Epic Theatre Ensemble Launches 9th Season With MAHIDA'S EXTRA KEY TO HEAVEN Starring Hope, Pawk & More; Opens 9/26

New York's OBIE Award-winning Epic Theatre Ensemble (Zak Berkman, Melissa Friedman, Ron Russell, Founding Executive Directors)

launches its 9th Season with the world premiere of Mahida's Extra Key To Heaven by Russell Davis, winner of the 2008 Pew Fellowship in the Arts. With direction by Will Pomerantz, the four-person cast features Tony Award-winner Michele Pawk with Roxanna Hope, Arian Moayed and James Wallert. Performances begin September 16, 2009 and continue through October 11, 2009 at Signature Theatre's Peter Norton Space (555 West 42nd Street). Opening night is set for Saturday evening, September 26, 2009 at 7:00 p.m.

"I've worked extensively with Russell Davis and I am so struck by the subtle, original beauty of Mahida's Extra Key To Heaven, by the immediacy of its concerns and its timeless message," explained Epic Theatre Ensemble Board Member David Strathairn. "It addresses the alarming rise of political and ideological polarity in our world today without preaching, but rather creates a potentially more complete and hopeful world. I am thrilled Epic is premiering it in New York this season."

Mahida's Extra Key To Heaven is a poetic, funny and haunting story about crossing borders of all kinds. Thomas is visiting his mother's island home when he encounters Mahida, an Iranian college student stranded after an argument with her brother. The two strangers begin a beautifully awkward search for a common country, but discover that sometimes the smaller the world the bigger the invasions.

The creative team includes Mimi Lien (Scenic Design), Theresa Squire (Costume Design), Justin Townsend, (Lighting Design) and Katie Down (Sound Design). The Production Stage Manager is Erin Koster.

Mahida's Extra Key To Heaven will play the following performance schedule: Tuesdays - Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. with special Monday evening performances on September 21 and October 5 at 8:00 p.m. Matinee performances are scheduled on Tuesday, September 22, Wednesday, September 30, Thursday, October 1 and 8, all at 1:00 p.m., and Sunday, October 4 and 11 at 2:00 p.m. All performances will be followed by a post-show discussion.

Tickets are priced at $38.50, with all matinee performances at $15, and may be purchased by calling (212) 352-3101 or (866) 811-4111, or by visiting Epic's website at www.epictheatreensemble.org.

The 2009-2010 Epic Theatre Ensemble season continues with the return of the nationally acclaimed REMIX Series with Shakespeare Remix Macbeth, a collision of Shakespeare's classic play about ambition, mysticism and war colliding with new writing by students from NYC's Chelsea High School. Directed by Epic co-founder, Melissa Friedman (Hannah and Martin, A More Perfect Union), Shakespeare Remix Macbeth features a fusion acting ensemble of professional and student performers.

From Broadway to Brooklyn! In Spring 2010, Epic Theatre Ensemble will present the New York premiere of Passion Play by Sarah Ruhl (In The Next Room (or the vibrator play)) at the Irondale Center, a converted Sunday School inside the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Passion Play is a wildly imaginative, adventurous and moving exploration of the timeless intersection of religion, art and politics. Inspired by the historic festivals where everyday citizens came together to elevate their communities by staging the life and death of Christ, Passion Play transports audiences first to 16th century England, where Queen Elizabeth threatens to shut down a small town's production; then to Nazi Germany, where Adolf Hitler's arrival at the famous Oberammergau Passion Play influences the lives of its cast and finally to Spearfish, South Dakota in 1984, as a local production becomes a campaign stop for a famous actor-turned-President running for re-election. MarK Wing-Davey will return as director following his highly acclaimed productions of Passion Play at the Goodman Theatre and Yale Repertory Theatre, but will be re-envisioning the play for this site-specific production.Michele Pawk (Edna). Broadway: Hairspray, Losing Louie, Mamma Mia, Hollywood Arms (Tony Award), Chicago, Suessical, Cabaret (Drama Desk & Outer Critic' Circle nominations), Triumph of Love, Crazy For You (Drama Desk nomination), Mail. Off Broadway: Prayer For My Enemy, Flyovers, The Paris Letter (Drama Desk nomination), The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, Reefer Madness, jon & jen, Merrily We Roll Along, Hello Again. Favorite regional: Bounce (Helen Hayes nomination), The Fall to Earth, A Little Night Music (NYC & LA Operas), Natural History. Television & Film: The various "Law & Orders" (5x), the Jenny McCarthy pilot, "Golden Girls," "Dear John," "Quantum Leap," The Girl in the Watermelon, Jeffery. Michele can be heard on seven original cast recordings, numerous compilations and books on tape.

