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Photo Flash: First Look at Broadway-Bound PORGY & BESS at A.R.T.

A.R.T. American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) opens its 2011-12 season with The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, by George Gershwin, DuBose and Dorothy Heyward, and Ira Gershwin. The adaptation by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks and Obie Award-winning composer Diedre L. Murray, directed by A.R.T. Artistic Director Diane Paulus, with choreography by Ronald K. Brown, begins previews on August 17 and opens for the reviewing press on August 31 at 7pm. Performances are at the Loeb Drama Center, 64 Brattle Street, Cambridge. Tickets for preview performances are currently on sale, remaining tickets for the run go on sale on July 12. Check out photos from the production below!

Led by Audra McDonald as Bess and Norm Lewis as Porgy, the Company includes David Alan Grier as Sporting Life, Joshua Henry as Jake, Phillip Boykin as Crown, Nikki Renée Daniels as Clara, Bryonha Marie Parham as Serena, NaTasha Yvette Williams as Maria, Cedric Neal as Frazier, J.D. Webster as Mingo, Heather Hill as Lily, Phumzile Sojola as Peter, Nathaniel Stampley as Robbins, Joseph Dellger as the Coroner, and Christopher Innvar as the Detective. The ensemble also includes Allison Blackwell, Roosevelt André Credit, Trevon Davis, Joseph Dellger, Wilkie Ferguson, Alicia Hall Moran, Andrea Jones-Sojola, and Lisa Nicole Wilkerson.

THE GERSHWINS' PORGY AND BESS began its life as DuBose Heyward's novel Porgy, which he and his wife Dorothy Heyward adapted into a play. George Gershwin wanted to write an American opera - a piece that would infuse classical musical tradition with what he considered the vigor of blues and jazz, two distinctly American musical forms. He found in Porgy the perfect vehicle, and with Heyward as librettist and Ira Gershwin as lyricist, Gershwin's new opera had its premiere in Boston's Colonial Theater on September 30, 1935. Broadway performances followed featuring a cast of classically trained African-American singers - a daring and visionary artistic choice at the time.

This classic American tale tells the story of the beautiful and troubled Bess, who turns to Porgy, the crippled beggar, in search of safety after her possessive lover Crown commits murder. As Porgy and Bess's love grows, their future is threatened by Crown and the conniving Sportin' Life. The heartbreaking love story is set in the late 1930s in Catfish Row, a neighborhood in Charleston, South Carolina and boasts some of the most famous and beloved works from the Great American Songbook including "Summertime," "Bess, You Is My Woman Now," "It Ain't Necessarily So," and "I Loves You, Porgy."

Creating a new version of Gershwin's renowned Porgy and Bess is a privilege bestowed upon Diane Paulus and the A.R.T by the estates of George and Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward in their desire to take the work from the opera house to the musical stage and its popular roots. The new production maintains the original setting and includes all of the great and beloved songs. /over

Set design is by Riccardo Hernandez (Il Postino at LA Opera, Washington Opera, and Le Chatelet, Paris; numerous productions at A.R.T.), costume design by Project Runway finalist ESosa, lighting design by Christopher Akerlind (Tony Award for The Light in the Piazza; The Seagull, Britannicus and others at A.R.T.), sound by Acme Sound Partners, and casting by Telsey + Company. Orchestration is by William David Brohn and Christopher Jahnke, the Music Supervisor is David Loud, and the conductor is Sheilah Walker.

This production of The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess is being presented in association with Jeffrey Richards and Jerry Frankel.

