & actor, Audelco, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for best solo performance nomination); THE NIGHT WATCHER (LA Drama Critics and NAACP Awards for best solo performance, as well as nominations for best play); and FLIGHT.

As an Actress, Ms. Woodard has performed in theatre, film and TV, winning many awards.

Ms. Woodard serves on the Council of the Dramatist’s Guild of America. She has served on the Boards of Directors of both the Manhattan Theater Club and LaJolla Playhouse; as well as an artistic trustee and fellow at the Sundance Institute. She completed a TCG/PEW Charitable Trust National Theatre Artist Residency Program Fellowship at Center Theatre Group and has taught at California Institute Of the Arts and University of Southern California. She trained at the Goodman School of Drama and received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from The Theater School at DePaul University (formerly the Goodman School of Drama). She is a lifetime member of The Actor’s Studio.

About The Actor

Marti Gobel

Marti Gobel is an actor, director and teaching artist. Her career on the stage, in television and film and in the director’s seat has led to many opportunities around the globe. No matter where her career has taken her, she is always thrilled to return to Renaissance Theaterworks where she directed THE BALLAD OF EMMET TILL and NATIVE GARDENS.

As an actor, Ms. Gobel has performed on the Renaissance Theaterworks stage in many productions. In addition to the staged readings of EL NAGULAR and THE GRIOT, she performed in the full productions of THE PERSIANS, CRUMBS FROM THE TABLE OF JOY, THE VIOLET HOUR, STILL, SEX WITH STRANGERS and THE ROOMMATE. And, of course, NEAT. To date, NEAT is Ms. Gobel’s most cherished production experience as a performer. She is humbled to have the opportunity to revisit this beautiful coming-of-age tale. Ms. Marti Gobel is represented by Paonessa Talent in Chicago.

Artistic Team

Suzan Fete

Marti Gobel*

Bailey Wegner*
Stage Manager

Tony Lyons
Technical Director

Noele Stollmack~
Lighting Designer

Lisa Schlenker~
Scenic Designer

Chris Guse
Sound Designer

Amy Horst
Costume Designer

Jayne Pink
Choreographer & Movement Coach

* Member of Actors' Equity Association
~Member of United Scenic Artists

Ms. Woodard tells good stories, bringing them to life in ways that are poignant or sidesplitting.

- The New York Times

Virtual Tickets

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  • The "April 18, 2021" date associated with the "Buy Tickets" button only denotes the last available streaming date. Your virtual ticket will be valid ANYTIME until April 18 at midnight CST.
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  • If you purchase more than one ticket, you will receive one email per each ticket purchased. You can forward the additional email(s) to those you purchased tickets for. Alternatively, you can tell us who should be receiving the link and we'll send them the link directly. We would need their first and last name and their email address. Please email [email protected] with that information. If you have questions, please contact Marketing Director Lucía Lozano: [email protected] or 414-273-0800.
  • To use your UPAF Smart Card, please call 414-273-0800.


Virtual Opening Night Party
Friday, 3/19 at 8:00 pm
Click on this zoom link

Virtual Talkbacks
Sunday, 3/28 at 3:00 pm
Click on this zoom link

Thursday 4/8 at 8:00 pm (date change)
Click on this zoom link

How you will access your streaming performance


  • You should have received an email with a custom link on March 16. If you didn't, please email [email protected].
  • Use your custom link to watch on your laptop, tablet, mobile device—or mirror the show to your smart TV.

Ticket Holders

  • You will receive an email with a custom link to a password-protected site within a couple of hours of purchasing your ticket. The email will arrive from [email protected] Please check your junk/spam/promotions folders.
  • Use your custom link to watch on your laptop, tablet, mobile device—or mirror the show to your smart TV.

If you have questions, please call 414-273-0800 Monday-Friday, 10:00am to 5:00pm CST, or email [email protected].


Reviews from our 2021 production
This script depends on a genius actress to bring dozens of characters to life with specific voices, ages, cadences, accents and gestures, and there is no one better at this kind of shapeshifting than Marti Gobel. KEEP READING.

Journal Sentinel
By Jim Higgins
Woodard's script, inspired by her family history, meshes smoothly with Gobel's animated storytelling style. Both the playwright and the actor have a touch of griot in them. True to her form, Gobel makes sure every word gets delivered. KEEP READING.

Shepherd Express
By Anne Siegel
Marti Gobel’s ‘Neat’ is Bold, Audacious, Sometimes Humorous. (...) Those who missed the first go-round of this show would be wise to not make the same mistake again. KEEP READING.

Urban Milwaukee
By Dominique Paul Noth
Gobel Is Powerful in ‘Neat’. Director Susan Fete realizes she is archiving a robust performance of many voices, movements and ages by Marti Gobel, an actress whose command of the one-person format is already well known to Milwaukee audiences – and now can be seen anywhere in the world, as she well deserves. KEEP READING.

Dave Begel on Theater
Under the direction of Suzanne Fete, Ms. Gobel conducts a master class in acting. There is not a moment that is too much, nor a moment that is too little. She clearly understands how this story needs to be told and she gifts that understanding to the audience. KEEP READING.

Previews for our 2021 production

Urban Milwaukee
By Jeff Jordan
As the theater world looks to celebrate the contributions of people of color, Renaissance Theaterworks came up with a talented combination of playwright Charlayne Woodard and veteran Milwaukee actress Marti Gobel. KEEP READING.

Reviews from our 2012 production

Milwaukee Magazine
By Paul Kosidowski
There are certainly actors who can pull off the Dickensian feat of playing nearly two dozen characters in a single evening. Done right, it’s accomplished nimbly and elegantly—the slouch of a shoulder or the dip into a growly vocal register helping to populate the stage with supporting players of different generations or genders. But Marti Gobel’s remarkable performance in Renaissance Theatreworks’ Neat goes far beyond these skilled tricks of the trade. KEEP READING.

Urban Milwaukee
By Mary O'Hara Stacy
Jan 16th, 2012
Neat is a thoroughly engrossing and memorable story, and Gobel gives a bravura performance. KEEP READING.

By Damien Jaques
Jan 19, 2012
Needless to say, "Neat" requires an exceptional actor to credibly slip into and out of multiple roles in a blink of an eye. Renaissance has that in Marti Gobel, who exceeds her previous strong body of work in Milwaukee by demonstrating how well she can continuously engage an audience through two acts. KEEP READING.

Shepherd Express
By Russ Bickerstaff
Jan. 16, 2012
Tackling a feature show as a solo act is a fine art. Gobel focuses more on storytelling than dazzling characterizations, a shrewd way to handle this challenge. KEEP READING.

Shepherd Express
By Willy Thorn
Oct. 29, 2013
Gobel became the first African American to perform in Port Elizabeth. The trio’s joint endeavor, Neat, by Charlayne Woodard, follows apartheid-era miners in South Africa who inspire a young African American girl during the civil rights era. The trans-Atlantic cycle—South African miners inspiring Americans, who return to share both stories—“is really a wild kismet-type thing,” Fete says. KEEP READING.



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