Roxanna Hope (Mahida). Broadway: Frost/Nixon, After the Fall, The Women; Off Broadway: 1001, Arabian Night, Princess Turandot, little Willy, The Flu Season, The Winter's Tale. Regional-Williamstown Theater Festival (Hecuba, The Blue Demon; American Conservatory Theater (Hecuba, Tartuffe, Indian Ink, House of Mirth); Shakespeare Theatre/NJ (Julius Caesar, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Pericles, Richard III); Huntington Theater; Westport Country Playhouse; Colorado Shakespeare Festival; and others. FilmT.V: No Reservations, "Law and Order," "Law and Order CI," "Law and Order SVU," "All My Children."
Arian Moayed (Ramin) recently finished Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo in Los Angeles (Kirk Douglas, dir. Moises Kaufman). Off Broadway: Naomi Wallace's Fever Chart (dir. Jo Bonney), Queens Blvd (Signature), Masked (Drama Desk Nominated, Best Featured Actor), American Pilot (MTC, dir. Lynne Meadow), Jeff Daniels' Apartment 3A, Kite Runner (dir. Wynn Handman) and Homebody/Kabul (BAM, dir. Frank Galati). Regional: Homebody/Kabul (Steppenwolf, dir. Frank Galati), As You Like It, Othello (Utah Shakespearean Festival) Films: The Christians, Arranged and Church Story. TV: "MONY" (Series Regular, dir. Spike Lee), all the "Law & Orders" and "Six Degrees." Arian is co-founder of the critically-acclaimed theater company Waterwell. He has acted/devised 9 Waterwell drops including The Persians..., Marco Millions (based on lies) (Drama Desk Nominated), The/King/Operetta and #9. www.waterwell.org. Also, his first full length screenplay, This Island Made Me, starring Campbell Scott, is currently in development.

James Wallert (Thomas). As an actor with Epic, James has appeared in seven Off Broadway productions including A Hard Heart, Widowers' Houses, Einstein's Gift, Hannah and Martin, Habitat, Little Eyolf, Time & the Conways and ten workshops including the musicals POP'd and A Night in Seville, which he wrote. Other theatre credits include Othello (dir. Jack O'Brien), Romeo and Juliet (dir. Daniel Sullivan) and All in the Timing (dir. John Rando), at the Old Globe Theatre, Pride's Crossing and Three Days of Rain at Northern Stage, Tis Pity She's a Whore at HERE, Sparrows at Circle Theatre, Much Ado About Nothing at the Kansas Shakespeare Festival and King Lear at the Nebraska Shakespeare Festival. TV and Film credits include FOX Television's Time of Your Life, Just the Beat and Tumbling After. Since Co-Founding Epic Theatre Ensemble in 2001, James has curated and administered Epic's Forum Series (funded by the New York Council for the Humanities), serving over 15,000 audience members. He is currently the lead teaching artist and site manager at Chelsea Vocational High School, where he oversees Epic's "Character Building" sequential learning program. MFA - Acting, Old Globe/University of San Diego; BA- Theatre, University of Kansas.

Russell Davis (Playwright). Plays include Appointment with a High Wire Lady, The Last Good Moment of Lily Baker, The Second Death of Priscilla, The Song of Grendelyn, and Sally's Gone, She Left Her Name. They have been produced at various theatres throughout the country, including People's Light & Theatre, Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey, Long Wharf Theatre, Center Stage, Yale Repertory, and Actors Theatre of Louisville's Humana Festival. These plays have also been presented at the Mark Taper Forum's New Work Festival, the Sundance Insti tute Playwrights Lab, O'Neill Center's National Playwrights Conference, Playpenn, the National New Play Network's Showcase of New Plays ('05), and the New Harmony Project where he was a writer-in-residence in 2001. The Last Good Moment of Lily Baker won a Drama-Logue Critics Award in Califor nia for best play in 1987. His new play, Cecilia's Last Tea Party, was produced at Passage Theatre Company and at Todd Mountain Theater Project in 2008. He was commissioned by People's Light & Theatre to adapt Avi's Crispin: The Cross of Lead (Newbery Medal for children's literature, 2003). Crispin was produced at People's Light in early 2008. In 2008-9 People's Light produced his The Day of the Picnic as part of the biennial Philadelphia New Play Festival.

