Westport Revises 2008-09 Season; Paul Newman to Direct

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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.

A sweetly comic play, The Pavilion, is written by Craig Wright, an award-winning and Emmy-nominated playwright who has also been the head writer and producer for HBO's "Six Feet Under" and "Lost."  "The Pavilion" is a story of high school sweethearts Peter and Kari, voted the class of 1988's "Cutest Senior Couple."  But at the end of senior year, Kari becomes pregnant and Peter runs off.  After not seeing each other since graduation, they meet again at their 20th high school reunion wondering if they can turn back time. Scheduled May 13 through May 31, The Pavilion will be directed by Chad Rabinovitz, Playhouse artistic associate.

A lively song and dance revue, Hot 'n Cole:  A Cole Porter Celebration!, will be staged June 10 through June 28. "Hot 'n Cole" celebrates the life of one of the great songwriting masters in American musical history.  The revue is jam-packed with fresh arrangements and contemporary twists on 48 Cole Porter standards, including "You're the Top," "It's De-Lovely," "Night and Day," "I Love Paris," "Anything Goes," "Just One of Those Things" and "In the Still of the Night."  The revue is devised by David Armstrong, Mark Waldrop and Bruce W. Coyle; musical arrangements by Bruce W. Coyle.

From Westport Country Playhouse's playwright-in-residence David Wiltse comes a delicious office comedy, Scramble!, about the howlingly incompetent staff of a golf magazine.  When a rumor spreads that the magazine may be sold to a corporate publisher, the staff suspects a new hire is actually a "hatchetman," brought in to decide whether or not certain employees are pulling their weight.  As everyone fears that their job is on the line, office politics turn into farce with outlandish relationships, mistaken identities and hilarious situations.  "Scramble!" will be staged July 9 through July 26.  Tracey Brigden, who directed Wiltse's "A Marriage Minuet" at the Playhouse in 2006, will direct.

A thriller, Tryst by Karoline Leach, will play August 5 through August 23. Joe Brancato, who directed the Off-Broadway production, will direct.  Set in mysterious Edwardian London, George Love, played by Playhouse favorite Mark Shanahan, has a habit of marrying simple, well off women who become inexplicably poor and husbandless the day after their honeymoons.   He's come to London to con his next bride into marriage, and happens upon Adelaide, played by Andrea Maulella, a milliner's assistant who is sitting on a small nest egg of 50 pounds.  He woos her and two days after they've met, he convinces her to get married that evening and bring the total of her bank account.  Once they get to the honeymoon, however, the situation changes, as Adelaide appears to be not such a simple girl.  She too has her own agenda in marrying Mr. Love and will try anything to get what she wants.

The enduring masterpiece, Of Mice and Men, will be directed by Paul Newman. The play is based on John Steinbeck's 1937 tale of two traveling companions, George and Lennie, who wander the country during the Depression, dreaming of a better life for themselves.  George wants to own land and be his own boss.  His mentally challenged partner, Lennie, simply wants rabbits to play with.  When it seems that their dreams might be attainable, something goes terribly wrong.  Multi-Tony Award-winning designer Michael Yeargan will be scenic designer, with the legendary Jane Greenwood as costume designer. Of Mice and Men will run October 7 through October 25. Due to the caliber of artists attached to this production, the Playhouse has added a fourth week of performances for Of Mice and Men, Thursday, Friday and two Saturday performances, October 30 – November 1.

A December holiday production, not part of the subscription series, is to be announced.

The performance schedule for the 2008 season will be Tuesday at 8 p.m., Wednesday at 2 and 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.  Special series will feature Previews, Opening Nights, TalkBack Thursdays, Prologue, Symposium Sundays, Backstage Pass and Open Captioning.

Subscriptions for the 2008 season, now on sale, range from $185 to $420 each for 5-play, 6-play and 7-play series.  Subscription benefits include discounted prices and preferred, renewable seating.  Single tickets are now on sale ranging from $30 to $55; opening night tickets, including post-performance reception, are $65.

Students and educators are eligible for 50% discounts.  Groups of 10 or more save up to 30% off the regular ticket price.  For group sales information call (203) 227-5137, x120.

For subscriptions, single tickets or more information, call the box office at (203) 227-4177, or toll-free at 1-888-927-7529, or visit 25 Powers Court, off Route 1, Westport. Information about the Playhouse is also available at www.westportplayhouse.org.

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