Photo Flash: Mauckingbird Theatre Company Presents TRU and THE THRESHING FLOOR
Mauckingbird Theatre Company delves into the lives of two influential gay writers Truman Capote and James Baldwin - both authors of literary touchstones of the mid-twentieth century. Produced by Mauckingbird Artistic Director Peter Reynolds, TRU by writer Jay Presson Allen and The Threshing Floor by Philadelphia playwright and actor James Ijames will run in repertory January 8 - 31, 2010 (opening nights: TRU - Wednesday, January 13; The Threshing Floor - Thursday, January 14). Held at the Adrienne Theatre's Second Stage, located at 2030 Sansom Street in Philadelphia, tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for seniors and $15 for students and are available by calling the Mauckingbird Theatre Company box office at (215) 923-8909 or online at www.mauckingbirdtheatreco.org.
TRU offers a look into the psyche of Truman Capote (Breakfast at Tiffany's, In Cold Blood), one of America's most controversial and colorful authors, as he reels from social shunning by his elite Manhattan friends following Esquire Magazine's publication of a gossip-filled chapter from his never-to-be finished work Answered Prayers. Set in the writer's New York City apartment the week before Christmas 1975, the lonely Capote muses about his life and career in this one-man tour de force adapted from the author's own words and works. TRU stars Chris Faith as Truman Capote and is directed by longtime collaborator Tony Braithwaite. Written by Jay Presson Allen, TRU opened on Broadway in 1989, where it ran at the Booth Theatre for nearly 300 performances.
The World Premiere of The Threshing Floor honors the life, ideas, and everlasting imprint of quintessential American writer James Baldwin (Go Tell It on the Mountain, Giovanni's Room). From 1920s Harlem to the bohemian utopia of Paris in the 40s, to the civil unrest of the 50s and 60s, numerous figures from Baldwin's life emerge in this one-man play featuring luminaries like Josephine Baker and Eldridge Cleaver, the author's own lovers, parents, and fellow civil rights activists. The play unfolds through an imagined encounter with the author and a fictional graduate student, who comes to interview Baldwin at his home abroad. The Threshing Floor is written by and stars James Ijames, as James Baldwin and other characters, directed by Brandon McShaffrey.
"The passion that Chris Faith and James Ijames have for both Truman Capote and James Baldwin is what jumpstarted the idea for the repertoire," says Peter Reynolds. "I am very excited to be working with these talented Philadelphia artists, and with directors Tony Braithwaite and Brandon McShaffrey. Mauckingbird Theatre Company is committed to producing professional gay-themed theatre and dedicated to telling stories that really resonate with our mission. It is essential that we take another look at these two authors, who both made major contributions to American literature, and also lived openly gay lives at a time when being homosexual was not in the least socially acceptable and discrimination against gays and lesbians was rampant."
Philadelphia favorites, friends and collaborators Chris Faith and Tony Braithwaite have worked on over a dozen projects together including Grease, Good Evening, Stones in His Pockets, and The Odd Couple. TRU marks their Mauckingbird Theatre Company debut.
"What interests me the most about playing Truman Capote is the daunting challenge of playing someone who was so many things at one time - a short tempered genius, an artist, a frightened child, a deviant, a snob, an advocate for the underdog," says Chris Faith, who first became interested in TRU several years ago.
American writer Truman Capote (1924 - 1984) is the author of many influential literary classics including the novella Breakfast at Tiffany's (1958) and the pioneering true crime, nonfiction novel In Cold Blood (1965). Over 20 films and television dramas have been created from Capote's vast collection of short stories, novels, plays and works of nonfiction which include The Grass Harp (1951), and his unfinished work Answered Prayers (1987, published posthumously). His writing was greatly influenced by his early childhood spent in Monroeville, Alabama. Openly gay, he was characterized by his high pitched voice and offbeat manner of dress and style. Skyrocketing to fame after the publication of Other Voices, Other Rooms (1948), Capote began a love affair with the social elite, often attending the most exclusive events in both the US and abroad. In the final years of his life, Capote battled drugs and alcohol, writing little while living in recluse before passing away at the age of 59.
Philadelphia-based playwright and theatre professional James Ijames first read James Baldwin's Go Tell It on the Mountain when he was 13 years old. Like the boy in The Threshing Floor who meets his literary idol, Baldwin's work has had a profound impact on his life as an artist.
"Among Black writers, James Baldwin stands as both a giant and an enigma," says James Ijames. "I first read Baldwin as a boy and the impression was indelible. Through his words, I learned quietness and rage, softness and coarse reproof, humility and grandeur. My beginnings as a writer were rooted between the pages of Baldwin's prose - intelligent anguish and perpetual hope in the habit of being human."
James Baldwin (1924 - 1987) was an American writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist. Born in Harlem in 1924, he grew up in poverty, the oldest of nine children. Unashamed of his own homosexuality, Baldwin resisted categorization, both as gay novelist and as a Black writer, insisting that he was first and foremost an American writer. His major works include the semi-autobiographical Go Tell it on the Mountain (1953), his first book, essay collections Notes of a Native Son (1955) and The Fire Next Time (963), the play Blues for Mister Charlie (1964), and novels If Beale Street Could Talk (1974), and Another Country (1962). His second novel, Giovanni's Room (1956), stirred controversy when it was first published in 1956 due to its explicit homoerotic content. In 1948, disillusioned by American prejudice against blacks and homosexuals, Baldwin left the United States and departed to Paris, France, where he would live as an expatriate for most of his later life.
