Casting Complete for BAM's THE BRIDGE PROJECT, Performances Begin 1/2

Casting Complete for BAM's THE BRIDGE PROJECT, Performances Begin 1/2Sam Mendes directs a transatlantic company of actors in a double-bill of classic works for The Bridge Project's inaugural 2009 season, which pairs a new version of The Cherry Orchard by Tom Stoppard with The Winter's Tale. A formidable transatlantic company and creative team will mount these two new productions for seven internationally renowned theaters. Simon Russell Beale leads the British/American cast, playing Lopakhin in The Cherry Orchard and Leontes in The Winter's Tale. He is joined by Sinéad Cusack as Madame Ranevskaya and Paulina, Richard Easton as Firs and Old Shepherd, Rebecca Hall as Varya and Hermione, Josh Hamilton as Yasha and Polixenes, Ethan Hawke as Trofimov and Autolycus, and Paul Jesson as Gaev and Camilo.

The Bridge Project is a unique, multi-year series of co-productions from Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), The Old Vic, and Neal Street Productions. Each year-from 2009-2011-a single British/American company will perform a double-bill of classic works at BAM and at The Old Vic, and make several international visits. In year one, the plays will run at BAM from January-March 2009 then embark on an international tour, taking residencies at Singapore Repertory Theatre, in Auckland at The EDGE® Performing Arts Centre, in Madrid at Teatro Español, and in Germany at Ruhrfestspiele Recklinghausen before arriving for a season of both plays in rep at The Old Vic from May-August 2009. The 2009 dates will conclude at Epidaurus, Greece as part of the Athens & Epidaurus Festival.

The Bridge Project is presented by Bank of America and produced by Kevin Spacey for The Old Vic, Joseph V. Melillo and Karen Brooks Hopkins for BAM, and Sam Mendes and Caro Newling for Neal Street Productions. The project places the exchange of ideas, talent and creativity between London and New York at the heart of the process, and results from Sam Mendes, Joseph V. Melillo and Kevin Spacey's shared desire to produce large-scale, classical theater for international audiences.

The full company comprises leading British and American actors: Simon Russell Beale, Selina Cadell, Morven Christie, Sinéad Cusack, Rebecca Hall, Paul Jesson, Gary Powell, Jessica Pollert Smith, and Hannah Stokely are appearing with the permission of Actors' Equity Association. Michael Braun, Richard Easton, Josh Hamilton, Ethan Hawke, Aaron Krohn, Dakin Matthews, Mark Nelson, Charlotte Parry, and Tobias Segal are appearing with the permission of UK Equity, incorporating Variety Artistes' Federation, pursuant to an exchange program between American Equity and UK Equity. The Producers gratefully acknowledge Actors' Equity Association for its assistance on this production.

Commenting on the inaugural 2009 double-bill, director Sam Mendes remarked, "The idea behind The Bridge Project was born out of a simple desire: a wish for artists, collaborators, and audiences on both sides of the Atlantic to experience one another's work, talent, and artistry in the theatre. Having had the pleasure of working in both New York and London, I became aware of how little exchange actually exists between these two cities of great theatrical traditions. In 2002, for my tenth and final year as Artistic Director of the Donmar Warehouse in London, I allowed myself the luxury of directing Chekhov's Uncle Vanya and Shakespeare's Twelfth Night in repertory. Those productions later took up residence in the Harvey Theater at BAM. This London/New York double-billing sparked the conversations that would eventually lead us to The Bridge Project.

"I, along with my friend Kevin Spacey, Joe Melillo of BAM, and my long-time collaborator and producing partner Caro Newling, began to wonder what a production might be like if the barrier of an ocean and the separation of the theatrical communities could be erased. We started to see our transatlantic venture taking shape and having two homes: one in New York at BAM and one in London at the Old Vic where Kevin is the Artistic Director.

"So it is with the greatest delight that I find myself once again here in this beautiful theater working simultaneously on Chekhov and Shakespeare, this time collaborating with the incomparable Tom Stoppard on his new version of The Cherry Orchard while also working on The Winter's Tale, one of Shakespeare's final plays-and all with an exceptionally talented transatlantic cast specially brought together for this inaugural year of The Bridge Project."

