VIDEO: Go Inside Rehearsals For THE ENGAGEMENT PARTY At Hartford Stage

By: Jan. 10, 2019

Hartford Stage Artistic Director Darko Tresnjak and Managing Director Michael Stotts will present Samuel Baum's The Engagement Party, directed by Tresnjak. Zach Appelman, Richard Bekins, Mia Dillon and Beth Riesgraf lead the cast. The world premiere play will perform Thursday, January 10, through Sunday, February 3, 2019.

Hear the cast talks about the new play below!

Baum's suspenseful contemporary drama centers upon a young couple's intimate gathering with family and friends to celebrate their engagement - an evening that leads to a spiraling sequence of events and revelations that will irrevocably change their lives. The Engagement Party is one of two world premieres that Tresnjak will direct during his final season as Artistic Director of Hartford Stage.

"We have put together a splendid ensemble for the world premiere of The Engagement Party, Samuel Baum's apprehensive play about the consequences of secrets and lies," Tresnjak said.

The Engagement Party received a prestigious 2018 Edgerton Foundation New Play Award. These awards provide funds for extended rehearsal time for world premieres that the Foundation deems to be of special merit. Only theatres with a strong and consistent track record of producing new work are invited to apply. The Hartford Stage world premieres of Sarah Gancher's Seder, Quiara Alegría Hudes' Pulitzer Prize winner Water by the Spoonful, and Daniel Beaty's Breath & Imagination are all past recipients.

The Engagement Party is also the recipient of an Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts - which supports public engagement with, and access to, various forms of excellent art across the nation and the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence - and a Theatre Development Grant from the Laurents/Hatcher Foundation's highly competitive grants program supporting the development or production of new plays and musicals.

Playwright Samuel Baum is also a screenwriter and producer. Baum created the FOX television series Lie to Me and co-wrote the 2017 Emmy-nominated HBO film The Wizard of Lies, starring Robert DeNiro and Michelle Pfeiffer, about the downfall of Bernie Madoff. He also co-created and executive produced the ABC series The Evidence, as well as television pilots for HBO, Amazon and CBS. Baum's writing often examines ethical complications of living in the modern world, where telling the truth and telling lies do not necessarily correspond with doing good and doing harm. With The Engagement Party, Baum returns to writing for theatre with a vivid script that explores challenging moral terrain.

Zach Appelman will play Josh in The Engagement Party. Appelman last appeared at Hartford Stage in the title role of Tresnjak's acclaimed production of Hamlet in 2015. He received an Outstanding Leading Actor in a Play Award from the Connecticut Critics Circle for his performance. His theatre credits include St. Fine in War Horse at Lincoln Center; Demetrius in A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Julie Taymor, at Theatre for a New Audience; Diomedes in Troilus & Cressida at The Public Theatre, and the lead role in Henry V at Folger Theatre. Appelman was a regular on the FOX television series Sleepy Hollow and will have a recurring role on the network's upcoming series, The Passage. He has guest-starred on Amazon's The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Showtime's Homeland, The CW's Beauty & the Beast, NBC's Chicago PD, and CBS's Blue Bloods.

Veteran stage, film and television actor Richard Bekins will play Conrad. Bekins has appeared in Broadway productions of Love! Valour! Compassion!, Tartuffe and Happy New Year. Bekins' Off-Broadway appearances include The Normal Heart, Too Much Sun and Somewhere Fun. He previously appeared at Hartford Stage in Hedda Gabler, directed by Mark Lamos. Other regional theatre performances include Heartbreak House (Huntington Theatre Company), Other Desert Cities (Alley Theatre) and Hamlet (Pioneer Theatre Company). His film credits include United 93, Julie & Julia, and Limitless. He appeared in the ABC television miniseries Madoff and had guest-starring roles on CBS's Madam Secretary, HBO's Boardwalk Empire, AMC's Mad Men, and Netflix's Daredevil.

Tony Award nominee Mia Dillon will play Gail. Dillon previously appeared at Hartford Stage in the world premiere play Seder, Caryl Churchill's Cloud 9, and Noël Coward's A Song at Twilight. Dillon's accolades include a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Play for Crimes of the Heart; a Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play for Once a Catholic; and a Connecticut Critic's Circle Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play for her work in Cloud 9. She appeared in Broadway productions of Our Town, Agnes of God and Hay Fever. Notable among her many regional credits are Lettice and Lovage (Westport Country Playhouse), On Golden Pond (Bucks County Playhouse) and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theatre Festival).

Television and film actor Beth Riesgraf will portray Katherine. Riesgraf was a series regular on the USA Network drama Complications and TNT's crime-thriller Leverage. She also had a recurring role on the popular CBS crime drama Criminal Minds. Riesgraf has guest-starred on numerous television shows, including Netflix's Stranger Things; CBS's How I Met Your Mother and Without a Trace; and ABC's Big Shots. Her film credits include Alvin and the Chipmunks, I Love Your Work and Scorcher.

Also in the company of The Engagement Party are: Teddy Bergman (Peter and the Starcatchers, Broadway; Seven Minutes in Heaven, Huntington Theatre Company/Ars Nova; I was Tom Cruise, FringeNYC) as Alan; Brian Lee Huynh (War Horse, Lincoln Center; The Light Years, Playwrights Horizon; A Clockwork Orange, New World Stages) as Kai; Brian Patrick Murphy (The Clearing, Theatre at St. Clement's; Two Gentlemen of Verona, Bryant Park Shakespeare; Break, FringeNYC) as Johnny; and Anne Troup (Mother of the Maid, Bernstein Theater; Ivanov, Classic Stage Company; Lungs, Kitchen Theatre Company) as Haley.

Director Darko Tresnjak's Hartford Stage credits include A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder (winner of four 2014 Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Direction of a Musical for Tresnjak); A Lesson from Aloes; A Midsummer Night's Dream; Heartbreak House; The Comedy of Errors; Rear Window; Romeo & Juliet; and Hamlet. Other recent credits include The Killer (2014 Obie Award for Direction) at Theatre for a New Audience and The Ghosts of Versailles at LA Opera.

Tresnjak is also the director of the new musical Anastasia, which debuted at Hartford Stage in May 2016. The musical premiered on Broadway the following year at the Broadhurst Theatre, where it still performs. The first national tour of Anastasia embarked in October, which coincided with the opening of European productions in Spain and Germany. Additional productions in Mexico and The Netherlands will open in 2019.

In addition to Tresnjak, the creative team includes Set Designer Alexander Dodge (Anastasia and A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, Hartford Stage and Broadway); Costume Designer Joshua Pearson (A Midsummer Night's Dream and Private Lives, Hartford Stage); Lighting Designer Matthew Richards (A Lesson from Aloes and Twelfth Night, Hartford Stage); and Sound Designer Jane Shaw (A Lesson from Aloes and Heartbreak House, Hartford Stage). Hartford Stage Associate Artistic Director Elizabeth Williamson (The Inheritance, Young Vic and West End; Make Believe, Hartford Stage) is the Dramaturg.

Robyn M. Zalewski (Henry V and A Lesson from Aloes, Hartford Stage) will serve as Production Stage Manager, with Whitney Keeter (Something Rotten, First National Tour; Rotterdam, 59E59 Theaters) as Assistant Stage Manager.

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