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Casting Announced For MAKE BELIEVE at Hartford Stage

Casting Announced For MAKE BELIEVE at Hartford StageHartford Stage Artistic Director Darko Tresnjak and Managing Director Michael Stotts today announced the cast and creative team for Make Believe, written by Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle award-winning playwright Bess Wohl. The world premiere play will perform Thursday, September 6, through Sunday, September 30, to open the Tony Award-winning regional theatre's 55th season. Jackson Gay will direct.

Bess Wohl's uncanny, gently funny and touching play, set in the 1980s, follows four young siblings as their childhood is upended by the mysterious problems of the adults in their lives and tracks how moments from our childhood resonate with us forever. The talented cast features four adult and four youth actors.

"I had the pleasure of meeting Bess Wohl and Jackson Gay two decades ago at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Since then, Bess has evolved into one of our most innovative playwrights and Jackson one of our finest directors. It is a pleasure to be reacquainted with them and to welcome them to Hartford Stage for the world premiere of Make Believe," Tresnjak said.

"I couldn't be happier to be opening our season with Bess Wohl's Hartford Stage commission, Make Believe," Hartford Stage Associate Artistic Director Elizabeth Williamson said. "I've worked with Bess for almost a decade, beginning with premiering her plays Touch(ed) and In at Pioneer Theatre Company. As with all of Bess' work, Make Believe is surprising and funny, but it's also a serious play about childhood, performed by children. It's exciting, theatrical, and deeply moving. We're very grateful to the Toulmin Foundation for making this commission possible and delighted to have Jackson Gay on board to direct."

Wohl's most recent work, Small Mouth Sounds, was hailed as a critic's pick by The New York Times, New York Magazine, and Time Out New York. Wohl was also honored with the 2017 Outer Critics Circle's John Gassner Award for American plays by new playwrights for Small Mouth Sounds, which completed a national tour last April. She received the 2015 Drama Desk Sam Norkin Off-Broadway Award for establishing herself as an important voice in New York theatre. Wohl's other plays include American Hero, Barcelona (Ovation award nominee), and the original musical Pretty Filthy (2015 Lucille Lortel and Drama Desk nominations for Outstanding Musical). Wohl also writes for film and television. Her film, Irreplaceable You, premiered on Netflix last February. Wohl won an Athena Award for her original screenplay, Virginia; and In was included on the 2007 Hollywood Black List. Wohl has also developed film and television projects for HBO, ABC, USA, Disney and Paramount.

The company of Make Believe includes Megan Byrne (The Wolves, TheaterWorks; The Hatmaker's Wife, The Playwrights Realm) as Adult Kate; Chris Ghaffari (Romeo & Juliet, Hartford Stage; Sex with Strangers, Westport Country Playhouse) as Adult Chris; Brad Heberlee (Small Mouth Sounds, Ars Nova/Signature and Philadelphia Theatre Company; These Paper Bullets, Atlantic Theatre Company and Yale Repertory Theatre) as Adult Carl; Roman Malenda (History Mystery, TADA! Youth Theater; All My Sons, French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts) as Chris; Alexa Skye Swinton (Billions, Showtime; The Department Party, Playwrights Horizons) as Addie; RJ Vercellone (A Christmas Carol-A Ghost Story of Christmas, Hartford Stage; The Who's Tommy, Curtain Call) as Carl; Molly Ward (Othello, Hartford Stage; Bathsheba Dorin's Kin, Playwrights Horizons) as Adult Addie; and Sloane Wolfe (Annie, Paper Mill Playhouse; Samson-original cast, Sight & Sound Theatres) as Kate.

Director Jackson Gay's credits include Lucy Thurber's Transfers at MCC Theater; The Cake and the world premiere of Suzanne Vega's Lover, Beloved: An Evening with Carson McCullers, with music by Vega and Duncan Sheik, at The Alley Theatre; These Paper Bullets! - an adaptation of William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing by Rolin Jones with music by Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong - at Atlantic Theatre Company, The Geffen and Yale Repertory Theatre; and The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow at Atlantic Theatre Company and Yale Repertory Theatre. Gay is a founding member of the theatre-television-music company New Neighborhood. She is the Director of Artistic Programs for Fuller Road Artist Residency and has taught directing and acting at Columbia University, Yale University, Primary Stages' Marvin and Anne Einhorn School of Performing Arts (ESPA), Sarah Lawrence College and Fordham University.

