Eleasha Gamble, Jack Willis & More Added to Arena Stage's 2015-16 Season

Eleasha Gamble, Jack Willis & More Added to Arena Stage's 2015-16 Season

Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater announces artist additions for the 2015/16 season, with select cast and creative team members announced for Destiny of Desire, Oliver!, Sweat and All the Way as part of the theater's 66th season.

Argentinian actor Cástulo Guerra rounds out the all-Latino cast of Karen Zacarías' new telenovela-inspired comedy Destiny of Desire, kicking off the nine-show season lineup. The L.A.-based stage and screen actor returns to Arena Stage, where his credits include Animal Crackers and Undiscovered Country. He plays Armando in the production running September 11-October 18, 2015.

Helen Hayes Award winner and Arena Stage favorite Eleasha Gamble (Laurey in Oklahoma!) returns to star as Nancy in the gold-standard musical Oliver!, directed by Artistic Director Molly Smith and running October 30, 2015-January 3, 2016. Joining Gamble are two newcomers selected from citywide open call auditions and extensive scouting to rotate in the title role of the scrappy young orphan-9-year-old Jake Miller of Warrenton, Virginia and 10-year-old Aidan Pritchard of Arlington, Virginia. Miller previously performed in Scrooge No More at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, and Pritchard is a member of the Arlington Children's Chorus making his professional theater debut.

Smith reunites with choreographer Parker Esse, musical director Paul Sportelli and set designer Todd Rosenthal, following their most recent collaboration on last season's Fiddler on the Roof, to bring Oliver!'s 19th-century London to life through an in-the-round staging in the Fichandler Stage.

Jack Willis, last seen at Arena Stage in Mother Courage and Her Children opposite Kathleen Turner, will appear as Stan in the world premiere of Lynn Nottage's Sweat under the direction of Kate Whoriskey (January 15-February 21, 2016). Sweat is a co-commission with Oregon Shakespeare Festival, where the drama is currently running through October 31. He then reprises the role of President Lyndon Baines Johnson in Robert Schenkkan's Tony-Award winning drama All the Way, a role he originated for the 2012 world premiere at Oregon Shakespeare Festival and played again at Seattle Repertory Theatre. This in-the-round production is newly directed by Kyle Donnelly and runs April 1-May 8, 2016.

For additional season details please visit arenastage.org/shows-tickets/the-season.

Artist Biographies (in order of appearance during the 2015/16 season):

Cástulo Guerra returns to Arena Stage after performing 33 years ago in Galileo, The Suicide, Animal Crackers and Undiscovered Country. He debuted at the Delacorte Theatre in Othello with Raúl Julia and Coriolanus with Morgan Freeman, followed by Watch on the Rhine and Much Ado About Nothing at Center Stage. At the Mark Taper Forum he performed in JoAnne Akilaitis' Greencard, and at La Jolla Playhouse he was Prospero in Robert Woodruff's The Tempest. With the Latino Theater Company, he played the Bishop in La Virgen de Guadalupe at the Cathedral of Los Angeles for 14 years and performed in Lysistrata and La Olla at the Getty, all directed by José Luis Valenzuela. Film credits include Terminator 2, The Usual Suspects, The Mexican, Alamo, Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2, Bless Me Ultima and Purge 2.

Eleasha Gamble is delighted to be back at Arena Stage, where she was last seen in The Power of Two and as Laurey in Oklahoma! (Helen Hayes nomination). D.C. credits include Arena Stage (The Women of Brewster Place), Signature Theatre (Chess, Into the Woods), The Kennedy Center (Broadway Three Generations), Ford's Theatre (Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical for Civil War; Little Shop of Horrors; A Christmas Carol), Round House Theatre (Once on This Island, Helen Hayes nomination) and Toby's Dinner Theatre (Ragtime, Helen Hayes nomination). Eleasha made her Off-Broadway debut in the Kathie Lee Gifford musical Under the Bridge and performed in the national tour of The Lion King. Regional credits include Dreamgirls and Big Fish.

Jake Miller is thrilled to be playing Oliver at Arena Stage. He was previously seen as Tiny Tim in the original cast of Scrooge No More at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia and will perform as a special guest singer at the US Open Tennis Tournament in September in Flushing, New York. In addition to performing, Jake is a straight-A student in the fourth grade and likes to play tennis.

Aidan Pritchard is ecstatic to make his professional theater debut. He has been part of the Arlington Children's Chorus since 2011, performing for both Ballet West's and Joffrey Ballet's The Nutcracker at the Kennedy Center, the U.S. Department of Justice Crime Victims' Service Awards and Vice President Joe Biden's Delaware Inaugural Ball. He has co-written productions for the Arlington Public Schools music program and trained with the Levine School of Music and Encore Stage & Studio. Aidan is a rising fifth grader and enjoys singing, reading, producing music videos and playing with his dog, Leaf.

