Cleveland Play House Adapts EMMA For The Stage

A world premiere adaptation of Jane Austen's romantic comedy Emma by Artistic Director Michael Bloom takes the stage at The Cleveland Play House. Chicago-based director Peter Amster returns to direct the Jane Austen play after directing the smash hit Pride and Prejudice at The Cleveland Play House in 2008. The romantic comedy stars Sarah Nealis as Emma Woodhouse, a well-meaning ingenuine devoted to finding marital matches for the people in her life and Mark Montgomery (Mamma Mia! on Broadway) as Mr. Knightley, her neighbor and friend. Emma begins in the Drury Theatre at The Cleveland Play House on Friday, February 26 and runs through Sunday, March 21, 2010. Tickets are available at The Cleveland Play House box office by calling 216.795.7000 ext 4 or online at www.clevelandplayhouse.com. Emma is presented with support from Glenmede and Judson at University Circle.

Director Peter Amster talks about his fondness for the world of Jane Austen. "I've always loved Lord Tennyson's description of Jane Austen - ‘she pictured her characters as truthfully as Shakespeare.' Her books have always been good company to me; the world she created, with the smallest brush, is so perfect and says so much about the world at large."

"The coming-of-age story of a spoiled, overly imaginative young woman will always have resonance, as witness the continuing movies and television series," says Michael Bloom, Artistic Director and Emma playwright. "In adapting it for the stage, we're focusing on the nexus of character and action, psychology and morality."

ABOUT THE PLAY AND Jane Austen
Beautiful, witty, and much too mischievous, Emma Woodhouse is one of Jane Austen's most unforgettable heroines. Confident that she knows best, Emma schemes to find a suitable husband for her friend Harriet, only to discover that she understands the feelings of others as little as she does her own heart. As Emma puzzles and blunders her way through the mysteries of her social world, we meet a cast of unforgettable characters in a tale brilliantly reflecting Jane Austen's mastery of wit, irony and wisdom.

Jane Austen's novels were humorous, warm and ironic portraits of the privileged classes of 18th- and 19th-century England. Her best-known works are Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), and Emma (1815). Austen was one of eight children of an English clergyman, and given her literary accomplishments she lived a remarkably quiet and domestic life in the rural south of England. She never married and was only 41 when she died. Due to the lack of acceptance of women authors at the time, her major novels were published anonymously, and Austen was not associated with them until after her death.

Austen's stories have long been favorites in Hollywood; recent screen adaptations include Pride and Prejudice (both a 1995 BBC TV production with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, and a 2005 feature film with Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet), Emma (1996, with Gwyneth Paltrow) and Sense and Sensibility (1995, with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet). The 1995 Alicia Silverstone movie Clueless is a whimsical takeoff of Emma. Austen herself was played by Anne Hathaway in the 2007 film Becoming Jane. In the winter of 2010, PBS aired a new BBC Masterpiece Classic version of Emma starring Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller.

Jane Austen died on July 18, 1817. She never wrote a memoir, sat for an interview, or recorded whether she had herself felt the joys and disappointments of love. The biographical facts may never adequately explain the quick wit, the sharp insight, and the deep emotional intelligence she brought to her novels.

EMMA Principal Cast:
SARAH NEALIS (Emma) recently appeared as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet and as Sybil Chase in Private Lives with California Shakespeare Theatre, where she also performed in An Ideal Husband, Pericles, King Lear, and The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. Her work with regional and San Francisco Bay area theaters includes the premiere of How Shakespeare Won the West at Huntington Theatre Company; A Christmas Carol at Actors Theatre of Louisville; Iphigenia at Aulis, Long Day's Journey Into Night, and Moonlight & Magnolias with San Jose Repertory Theatre; The Trojan Women with Aurora Theatre Company; How The Other Half Loves with Center REP, Othello and Twelfth Night with Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, Four Adverbs with Word for Word Performing Arts Company, and as an understudy for Speed The Plow at American Conservatory Theater (ACT). Ms. Nealis holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre from University of California Berkeley. Originally from California, she now resides in New York City.

Mark L. Montgomery (Mr. Knightley) recently toured France in Arthur Nauzyciel's production of Julius Caesar, which originated at American Repertory Theater. Prior to that he appeared as Doc Gibbs in David Cromer's Our Town at the Barrow Street Theatre. Other New York credits include Mamma Mia! and The Seagull on Broadway, Macbeth in Central Park: and also work with Mint Theater Company, The Actors Company Theatre, and others. Chicago credits include over a dozen shows with Chicago Shakespeare Theater (most recently Orsino in Twelfth Night), Steppenwolf Theatre Company, the Goodman Theatre, Northlight Theatre, and many others. Mr. Montgomery has appeared on the television series "Law and Order."