Kevin Spacey has been Artistic Director of The Old Vic since 2004, during which time he has produced a range of classic and contemporary plays and appeared on stage in five productions. He excitedly added, "I couldn't be happier with such wonderful casting for the first year of this ambitious and thrilling venture with Sam and BAM. The Old Vic stage calls for great acting and great writing. With Tom Stoppard's new version of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard and Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale played in rep by this magnificent cast, Old Vic audiences have a great deal to be excited about for 2009. "The Bridge Project represents many of the things that are most exciting to me about theater, not least the bringing together of extraordinary talent to offer audiences new readings of classic work. It also celebrates theater as an international language and as a bridge between nations. I am delighted that Bank of America has shown its shared commitment to this vision by supporting us in bringing this work to audiences around the world."

Joseph V. Melillo, Executive Producer of BAM since 1999, is responsible for the organization's artistic direction and for maintaining its reputation for programming excellence and artistic innovation. He commented on the historic event, "I am thrilled that we are embarking on the first year of this partnership with such a stellar cast and artistic team. We welcome back to BAM dear Rebecca Hall, and also Simon Russell Beale, a BAM favorite for his remarkable work in Sam Mendes' productions of Twelfth Night and Uncle Vanya. And, in addition to the exceedingly talented cast, I look forward with great anticipation to the long-overdue debut on our stages of Tom Stoppard's work, whose immense talent will be perfectly married with Chekhov's elegant, final play.

"The Bridge Project represents a new model of producing, one that is trans-national at its very roots and a partnership only possible with The Old Vic, a theater so like BAM in spirit and initiative. It is gratifying that The Bridge Project has attracted the attention of the finest theaters around the globe, along with the invaluable support of Bank of America - without whose forward-thinking vision this project would not be possible."


Rena DeSisto, Global Arts & Culture executive of Bank of America, Presenting Sponsor of The Bridge Project, explained, "As one of the largest supporters of arts and culture programming in the world, Bank of America is thrilled to be part of this unique opportunity that will surely attract new audiences to the theater on both sides of the Atlantic. Bank of America has been a proud and long-time sponsor of Brooklyn Academy of Music-including earlier Mendes-directed works-and we look forward to building a similar partnership with Kevin Spacey and The Old Vic. We believe this new collaboration provides a unique way to reach our customers and communities in the United States and abroad."

Tom Stoppard's first stage play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, was produced at The Old Vic in 1967, and it was that very same play which introduced him to New York audiences shortly thereafter, followed in London and New York by Jumpers, The Real Inspector Hound, Travesties, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, Dirty Linen, Night and Day, The Real Thing, Artist Descending a Staircase, Hapgood, Arcadia, The Invention of Love, his trilogy The Coast of Utopia (which won seven Tony Awards), and Rock ‘n' Roll (Tony Award nomination for Best Play). His translations and adaptations include The Seagull, Undiscovered Country, On the Razzle, Rough Crossing, Henry IV, Heroes, and The House of Bernarda Alba. Film scripts as writer and co-writer include Shakespeare in Love (which won him Academy and BAFTA awards), Enigma, Brazil, and Empire of the Sun. Stoppard directed his own screenplay of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, which won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. He is the recipient of four Tony Awards, four Critics' Circle Awards, seven Evening Standard Awards, and an Olivier, Academy, and BAFTA Award. Sir Tom Stoppard was knighted for Services to the Arts in 1997 and in 2000 was bestowed with the Royal Order of Merit, the most prestigious British accolade of all for a writer.

