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EDUCATING RITA Plays Huntington

Huntington Theatre Company kicks off its spring of comedy with Educating Rita by Willy Russell (Shirley Valentine, Blood Brothers), welcoming back celebrated British director Maria Aitken. For the Huntington, Aitken last staged the pre-Broadway, Tony Award nominated American premiere of Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps. In Educating Rita, Andrew Long (The Misanthrope Off Broadway) plays Frank and Jane Pfitsch (Company, John Doyle's Broadway revival) plays Rita. Winner of the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy, Educating Rita was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company, premiered in London in the summer of 1980, and was adapted into a film in 1983, which starred Julie Walters and Sir Michael Caine.

In Educating Rita, Rita, a brash, young hairdresser with a free spirit, is hungry to improve her lot in life. When she enrolls at the local university, she discovers a passion for literature and turns her boozy and burnt-out professor's life upside down in this award-winning comedy.

"I am so happy to be returning to the Huntington with Educating Rita, a showcase for the actors and a quirky homage to the Pygmalion story," says Aitken. "If you think you saw it when you saw the film, think again."

"Rediscovering Educating Rita was a delight," says Artistic Director Peter DuBois. "I found the play as intelligent, surprising, and funny as ever - its warmth and sense of self-discovery radiates. In a city celebrated for its centers of learning, I expect the play to pop with particular meaning."

Playwright Willy Russell was born in Whiston, near Liverpool and left school at fifteen. He began writing as a songwriter and transitioned to playwriting in the late 1960s. His Olivier Award-winning play Educating Rita premiered in London at The Warehouse Theatre in 1980. Other plays include Keep Your Eyes Down, John Paul George Ringo and Bert (1974, Evening Standard and London's Critics Awards for Best Musical), One For The Road, Stags and Hens, Blood Brothers, Shirley Valentine (Olivier Award for Best Comedy) and its screenplay, South Bank Show, Our Day Out - The Musical, and numerous screen and radio plays. The Wrong Boy, his first novel, was published by Transworld in October 2000.

Director Maria Aitken's credits include the Olivier and Tony Award-winning production of Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps which made its American premiere at the Huntington in 2007, As You Like It (Shakespeare Theatre Company); Quartermaine's Terms (Williamstown Theatre Festival); Japes (Bay Street Theatre), Rattigan's Man and Boy (Duchess Theatre), Nöel Coward's Easy Virtue (Chichester Festival Theatre), Vita and Virginia (Sphinx Theatre Company), Lady Bracknell's Confinement (Vineyard Theatre), School for Scandal (Clwyd Theatr Cymru), As You Like It (Regent's Park), and many others. As a leading actress in London at the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre, and in the West End, her credits include Blithe Spirit and Bedroom Farce, Travesties, Waste, Private Lives, and The Vortex, among others. Her film credits include A Fish Called Wanda and others. Ms. Aitken is a visiting teacher at The British American Drama Academy, The Juilliard School, Yale School of Drama, New York University, The Actors Center in New York, and The Academy for Classical Acting. She is the author of two books, A Girdle Round The Earth and Style: Acting in High Comedy.

THE CAST
Andrew Long (Frank) has Off Broadway credits that include The Misanthrope and Swansong. He is a company member at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, DC where he has performed in Coriolanus, Antony & Cleopatra, Hamlet, Richard II, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Don Carlos, As You Like It, Julius Caesar, Richard III, Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VI, and many others. He has also appeared in My Fair Lady, Saving Aimee, The Fox on the Fairway, and I Am My Own Wife (Signature Theatre); Frozen (Studio Theatre); Enrico IV, Metamorphoses, Copenhagen, and Amadeus (The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis); M. Butterfly and Gross Indecency (Guthrie Theater); Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park; Pioneer Theatre Company; Chautauqua Theater Company; Olney Theater Center; Arena Stage; the Oregon, Illinois, and Alabama Shakespeare Festivals; and The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. His work has been recognized with a Helen Hayes Award, two Helen Hayes nominations, two Kevin Kline Award nominations, the 2007 Will Shakespeare Award, and the 2010 Lunt Fontanne Fellowship.

Jane Pfitsch (Rita) was most recently seen in Barefoot in the Park at The Actors Theatre of Louisville. Her Broadway credits include John Doyle's revival of Company (2007 Tony Award for Best Revival) and Les Liaisons Dangereuses (2008 Tony Award nominee for Best Revival). She has appeared Off Broadway in Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps (New World Stages), Pumpgirl (Manhattan Theatre Club), and Little Duck (Ensemble Studio Theatre). Regional credits include the world premiere of Alive and Well (Virginia Stage Company) and Mrs. Warren's Profession (Alley Theatre). Other theatre credits include To Paint the Earth (New York Musical Theatre Festival) and A Mouthful of Birds (Brown/Trinity Rep). She has appeared on film in 27 Dresses and on television in "All My Children." Ms. Pfitsch studied at the Brown University/Trinity Rep M.F.A. program.

PRODUCTION ARTISTS
The creative team for Educating Rita includes scenic design by Allen Moyer (Grey Gardens on Broadway), costume design by Nancy Brennan (Assistant Designer of Becky Shaw at the Huntington), lighting design by Joel E. Silver (Aida at Opera Memphis), composition and sound design by John Gromada (All My Sons at the Huntington), and projection design by Seághan McKay III (Jerry Springer: The Opera at SpeakEasy Stage Company). Production stage manager is Carola Morrone LaCoste; stage manager is Amy Weissenstein.

SPONSORS
The Huntington's Grand Patron is Boston University. The 2010-2011 Season Sponsor is J. David Wimberly. Educating Rita Production Co-sponsors are Betsy and David Epstein.

CRITICAL ACCLAIM
"A truly great play! Willy Russell is a writer of genuine nobility of spirit, with a rare gift for empathy, observation, and sheer humanity." - London Telegraph

ABOUT THE HUNTINGTON
The Huntington Theatre Company, in residence at Boston University, is Boston's largest professional theatre company. Under the direction of Artistic Director Peter DuBois and Managing Director Michael Maso, the Huntington creates seven new productions each season featuring world-class theatre artists from Boston and Broadway and the most promising new talent. The Huntington has transferred over a dozen of these productions to Broadway, including recent favorites Noël Coward's Present Laughter and Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps. The Huntington also runs nationally renowned programs in education and new play development, and serves the local theatre community through its operation of the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, which the Huntington built in 2004.

The Calderwood Pavilion, which includes the 370-seat Wimberly Theatre and the 200-seat Roberts Studio Theatre, houses most of the Huntington's new works activities and complements its 890-seat, Broadway-style main stage, the Boston University Theatre. The Huntington provides the first-class facilities and audience services of the Calderwood Pavilion to dozens of organizations each year, including some of Boston's most exciting small and mid-sized theatre companies, at significantly subsidized rates.

As a national leader in the development of new plays, the Huntington has produced more than 50 New England, American, or world premieres to date, with two world premieres scheduled for the 2010-11 Season. The Huntington's acclaimed education programs have served hundreds of thousands of middle school and high school students since 1982, and bring theatre to the Deaf and blind communities, the elderly, and other underserved populations in the Greater Boston area.

The Huntington was founded in 1982 by Boston University and separately incorporated as an independent non-profit in 1986. Its two prior artistic leaders were Peter Altman, (1982-2000) and Nicholas Martin (2000-2008). For more information, visit huntingtontheatre.org.


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