CAROLYN FAYE KRAMER (Harriet) recently performed in End Days with Next Theatre Company; The Diary of Anne Frank with Steppenwolf Theatre Company; Six Impossible Things with Filament Theatre Ensemble; The Illusion, Mad Forest, Tattoo Girl, and Machinal, at Northwestern University; and Verkuta, Una Carrona, and Talking With... at Sarah Lawrence College. Selected film credits include In Memoriam, director Stephen Cone; Girls Parts, director Eric Gernand; Sunshine Away, Baker Street Productions; and Blonde Moments, Samsung Fresh Films. Ms. Kramer is a graduate of Northwestern University and the School at Steppenwolf, 2008. She is a proud member of Filament Theatre Ensemble.

Patrick Clear (Mr. Woodhouse) most recently appeared at Indiana Repertory Theatre as Andy Ladd in Love Letters and as William Seward and Jefferson Davis in The Heavens are Hung in Black. A long time resident of Chicago, his roles there have included Mr. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice with Northlight Theatre, Martin in The Goat and Bernard in Arcadia for the Goodman Theatre, Patrick Brontë in Brontë for Remy Bumppo Theatre Company, Tom in The Secret Rapture for Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Leonato in Much Ado About Nothing for First Folio Theatre, Serebryakov in Uncle Vanya for Apple Tree Theatre, and Gloucester in King Lear for Chicago Shakespeare Theater. He appeared on Broadway in Noises Off and Hollywood Arms. Regional credits include the Guthrie Theater, Arena Stage, Huntington Theatre, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park and Baltimore's CenterStage. Film and television credits include The Dark Knight, "Prison Break," "Early Edition," Losing Isaiah, and In the Best Interests of the Children.

Dana Hart (Mr. Weston) apprenticed to The Cleveland Play House from 1974 to 1976. He then acted for PlayhouseSquare, Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival, and the Chautauqua Music Institute before moving to New York City where off Broadway credits include Holy Ghosts, Twelfth Night, The Mousetrap, and Molly Bloom. Regional theater credits include Alaska Repertory Theatre, San Diego Rep, Milwaukee Rep, and Baltimore's CenterStage. Cleveland area work includes History Boys and Oleanna with Beck Center for the Arts; Arms and the Man and Guys on Ice: The Ice-fishing Musical with Actors Summit Theater; Measure for Measure with Cleveland Public Theatre; Steelbound with Ensemble Theatre; and Marriage Play with Ceasar's Forum. He is pleased to add Michael Bloom's Emma to Cleveland-based world premieres he has been part of: Sara Morton's Safety; Michael Tisdale's Gold Star, Ohio; Park Goist's My Writer, My Actress; and Cleveland writer Anne McDonnald's A Day Without Equals, (performed in Harrare, Zimbabwe).

SUZANNE LANG (Miss Bates) performed as Mary in Northlight Theatre's recent production of Mauritius. Additional credits include Pride and Prejudice with Northlight Theatre, also directed by Peter Amster; The Savannah Disputation, Othello, and Bus Stop at Writers' Theatre; A Christmas Carol at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook; The Life and Times of Tulsa Lovechild at CollaborAction/Theatre on the Lake; The Apple Cart and Votes for Women! at ShawChicago Theatre Company; and The Tempest at the English-American Theatre Festival in Düsseldorf, Germany; as well as performances with Estrogen Fest, Stage Actors' Multicultural Fest, Chicago Dramatists, Brown Couch Theatre Company, and The Indiana Shakespeare Company. Film credits include An Open Door, Elsewhere, Walter's Wife and, most recently, What If. Ms. Lang is a proud member of SAG and AFTRA.

Third-year graduates of the Case Western Reserve University MFA Actor Training Program at The Cleveland Play House:

AJ CEDEÑO (Mr. Martin) recently played the title role in The Cleveland Play House Theater for Children series' production of Huck Finn and also appeared in The Play House mainstage production of Inherit the Wind.

MICHAEL FLOOD (Ensemble) this past season portrayed Jim in The Cleveland Play House Theater for Children production of Huck Finn and also performed in The Play House mainstage production of Inherit the Wind.

ZAC HOOGENDYK (Mr. Churchill) appeared recently in The Cleveland Play House Theater for Children production of Huck Finn as Tom Sawyer and played Tom Davenport in The Play House's mainstage production of Inherit the Wind.

LINDSAY IUEN (Mrs. Elton) played multiple roles for The Cleveland Play House Theater for Children series' Huck Finn and portrayed Mrs. McClain in the latest Play House mainstage production of Inherit the Wind.

