Photo Flash: Lauren Ambrose, Joan Allen, et al. in DAUGHTER OF THE QUEEN OF SHEBA Reading

Fountain House, an internationally recognized organization dedicated to improving the lives of people living with mental illness, last night hosted a staged reading of Daughter of the Queen of Sheba, headlining celebrated actresses Joan Allen and Lauren Ambrose, with appearances by noted actor and screenwriter Dan Futterman and theatre, film and television actor David AaRon Baker. The one-night-only performance, based upon the acclaimed memoir by NPR'sJacki Lyden that recounts her experience growing up with a colorful and dramatic mother living with manic depression, drew a full house to the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College, located at 68th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues in New York City. Lyden served as Narrator of the performance, which employed slides to illustrate the action. The evening benefitted Fountain House, with support from NPR. Check out a photo from the event below!


The "Sheba" of the title is now 81 years of age and was on hand to share this special performance with her three daughters. During years of struggle with mental illness, she had proclaimed herself the Queen of Sheba, and with the power inherent in that role she ceded to her daughters ownership of ancient lands: Mesopotamia, Carthage, Thebes. There were hospitalizations, misdiagnoses, and everyday occurrences ranging from tragic to comic. Author Lyden describes her memoir as "a story of triumph," and declares, "We are proud of our mother, who has endured so much, and we have learned from her mania and creativity."

Joan Allen and Lauren Ambrose played the roles of "Sheba" and her daughter Jacki, respectively, joined by Dan Futterman and David AaRon Baker, who assumed a variety of male roles. These theatre artists enthralled the audience, summoning a range of complex and at times contradictory emotions. The script for this performance was created by Karen Croner and Jacki Lyden. It was directed by Daniel Barnz and produced by Susan Cartsonis.

Over the course of her distinguished career, Joan Allen has worked in theatre, television and film. She has received three Academy Award nominations; she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for Nixon and The Crucible, and for Best Actress for The Contender. Her other films include The Ice Storm , Face/Off , Pleasantville , The Notebook, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum. Allen is also one of the New York theatre world's most honored actresses and winner of every major prize for her work on and off-Broadway, including the Best Actress Tony Award for her performance opposite John Malkovich in Lanford Wilson's "Burn This." She recently starred opposite Jeremy Irons in the Jack O'Brien play "Impressionism," marking her first time back on Broadway in 19 years.

Lauren Ambrose received two Primetime Emmy Award nominations for her role as Claire Fisher in HBO's critically acclaimed and award-winning series "Six Feet Under." She was most recently seen in television on the Starz show "Torchwood: Miracle Day." In film, Ambrose most recently lent her voice to the adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are with Catherine Keener, James Gandolfini and Mark Ruffalo and appeared in The Other Woman with Natalie Portman. She has wrapped Wanderlust directed by David Wain and Think of Me directed by Bryan Wizemann. On stage, Ambrose starred in the Broadway revival of Eugene Ionesco's tragicomedy "Exit the King" opposite Susan Sarandon and Geoffrey Rush. She also appeared in Clifford Odets's "Awake and Sing" opposite Mark Ruffalo and directed by Bartlett Sher and in the Matthew Warchus-directed play "Buried Children" at The National Theatre in London. She will next be seen in the revival of the Broadway hit "Funny Girl," which will reteam her with award-winning director Bartlett Sher. Ambrose will play Fanny Brice, a role originated by Barbra Streisand.

David AaRon Baker, has appeared on Broadway and in film and television. His Broadway appearances include "The Merchant of Venice," "A Raisin In The Sun," "Once Upon A Mattress," "The Rainmaker," "Abe Lincoln In Illinois." Film credits include Martin Campbell's Edge of Darkness, Lasse Hallström's The Hoax, Woody Allen's Melinda and Melinda, Kissing Jessica Stein, The Tao of Steve. Television: "The Music Man," "Molly: An American Girl," "Law & Order," "Third Watch," "Sex and the City," "Without A Trace," "Numb3rs," and "Boardwalk Empire." He is a graduate of Juilliard.
As an actor Dan Futterman has appeared on Broadway ("Angels in America"), and Off-Broadway at Lincoln Center and Manhattan Theatre Club ("The Lights," "A Fair Country," "Dealer's Choice"). His films include A Mighty Heart, The Birdcage, and Urbania, for which he was named Best Actor at the Seattle Film Festival. Dan was nominated for a 2005 Academy Award for his screenplay for the film Capote. He and his wife and writing partner, Anya Epstein, were showrunners for the third season of the HBO series "In Treatment." Dan and Anya are developing a new series for HBO,"T", and he is working with director Bennett Miller on a forthcoming film, Foxcatcher.

The director, producer, and writers of this staged reading are also collaborating to bring Daughter of the Queen of Sheba to the big screen:

After working for many years as a screenwriter, director Daniel Barnz was named one of Filmmaker Magazine's 25 New Faces of Independent Film 2007 and one of Variety's Top Ten Directors to Watch 2008. Barnz's feature directorial debut, Phoebe in Wonderland, premiered in competition at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and was released nationally in 2009. 2011 saw the release of Beastly, which Barnz directed after adapting the novel. Barnz's next film, Still I Rise, will appear in theaters in 2012, and stars Viola Davis, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Holly Hunter, Rosie Perez and Ving Rhames.

The producer, Susan Cartsonis, is the president of Storefront Pictures. Her producing credits include What Women Want (the highest grossing romantic comedy of all time at the time of its release), Where the Heart Is, Aquamarine, No Reservations and Beastly. Susan spent the first 10 years of her career at 20th Century Fox where she developed and supervised over 25 movies including Nell and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, among many other iconic female audience-driven films. She is Chair of the Foundation Board of Trustees of Women in Film.

Karen Croner and Jacki Lyden have created the script for this performance. Lyden has been an award-winning host and correspondent for NPR for nearly three decades, reporting signature stories from throughout the Middle East and American homefront. Karen Croner is an award-winning screenwriter known for such movies as One True Thing and Scattered Dreams. Current movies written by Croner include Admission for Tina Fey directed by Paul Weitz, Hello Ghost to be directed by Chris Columbus, and Tribes of Palos Verdes starring Soarise Ronin.

Fountain House is one of the world's leading mental health models, providing employment, education, and housing opportunities to people living with serious mental illness. This successful model has been replicated in more than 400 locations in 30 countries and 32 states and currently serves more than 55,000 people with mental illness worldwide. For more information, please visit: www.fountainhouse.org.

Photo Credit: Lisa Mauceri

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