Casting Complete for BAM's THE BRIDGE PROJECT, Performances Begin 1/2

Casting Complete for BAM's THE BRIDGE PROJECT, Performances Begin 1/2Sam Mendes directs a transatlantic company of actors in a double-bill of classic works for The Bridge Project's inaugural 2009 season, which pairs a new version of The Cherry Orchard by Tom Stoppard with The Winter's Tale. A formidable transatlantic company and creative team will mount these two new productions for seven internationally renowned theaters. Simon Russell Beale leads the British/American cast, playing Lopakhin in The Cherry Orchard and Leontes in The Winter's Tale. He is joined by Sinéad Cusack as Madame Ranevskaya and Paulina, Richard Easton as Firs and Old Shepherd, Rebecca Hall as Varya and Hermione, Josh Hamilton as Yasha and Polixenes, Ethan Hawke as Trofimov and Autolycus, and Paul Jesson as Gaev and Camilo.

The Bridge Project is a unique, multi-year series of co-productions from Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), The Old Vic, and Neal Street Productions. Each year-from 2009-2011-a single British/American company will perform a double-bill of classic works at BAM and at The Old Vic, and make several international visits. In year one, the plays will run at BAM from January-March 2009 then embark on an international tour, taking residencies at Singapore Repertory Theatre, in Auckland at The EDGE® Performing Arts Centre, in Madrid at Teatro Español, and in Germany at Ruhrfestspiele Recklinghausen before arriving for a season of both plays in rep at The Old Vic from May-August 2009. The 2009 dates will conclude at Epidaurus, Greece as part of the Athens & Epidaurus Festival.

The Bridge Project is presented by Bank of America and produced by Kevin Spacey for The Old Vic, Joseph V. Melillo and Karen Brooks Hopkins for BAM, and Sam Mendes and Caro Newling for Neal Street Productions. The project places the exchange of ideas, talent and creativity between London and New York at the heart of the process, and results from Sam Mendes, Joseph V. Melillo and Kevin Spacey's shared desire to produce large-scale, classical theater for international audiences.

The full company comprises leading British and American actors: Simon Russell Beale, Selina Cadell, Morven Christie, Sinéad Cusack, Rebecca Hall, Paul Jesson, Gary Powell, Jessica Pollert Smith, and Hannah Stokely are appearing with the permission of Actors' Equity Association. Michael Braun, Richard Easton, Josh Hamilton, Ethan Hawke, Aaron Krohn, Dakin Matthews, Mark Nelson, Charlotte Parry, and Tobias Segal are appearing with the permission of UK Equity, incorporating Variety Artistes' Federation, pursuant to an exchange program between American Equity and UK Equity. The Producers gratefully acknowledge Actors' Equity Association for its assistance on this production.

Commenting on the inaugural 2009 double-bill, director Sam Mendes remarked, "The idea behind The Bridge Project was born out of a simple desire: a wish for artists, collaborators, and audiences on both sides of the Atlantic to experience one another's work, talent, and artistry in the theatre. Having had the pleasure of working in both New York and London, I became aware of how little exchange actually exists between these two cities of great theatrical traditions. In 2002, for my tenth and final year as Artistic Director of the Donmar Warehouse in London, I allowed myself the luxury of directing Chekhov's Uncle Vanya and Shakespeare's Twelfth Night in repertory. Those productions later took up residence in the Harvey Theater at BAM. This London/New York double-billing sparked the conversations that would eventually lead us to The Bridge Project.

"I, along with my friend Kevin Spacey, Joe Melillo of BAM, and my long-time collaborator and producing partner Caro Newling, began to wonder what a production might be like if the barrier of an ocean and the separation of the theatrical communities could be erased. We started to see our transatlantic venture taking shape and having two homes: one in New York at BAM and one in London at the Old Vic where Kevin is the Artistic Director.

"So it is with the greatest delight that I find myself once again here in this beautiful theater working simultaneously on Chekhov and Shakespeare, this time collaborating with the incomparable Tom Stoppard on his new version of The Cherry Orchard while also working on The Winter's Tale, one of Shakespeare's final plays-and all with an exceptionally talented transatlantic cast specially brought together for this inaugural year of The Bridge Project."

Kevin Spacey has been Artistic Director of The Old Vic since 2004, during which time he has produced a range of classic and contemporary plays and appeared on stage in five productions. He excitedly added, "I couldn't be happier with such wonderful casting for the first year of this ambitious and thrilling venture with Sam and BAM. The Old Vic stage calls for great acting and great writing. With Tom Stoppard's new version of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard and Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale played in rep by this magnificent cast, Old Vic audiences have a great deal to be excited about for 2009. "The Bridge Project represents many of the things that are most exciting to me about theater, not least the bringing together of extraordinary talent to offer audiences new readings of classic work. It also celebrates theater as an international language and as a bridge between nations. I am delighted that Bank of America has shown its shared commitment to this vision by supporting us in bringing this work to audiences around the world."