In addition to Gay, the creative team is comprised of Set Designer Antje Ellermann (An Opening in Time, Hartford Stage; Stuffed, Women's Project Theater; The Broken Heart, Theatre for a New Audience); Costume Designer Jonghyun Georgia Lee (The Cake, PlayMakers Repertory Company; Caught, The Play Company; Sense and Sensibility, Guthrie Theater); Lighting Designer Paul Whitaker (Lover, Beloved: An Evening with Carson McCullers, Alley Theatre; These Paper Bullets, Geffen Playhouse and Atlantic Theatre Company; Rigoletto, Minnesota Opera); and Sound Designers Broken Chord Collective (A Midsummer Night's Dream, Hartford Stage; Eclipsed and The Parisian Woman, Broadway). Hartford Stage Associate Artistic Director Elizabeth Williamson (The Inheritance, Young Vic and West End; Anastasia and A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, Hartford Stage and Broadway) will serve as Dramaturg.

Rob Chikar (These Paper Bullets, Yale Repertory Theatre; Kill Local, La Jolla Playhouse) will serve as Production Stage Manager, with Kelly Hardy (A Christmas Carol-A Ghost Story of Christmas, Anastasia, Hartford Stage) as Assistant Stage Manager.

The National Endowment for the Arts awarded an Art Works grant to Hartford Stage in June 2017 to support the development and production of Make Believe. The theatre was also awarded one of the first grants from the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation to commission new theatrical works from women.

The development and production of new work at Hartford Stage is funded, in part, by grants from Burry Fredrik Foundation, The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust, and The Lucille Lortel Foundation.

The 2018/19 season is also sponsored by the Greater Hartford Arts Council and the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development.

Special Dates

Previews begin at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, September 6
Opening Night: 8 p.m., Friday, September 14
Closes: 2 p.m., Sunday, September 30
Wed Matinee at 2:00 p.m. on September 26 only
Weekly schedules vary. For details, visit

Tue, Wed, Thu, Sun at 7:30 p.m.-Fri, Sat at 8 p.m.-Sat, Sun at 2 p.m.

Tickets for all shows start at $25. Student tickets: $18.

For group discounts (10 or more individuals), email or call 860-520-7125.

For all other tickets, please call the Hartford Stage box office at 860-527-5151 or visit

Special Events

HPL @ Hartford Stage. Hartford Public Library and Hartford Stage invite you to dig deeper into the world of the plays onstage. Check out a book from the HPL @ Hartford Stage micro branch at Guest Services. Select books available at the theatre and at each Hartford branch library.

Sunday Afternoon Discussion, September 16. Enjoy a discussion with artists and scholars connected with the production immediately following the 2 p.m. matinee. Free with admission.

AfterWords Discussion-Tuesday, September 18 and 25; Wednesday, September 26. Join members of the cast and our Artistic staff for a free discussion, immediately following select 7:30 p.m. performances on Tuesday or the 2 p.m. Wednesday matinee.

Open Captioned Performances-Sunday, September 23, 2 p.m. & 7:30 p.m. For patrons who are deaf or have hearing loss - free service with admission.

Audio Described Performance-Saturday, September 29, 2 p.m. For patrons who are blind or have low vision - free service with admission.

Now in our 55th season, Hartford Stage is under the leadership of Artistic Director Darko Tresnjak and Managing Director Michael Stotts. One of the nation's leading resident theatres, Hartford Stage is known for producing innovative revivals of classics and provocative new plays and musicals, including 73 world and American premieres, as well as offering a distinguished education program, which reaches close to 21,000 students annually.

Since Tresnjak's appointment in 2011 the theatre has presented the world premieres of A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder on Broadway, winner of four 2014 Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Direction of a Musical by Tresnjak; Rear Window with Kevin Bacon; the new musical Anastasia by Terrence McNally, Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens; Quiara Alegría Hudes' Water by the Spoonful, winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama; Breath & Imagination by Daniel Beaty; Big Dance Theatre's Man in a Case with Mikhail Baryshnikov; and Reverberation by Matthew Lopez.

Hartford Stage has earned many of the nation's most prestigious awards, including the 1989 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre. Other national honors include Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk, OBIE, and New York Critics Circle awards. Hartford Stage has produced nationally renowned titles, including the New York transfers of Enchanted April; The Orphans' Home Cycle; Resurrection (later retitled Through the Night); The Carpetbagger's Children; and Tea at Five.

The leading provider of theatre education programs in Connecticut, Hartford Stage's offerings include student matinees, in-school theatre residencies, teen performance opportunities, theatre classes for students (ages 3-18) and adults, afterschool programs and professional development courses.

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