Danny Scheie, Nancy Robinette to Lead Arena Stage's YOU, NERO
Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater has just announced the full company of You, Nero by American Voices New Play Institute resident playwright and Pulitzer Prize finalist Amy Freed. This is the second project of a resident playwright to be produced at Arena Stage as part of the three-year residencies through the Institute. Making his Arena Stage debut is director Nicholas Martin (Broadway's Present Laughter, Butley). You, Nero runs November 25, 2011-January 1, 2012 in the Fichandler Stage.
"Arena is a home for playwrights, where they can experiment, soar and fail," says Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith. "We have the unique opportunity to showcase Amy Freed's play as one of our resident writers, under the guidance of Broadway director Nicholas Martin. We are pleased to welcome Nicholas, who is joining us for the first time, as he works on this wild comedy full of Amy's sharp, piercing language and ability to radically bring the past to the immediate moment."
Danny Scheie, hailed by the San Francisco Chronicle as "a tour de force of murderously comic, canny and catty derangement," returns to play Nero, a role Freed created just for him. Joining Scheie and also reprising his role from the South Coast Repertory world premiere and Berkeley Repertory co-production is Kasey Mahaffy as Fabiolo. Susannah Schulman as Poppaea reprises her role from Berkeley Repertory and Marc Vietor (Kennedy Center's Company, Broadway's Present Laughter directed by Martin) joins the cast as Scribonius.
Returning Arena favorites include Helen Hayes Award winner Nancy Robinette (Arena's Death of a Salesman, Shakespeare Theatre Company's The Heir Apparent) as Agrippina, Laurence O'Dwyer (Arena's Trouble in Mind, Helen Hayes Award winner for Arena's The Fantasticks) as Burrus and John C. Vennema (Arena's A Time to Kill) as Seneca. The Arena Stage production will also feature an expanded ensemble including Jonathan W. Colby, Leigh Marshall, Philip McLeod, Ariel Leigh Myren, Marlon Russ and Nicholas Yenson.
"I'm so excited to be working on a new production of this play here at Arena," says Freed. "It is a great opportunity to be able put You, Nero in the round - it offers a completely different angle on the world of it, and I think the script will lend itself very well to that fantastic space."
As Rome collapses beneath Nero's outrageous narcissism, a forgotten playwright tries to restore order through the art of theater in this farce. Amid the chaos of crime, lust and politics, convincing the world's most famous debaucher to choose virtue over vice proves to be a Herculean task. Amy Freed's wild romp questions whether well-crafted drama and intellect are any match for decadence and good old-fashioned bloodshed. As Bloomberg said, it "takes the bloody goings-on of Rome's imperial family...and turns them into a series of clever one-liners."
"I'm delighted to have this opportunity to collaborate with Amy Freed at Arena Stage, a writer and a theater that I much admire," says Martin. "With her signature wit and depth, Amy takes us to a world of laughter as she finds in the Roman Empire the ancient equivalent of the current state of pop culture, right up to American Idol. An original and colorfully gifted cast and design team bring the panorama to life."
Amy Freed (Playwright) is the author of Restoration Comedy, The Beard of Avon, Freedomland, Safe in Hell, The Psychic Life of Savages and other plays. Her work has been produced at South Coast Rep, NYTW, Seattle Rep, ACT, Yale Rep, California Shakespeare, Berkeley Rep, Goodman, Playwrights Horizons, Woolly Mammoth and other theaters. Her latest play, Right to the Top, had its first reading at Pacific Playwrights Festival in April 2010. Amy has won the Joseph Kesselring Award, Charles MacArthur Playwriting Award, several L.A. Drama Critics Circle awards and was a Pulitzer finalist for Freedomland. She is artist-in-residence in Stanford Univ.'s Drama Dept., has been playwright-in-residence at South Coast Rep, and was playwright-in-residence at Old Globe Theater.