BIOS - PRODUCTION TEAM, ACTORS, and DIRECTORS
The repertoire production team includes Marie Anne Chiment (costume design), Matthew Lorenz (sound design), S. Cory Palmer (set design), and Maria Shaplin (lighting design).
Repertoire Producer Peter Reynolds is the Artistic Director of Mauckingbird Theatre Company. He currently serves as the Director of Musical Theater for the Department of Theater at Temple University. In Philadelphia, he has worked at Media Theatre, Act II Playhouse, Walnut Street Theatre, Hedgerow Theatre, Villanova Theatre, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Philadelphia Young Playwrights, and the Lenape Regional Performing Arts Center in New Jersey. Reynolds spent 6 years as Artistic Director of the award-winning HealthWorks Theatre in Chicago and has also worked at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Theatre Building Chicago, Apollo Theatre Chicago, St. Louis' HotCity Theatre, Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre, and Maples Repertory.
Chris Faith, Truman Capote in TRU, has appeared Off-Broadway (The Secret Garden, Like It Is) and performed opposite Linda Eder in The Seduction of Sheila Valentine. He has twice been nominated for a Barrymore Award for Best Actor/Play and Best Supporting Actor/Musical. Regionally, he has performed in productions by The Wilma Theater, Arden Theatre Company, Act II Playhouse, Lenape Regional Arts Center, Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival and Luna Theatre, among others.
TRU Director Tony Braithwaite is a Barrymore Award-winning actor (The Big Bang, Act II Playhouse) and director who most recently helmed The Fantasticks and Give My Regards To Broadway at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. He was most recently seen in This is the week that is by 1812 Productions. Braithwaite is an eight-time Barrymore Award-nominee, as an actor, writer, or member of an ensemble; a four-time Barrymore Award host; and a two-time Barrymore Award-winner for the Arden Theatre Company's Baby Case Ensemble, and for his performance as Boyd in The Big Bang at Act II Playhouse. For 15 years, Braithwaite has run the theatre program at his beloved alma mater, St. Joseph's Prep, where he is currently directing his 32nd production, The Drowsy Chaperone.
Playwright Jay Presson Allen (1992 - 2006) was an American screenwriter, playwright, stage director, television producer and novelist. Known as one of the most versatile and admired writers, she experienced an unimaginable pinnacle of success in playwriting and screenwriting at a time when a woman in the business was rare. She is the author of The First Wife, which would later be made into the film Wives and Lovers in 1963, starring Janet Leigh and Van Johnson. Allen went on to write the script Marine for her screenwriting mentor Alfred Hitchcock as well as Funny Lady, the sequel to Funny Girl starring Barbra Streisand, and the Academy Award-nominated screenplay adaptations of Robert Daley's book Prince of the City and Bob Fosse's Cabaret. Her Broadway successes include The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Forty Carats, and Tru.
THE THRESHING FLOOR
The Threshing Floor playwright and star James Ijames is a Philadelphia-based actor and writer. Regional theater credits include Grey Gardens (Philadelphia Theatre Company), An Empty Plate in the Café du Grand Beouf (Arden Theatre Company), Voices Underwater (Gas & Electric Arts), PROM (New Paradise Laboratories) and Ponies (Gloucester Stage Company; Independent Reviewers of New England Award nomination, Best Supporting Actor in a Play). Ijames has written several plays and solo performance pieces including Osiris:Redux, The Moste Lamentable Tragadie of Tobias L. Jason, Henry Box Brown Plays Westminster Abbey, Lily and Spence and She Went to War - commissioned by the National Constitution Center for their 'America I Am: The African American Imprint' exhibition. Ijames works at the National Constitution Center as a Freedom Rising actor and writer, and teaches acting at Rowan University.
Director Brandon McShaffrey, a founding member of Mauckingbird Theatre Company, originally hails from Chicago. He has choreographed productions of Meet Me in St. Louis, Some Enchanted Evening, Into the Woods, The Fantasticks and Grand Hotel. With Maples Repertory Theatre, he directed and choreographed Little Shop of Horrors, High School Musical, I Do! I Do! and Sweet Charity; and directed Sorry! Wrong Chimney! and Dames at Sea. Regional credits include Temple University Theater Productions Shot! (World Premiere, Assistant Director, Director of Movement), Ragtime and Into the Woods (Choreographer). Additional local credits: The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Drexel University, Director and Choreographer); Metamorphoses (Villanova University, Director of Movement); and Hedgerow Theatre's Musical Comedy Murders of 1940, A Little Princess, and Charlottes Web (Director, Choreographer). McShaffrey is currently pursuing his MFA in Directing at Temple University.
ABOUT MAUCKINGBIRD THEATRE COMPANY
Founded by Artistic Director Peter Reynolds and Managing Director Lindsay Mauck, Mauckingbird Theatre Company is committed to producing professional gay-themed theatre, while also exploring classic literature and musical genres and providing affordable productions of infrequently produced works. Past productions include the critically acclaimed all-male versions of Shakespeare's R & J (2008) and The Misanthrope (2008), the lesbian adaptation of Hedda Gabler (2009), and Never the Sinner: The Leopold and Loeb Story (2009).
Photos by Jill McCorkel
Capote / Baldwin