Marin Theatre Company Presents IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE: A LIVE RADIO PLAY, 11/23-12/16

Marin Theatre Company Presents IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE: A LIVE RADIO PLAY, 11/23-12/16

Marin Theatre Company continues its 2012/13 Season with a family friendly production of It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, which runs during the holiday season from November 23 to December 16. Jon Tracy directs Joe Landry's live radio play adaptation of Frank Capra's film It's a Wonderful Life. Opening night is on Tuesday, November 27.

"It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play is our first holiday celebration of family, friends and community in nearly 20 years," artistic director Jasson Minadakis said. "I can't wait to share this heartwarming tale of hope with Mill Valley and our extended community in Marin and beyond. The whole theater is going to be awash with the holiday spirit from the lobby to the theater itself. I'm delighted to welcome director Jon Tracy back for his first main stage production. He has an exciting festive vision for this timeless classic."

It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play transposes the cinematic classic (and holiday television tradition) to the theater by staging the story as if it was a live radio broadcast in front of a studio audience. Five actors perform the voices of dozens of characters while creating foley sound effects. As in the movie, everyman George Bailey must learn that "no man is a failure who has friends" (and a little divine intervention), when he must face off against local robber baron (and all around curmudgeon) Henry F. Potter. MTC invites its audiences to arrive at least 20 minutes early for preshow festivities.

The play is adapted from the film It's a Wonderful Life, directed by Frank Capra (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, It Happened One Night) and starring actors Donna Reed and James Stewart. Premiering at The Globe Theatre in New York on December 20, 1946, and going into general release on January 7, 1947, the film was the first produced by Capra and Samuel J. Briskin's independent motion picture Production Company Liberty Films. It's a Wonderful Life is based on Philip Van Doren Stern's unpublished short story The Greatest Gift (1939), which came to the attention of Hollywood in 1943 after Van Doren Stern enclosed 200 copies of the story with his Christmas cards. The film's eventual distributor RKO Radio Pictures optioned the story for $10,000 as a vehicle for actor Cary Grant, but, after three versions of the script were shelved, the rights to produce the film (and the three unsatisfactory scripts) were sold to Capra and Liberty for the original option price.

Contrary to popular myth, the film was not a flop when it premiered. Though it received mixed reviews in the press, it finished 26th in box office revenues out of over 400 features released in 1947, was voted as the fourth most popular motion picture of 1947 by the film fan magazine Photoplay and was nominated for five Academy Awards (1946) including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor. Capra won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Director for the film. The popularity of It's a Wonderful Life led to a number of adaptations for live radio broadcasts, including both CBS's Lux Radio Theater and The Screen Guild Theater in 1947, NBC's Screen Director's Playhouse in 1949 and ABC's The Screen Guild Theater in 1951. All of the broadcasts featured Reed (except in 1949) and Stewart reprising their roles from the film.

It's a Wonderful Life is regarded as a classic American film – the United States Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in its National Film Registry in 1990. The movie also tops the American Film Institute's list of the 100 most inspiring films of all time "100 Years...100 Cheers" and remains near the top of AFI's list of the 100 greatest American movies of all time "100 Years... 100 Movies" (#11 in 1998 and #20 in 2007). Film writers and historians attribute It's a Wonderful Life's high regard and continued popularity to the tradition during the 1970s and 80s of television and cable companies airing the movie repeatedly during the Christmas season. This practice was made possible because the film's copyright lapsed in 1974 and the film was assumed to be in the public domain. After Republic Pictures Corp. proved it held exclusive rights to It's a Wonderful Life, NBC network acquired exclusive television rights in 1993 and the practice of repeatedly airing the film has ended.

Premiering in 1996 at Stamford Center for the Arts in Stamford, Connecticut, It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play has since been produced across the country, including twice in the Bay Area at San Jose's Tabard Theatre Company in 2011 and Berkeley Playhouse in 2009. Landry first wrote the piece as a full adaptation of Capra's film, which was performed by a high school ensemble and a community theater in Connecticut. After the Westport Country Playhouse scuttled the first professional production because the large scope proved too expensive, Landry rewrote the stage adaptation as a live radio play.

Making his MTC main stage debut with It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, director Jon Tracy previously directed a staged reading of Blood/Money by A. Zell Williams as part of the New Works reading series. He has worked with SF Playhouse, Aurora Theatre Company, Shotgun Players, Impact Theatre and many other local companies. Actors PatRick Kelly Jones (Bellwether, as well as two productions for young audiences, TALL Tales and Animal vs. Animal), Gabriel Marin (Bellwether and A Streetcar Named Desire) and Carrie Paff (Edward Albee's Tiny Alice, Sunlight and A Streetcar Named Desire) all return to MTC's stage. The production features the MTC debut of actors Sarah Overman and Michael Gene Sullivan.