Joseph V. Melillo, Executive Producer of BAM since 1999, is responsible for the organization's artistic direction and for maintaining its reputation for programming excellence and artistic innovation. He commented on the historic event, "I am thrilled that we are embarking on the first year of this partnership with such a stellar cast and artistic team. We welcome back to BAM dear Rebecca Hall, and also Simon Russell Beale, a BAM favorite for his remarkable work in Sam Mendes' productions of Twelfth Night and Uncle Vanya. And, in addition to the exceedingly talented cast, I look forward with great anticipation to the long-overdue debut on our stages of Tom Stoppard's work, whose immense talent will be perfectly married with Chekhov's elegant, final play.

"The Bridge Project represents a new model of producing, one that is trans-national at its very roots and a partnership only possible with The Old Vic, a theater so like BAM in spirit and initiative. It is gratifying that The Bridge Project has attracted the attention of the finest theaters around the globe, along with the invaluable support of Bank of America - without whose forward-thinking vision this project would not be possible."

Rena DeSisto, Global Arts & Culture executive of Bank of America, Presenting Sponsor of The Bridge Project, explained, "As one of the largest supporters of arts and culture programming in the world, Bank of America is thrilled to be part of this unique opportunity that will surely attract new audiences to the theater on both sides of the Atlantic. Bank of America has been a proud and long-time sponsor of Brooklyn Academy of Music-including earlier Mendes-directed works-and we look forward to building a similar partnership with Kevin Spacey and The Old Vic. We believe this new collaboration provides a unique way to reach our customers and communities in the United States and abroad."

Tom Stoppard's first stage play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, was produced at The Old Vic in 1967, and it was that very same play which introduced him to New York audiences shortly thereafter, followed in London and New York by Jumpers, The Real Inspector Hound, Travesties, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, Dirty Linen, Night and Day, The Real Thing, Artist Descending a Staircase, Hapgood, Arcadia, The Invention of Love, his trilogy The Coast of Utopia (which won seven Tony Awards), and Rock ‘n' Roll (Tony Award nomination for Best Play). His translations and adaptations include The Seagull, Undiscovered Country, On the Razzle, Rough Crossing, Henry IV, Heroes, and The House of Bernarda Alba. Film scripts as writer and co-writer include Shakespeare in Love (which won him Academy and BAFTA awards), Enigma, Brazil, and Empire of the Sun. Stoppard directed his own screenplay of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, which won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. He is the recipient of four Tony Awards, four Critics' Circle Awards, seven Evening Standard Awards, and an Olivier, Academy, and BAFTA Award. Sir Tom Stoppard was knighted for Services to the Arts in 1997 and in 2000 was bestowed with the Royal Order of Merit, the most prestigious British accolade of all for a writer.

Sam Mendes began his theater career as assistant director at the Chichester Festival Theatre and was the first artistic director of the Minerva in 1989. In 1992 Mendes founded the Donmar Warehouse in London where he was the artistic director until 2002. While at the Donmar Warehouse, he directed Assassins (Olivier and Evening Standard awards), Translations, Cabaret, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Glass Menagerie (Olivier Award), Company (Olivier Award), Habeas Corpus, The Front Page, The Blue Room, To the Green Fields Beyond, and Uncle Vanya (Olivier and Evening Standard Awards) and Twelfth Night (Olivier and Evening Standard Awards), both at BAM in 2003. In the West End: The Cherry Orchard (Critic's Circle Award), The Plough and the Stars, Kean, London Assurance, and Oliver!, which ran for four years at the London Palladium. RSC: Troilus and Cressida, The Alchemist, The Tempest, Richard III. NT: The Sea, The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (Evening Standard Award), The Birthday Party, and Othello (BAM, 1998). Broadway productions include, (as producer) The Real Thing and Take Me Out (Tony Awards), and Shrek The Musical. As director The Blue Room, Gypsy, The Vertical Hour, and Cabaret (Tony Award). Film credits include American Beauty (Academy Award-Best Director and Best Picture, Golden Globe, DGA Award), Road to Perdition, Jarhead. Revolutionary Road, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, is currently in theaters. His next film, entitled Away We Go, opens in the U.S. next summer. He has been the recipient of the Director's Guild Lifetime Achievement Award and the Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in the theater. He was made a Commander of the British Empire in 2000.

Simon Russell Beale's work for the Donmar includes The Philanthropist (Evening Standard and Critics' Circle Best Actor awards), Uncle Vanya and Twelfth Night (also at BAM and both winning him Evening Standard, Critics' Circle and Olivier awards for Best Actor, an Obie Award for Best Actor in Uncle Vanya, and Drama Desk Award nominations for both). His work for the National Theatre includes Major Barbara, Much Ado About Nothing, The Alchemist, The Life of Galileo, Jumpers (also West End and Broadway; Tony nomination for Best Actor), Humble Boy (also West End), the title role in Hamlet (Evening Standard Best Actor Award and Critics' Circle Award for Best Shakespearean Performance), Candide (Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical), Othello, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and Volpone (Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actor). He has also appeared in The Tempest, King Lear, Richard III, Edward II, The Seagull (all for RSC), Monty Python's Spamalot (West End and Broadway) and Macbeth (Almeida). Television includes A Dance to the Music of Time (RTS and BAFTA Best Actor awards) and Persuasion. Films include The Gathering, An Ideal Husband and Hamlet. Simon is an Associate of the National and Almeida theatres, an Associate Artist of the RSC, and was awarded a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List for Services to the Arts in 2003.