Sam Mendes began his theater career as assistant director at the Chichester Festival Theatre and was the first artistic director of the Minerva in 1989. In 1992 Mendes founded the Donmar Warehouse in London where he was the artistic director until 2002. While at the Donmar Warehouse, he directed Assassins (Olivier and Evening Standard awards), Translations, Cabaret, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Glass Menagerie (Olivier Award), Company (Olivier Award), Habeas Corpus, The Front Page, The Blue Room, To the Green Fields Beyond, and Uncle Vanya (Olivier and Evening Standard Awards) and Twelfth Night (Olivier and Evening Standard Awards), both at BAM in 2003. In the West End: The Cherry Orchard (Critic's Circle Award), The Plough and the Stars, Kean, London Assurance, and Oliver!, which ran for four years at the London Palladium. RSC: Troilus and Cressida, The Alchemist, The Tempest, Richard III. NT: The Sea, The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (Evening Standard Award), The Birthday Party, and Othello (BAM, 1998). Broadway productions include, (as producer) The Real Thing and Take Me Out (Tony Awards), and Shrek The Musical. As director The Blue Room, Gypsy, The Vertical Hour, and Cabaret (Tony Award). Film credits include American Beauty (Academy Award-Best Director and Best Picture, Golden Globe, DGA Award), Road to Perdition, Jarhead. Revolutionary Road, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, is currently in theaters. His next film, entitled Away We Go, opens in the U.S. next summer. He has been the recipient of the Director's Guild Lifetime Achievement Award and the Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in the theater. He was made a Commander of the British Empire in 2000.

Simon Russell Beale's work for the Donmar includes The Philanthropist (Evening Standard and Critics' Circle Best Actor awards), Uncle Vanya and Twelfth Night (also at BAM and both winning him Evening Standard, Critics' Circle and Olivier awards for Best Actor, an Obie Award for Best Actor in Uncle Vanya, and Drama Desk Award nominations for both). His work for the National Theatre includes Major Barbara, Much Ado About Nothing, The Alchemist, The Life of Galileo, Jumpers (also West End and Broadway; Tony nomination for Best Actor), Humble Boy (also West End), the title role in Hamlet (Evening Standard Best Actor Award and Critics' Circle Award for Best Shakespearean Performance), Candide (Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical), Othello, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and Volpone (Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actor). He has also appeared in The Tempest, King Lear, Richard III, Edward II, The Seagull (all for RSC), Monty Python's Spamalot (West End and Broadway) and Macbeth (Almeida). Television includes A Dance to the Music of Time (RTS and BAFTA Best Actor awards) and Persuasion. Films include The Gathering, An Ideal Husband and Hamlet. Simon is an Associate of the National and Almeida theatres, an Associate Artist of the RSC, and was awarded a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List for Services to the Arts in 2003.

Sinéad Cusack has performed many leading roles for the RSC, including in Antony and Cleopatra, Macbeth, The Taming of the Shrew, The Merchant of Venice, As You Like It, Measure for Measure, Much Ado About Nothing (also on Broadway; Tony Award nomination for Best Actress), and Cyrano de Bergerac (also on Broadway). Her other stage credits include Rock ‘n' Roll (Royal Court, West End and Broadway; 2008 Tony Award nomination for Featured Actress), Our Lady of Sligo (National Theatre and Broadway; Evening Standard and London Critics' Circle awards for Best Actress), The Three Sisters, Faith Healer (Royal Court), The Mercy Seat, The Tower (Almeida) and Lie of the Mind (Donmar). Her film credits include Stealing Beauty, V for Vendetta, Eastern Promises, I Capture the Castle, and The Cement Garden. Her British television credits include North and South and A Room with a View.

Richard Easton most recently appeared on Broadway in the Tony Award-winning production of Tom Stoppard's trilogy The Coast of Utopia. He has appeared at Lincoln Center in Henry IV, The Invention of Love (Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Awards), and Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme. His Broadway credits include The Rivals, Noises Off, Exit the King, The Misanthrope, The Cherry Orchard, Hamlet, Back to Methuselah, The Country Wife and School for Scandal (with John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson). His UK stage work includes King Lear, Much Ado About Nothing, Oliver!, Love's Labour's Lost, Hamlet, Henry V (all for the RSC), Hamlet, As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing (all for Kenneth Branagh's Renaissance Theatre Company) and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. His work in film includes Henry V, Dead Again, Finding Forester, and Revolutionary Road, and television includes Frasier, Encore! Encore!, L.A. Law, The Brothers, and Benjamin Franklin.