MTC is inviting families (and extended families!) to come see this heartwarming holiday play. MTC always offers discount $20 tickets to patrons under 30 years old. Discount family packages are available, contact MTC's Box Office for more information. An additional matinee has been added Thanksgiving weekend on Saturday, November 24 at 2:00 p.m. For all performances of It's a Wonderful Life, no children under five years old are permitted.

The show runs November 23 – December 16, 2012, with opening night set for Tuesday, November 27 and previews Thursday, November 23 - Sunday, November 25. Check marintheatre.org or call the box office at (415) 388-5208 for exact performance dates and times. Tickets are $36–$57. Previews: $36 all. Opening Night & Sat Evenings: $52 side | $57 center. Tues: $36 | $41. Wed, Thu, Sun Evenings & Matinees: $41 | $46. Fri: $47 | $52.

Discounts available: 
RUSH tickets: $15, available one hour prior to show, based on availability
Under 30: $20, all performances
Senior discounts: varies by performance, please call
For group sales, contact Julie Knight, (415) 388-5200, ext. 3302

Marin Theatre Company is located at 397 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley, Calif.

ARTIST BIOGRAPHIES

Joe Landry (Playwright) At age 12, Joe's first job was in the film department at the library in his hometown of Fairfield, Connecticut. This was before the dawn of home video, back in the days of 16mm, and their Permanent Collection included It's a Wonderful Life, The Lady Vanishes and other early Hitchcock films. Joe's other main interest was the theater. Encouraged by his parents, Joe was introduced to various theaters that he came to call home, including Playwrights Horizons and Roundabout Theatre Company in New York, Westport Country Playhouse and others. In 1995, Joe founded Second Guess Theatre Company, which produced over two dozen new plays, adaptations and revivals to critical acclaim. In 1997, It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play premiered in Stamford, Connecticut, and has since enjoyed productions around the country. Joe's other plays include Vintage Hitchcock: A Live Radio Play and an adaptation of the cult classic Reefer Madness. Other projects include Mothers and Sons, a musical co-written with Kevin Connors, and Lifeboat, Dahling! with Bert Bernardi.

Jon Tracy (Director) makes his main stage debut with It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play at MTC, where he previously directed a staged reading Blood/Money as part of MTC's New Works series. He works as a director, playwright, designer and educator throughout the Bay Area and beyond. Locally, he has directed The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity at Aurora Theatre Company; The Farm and The Salt Plays Pt. 1: In the Wound and Pt. 2: Of the Earth at Shotgun Players, where he is also a company member; Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Man of La Mancha, Bug, Slasher and First Person Shooter at SF Playhouse; The Rainmaker and The Diviners for the A.C.T. Conservatory; the West Coast premiere of Evil Dead: The Musical at Willows Theatre; See How We Are, which he also wrote, at Impact Theatre; Grapes of Wrath at TheatreFIRST, Nixon's Nixon, Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter, Macbeth and his own adaptation of A Christmas Carol at Sonoma County Repertory; and Chatterbox: The Anne Frank Project, which he also wrote, at Missouri St. Theatre. He is the founder and former artistic director of Darkroom Productions, where he directed and designed Macbeth, subUrbia, King Lear, Marisol, Some Devil Whisper and The Good News, which he also wrote. He is the former artistic director of Traveling Lantern Theatre Company, former artistic associate at Magic Theatre, a company member of PlayGround, an associate artist and core youth program instructor at Berkeley Playhouse, and an affiliate artist with Foothill Theatre Company, Alter Theatre Ensemble and Marin Shakespeare Company. A graduate of Solano College Theatre's Actor Training Program, he is also the recipient of the Kennedy Center Meritorious Achievement Award, fifteen North Bay Arty Awards, a Sacramento Elly Award, Bay Area Critics Circle Award and is a grant recipient from Theatre Bay Area and the National Endowment for the Arts.

PatRick Kelly Jones (Harry "Jazzbo" Heywood) has appeared at MTC in the world premiere of Bellwether and two School Tour productions – TALL Tales and Animal vs. Animal: an Aesop's Fables Mashup. His recent Bay Area appearances include The Death of the Novel at San Jose Rep, Hamlet at the Livermore Shakespeare Festival, The Pitmen Painters at TheatreWorks, The Coast of Utopia: Voyage at Shotgun Players, Metamorphosis at Aurora Theatre Company and Exit, Pursued by a Bear with Crowded Fire Theater. Nationally, his credits include Cymbeline and Misalliance at New York Classical Theatre; Step One: Plays with Instructions at the 52nd Street Project in New York City; You Can't Take It with You at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts; The Lieutenant of Inishmore and In the Belly of the Beast at Florida Studio Theatre; A Number at Northern Stage in Vermont; Vincent in Brixton at Cleveland Play House, Arms and the Man at Great Lakes Theater. Jones holds an MFA in acting from Case Western Reserve University.

