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City Center to Launch ENCORES! OFF CENTER; Sutton Foster to Lead VIOLET, Kathleen Marshall to Direct GETTING MY ACT TOGETHER & More!

New York City Center goes Off-Broadway this summer with the launch of Encores! Off-Center, a new series featuring seminal Off-Broadway musicals filtered through the lens of today's most innovative artists. In keeping with City Center's founding mission to make the arts accessible to all, the majority of tickets will be $25.

The series, under the artistic direction of Jeanine Tesori, will open on July 10 with The Cradle Will Rock, Marc Blitzstein's historic 1937 allegory of corruption and corporate greed, directed by Sam Gold and choreographed by Chase Brock. Cradle will be followed by a one-night-only performance of Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley's Violet, starring Sutton Foster and directed by Leigh Silverman, with music direction by Michael Rafter on Wednesday, July 17. The series will conclude with Gretchen Cryer and Nancy Ford's I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road, directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall , July 24 - 27. Chris Fenwick will music direct Cradle and Getting My Act Together. Tickets will go on sale April 15.

"The goal of Encores! Off-Center is to connect the innovators of today to the shows that expanded creative boundaries in the past," said Jeanine Tesori. "We want to find out what happens when contemporary artists meet this material. How will today's directors, musicians, actors and audiences relate to these stories?"

Like the wildly popular Fall for Dance Festival, launched by City Center in 2004, Off-Center aims to attract new and younger audiences by offering affordable tickets.

"I strongly believe that we need to build a new generation of musical theater lovers," said New York City Center President & CEO Arlene Shuler. "That's why the $25 ticket for Off-Center is so important. We want young people and people who have never been to a musical theater performance to fall in love with it and discover something in this art form that speaks to them."

In the Encores! tradition, there will be a great emphasis on the scores, with the orchestra performing onstage, and each show will receive a brief rehearsal period followed by five performances. The series also will feature free, pre-curtain conversations with a range of special guests including artists, scholars and musicians. These events, while informative, will also be entertaining in their own right, featuring genres ranging from visual art to spoken-word poetry and beyond. The events will place the musical in the context of its legacy and provide insightful explorations of the work the audience is about to experience.

The Cradle Will Rock, with music, lyrics and book by Marc Blitzstein, is a Brechtian allegory of corruption and corporate greed that pits exploited workers against greedy, union-busting businessmen. The show was developed in 1937 with funds from the Federal Theater Project, a branch of the WPA.

The original production, directed by Orson Welles, was shut down four days before opening. Officially, it was shut down due to WPA budget cuts, but many cited the show's pro-union themes as the government's impetus for its closing. The show finally opened Off-Broadway at the Venice Theatre in 1937 with private funding. Financial and union issues precluded an orchestra, so Blitzstein himself played the piano at the first preview, with the actors singing from the audience. When the show moved to Broadway, union rules dictated a 10-person orchestra. But Blitzstein insisted on keeping the solo piano and paid nine musicians not to play each night. The story is that Blitzstein chose 10 of his neediest friends for the job. The show opened at the Windsor Theater on January 3, 1938 and ran 108 performances, directed by Howard Da Silva.

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