Westport Revises 2008-09 Season; Paul Newman to Direct

Westport Country Playhouse (Joanne Woodward and Anne Keefe, artistic directors, Jodi Schoenbrun Carter, managing director) has made some revisions in the previously announced 2008 season of productions.

Distinguished actor and director Paul Newman will direct the Playhouse's fall production, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck; Timothy Busfield, Emmy Award-winning actor from "The West Wing," "Studio 60" and "thirtysomething," will star in the dark comedy Vigil, launching its tri-state area premiere on February 26; and Time of My Life, a comedy by Alan Ayckbourn, reuniting author, director and cast members from one of last season's biggest hits, is newly slated for April production.

In a significant milestone, Paul Newman will direct for the Playhouse stage. Newman has received acclaim directing in the mediums of film and television, but has not directed previously for the professional stage.

Opening the Playhouse's 78th season will be a black comedy, Vigil, by one of Canada's greatest award-winning playwrights Morris Panych, starring Timothy Busfield and Helen StenborgVigil will receive its tri-state area premiere at Westport Country Playhouse before moving off-Broadway. Vigil is produced in partnership with Daryl Roth Productions and Angelo Fraboni. Busfield plays Kemp, for whom childhood was anything but normal.  His list of early age traumas include:  A Rumanian dwarf tutor, force-fed accordion lessons and a fear of the dark until age 18.  Not wanting to revisit a moment of it, Kemp successfully avoided all family contact for 30 years.  That is, until the day he was guilted into taking care of his dying aunt, played by Ms. Stenborg.

Playwright Morris Panych is one of Canada's leading playwrights, receiving numerous honors including the Governor General's Award—the most prestigious literary prize in Canada. To give an idea of the playwright's wonderfully dark humor, in a program note for the West End production, Panych dedicates the play "to all who have died and all who've not yet got around to it."  Vigil is scheduled February 26 through March 15. Stephen DiMenna will direct.

Timothy Busfield, who portrays Kemp in Vigil, is an Emmy Award-winning actor for his work on "thirtysomething."  He currently serves as an executive producer and resident director of NBC's "Lipstick Jungle." Busfield has been a regular or recurring character on numerous television series including "All My Children," "Family Ties," "The West Wing," "Ed" and "Without a Trace." Busfield has appeared in over 30 feature films and television movies, including "Stripes," "Revenge of the Nerds," "Field of Dreams" and "Quiz Show." As a theatre actor, he has appeared in over 50 plays, including the Broadway productions of Neil Simon's "Brighton Beach Memoirs" and Aaron Sorkin's "A Few Good Men."

Helen Stenborg will play the role of Grace in Vigil. A Drama Desk Lifetime Achievement Award winner and Tony Award nominee, Stenborg's Broadway credits include "Waiting in the Wings," "A Month in the Country," "A Life," "A Doll's House," "Trail of the Catonsville 9," "Sheep on the Runway" and "Da."  She has made countless television appearances including "Law & Order," "Homicide," "St. Elsewhere" and "LA Law."

From the playwright and director of last season's hilarious hit Relatively Speaking, comes another Alan Ayckbourn comedy, Time of My Life, directed by John Tillinger with cast members Geneva Carr, Cecilia Hart and Paxton Whitehead, and others to be announced.  Audience favorite Paxton Whitehead plays Gerry Stanton, family patriarch, who gets together with his sons and their significant others to celebrate their mother's 54th birthday at their favorite family restaurant. Based on what transpires following the night of the birthday party, time begins to flow differently for each couple.  Jane Greenwood, the legendary Tony Award winner for best costumer design, will design costumes. The comedy is set for April 1 – 19.  Due to the incredible demand of last season's production of Relatively Speaking and the same core talent returning, the Playhouse has added a fourth week of performances for Time of My Life, Thursday, Friday and two Saturday performances, April 24 - 26.

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