Gabriel Marin (Jake Laurents) has appeared at MTC in the world premiere of Bellwether and A Streetcar Named Desire. His recent Bay Area appearances include The Understudy at San Jose Rep and Rumors and Arms and the Man at Center REP. Locally, Marin has appeared in over 40 Equity productions with A.C.T., Aurora Theatre Company, Bay Area Playwrights Foundation, Black Box Theatre, Magic Theatre, PlayGround, San Francisco Fringe Festival, SF Playhouse, TheatreWorks, the Jewish Theatre, Thick Description, Word for Word and Z Space. East Bay Express named Marin Best Actor in the "Best of the East Bay 2010" issue, and critic Sam Hurwitt (Marin IJ, Theatre Bay Area magazine and The Idiolect blog) named him co-MVP (with Bellwether co-star Arwen Anderson) in 2011. He has performed on NBC, CBS, PBS and the BBC.

Sarah Overman (Sally Applewhite) makes her MTC debut in It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. Locally, she has appeared in Proof at TheatreWorks (San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award), In the Maze of Our Own Lives at the Jewish Theatre, Brontë and Summertime at Magic Theatre, King Lear and The Two Gentlemen of Verona at Cal Shakes, Trust at Eureka Theatre, A Christmas Carol at A.C.T. and The Cripple of Inishmaan at TheatreWorks. Her regional credits include Man and Superman at Portland Center Stage, The Shape of Things at Artists Rep in Portland and Cinderella at Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis. She has appeared in the films Haiku Tunnel and Love & Taxes. Overman holds an MFA in acting from the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater. Also a playwright, her plays have been developed at New York Theatre Workshop, 29th Street Rep in New York City and the Astoria Performing Arts Center. Her play Her Majesty the King premiered in 2006 at HERE in New York City.

Carrie Paff (Lana Sherwood) has appeared at MTC in Edward Albee's Tiny Alice, the world premiere of Sunlight and A Streetcar Named Desire. Locally, she has appeared in The Other Place and The Right Kind of People at Magic Theatre; Bill W. & Dr. Bob, Legacy of Light, A Picasso and The Haunting of Winchester at San Jose Rep; A Delicate Balance, Small Tragedy, Betrayal and Collapse at Aurora Theatre Company; After the War at A.C.T.; and Witness for the Prosecution, The Mousetrap and How the Other Half Loves at Center REP. Her regional credits include Double Indemnity at A Contemporary Theatre in Seattle and Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde at Arizona Theatre Company. Internationally, she appeared in Joan Rivers: A Work In Progress at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Leicester Square Theatre in London. Her film work includes Love & Taxes, Presque Isle, Opal, This is Macbeth and This is Hamlet. Paff holds an MA in educational theater from New York University and is the cofounder of StageWrite, Building Literacy through Theatre.

Michael Gene Sullivan (Freddy Filmore) makes his MTC debut in It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. Locally, he has appeared at A.C.T., Berkeley Rep, TheatreWorks, the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, African American Shakespeare Company, Magic Theatre, the Eureka Theatre and Lorraine Hansberry Theatre. He also performed with the Denver Center Theatre Company, Off Broadway and in theater festivals in Asia, the Middle East and Europe. For the past 25 years, Sullivan has been an actor, director and resident playwright of the Tony Award-winning San Francisco Mime Troupe. He has also been a director for Circus Finelli in San Francisco. A two time San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle award nominee for Best Original Script, his one-person show Did Anyone Ever Tell You-You Look Like Huey P. Newton? received the San Francisco Bay Guardian Upstage/Downstage Award and a best solo performance nomination. His adaptation of George Orwell's 1984, directed by Tim Robbins, premiered in 2006 at the Actors' Gang in Los Angeles and has since played Europe, Asia, Central and South America, Australia and in 40 states. His Occupy Wall Street-inspired adaptation of A Christmas Carol is scheduled to premiere this winter in Sheffield, UK.

Founded in 1967, Marin Theatre Company is the Bay Area's premier mid-sized theater and the leading professional theater in the North Bay. We produce a six-show season of provocative plays by passionate playwrights from the 20th century and today in our intimate 231-seat proscenium theater. We are committed to the development and production of new plays by American Playwrights, with a comprehensive New Play Program that includes two nationally recognized annual playwriting awards, new play readings and workshops by the nation's best emerging playwrights and a leadership position in the National New Play Network. Our numerous education programs serve more than 6,000 students each year.

Pictured: Gabriel Marin (Jake Laurents, the voice of George Bailey) and Sarah Overman (Sally Applewhite, the voice of Mary Hatch). Photo Credit: Ed Smith.

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