Rebecca Hall is one of theater and film's most exciting young actors. Last year she had leading roles in Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona (for which she has received a Golden Globe Award nomination) and in the feature film adaptation of Peter Morgan's Frost/Nixon. That followed starring roles in The Prestige (nominated for Best Female Newcomer at The Empire Awards UK and Best Newcomer of the Year at The London Critics' Circle Film Awards) and Starter For Ten. On stage, Hall received acclaim for her performance as Rosalind in Peter Hall's production of As You Like It at Theatre Royal Bath (followed by visits to BAM, Los Angeles and San Francisco), where she also appeared in Galileo's Daughter, Man And Superman and Don Juan. Rebecca won the Ian Charleson Award for her West End debut as Vivie in Mrs Warren's Profession and was again nominated for the Ian Charleson Award for As You Like It. Television work includes Joe's Palace directed by Stephen Poliakoff, Brendan Maher's Wide Sargasso Sea, and The Camomile Lawn.

Josh Hamilton co-founded Malaparte Theatre Company with Ethan Hawke, with whom he acted in Tom Stoppards's trilogy The Coast of Utopia (Lincoln Center), Hurlyburly (Drama Desk and Lucille Lortel awards nominations for Outstanding Featured Actor), and Things We Want (both for The New Group ), and on film in Alive and Tonight at Noon. His stage work also includes Suburbia (Lincoln Center), This Is Our Youth (The New Group), A Joke, Wild Dogs!, Sons & Fathers (Malaparte), The Violet Hour (Steppenwolf), Sexual Perversity in Chicago, Cider House Rules (Atlantic), and Proof (Broadway). Film includes The Bourne Identity and With Honors, and on television in Third Watch, Absolutely Fabulous, and Abby My Love (Emmy Award for Best Actor).

Ethan Hawke has appeared on stage in The Coast of Utopia (Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Play and Drama League Award nomination for Distinguished Performance), Henry IV alongside Richard Easton, Buried Child (Steppenwolf), The Seagull (Broadway), and Hurlyburly (The New Group; Drama League Award nomination for Distinguished Performance). He co-founded Malaparte Theatre Company, appearing in their productions of Wild Dogs! (also directed), Sons & Fathers and A Joke. He directed The New Group's recent world premiere of Things We Want, and the films Chelsea Walls and Straight to One (also wrote). His film appearances include Alive, Great Expectations, Gattaca, Dead Poet's Society, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset (also co-wrote; Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay), Training Day (Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor), Reality Bites, Before The Devil Knows You're Dead, The Hottest State (also wrote & directed), Fast Food Nation, Lord of War, Taking Lives, and Hamlet.

The Bridge Project marks Paul Jesson's fourth appearance at BAM. He played Sir Toby Belch in Sam Mendes' production of Twelfth Night and, with the Royal Shakespeare Company, the title role in Henry VIII and a younger version of Camillo in The Winter's Tale. In Britain he has recently played Myron Berger in Awake and Sing! with Stockard Channing, Shamrayer in The Seagull, and Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman. He received an Olivier Award for his performance in Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart.

The Old Vic celebrated its 190th anniversary this year and in its rich history has been home to many legendary productions, directors and actors of our time including Laurence Olivier's Hamlet, John Gielgud, Judi Dench, Tyrone Guthrie, Peter Hall, and Ian McKellen. The Old Vic is a not-for-profit producing theater without subsidy, led by Artistic Director Kevin Spacey and Chief Executive Sally Greene OBE, that strives to nurture young actors, writers, directors, and producers and works with schools and the local community to bring theater to a wider audience.

Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) is America's oldest performing arts institution in continuous operation and is recognized internationally for innovative dance, music, and theater programming-including its renowned Next Wave Festival. BAM also features an acclaimed repertory film program, literary and visual art events, and extensive educational programs. The institution is led by President Karen Brooks Hopkins and Executive Producer Joseph V. Melillo.

