Palo Alto Players to Present THE HEIRESS, 1/17-2/2

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Palo Alto Players to Present THE HEIRESS, 1/17-2/2
Miriam Ani. Photo by Joyce Goldschmid.

After 64 years, Palo Alto Players is delighted to welcome The Heiress back to its stage. Inspired by the Henry James novel Washington Square, and written by Ruth and Augustus Goetz, this lush and epic drama is a story of wealth, class, and the true cost of love. Directed by Dennis Lickteig, The Heiress is truly timeless, winning Tony Awards in 1947 and 1995. It will run for 11 performances (January 17-February 2, 2014) at the Lucie Stern Theater, located at 1305 Middlefield Road in Palo Alto. Tickets are on sale now by ordering online at www.paplayers.org or calling 650.329.0891.

In elegant Washington Square of 1850's New York, a wealthy widower has never gotten over the loss of his wife during childbirth - a woman of great beauty, confidence and grace. His plain, dutiful daughter, Catherine, lacks these qualities...just as she lacks her father's affection and approval. Soon, Catherine's opulent, but sheltered, world is interrupted by the attentions of a charismatic young suitor. And Catherine is left to decide if she will empower herself with the skills needed to navigate the narrow course between desire and obedience, heart and heartache, betrayal...and revenge.

The Heiress first premiered on Broadway in 1947, where it won a Tony Award and starred Broadway legends Wendy Hiller and Basil Rathbone. It has since been revived four times on Broadway, most recently in 2013 starring Academy Award-nominee Jessica Chastain. But the most notable production of The Heiress is the 1949 motion picture production, which starred former South Bay resident, Olivia de Havilland, in an Academy Award-winning performance as Catherine Sloper. The first Palo Alto Players production was produced the following year and it is a small coincidence to note that de Haviland and her younger sister, the late Joan Fontaine, attended and performed with Palo Alto Players in years prior to this.

Executive Director Peter Bliznick looked hard for just the right play for production this January. "For my final show here with Palo Alto Players before retiring at the end of February, I wanted to produce something truly special," explains Bliznick. "I looked back at the shows we've done over the last 83 years, and The Heiress really stood out as this wonderful jewel, timeless in beauty and construction. It's such a treat to revive this masterpiece for our stage; it's not only a drama with a great pedigree but also one of significance to our company." Bliznick also notes that "it's uncanny to me how great plays stand the test of time but do so in a new light for each generation of theatregoers."

One of the play's major attractions for audience and actors alike is in the strength of the characters. For director Lickteig, this is particularly true of the extremely strong female characters and the manner in which they show the early hints of the feminist movement to come later in the century. In The Heiress, says Lickteig, "we encounter women in all the acceptable roles for them at that time but come to observe some of them beginning to push the boundaries of convention and expectation." In the Sloper residence in 1850 New York, we get "an unflinching look at the 'upstairs' in a wealthy home in a period of time when the lines of expectation and desire began to blur," he adds.

In this Palo Alto Players revival, actress Miriam Ani delivers an incredible performance as Catherine Sloper. "Ms Ani is sure to leave audiences breathless and I am quite convinced Olivia de Havilland would be proud...or maybe even a bit envious that someone so age-appropriate to the role of Catherine can bring such new-found depth to such a complex character," surmises Bliznick.

The balance of the cast is equally amazing and delivers some of Live Theatre's meatiest roles.

The cast includes:

Miriam Ani, Oakland - Catherine Sloper

Louis Schilling, San Francisco - Dr. Austin Sloper

Mark Haptonstall, Oakland - Morris Townsend

Katie Rose Krueger, San Francisco - Marian Almond

Sean Gilvary, Morgan Hill - Arthur Townsend

Shareen Merriam, Sunnyvale - Elizabeth Almond

Chris Macomber, Oakland - Lavinia Penniman

Maureen O'Neill, San Mateo - Mrs. Montgomery

Nikita Sethi, San Jose - Maria

Dennis Lickteig will be directing in cooperation with stage manager Amanda Roccuzzo and scenic designer Kuo-Hao Lo to bring the world of 1850's New York City to life. The Heiress will also feature costumes by Mary Cravens, props by Pat Tyler, and lighting design by Edward Hunter.

There are only eleven performances of this timeless revival. Opening night for The Heiress is Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 8 pm, and runs until February 2, 2014; there is also a paid preview performance on Friday, January 17. The curtain lifts at 8:00pm Thursday through Saturday, and Sunday performances are a matinee at 2:30pm. Ticket prices are priced according to seating chart, and range from $23 to $45. Discounted tickets are available to Seniors and Students for select performances. Special discounts of 20-25% for groups of 10 or more are also available. For ticket services, please call 650.329.0891 or visit Palo Alto Players online at www.paplayers.org.

Palo Alto Players' 83rd season will continue with two more exciting shows in 2014. PAP's spring musical, Young Frankenstein, is sure to tickle your funny bone in April (book by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan, music and lyrics by Mel Brooks; directed by Patrick Klein). The 83rd season will close in June with The Farnsworth Invention, an epic tale of invention sure to forever change the way we view the world (by Aaron Sorkin, directed by Dave Sikula). Season tickets are available for as little as $93 for the remaining three shows in the season, including The Heiress.

The Lucie Stern Theater is located at 1305 Middlefield Road in Palo Alto, CA. The Heiress and the 83rd season of Palo Alto Players are produced in cooperation with the City of Palo Alto Division of Arts and Sciences.

Founded in 1931, Palo Alto Players is the San Francisco Peninsula's first theatre company, making it both the Peninsula's oldest and continuously operating theatre. Based in the Lucie Stern Theater, built explicitly for The Players in 1933, Palo Alto Players produces a season of comedies, dramas, classics, and musicals from September to June. Audiences and participants come from all over the Bay Area to be a part of Palo Alto Players' productions. Palo Alto Players is committed to providing a meaningful theatre experience for both audience and production participants. Intrinsic in this is the belief that theatre benefits the community-at-large and enhances the quality of life of those who are touched by it through education, enlightenment, and enrichment. Palo Alto Players is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization established for public benefit.

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