TRYING Opens 8/22 at International City Theatre
It's 1967. Lyndon B. Johnson is in office, Jackie Kennedy and Aristotle Onassis have just become an "item," protests against the Vietnam war are going strong - and Judge Francis Biddle, former Attorney General under FDR and Chief Judge at the Nuremburg Trials, is 81 years old. Trying, the award-winning play inspired by the real-life experiences of playwright Joanna McClelland Glass as personal secretary to Biddle during the last year of his life, opens at International City Theatre on Aug. 22, directed by John Henry Davis and starring Tony Abatemarco and Paige Lindsey White.
Called "exquisitely literate, moving and compelling" by Daily Variety, Trying is a funny, bittersweet look at the healing power of companionship, and a fascinating portrait of an illustrious figure in American history. After a series of disappointing failures with secretaries, the brilliant and irascible Biddle - in failing health and beginning to confront his own mortality - is apprehensive when the young and inexperienced Sarah Schorr arrives to work with him in his small office over the garage of his home. Although his ancestry and position in the centers of American power contrast strongly with her humble beginnings on the prairies of Saskatchewan, the two forge a rocky friendship, and Glass' richly scripted story illustrates how two strangers, at two dramatically different places in their lives, can unexpectedly and forever influence each other.
"It's a fascinating relationship between two people with radically different ideas of the world," says Davis. "His is a patrician world view and she's a prairie populist. He's facing the end of a vital life and career, and she's just starting out. The result is an exciting, funny and thrilling partnership."
Scion of an old Philadelphia Mainline family, Francis Biddle was a complicated man. A Harvard graduate and successful attorney, he threw off the expectations of his upbringing and made it his life's work to stand up for the downtrodden and fight for what is right. Yet, despite his sense of social justice and the great good he achieved in his lifetime, he was not without contradictions. It was Biddle's duty during World War II to order the FBI to round up Japanese-born American citizens and take them to internment camps, a fact that continued to haunt him throughout his life. In a letter to Stanford Professor Shiko Furukawa, he later wrote, "Never again will I trust that mystic cliché 'military necessity.' "
Glass initially started out to write a one-act play about her experiences working with Biddle in the converted office over his Georgetown garage. But it took another three decades for her to turn it into a full-length play. By then she was long-divorced, her children grown, and she had just lost the love of her life (Canadian actor George Sperdakos) to cancer. Glass told an interviewer that she needed the "mileage" that those years had put on before she could go back and fill out her story. Trying premiered at the Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago in 2004, where it received the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best New Work.
Tony Abatemarco was most recently seen at ICT as painter Mark Rothko in John Logan's Red, for which he received a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award nomination for Lead Performance. A graduate of Juilliard Drama, Tony has won top honors for his lead performances in The Mystery of Irma Vep (Tiffany Theatre - Ovation, LA Weekly, Robbie awards), Bach at Leipzig (South Coast Rep - LADCC nomination), La Bete (Stages at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre - Ovation nomination), Camara Lenta (Stages - LA Weekly and LADCC nominations), and his original Four Fathers (LA Weekly and Drama-Logue awards). This spring, he appeared in Long Beach Opera's The Soldier's Tale by Stravinsky. He currently serves as co-artistic director of the Skylight Theatre Company and is a member of The Antaeus Company. Internationally, he starred in Plato's Symposium at the ICA in London and The Waiting of Electra at the International Socrates Festival in Delphi, Greece. He performed his original short story, Cologne, at the Rattlestick off-Broadway and in Los Angeles, Santa Fe and Miami, and he directed a revival at the Skylight Theatre in L.A.
Paige Lindsey White returns to ICT where she starred in Ghost-Writer. Recently, she played Brooke in Other Desert Cities in a co-production between Arizona Theatre Company and Indiana Repertory Theatre; five characters in a three-person adaptation of Shakespeare's Richard II called R II at the Theatre @ Boston Court; and Esme in Walking the Tightrope at 24th ST Theatre, for which she was honored with the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for Lead Performance as well as Ovation and LA Weekly nominations for Best Actress and Best Ensemble. She is a member of Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA, Los Angeles Theater Ensemble, and the Actors' Gang, with which she internationally toured with The Trial of the Catonsville Nine. Other favorite roles include Beth in Wounded, Anna in The Good Prisoner, and Marguerite in Trog and Clay (in both Los Angeles and Edinburgh).
John Henry Davis is a director of theater, opera, film and television. New plays and musicals he directed have premiered at Playwrights Horizons, the Mark Taper Forum, Kennedy Center, Dallas Theatre Center, Philadelphia Drama Guild and Baltimore Center Stage. He has worked with actors including Oscar winner Marisa Tomei, Elizabeth Banks, Robert Sean Leonard and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and writers and composers such as Beth Henley, Ossie Davis and Jason Robert Brown. He directed the workshop production of Conrad Cumming's opera The Golden Gate at Rose Studio in New York as well as multiple productions of Babes in Toyland at Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center. In Los Angeles, he recently directed the world premiere of Doctor Anonymous by Guy Glass at the Zephyr Theatre. For television and film, he directed Oz for HBO, The Sarah Jones Show for Bravo and the award-winning feature film Ordinary Sinner. He has produced and directed many documentaries including Broken Mirrors, a documentary about Jewish identity distributed by Seven Arts Releasing.
Joanna McClelland Glass was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Her plays, produced across North America as well as in England, Ireland, Australia and Germany, include Canadian Gothic and American Modern (Manhattan Theatre Club); Artichoke (Long Wharf Theatre, starring Colleen Dewhurst); To Grandmothers House We Go (premiered at Houston's Alley Theatre starring Eva LeGallienne before moving to Broadway); Play Memory (directed by Harold Prince at the McCarter Theatre before moving to Broadway - Tony nomination), Yesteryear (Toronto's Canadian Stage Companyss); If We Are Women (premiered in the U.S. at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, in Canada as a co-production between the Vancouver Playhouse and Canadian Stage Company, and in London, starring Joan Plowright, directed by Richard Olivier). Ms. Glass has written two novels, "Reflections on a Mountain Summer" and "Woman Wanted,", both of which she adapted into screenplays; the latter was directed by Kiefer Sutherland, who also starred alongside Holly Hunter and Michael Moriarty. Ms. Glass is the recipient of a Rockefeller grant, an NEA grant, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Francesca Primus Award and the Berrilla Kerr Award. Her papers are archived in the Special Collections, University of Calgary Library.
Set design for Trying is by JR Bruce; lighting design is by Donna Ruzika; costume design is by Kim DeShazo; sound design is by Dave Mickey; props are by Patty and Gordon Briles; wigs are by Anthony Gagliardi; production stage manager is Molly McGraw; and casting is by Michael Donovan Casting.
International City Theatre is Long Beach's Resident Professional Theater at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center and the recipient of the Margaret Harford Award from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle for "Sustained Excellence in Theater."
Trying runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., Aug. 22 through Sept. 14. Two preview performances take place on Wednesday, Aug. 20 and Thursday, Aug. 21 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $42 on Thursdays and $47 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, except opening night (June 6) for which tickets are $52 and include a post-performance reception with the actors. International City Theatre is located in the Long Beach Performing Arts Center at 300 E. Ocean Blvd. in Long Beach, CA 90802. For reservations and information, call the ICT Box Office at 562-436-4610 or www.InternationalCityTheatre.org.