Irwin, Skinner Lead The Clowns and Mr. Beckett at Westport Country Playhouse

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Irwin, Skinner Lead The Clowns and Mr. Beckett at Westport Country Playhouse

Bill Irwin, actor, director, writer and clown, whose work has been honored with Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, Barrymore and Helen Hayes Awards, and Doug Skinner, musician, puppeteer and composer, who wrote and played the music for several of Mr. Irwin's shows, will appear in "The Clowns and Mr. Beckett," an evening of madcap routines, shtick and novelty songs, at Westport Country Playhouse on Saturday, December 11, 8 p.m.

An exuberant entertainment for the young at heart, "The Clowns and Mr. Beckett - An Evening with Bill Irwin and Doug Skinner" will bring to The Playhouse stage these two unparalleled performers for an enchanting exploration in the art of clowning, the works of Samuel Beckett, and the shared passion of all three for classic vaudeville and silent film comedians.

"Among other things, we'll look at Samuel Beckett's writings using the clown tradition as a lens," said Bill Irwin. "In the evening we'll confess to our middle-aged passion (still) for the craft of clowning -- and look at physical comedy bits, old and new. AND, we'll weave in some readings from Beckett's astonishing and mercurial writings, many of which feel like vaudeville monologues. Question: how much does the world owe to clowns for Samuel Beckett's brilliance?"

Bill Irwin's Broadway credits include Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (2005 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play); Waiting for Godot; The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?; Bye, Bye Birdie; Accidental Death of an Anarchist; and Irwin's original works with various collaborators including Doug Skinner, The Regard of Flight, Largely New York (five Tony Award nominations; Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, New York Dance and Performance awards) and Fool Moon (Tony Award for Live Theatrical Presentation). Other theater includes Scapin, The Tempest, The Garden of Earthly Delights, Texts for Nothing, The Seagull, A Man's a Man, The Three Cuckolds and A Flea in Her Ear.

Irwin's films are Rachel Getting Married, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Igby Goes Down, Lady in the Water, Dark Matter, Raving, Across the Universe, Popeye, Eight Men Out, Silent Tongue, Illuminata, My Blue Heaven, Scenes from a Mall and Stepping Out. Television credits include Bill Irwin Clown Prince and The Regard of Flight (PBS's "Great Performances"); The Laramie Project; Bette Midler: Mondo Beyondo; "Third Rock from the Sun"; "Northern Exposure"; "Sesame Street" as Mr. Noodle; "The Cosby Show"; "Law & Order"; and "CSI."

Irwin was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship; and Guggenheim, Fulbright and MacArthur fellowships. He was most recently honored with the presentation of the first-ever New Victory Arts Award in recognition of his efforts for The New Victory Theater Education Program. He is a founding member of San Francisco's Pickle Family Circus, and a graduate of Oberlin College and Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College.

Doug Skinner wrote and played the music for several of Mr. Irwin's shows, including The Regard of Flight, The Courtroom, The Regard Evening and The Harlequin Studies. His own shows in NYC have included Pay Attention, An Attractive Production, Eddie Unchained and The
Musical Underbelly. He has contributed to such publications as Nickelodeon, Fortean Times, Fate, Strange Attractor Journal and Typhon. His puppet shows and videos with Michael Smith are available on DVD from Two Cannons, Doug and Mike's Adult Entertainment. His
translation of G.B. Nazari's alchemical novel, Three Dreams, was published by Magnum Opus Hermetic Sourceworks. He maintains two websites: johnkeel.com (a tribute to an old friend, now gone), and ullagegroup.com (a loose band of anomalists).

Tickets are $40, $30. The performance is appropriate for children 10 and up.

Hearst Media Services is sponsor for The Playhouse's 2010 holiday special events series; corporate partner is Pitney Bowes. Other December events include "The Nutcracker," a holiday ballet presented by Ballet Etudes, on Saturday and Sunday, December 4 and 5; "Seasons" with Tracie Thoms, a concert, on Friday, December 10; "Season's Greetings," a family festivities afternoon, on Sunday, December 12; "The Greatest Gift," a Script in Hand playreading, on Monday, December 13; and The Broadway Boys, a holiday concert Broadway style, on Saturday, December 18, 8 p.m., and Sunday, December 19, 3 p.m.

About The Playhouse

Westport Country Playhouse, a not-for-profit theater, serves as a treasured home for the performing arts and is a cultural landmark for Connecticut. Under the artistic direction of Mark Lamos and management direction of Michael Ross, The Playhouse creates quality productions of new and classic plays that enlighten, enrich and engage a diverse community of theater lovers, artists and students. The Playhouse's rich history dates back to 1931, when New York theater producer Lawrence Langner created a Broadway-quality stage within an 1830s tannery. The Playhouse quickly became an established stop on the New England "straw hat circuit" of summer stock theaters. Now celebrating its 80th season, Westport Country Playhouse has produced more than 700 plays, 36 of which later transferred to Broadway, most recently the world premiere of "Thurgood" and a revival of Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" with Paul Newman, and in earlier years "Come Back, Little Sheba" with Shirley Booth, "The Trip to Bountiful" with Lillian Gish, and "Butterflies Are Free" with Keir Dullea and Blythe Danner. For its artistic excellence, The Playhouse received a 2005 Governor's Arts Award and a 2000 "Connecticut Treasure" recognition. It was also designated as an Official Project of Save America's Treasures by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is entered on the Connecticut State Register of Historic Places. Following a multi-million dollar renovation completed in 2005, The Playhouse transformed into a year-round, state-of-the-art producing theater, which has preserved its original charm and character. In addition to a full season of theatrical productions, The Playhouse serves as a community resource, presenting educational programming and workshops; a children's theater series; symposiums; music; films; and readings.

Westport Country Playhouse's five-play 2011 season: "Beyond Therapy," a wicked, and wickedly funny, look at the days and nights of the young and single, written by comic master Christopher Durang and directed by Tony Award winner John Rando, April 26 - May 14; "The Circle," the scintillating comedy of manners, written by W. Somerset Maugham and directed by Nicholas Martin, June 7 - June 25; "Lips Together, Teeth Apart," a perceptive comedy about people struggling against their limitations, written by Terrence McNally and directed by Mark Lamos, Playhouse artistic director, July 12 - July 30; "Suddenly Last Summer," the poetic, sensual and evocative drama, written by Tennessee Williams and directed by David Kennedy, Playhouse associate artistic director, August 23 - September 10; and "Twelfth Night, or What You Will," the beguiling comedy/romance, written by William Shakespeare and directed by Mark Lamos, October 11 - October 29.

For more information or ticket purchases, 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. Tickets may be purchased online at www.westportplayhouse.org. Stay connected to The Playhouse on Facebook (Westport Country Playhouse) and/or follow on Twitter (@WCPlayhouse).

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