A.R.T. Artistic Director Diane Paulus has directed Prometheus Bound, Death and the Powers: The Robots' Opera (also in Monaco and Chicago) Johnny Baseball, Best of Both Worlds, The Donkey Show (also six years Off-Broadway, tours to London, Edinburgh, Madrid, Evian, France) at the A.R.T. Other recent theater credits include HAIR (Tony Award, Best Revival of a Musical; Tony Award nomination, Best Direction of a Musical) on Broadway, London, and US Tour; Lost Highway at the Young Vic/English National Opera; Kiss Me, Kate at Glimmerglass Opera; Another Country, Columbia Stages; Turandot: Rumble for the Ring, Bay Street Theater; Swimming with Watermelons, Vineyard Theater and Music-Theatre Group; Eli's Comin, Brutal Imagination, Vineyard Theater; and Running Man (Pulitzer Prize finalist, Music-Theatre Group). Her opera credits include¬ The Magic Flute for the Canadian Opera Company; Il mondo della luna at the Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Natural History, Gotham Chamber Opera; and Don Giovanni, Le nozze di Figaro, The Turn of the Screw, Cosi fan tutte, Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria, L'incoronazione di Poppea and Orfeo for Chicago Opera Theater. Ms. Paulus was named one of the "50 Most Powerful Women in Boston" by Boston magazine this year.

Adapter Suzan-Lori Parks was named one of TIME magazine's "100 Innovators for the Next New Wave." Her plays include The America Play, also produced at the A.R.T.; Topdog/
Underdog (Broadway, Pulitzer Prize for Drama), The Book of Grace, In the Blood (2000 Pulitzer Prize finalist), Venus (1996 OBIE Award), The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World, Father Comes Home from the Wars Part I: The Union of My Confederate Parts, Fucking A, and Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom (1990 OBIE Award for Best New American Play). She's written screenplays for Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington, Girl 6, written for Spike Lee, and adapted Zora Neale Hurston's classic novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, which premiered on ABC's Oprah Winfrey Presents. In 2007 her project 365 Plays/365 Days was produced in over 700 theaters worldwide. She teaches at NYU, and currently performing her experimental solo show, Watch Me Work at The Public Theatre, where she serves as Master Writer Chair.

Adapter/Arranger Diedre L. Murray composed the A.R.T.'s production of Best of Both Worlds. She is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, two-time Obie winner, innovative composer, cellist, producer and curator. Her musical theater works include Unending Pain, a choral/chamber work (co-presented by the Performance Garage and the Whitney Museum of American Art, toured to the Studio Museum of Harlem and Productions Traquen'Arts Cello Festival in Montreal); Let's Go Down to the River, a score for octet, Willasau Jazz Festival in Switzerland; The Eves of Nhor, a string trio for National Dutch Radio and De Effenaar Festival in Eindhoven Holland; Kamerados, for mixed ensemble; Five Minute Tango, a score for the inaugural concert at the Danny Kaye/Sylvia Fine Playhouse, performed by the Manhattan Brass Quintet; The Conversation for the Seattle-based New Performance Group; You Don't Miss the Water, a music-theater piece in collaboration with noted poet Cornelius Eady, produced by the Music-Theatre Group (MTG); Women In The Dunes, a dance piece created by Blondel Cummings for the Japan Society; the original story and score for the jazz-opera Running Man with book with Cornelius Eady (two Obie Awards, finalist for the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Drama); music arrangements for Eli's Coming (Obie Award); and an adaptation by Diane Paulus of James Baldwin's Another Country. 

Choreographer Ronald K. Brown is the Founder and Artistic Director of EVIDENCE, A DANCE COMPANY, a New York-based contemporary dance ensemble since 1985. Has also created work
for the African American Dance Ensemble, Philadanco, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Ailey II, Cinque Folkloric Dance Theater, Jennifer Muller/The Works, and Jeune Ballet d'Afrique Noire. He has collaborated with composer/designer Omotayo Wunmi Olaiya, the late writer Craig G. Harris, director Ernie McClintock's Jazz Actors Theater, choreographers Patricia Hoffbauer and Rokiya Kone, and composers Robert Een, Oliver Lake, Bernadette Speech, David Simons, and Don Meissner. He is the recipient of a New York Dance and Performance Award (Bessie), a Black Theater Alliance Award, the American Dance Festival Humphrey/Weidman/Limón Award, and an AUDELCO (Black Theatre Award) for his choreography for Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats, originally produced by the McCarter Theater and presented off-Broadway in 2003. Brown was named Def Dance Jam Workshop Mentor of the Year in 2000.

