New Lee Blessing Play MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL Gets Readings at Playwrights' Center

New Lee Blessing Play MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL Gets Readings at Playwrights' Center

The 2016-17 Ruth Easton New Play Series at the Playwrights' Center concludes April 3 and 4 at 7 p.m. with public readings of "Minneapolis/St. Paul" by Core Writer Lee Blessing.

The readings will take place at the Playwrights' Center, 2301 E. Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis. The events are free but reservations are recommended and can be made at pwcenter.org.

Playwright Lee Blessing grew up in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul and now lives in Los Angeles. He has been involved with the Playwrights' Center since the 1970s and is a permanent Core Writer with the Center. Plays by Blessing recently premiered in the Twin Cities include "For the Loyal" at the Illusion Theater and "Courting Harry" at History Theatre. Blessing has been nominated for Tony and Olivier awards as well as the Pulitzer Prize.

In "Minneapolis/St. Paul," a celebrated crime novelist leads two different lives, one as Randall, the middle-aged husband and father, and the other as Mandy, the newly-wedded wife and stepmother. In a play that is both poignant and bitingly funny, Mandy/Randall struggles with the complexities and repercussions of an identity too vast to fit within binaries.

As Blessing explains, his hometown felt like a particularly apt setting for this new play: "I wanted to write a play about a bigamist situation in which a person was a husband in one case and a wife in the other. It struck me that the Twin Cities would be very handy for that because they are their own different spheres of experience. You can live in one of them and never be that much in the other, even though they're Cheek by Jowl."

Playwrights' Center Producing Artistic Director Jeremy B. Cohen** will direct, Trevor Bowen (2016 Emerging Artist Ivey Award winner) will serve as costume design consultant, and the lead role will be played by Jeffrey Carlson*, a well-known Broadway actor also celebrated for his portrayal of transgender character Zarf/Zoe on "All My Children" (*Member of Actors' Equity Association; **Member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society). In 2001, Carlson made his Off-Broadway debut in the Signature Theatre Company production of Lee Blessing's "Thief River."

Jeremy B. Cohen says, "In a recent conversation with Lee about bigamy, polyamory, cross-dressing, genderfluidity, and our society's need to pin down one another's sexuality, we arrived at the central question of the play: What is the cost when your most authentic self stands in contrast to society's need to define you? It's been exciting to dig into this with Lee, and I'm looking forward to the extended workshop time the Ruth Easton New Play Series provides."

Lee Blessing's plays include: "A Walk in the Woods" (Broadway and London's West End-nominations for Tony and Olivier Awards and a Pulitzer finalist); "Going to St. Ives" (Outer Critic's Circle Award, Best Play, Obie for Ensemble Performance); "Thief River" (Drama Desk nomination, Best Play); "Cobb" (Drama Desk Award, Best Ensemble); "Chesapeake;" "Eleemosynary;" and "Down the Road." In the 1992-93 Signature Theatre Season: "Fortinbras," "Lake Street Extension," "Two Rooms," and the world premiere of "Patient A." The Guthrie Theater premiered both "Thief River" and "A Body of Water" (subsequently produced at Old Globe Theatre and Primary Stages). Recipient of the Steinberg/American Theater Critics Circle Award (twice), the L.A. Drama Critics Award, The Great American Play Award, The Humanitas Award, and the George and Elisabeth Marton Award. Blessing is professor emeritus at Rutgers University, where for a dozen years he headed the Graduate Playwriting Program of Mason Gross School of the Arts.

The Ruth Easton New Play Series at the Playwrights' Center, now in its 12th year, provides selected Core Writers with 20 hours of workshop time to develop a new play in collaboration with top-notch actors and other theater artists. Plays receive two public readings, giving audience members a unique and immediate way to experience new work and a chance to be part of the creative process. Plays recently seen in the Ruth Easton New Play Series that had full productions this theater season include George Brant's "Marie and Rosetta" Off-Broadway at Atlantic Theater and Carlyle Brown's "Finding Fish" at the Illusion Theater in Minneapolis.

"Minneapolis/St. Paul" is the final play in the Playwrights' Center's 45th anniversary season, but the celebration continues May 4 when the Center hosts its 45th Anniversary Gala at The Blaisdell. This special evening will honor playwright and director Marion McClinton. See pwcenter.org/gala for details.

All events in the Ruth Easton New Play Series are free and open to the public. Reservations are recommended; reserve your spots at pwcenter.org or by contacting the Playwrights' Center at (612) 332-7481 or info@pwcenter.org.


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