Photo Flash: TheatreWorks' THE PITMAN PAINTERS
TheatreWorks of Silicon Valley is set to present the West Coast Premiere of THE PITMEN PAINTERS, from the writer of the hit film and musical Billy Elliot and the co-writer of the period drama screenplay War Horse. Lee Hall’s absorbing comedic drama tells the true story of a hardscrabble group of 1930s miners who move from asking questions about art to actively creating it, becoming sensations of the British art world. THE PITMEN PAINTERS plays January 18-February 12 (press opening January 21) at TheatreWorks at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. For tickets ($19-$69) and information the public may call (650) 463-1960 or visit www.theatreworks.org.
When miners George, Jimmy, Harry, and Oliver decide to sign up for art appreciation classes, they’re disappointed when the seemingly stuffy Professor Lyon shows up. After a few false starts (and some impertinent remarks), Lyon realizes his pupils would better appreciate art through experience rather than book learning. The professor drops the art history lessons and encourages the men to put their thoughts on canvas, with extraordinary results. As the upper echelon of English society turns its eyes toward the grubby group of men and their awe-inspiring work, the miners-cum-artists learn to assert themselves in the face of class prejudice. In an age where liberal arts education is often on the chopping block, THE PITMEN PAINTERS boldly explores how art inspires individuals and ultimately elevates a community. Filled with smart social commentary and hilariously human banter, the play is based on the true story of the Ashington Group, whose journey still elicits admiration in the art world.
Lee Hall (Playwright) is best known for his Oscar-nominated hit film Billy Elliot, recently made into a Tony Award-winning musical, for which he wrote the book and lyrics. He also wrote the screenplay for the highly anticipated War Horse, directed by Stephen Spielberg and due out in December 2011. Hall has worked as a writer in theatre, TV, radio, and film, and has been writer in residence at the Royal Shakespeare Company. In addition to The Pitmen Painters, his plays include Wittgenstein on Tyne, Bollocks, Genie, Cooking With Elvis (nominated for an Oliver Award for Best Comedy), Spoonface Steinberg, and Two’s Company. He is also working with Pink Floyd’s founding member Roger Waters on a theatrical adaptation of The Wall.
TheatreWorks has gathered a phenomenal cast for this production: in the role of “Professor Lyon,” TheatreWorks is pleased to welcome Paul Whitworth, former Artistic Director of Shakespeare Santa Cruz, who began his career at the Royal Shakespeare Company, and has appeared at American Conservatory Theater, Seattle Repertory Theater, the Magic Theater, Syracuse Stage, and Asolo Repertory Theater; James Carpenter who returns to TheatreWorks, where he starred in Night of the Iguana and The Heidi Chronicles, to play the role of “George,” and has also been seen in roles at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, American Conservatory Theater, Old Globe Theatre, and Santa Cruz Shakespeare Festival; Jackson Davis as “Jimmy,” who has been seen at TheatreWorks in many roles, including 2010’s Opus, Living Out, Be Aggressive, and Theophilus North, as well as appearances at American Conservatory Theater, San Jose Repertory Theatre, SF Playhouse, Aurora Theatre, and other leading companies; Dan Hiatt as “Harry,” whose credits include The 39 Steps, Twentieth Century and Spinning Into Butter at TheatreWorks and roles at American Conservatory Theater, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, California Shakespeare Festival, Marin Theatre Company, San Jose Repertory Theatre, Seattle Repertory Theatre, and Pasadena Playhouse; and Patrick Jones as “Oliver,” who was last seen on TheatreWorks’ New Works Festival stage in Bill Cain’s How to Write a New Book for the Bible and has appeared with Marin Theater Company, SF Shakespeare, and Magic Theater.
Other members of the cast include TheatreWorks newcomer Marcia Pizzo as “Helen Sutherland,” who has appeared in roles at American Conservatory Theater, Marin Shakespeare Company, Theater on the Square, and Mountain Play Association; Nicholas Pelczar, making his TheatreWorks debut as “Young Lad / Ben Nicholson,” who has been seen in roles at American Conservatory Theater, Berkeley Repertory Theater, and Marin Theatre Company; and Kathryn Zdan who returns to TheatreWorks as “Susan,” having also appeared in roles at Center REPertory Company, Shakespeare Santa Cruz, Shotgun Players, and Berkeley Playhouse.
THE PITMEN PAINTERS also boasts set design by Andrea Bechert, who designed sets for Snow Falling on Cedars and To Kill a Mockingbird at TheatreWorks, among many others, as well as for productions at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, American Musical Theatre of San Jose, and The Cleveland Playhouse; costumes by B. Modern, an Associate Artist at Shakespeare Santa Cruz, who designed costumes for TheatreWorks productions of The 39 Steps, Superior Donuts, and The Chosen, among others, and whose work has also been seen in regional theaters, theater festivals, as well as opera and dance performances all over the United States, Japan, and Eastern Europe; and lighting design by TheatreWorks Resident Lighting Designer Steven B. Mannshardt, who recently designed lights for TheatreWorks productions of Clementine in the Lower 9, Snow Falling on Cedars, and The 39 Steps. The TheatreWorks production will also include projection designs by Jim Gross using original Ashington Group paintings.
TheatreWorks Associate Artist Leslie Martinson, who helmed the company’s acclaimed 2010 production of Superior Donuts, returns to the director’s chair with the West Coast premiere of THE PITMEN PAINTERS. Martinson has been a director and administrator at TheatreWorks for over 25 years. Her directing credits for the company include The Grapes of Wrath (co-directed with Artistic Director Robert Kelley), the Bay Area Premiere of Putting it Together, and the West Coast Premieres of The Boys Next Door, Brilliant Traces, If We Are Women, Theophilus North, and The Voice of the Prairie, among others. A graduate of Occidental College, she was a Watson Fellow, a member of Lincoln Center Directors' Lab, a member of the LaMaMa International Directing Symposium, and has served on Theatre Bay Area's Theatre Services Committee since 2002. In 2009, she was awarded an Individual Artist Fellowship in Stage Direction from the Arts Council of Silicon Valley for artistic achievement and community impact. She leads master classes, workshops, and panels for many Bay Area universities, academies, and theatre companies.
With nearly 8,500 subscribers and 100,000 patrons per year, TheatreWorks has captured a national reputation for artistic innovation and integrity, often presenting Bay Area theatregoers with their first look at acclaimed musicals, comedies, and dramas, directed by award-winning local and guest directors, and performed by professional actors cast from across the country. A home for artists developing new works, it was at TheatreWorks that Memphis, the 2010 Tony Award-winning musical now in its third year on Broadway, was first workshopped and received its world premiere.
TICKETS: $19 (student)-$69; savings available for students, educators, seniors, and members.
A $4 convenience fee will be assessed for online and telephone orders.
INFO: For information or to order tickets call (650) 463-1960 or visit theatreworks.org
All photos by Tracy Martin