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Blythe Danner to Host Season 2 of THIRTEEN's THEATER CLOSE-UP, Premiering 10/1


Following last year's auspicious debut of Theater Close-Up -- a unique collaboration between THIRTEEN and the large community of New York City area non-profit Off-Broadway theaters -- the station will once again present a selection of provocative and entertaining Off-Broadway plays, captured live on-stage, in THIRTEEN's signature "up-close" style. This season, the series expands its geographic reach to include the Crossroads Theatre Company in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
This season's offerings will be hosted by Blythe Danner, Tony Award-winning star of stage, screen, and television. No stranger to public television, Danner memorably starred in the GREAT PERFORMANCES productions of Chekhov's The Seagull and Tennessee Williams' Eccentricities of a Nightingale.

Last October, THIRTEEN debuted nine plays on Theater Close-Up, encompassing works ranging from vintage playwright John Van Druten to today's Richard Nelson, and drawing on the resources of some of New York's finest theater companies.

The second season of Theater Close-Up on THIRTEEN will continue to bring a diverse cross-section of those provocative plays to primetime and online audiences, premiering Thursday, October 1 at 9 p.m. with Rasheeda Speaking from The New Group, with Cynthia Nixon making her directorial debut. Tony winner Tonya Pinkins (Caroline, or Change) and two-time Academy Award winner Dianne Wiest (Bullets Over Broadway) star in Joel Drake Johnson's incisive, bitingly funny play about racial tensions in the workplace and post-racial America. The cast also features Patricia Conolly (The Coast of Utopia) and Darren Goldstein (Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson).

After last season's production of "London Wall," Mint Theater Company returns with Fashions for Men on Thursday, October 15 at 9 p.m., also directed by Davis McCallum. Set in a high-class haberdashery in Budapest, Ferenc Molnár's comedy of character tells the story of shop owner Peter Juhász (Joe Delafield), a saintly beacon of decency who only sees the good in everyone, making him easy prey for the sinners who surround him - including his wife Adele (Annie Purcell), who runs away with a snooty salesman (John Tufts).

Later this season, Theater Close-Up will present Wiesenthal (airdate TBD), filmed at the Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row. Written by and starring Tom Dugan, Wiesenthal is the riveting true story of Simon Wiesenthal -- nicknamed the "Jewish James Bond" -- who devoted his life to bringing more than 1,100 Nazi war criminals to justice.

In Nikkole Salter's Repairing a Nation (airdate TBD) from the Crossroads Theatre Company in New Brunswick, New Jersey, the Davis family gathers for a holiday celebration in their native Tulsa, Oklahoma, but all goes awry when the family matriarch insists they join a lawsuit seeking reparations for the Tulsa Race Riots that devastated their family 80 years ago. The cast includes Chantal Jean-Pierre, Angel Moore, Landon Woodson, Stephanie Barry, and Phil McGlaston.

"The first season of Theater Close-Up proved to be a resounding success for audiences and the Off-Broadway community, and we couldn't be more pleased," says David Horn, Executive Producer of Theater Close-Up. "We're looking forward to continuing this unique collaboration with the region's diverse community of non-profit theaters to bring viewers a brand new season of bold, innovative, provocative theater."

"Theater Close-Up is the perfect example of the great impact public media can have in the community," says Neal Shapiro, President and CEO of WNET. "Our viewers have told us they loved the plays we presented in season one, and they want more. The participating theaters have told us they have seen an increase in memberships and audience attendance as a result of the broadcasts. All this and free online streaming for viewers in the New York City area. Who could ask for anything more?"

THIRTEEN is using its unrivaled expertise in producing national PBS arts programming - which began with such classic series as Theater in America, part of the award-winning series GREAT PERFORMANCES and special limited series such as Stage on Screen -- to provide New Yorkers with unparalleled access to one of the City's greatest underexposed cultural assets.
Press quotes:
Rasheeda Speaking (The New Group)

"Blending darkly awkward workplace comedy with intense racial tension, Johnson's office-politics thriller is not afraid to push buttons hard. Directed by first-timer Cynthia Nixon for the New Group, Wiest brings innumerable layers of translucence to her dithery character; her Ileen seems made of phyllo. And the fearlessly UNCOMPROMISING Pinkins, in a companion performance to her triumph in Caroline, or Change, makes Jaclyn implacable in her opacity and determination to outplay a world that would otherwise determine her." -Adam Feldman, Time Out New York

Fashions for Men (Mint Theater)

"Under Davis McCallum's sure-handed direction, the cast is uniformly very good. As Peter, the perennial pushover, Joe Delafield's likable performance anchors the show. Stage vet Kurt Rhoads and newcomer John Tufts lend fine support respectively as a rich count accustomed to getting whatever he wants and a salesman without peer or conscience. Rachel Napoleon makes an impressive debut as Paula, a pretty opportunist. 'He's just the door that leads into a new life,' she says. Ultimately what leads the girl is her heart. Martha Hally's costumes pack period detail. And Daniel Zimmerman's scenery is versatile and handsome - just right for 'Fashions for Men.'" -- Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News

Wiesenthal (Acorn Theatre)

"Wiesenthal' is insightful, powerful, and beautiful, elevated by personal moments and recollections. Tom Dugan is at his best and audience members benefit from the recollections,
persistence and hard-won humor conveyed in 'Wiesenthal.'"
The New York Times

Repairing a Nation (Crossroads Theatre Company)

"What if you knew an injustice had been done, and you had it in your power to make it right? 'Repairing a Nation,' an ambitious new play by Nikkole Salter at Crossroads Theatre Company deals with the question on three levels: in a country, in a family, and in a relationship. Marshall Jones III directs an engaging production...In maintaining some lightness and focusing on family, the play becomes relatable rather than didactic as it asks difficult questions...Salter addresses worthy issues in an accessible way, and at least one of them gets a satisfying resolution." - Ronni Reich, Newark Star-Ledger

Additional new plays will be announced in the coming weeks.
Theater Close-Up is a production of THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET. The plays were directed for television by David Horn. Mitch Owgang is producer; Bill O'Donnell is series producer; and David Horn is executive producer. Executive-in-charge: Neal Shapiro.
Major support for Theater Close-Up, Season Two is provided by the Howard Gilman Foundation, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, the LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust, and the President's Innovation Fund.
Additional project support for Rasheeda Speaking from the New Group was provided by Abby Merrill and Abbott Stillman; for Fashions for Men from the Mint Theater, by The Cory and Bob Donnalley Charitable Gift Fund, Ciro and Gail Gamboni, the Royal Little Family Foundation, the Edith Meiser Foundation and the Dorothy Strelsin Foundation; for Wiesenthal from the Acorn Theatre on Theatre Row, by the Daryl & Steven Roth Foundation and Roman Kent.

Photo credit: Monique Carboni

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