Parker Esse is a three-time Helen Hayes nominee and 2010 Best Choreography winner for Oklahoma! at Arena Stage, where he also choreographed Fiddler on the Roof, Smokey Joe's Café, The Music Man and The Light in the Piazza. Parker had the honor of choreographing Sondheim and Marsalis' A Bed and a Chair: A New York Love Affair, directed by John Doyle, for New York City Center Encores! and Jazz at Lincoln Center. This season he directed and choreographed Omaha Symphony's Christmas Spectacular and West Side Story, FLMTF, and choreographed A Wonderful Life, Goodspeed; Bells Are Ringing, Berkshire Theatre Festival; Sweet Charity, Canada's Shaw Festival; and West Side Story, Signature Theatre (upcoming). He was associate choreographer for Broadway's Finian's Rainbow, A Tale of Two Cities and five Encores! productions.

Todd Rosenthal's Broadway credits include August Osage County (Tony Award), The Motherfucker with the Hat (Tony Nomination), Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Tony Award, Best Revival), Of Mice and Men (filmed by National Theatre Live), This is Our Youth and Fish in the Dark. Off-Broadway credits include Red Light Winter, Barrow Street; Domesticated, Lincoln Center; and Qualms, Playwrights Horizons. Set designer for six years for the Big Apple Circus. International credits include August Osage County (National Theatre, London, Sydney Theater, Australia); The Beauty Queen of Leenane (Theatre Royal, Ireland). Regional credits include Steppenwolf (33 productions), Goodman (artistic partner), Guthrie, Alliance, Mark Taper, ART, La Jolla Playhouse, Arena Stage, Berkeley Rep, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Oregon Shakespeare and many others. Select museum exhibitions (lead designer) include Mythbusters: The Explosive Exhibition and The International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes. Other awards: Olivier, Helen Hayes, Ovation, Back Stage Garland, Joseph Jefferson and Michael Merritt Award for Excellence in Design and Collaboration. Professor, Northwestern University. Graduate, Yale Drama.

Paul Sportelli's Arena Stage credits include Fiddler on the Roof, My Fair Lady and The Light in the Piazza (Helen Hayes nomination). Originally from Bristol, Connecticut, Paul is thrilled to work with Molly Smith and in the USA again, after their collaboration on My Fair Lady and Mack and Mabel at Canada's Shaw Festival, where he has been the music director since 1998. Shaw Festival credits include Merrily We Roll Along, Floyd Collins, Happy End and Sunday in the Park with George. He made his conducting debut for Broadway's Aspects of Love. His touring credits include Les Miserables and Toronto credits include Miss Saigon and Beauty and the Beast. Paul is the co-writer of six musicals, two of which (Tristan and Maria Severa) premiered at Shaw and are available on iTunes. Other musicals Paul co-wrote include Little Mercy's First Murder (Tarragon Theatre, Toronto; winner of seven Dora Awards), Oracle (Summerworks, Toronto) and his latest work-in-progress 33-1/3, which was workshopped and presented at the Canadian Musical Theatre Project this fall.

Jack Willis returns to Area Stage after previously appearing in Mother Courage and Her Children, Book of Days, Of Mice and Men, An American Daughter and Agamemnon and His Daughters. Recent work includes three seasons at Oregon Shakespeare Festival in King Lear; Cymbeline; The White Snake; All the Way; Henry IV, Part Two; and Love's Labor's Lost. On Broadway he was seen in Julius Caesar, The Crucible, Art and The Old Neighborhood. Off-Broadway credits include The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, World of Mirth, The Iphigenia Cycle and Valhalla. He has appeared in more than 200 productions worldwide and been a member at American Conservatory Theater, American Repertory Theater, Trinity Repertory Company and Dallas Theater Center. Film and TV credits include Toy Story 3, The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Cradle Will Rock, The Out-of-Towners, Love Hurts, I Come in Peace, Problem Child, Law & Order, Ed and Dallas. Jack was awarded a Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship through the Ten Chimneys Foundation.

Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, under the leadership of Artistic Director Molly Smith and Executive Producer Edgar Dobie, is a national center dedicated to American voices and artists. Arena Stage produces plays of all that is passionate, profound, deep and dangerous in the American spirit, and presents diverse and ground-breaking work from some of the best artists around the country. Arena Stage is committed to commissioning and developing new plays through the American Voices New Play Institute. Arena Stage impacts the lives of over 10,000 students annually through its work in community engagement. Now in its seventh decade, Arena Stage serves a diverse annual audience of more than 300,000.

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