He is currently a 2008-10 recipient of a Pew Fellowship in the Arts. He was resident playwright at People's Light for the Theatre Residency Program of the National Endowment for the Arts/Theatre Communi cations Group ('99-'01). He is a past member of New Dramatists in New York

Davis has also performed as a juggler and unicyclist for The Road Company's Flying Lemon Cirque, for The Instant City Circus at Pittsburgh's City Theatre Company, and in People's Light's production of his new vaudeville piece for all ages, The Thoughts & Travels of Nicki. He directed Tony Duncan who won the juggling championships at the 1994 International Jugglers' Association Convention, and worked with the juggler Michael Moschen in Michael Moschen in Motion at the Brooklyn Academy Of Music's 1988 Next Wave Festival and at the Lincoln Center's SERIOUS FUN! Festival 1990. He has been a juggling/unicycling instructor for the S.T.E.P. summer program for New Haven inner city youth, for the Big Apple Circus' Circus Arts in Education program, and at HB Studio in NY. He has been working in collaboration with Paul Meshejian, director, and with Jon Held, a juggler and former member of Airjazz, to develop Jon Held's solo performance piece Tales of Lunacy. This piece was presented at the Southern Theatre during the 3 Legged Race New Theater 2002 Conference in Minneapolis and subsequently produced by Touchstone Theatre.

Will Pomerantz (Director) is Associate Director for Artistic Development for Epic Theatre Ensemble where he directed the New York premiere of Howard Barker's A Hard Heart (starring Kathleen Chalfant). Will has directed and developed new plays with such theatres as Playwrights Horizons, The Public Theatre, Hartford Stage, New York Theater Workshop, Ensemble Studio Theater, Soho Rep, Culture Project, The Signature Theatre, The Williamstown Theatre Festival, The Studio Theatre, The Mark Taper Forum and The Pittsburgh Public. He has directed world premieres by such playwrights as John Guare, David Auburn, Neil LaBute, Craig Lucas, David Lindsay-Abaire, Stephen Belber, Noah Haidle, Linda Cho, Kira Obolensky and Carey Perloff . In addition to his work on new plays, Will has also directed texts by Chekhov, Ibsen, Strindberg, Shakespeare, Shaw and Sophocles. His production of The Shape of Things was voted Outstanding Production of the year in Washington, DC by Metro Weekly and received a Helen Hayes Award for outstanding performance, as well as being cited as among the year's best by The Washington Post and The Washington Times. His production, Dai received a Drama Desk nomination for Best Solo Performance 2006-2007 and Lucille Lortel Award for Best Solo Performance. He received an OOBR Award for Outstanding Production (for A Tale of Two Cities) and his work has been cited multiple times as Critic's Pick (TimeOutNY) and Voice Choice (The Village Voice).

Will Pomerantz is the first American director ever invited to direct for the National Theatre of Poland, and his production of Cinders by Janusz Glowacki performed as part of the repertory for 4 years. In addition, Will has been the Boris Sagal Fellow in Directing for Williamstown Theatre Festival, Staff Repertory Director for The Acting Company, and is an alumnus of the Directors Lab at Lincoln Center, a Usual Suspect at New York Theatre Workshop, and a member of Ensemble Studio Theater.

Epic Theater Ensemble, winner of OBIE, Lucille Lortel, Outer Critics, and OTTO Awards, was founded in 2001 by artists and activists dedicated to placing theatrical events at the center of public dialogue and building a diverse and multi-generational audience for socially-minded theatre. Epic's past productions include Nilaja Sun's No Child..., which Epic commissioned, developed and premiered before its commercial transfer and national tour, as well as premieres of A More Perfect Union by Vern Thiessen (Epic Commission), Palace Of The End by Judith Thompson (Epic Commission, 2008 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize Winner), A Hard Heart by Howard Barker (featuring Kathleen Chalfant), Beauty on the Vine by Zak Berkman (featuring Olivia Wilde), Hannah and Martin by Kate Fodor (featuring David Strathairn), Einstein's Gift by Vern Thiessen (featuring Aasif Mandvi and Shawn Elliott), Habitat by Judith Thompson and revivals of GB Shaw's Widowers' Houses (with Peter Jay Fernandez), Little Eyolf by Henrik Ibsen and Time and the Conways by J.B. Priestley. Epic's annual Sunshine Series Readings Festival shining light on new political playwriting has nurtured and presented work by numerous socially-minded writers including Leila Buck, Russell Davis, Bathsheba Doran, Marcus Gardley, Warren Leight, Hannah Moscovitch, Jeanne Sakata, Nilaja Sun, Judy Tate, Vern Thiessen, Judith Thompson, Daniel Voll, Patricia Wettig, and David Zellnik. In June 2008, Epic's New Play Wing was in residence at The Orchard Project developing a number of projects including Lear de Bessonet/Todd Almond's OLIVER!

Epic's first official day of operations was September 11, 2001. Rather than be deterred by world events, Epic's Founders were galvanized to work even harder to create a company that embraces theatre and theatre-artists as unique instruments for empowering diverse voices, fostering public dialogue, and inspiring social change. The artists who participate in Epic's Off-Broadway Season are also part of the company's nationally acclaimed arts-education residencies that are presented in public schools and community centers in New York, New Jersey, and New England. Epic Theatre Ensemble is a Member of Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national organization for the American theatre, as well as ART/NY.


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