The Pearl Theatre Company will continue its 29th season-and its first season in its new, permanent home on West 42nd Street-with the New York premiere of James DeVita's In Acting Shakespeare. In this adaptation of Sir Ian McKellen's 1987 one-man show, DeVita expertly weaves his personal journey from the fishing boats of Long Island to a theatrical career with details from Shakespeare's life and poetry. In Acting Shakespeare is a comedic and heartfelt tribute to the transformational power of theater.
Performances of In Acting Shakespeare will take place January 10-February 3 (see schedule above) at The Pearl Theatre. Critics are welcome as of Thursday, January 10 for an official opening of Sunday, January 13. The Pearl Theatre is located at 555 West 42nd Street in New York City. Tickets are $65 ($50 previews, $35 seniors, $20 students, $20 Thursday rush) and can be purchased by visiting pearltheatre.org or calling 212.563.9261.
James DeVita was an unfocussed 24-year-old working on the fishing boats off Long Island sound. A two-time college dropout, he was lost and unsure where life would take him. In 1983, DeVita saw Ian McKellen perform his one-man show Acting Shakespeare and was completely transformed by the experience. He set out to become an actor.
In Acting Shakespeare recounts this journey, weaving Shakespeare's life together with reminiscences of DeVita's days as a fisherman and nights as a classical actor. The show explores the beauty of words, the power of memory and the profound impact theater can have on the course of a single life. For DeVita, this premiere at The Pearl marks a New York stage debut and a homecoming, following a successful 25-year career in regional theater.
"The original concept for the adaptation was to re-create McKellen's show," said DeVita, "as well as pay tribute to him and his work. This idea, however, was short-lived. Performing another actor's one-man show proved detached and impersonal - a clever trick rather than a play. After the third draft, I abandoned the idea. What followed was a complete re-imagining of the script, two years of research and revisions, and eleven more drafts. Some of Mr. McKellen's structure and wonderful writings remain, but what rose to the surface with each succeeding draft was less and less a re-creation of the original show, and more a story about a young man's journey towards meeting Shakespeare and discovering the beauty of words - and their potential - which began one night twenty-five years ago when I watched, with more than a little awe, Sir Ian McKellen inActing Shakespeare."
The Pearl's Artistic Director, J. R. Sullivan said, "The Pearl Theatre Company began in 1984 when a group of actors and a director took their collective passion for great plays and put themselves and that passion on a cobbled- together stage in a Chelsea storefront. That passion - and nerve - may have struck some as taking a quixotic risk but the results paid off for The Pearl and its audiences since that beginning. James DeVita discovered his own passion for the great plays with the powerfully compelling language that he met in the works of Shakespeare. It changed his life and that transformation is beautifully explored in his In Acting Shakespeare. His is a story that is also The Pearl's story, and indeed of every artist or institution that has that passion for these plays and strives to revive them in dynamic new productions."