Neal Street Productions, Producer Caro Newling. Formed in 2003 by Sam Mendes, Caro Newling, and Pippa Harris to produce film and theater. Films: Stuart a Life Backwards, Starter for Ten, Things We Lost in the Fire, Jarhead, Revolutionary Road. Broadway: Shrek The Musical co-produced with Dreamworks Animation, The Vertical Hour with Julianne Moore and Bill Nighy. British premieres: All About My Mother, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Anna in the Tropics, Days of Wine and Roses, Fuddy Meers. West End/Broadway transfers: Sunday in the Park with George (Menier Chocolate Factory) Mary Stuart (Donmar Warehouse). Forthcoming in West End, London: Three Days of Rain with James McAvoy. Mendes and Newling established and ran the Donmar Warehouse Theatre, London from 1992 to 2002 originating some 70 productions including on Broadway: The Blue Room, Electra, True West, and Tony Award winners Cabaret, The Real Thing, Take Me Out.

Bank of America is one of the world's largest financial institutions, serving individual consumers, small and middle market businesses and large corporations with a full range of banking, investing, asset management and other financial and risk-management products and services. The company provides unmatched convenience in the United States, serving more than 59 million consumer and small business relationships with more than 6,100 retail banking offices, nearly 18,500 ATMs and award-winning online banking with nearly 25 million active users. Bank of America is the No. 1 overall Small Business Administration (SBA) lender in the United States and the No. 1 SBA lender to minority-owned small businesses. The company serves clients in more than 150 countries and has relationships with 99 percent of the U.S. Fortune 500 companies and 83 percent of the Fortune Global 500. Bank of America Corporation stock (NYSE: BAC) is a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.Bank of America presents

THE BRIDGE PROJECT

Produced by BAM, The Old Vic & Neal Street Productions

THE CHERRY ORCHARD
BY Anton Chekhov
A NEW VERSION OF THE PLAY BY Tom Stoppard

THE WINTER'S TALE
BY William Shakespeare

Directed by Sam Mendes
Set design by Anthony Ward
Costume design by Catherine Zuber
Lighting design by Paul Pyant
Sound design by Paul Arditti
Hair & wig design by Tom Watson

Music by Mark Bennett

Music direction by Dan Lipton
Casting by Nancy Piccione and Maggie Lunn
Choreography by Josh Prince

Co-commissioned by and produced in association with Athens & Epidaurus Festival, THE EDGE® Auckland (NZ), Ruhrfestspiele Recklinghausen, The Singapore Repertory Theatre, Teatro Español de Madrid

The Cherry Orchard
BAM Harvey Theater (651 Fulton St.)
Jan 2-3, 6-10, 13, 14†, 15-17, 20-24, 27-31, Feb 24-27, Mar 1 and 7 at 7:30pm
Jan 4, 11, 18, 25, and Feb 1 at 3pm
Feb 28 and Mar 8 at 2pm
†press opening

The Winter's Tale
BAM Harvey Theater (651 Fulton St.)
Feb 10-14, 18-19, 20†, 21, 28, Mar 4 - 6 and 8 at 7:30pm
Feb 15 and 22 at 3pm
Feb 17* at 8pm
Mar 1 and 7 at 2pm
*The Bridge Project Benefit-For tickets, contact BAM Patron Services at 718.636.4182
†press opening
Tickets: $30, $60, $90
718.636.4100 or BAM.org

Artist Talk on The Winter's Tale
Lecture by Harvard Professor Stephen Greenblatt
Feb 15 at 1pm
BAMcafé
Tickets: $8, ($4 for Friends of BAM)

Artist Talk with The Bridge Project Company on The Cherry Orchard
Moderated by University of Michigan Professor Enoch Brater
Feb 25, post-show (free for same-day ticket holders)

Artist Talk with Sam Mendes on The Cherry Orchard
Moderated by Francine Prose
Feb 26 at 5:30pm
Hillman Attic Studio
$8, ($4 for Friends of BAM)

Artist Talk with The Bridge Project Company on The Winter's Tale
Moderated by Columbia Professor James Shapiro
Mar 6, post-show (free for same-day ticket holders)

Photo of Dakin Matthews by Walter McBride/Retna Ltd.