SARAH NEDWEK (Jane Fairfax) performed in The Cleveland Play House Theater for Children production of Huck Finn and portrayed Rachel Brown in The Play House's most recent mainstage production of Inherit the Wind.

TOM PICASSO (Ensemble) played several parts in The Cleveland Play House Theater for Children series' Huck Finn and was featured in this season's Play House mainstage production of Inherit the Wind.

Tom White (Mr. Elton) played several roles for The Cleveland Play House, in the Theater for Children production of Huck Finn and his portrayal of Bertram Cates in the mainstage revival of Inherit the Wind.

LEIGH WILLIAMS (Mrs. Weston) was featured in The Cleveland Play House Theater for Children production of Huck Finn and portrayed Mrs. Krebs in The Play House's recent revival of Inherit the Wind.

EMMA Creative Team:
MICHAEL BLOOM (Playwright) is the eighth artistic director of The Cleveland Play House, America's oldest regional theater. Recently for The Play House he directed Lost in Yonkers, Heaven's My Destination, The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Lincolnesque, Rabbit Hole, and Well. He has directed at many of the country's major theaters, including American Repertory Theatre, Berkeley Rep, Old Globe Theatre, South Coast Rep, Seattle Rep, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Manhattan Theatre Club, Alley Theatre, Alliance Theatre Company, The Cleveland Play House, Long Wharf Theatre, and the Sundance Playwrights' Institute. His productions have also been seen throughout Japan and in Tokyo at the Aoyama Theatre and Theatre Cocoon. His off Broadway production of Sight Unseen garnered three Obie Awards, and he received a Drama Desk nomination for direction. Other productions include the American premiere of A Young Lady from Rwanda; Gross Indecency, Elliott Norton Award for Best Directing, 1998; the world premiere of Dinner with Friends at Actors Theatre of Louisville; Los Angeles premieres of The Cryptogram and The Old Neighborhood at the Geffen Playhouse; Major Barbara and The Philadelphia Story at Kansas City Rep; and the world premiere of Tennessee Williams' Spring Storm. Among the many playwrights he's worked with are John Robin Baitz, Anthony Clarvoe, Don DeLillo, John Guare, David Hare, William Hauptman, Arthur Kopit, Neil LaBute, David Lodge, Donald Margulies, David Mamet, and Wallace Shawn. Mr. Bloom has been associate artistic director at the Hartman Theatre Company and associate director at American Repertory Theatre, and co-founder of Actors Repertory of Texas. He has taught at New York University, Harvard University, University of Texas, and Scripps College. His articles have appeared in American Theatre Magazine and The New York Times; and his book Thinking Like a Director was published by Farrar, Straus, & Giroux in 2001.

Peter Amster (Director/Dance Consultant) returns to The Cleveland Play House, where he directed Pride and Prejudice in 2008. He has been nominated for Chicago's Jefferson Award for his direction of Once on This Island, The World Goes Round, and The Rothschilds at Apple Tree Theatre, and Pride and Prejudice at Northlight Theatre. Other Chicago area theaters where he has worked include Steppenwolf Theatre Company, the Court Theatre, the Goodman Theatre, Live Bait, Pegasus, and Route 66. He has directed at many regional theaters, including the Oregon Shakespeare Festival; Indiana Repertory Theatre; Syracuse Stage; Asolo Repertory Theatre; Peninsula Players; American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wisconsin; Milwaukee Rep; and the Weston Playhouse Theatre Company in Vermont. Mr. Amster has directed and choreographed operas for Lyric Opera of Chicago, Chicago Opera Theatre, Skylight Opera in Milwaukee, and Light Opera Works in Evanston, Illinois. He has taught theater, opera, and performance studies at Northwestern University, California Institute of the Arts, Louisiana State University, DePaul University, and Roosevelt University.

The design team for Emma includes Robert Mark Morgan (Scenic Designer), Joe Cerqua (Composer), Kristine Kearney (Costume Design), Jeff Davis (Lighting Designer), Don Wadsworth (Dialect Coach) and Jim Swonger (Sound Design).

TICKET INFORMATION
Tickets for Emma range from $45 to $65, with discounts available for groups of ten or more, for senior citizens aged 60 and over, and for military reservists and their families. Tickets are $10 for all students under the age of 25. A limited number of $10 rush tickets go on sale 90 minutes before curtain and remain on sale until 30 minutes before curtain, based on availability. The Cleveland Play House is located at 85th and Euclid Ave. next door to the Cleveland Clinic near University Circle.


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