The American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) is one of the country's most celebrated resident theaters and the winner of numerous awards - including the Tony Award, the Pulitzer Prize and regional Elliot Norton and I.R.N.E. Awards. In 2002 the A.R.T. was the recipient of the National Theatre Conference's Outstanding Achievement Award, and in May of 2003 it was named one of the top three regional theaters in the country by Time magazine. Founded by Robert Brustein in 1980, the A.R.T. during its 30-year history has performed throughout the U.S. and worldwide, and has welcomed many major American and international theater artists, presenting a diverse repertoire that includes new American plays, bold reinterpretations of classical texts and provocative new music theater productions. In 2009, the A.R.T. welcomed its new Artistic Director, Diane Paulus. Armed with the A.R.T.'s mission to expand the boundaries of theater, Paulus and her team have engaged thousands of new theatergoers at performances of Sleep No More, The Donkey Show, Gatz, Best of Both Worlds, Johnny Baseball, Cabaret, The Blue Flower, Prometheus Bound, and Death and the Powers as well as festivals like Emerging America. Critics and audiences have embraced the immersive environments that have become hallmarks of A.R.T. productions. The Theater has broadened its focus to include the audience's total experience, providing them with a sense of ownership in the theatrical event. Initiatives like the A.R.T.'s new club theater OBERON, which Paulus calls a "second stage for the 21st century," is an example of one initiative that has not only become an incubator for local artists but also has attracted national attention as a groundbreaking model for programming. Through all of its work, the A.R.T. is committed to building a community of artists, technicians, educators, staff and audience, all of who are integral to the A.R.T.'s core mission of expanding the boundaries of theater.

The balance of the 2011-12 A.R.T. season includes THREE PIANOS by Rick Burkhardt, Alec Duffy and Dave Malloy, with music from Franz Schubert's Winterreise, Op. 89, D911 (1828), directed by Rachel Chavkin (Loeb Drama Center • December 7 - January 8, 2012); AS YOU LIKE IT by William Shakespeare, featuring members of The A.R.T. /MXAT Institute for Advanced Theater Training Class of 2012 (Loeb Drama Center • January 13 - January 28); the world premiere of WILD SWANS by Jung Chang, adapted by Alexandra Wood, directed by Sacha Wares (Loeb Drama Center • February 11 - March 11); and the world premiere of FUTURITY: A Musical by The Lisps, with music and lyrics by César Alvarez with The Lisps; book by Molly Rice and César Alvarez; directed by Sarah Benson (Oberon • March 16 - April 15); and WOODY SEZ, with words and music by Woody Guthrie, devised by David M. Lutken with Nick Corley (Loeb Drama Center • May 5 - May 26).

The Loeb Drama Center, located at 64 Brattle Street, Harvard Square, Cambridge, is accessible to persons with special needs and to those requiring wheelchair seating or first-floor restrooms. Deaf and hard-of-hearing patrons can also reach the theater by calling the toll-free N.E. Telephone Relay Center at 1-800-439-2370.

For further information call 617-547-8300 or visit http://www.americanrepertorytheater.org

Photo Credit: Michael Lutch

Photo Flash: First Look at Broadway-Bound PORGY & BESS at A.R.T.

Photo Flash: First Look at Broadway-Bound PORGY & BESS at A.R.T.
Audra McDonald, Norm Lewis

Photo Flash: First Look at Broadway-Bound PORGY & BESS at A.R.T.
Cast of THE GERSHWINS' PORGY AND BESS

Photo Flash: First Look at Broadway-Bound PORGY & BESS at A.R.T.

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