Joan Porter Stars in CHECKS AND BALANCES Premiere at Rogers Little Theater, 11/2-11


Oren Safdie's latest play, Checks and Balances will have its world premiere at Rogers Little Theater featuring seasoned stage, television and film actor Joan Porter as Eleanor Kaufman.

Joan began her career as young teenager with the famed Kenley Players and has since worked extensively in all media. She has appeared on and off Broadway in The Inspector General, Suddenly, Last Summer, The Glass Menagerie, A Taste of Home, Blues for Mr. Charlie, New York musicals Heaven Knows, Cut the Ribbons, Workshopping, Pride and Prejudice the Musical, television programs The Third Watch, Law & Order, Law & Order: CI, Ryan’s Hope, and film productions On the Slope, The Sweet Life, The Front, Law and Disorder. Joan is a member of The infamous Actor’s Studio in New York.

Checks and Balances tells the story of a young music student who comes to New York to attend a prestigious Music Conservatory and gets a part-time bookkeeping job with the founder, a woman well into her 80s who appears to be losing her memory. Upon inspection of her finances, he uncovers numerous checks written to the maid, which lead him on a journey of unexpected twists and turns that in the end challenge his own values and ethics. The play explores issues regarding immigration (both legal and illegal), class, privilege, the definition of family, as well as how society chooses to deal with its aged.

Joining Porter in the cast are Nick Abeel (Jonathan Segal) and Gameela Wright (Victoria Winston). Nick Starred as Alex in the independent children's film Old No. 587: The Great Train Robbery in which his father also made an appearance. Abeel also appeared in Jim Leonard's Anatomy of Gray at the Kennedy Center, Noises Off! at Fulton Theatre and Spring Awakening at Red Stage. Gameela Wright has appeared on television in Blue Bloods, Law & Order, Law & Order: SVU, Law & Order: CI, The Sopranos and As The World Turns, the films Pariah, Frijolito Go!, Everything's Jake and Theater Productions of Time to Burn, Elephant Girls, A Streetcar Named Desire, Escape From Happiness,The Lower Depths, As You Like It and Twelfth Night.

Local actors Kris Pruett (Gregory Zaslavsky) and Kristen Begneaud (Katherine Kaufman Leitner) complete the cast. Pruett was most recently seen as Erhardt, Critic # 2 in an RLT staged reading of Oren Safdie's Private Jokes Public Places. His Arkansas regional credits include Kent in Reasons To Be Pretty and Mutt in the world premiere of Sundown Town for TheatreSquared. His Las Vegas regional credits include Macbeth in Macbeth, Yank in The Hairy Ape and Gary/Roger in Noises Off!. Kristen starred in numerous New Orleans area Theater Productions, was a major market DJ and hosted a “shopping channel” television show for several years. Locally, she appeared in Star Spangled Girl, Art of Murder, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Shut Your Eyes and Think of England and Odd Couple.

Co-Director Fritz Michel continues a long collaboration with Oren Safdie dating back to playing George the gull in a short play at the Columbia Dramatists. He originated the role of William in Private Jokes, Public Places in the New York and Los Angeles premieres, He also appeared in Oren's musical Fiddler Sub-Terrain at La Mama. He has directed readings of Checks & Balances and A False Solution in New York and Los Angeles. In 2010, Fritz produced Safdie's play The Bilbao Effect at the AIA Center For Architecture in NYC. Recent directing credits include Patrick Barlow's adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock's film The 39 Steps!, Ira Levin's Veronica's Room, and Peter Colley's I'll Be Back Before Midnight! all with the Theatre Workshop of Nantucket. New York acting credits include Inherit the Wind (Broadway), Les Liaisons Dangereuses, The Just/Les Justes, Vanity Fair, Cyrano de Bergerac, and Sexual Perversity in Chicago. Recent regional roles include The Director andThe Moscows of Nantucket. Film and television acting includes Angels and Demons, Syriana, Great Expectations, ER, Alias, and Daphne and the Brilliant Blue. Fritz graduated from Yale with a history degree. He lives in New York City with his wife Lee and two daughters, Stella and Cleo.

Writer and director Oren Safdie attended the Graduate School of Architecture at Columbia University before turning his attention to writing. He is a playwright-in-residence at La Mama E.T.C., and until recently, helmed at the Malibu Stage Company, where the off-Broadway/London hit Private Jokes, Public Places debuted. His next play, The Last Word also moved off-Broadway, starring two-time Emmy Award Winner Daniel J. Travanti (Hill Street Blues). Other productions include The Bilbao Effect, West Bank, UK, Jews & Jesus, Fiddler Sub-Terrain, and La Compagnie, which he developed into a 1⁄2-hour pilot for Castle Rock/CBS. As a screenwriter, Oren scripted the film You Can Thank Me Later starring Ellen Burstyn, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Newport Film Festival; and the Israeli film Bittersweet, which played the Jerusalem and Montreal World Film Festivals. Oren has written for Metropolis magazine, Dwell, Beyond, The Forward, Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, and The New Republic. Playwrights Canada Press and Dramatists Play Service have published his plays, and he is the recipient of numerous grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, Le Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Québec, The John Golden Fund, and The Graham Foundation..

RLT presented a staged reading of Safdie’s Private Jokes, Public Places last November when the playwright was in Northwest Arkansas for the grand opening of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

Checks and Balances will be the first professional production staged at RLT employing Equity actors – the first of which the theater plans to evolve into a professional company under the RLT non-profit umbrella. The World Premiere Gala is Friday, November 2, 2012. Additional performances are scheduled for November 3-4, 8-11, 2012. Tickets are available online at or by contacting the RLT Box Office at 479.631.8988.

Checks and Balances is presented by Matthews, Campbell, Rhoads, McClure & Thompson, P.A., with Highlands Oncology Group (Celebratory sponsor) and SB Howard (Cast sponsor).

For the past 26 years, Rogers Little Theater has focused on bringing high-quality community theater to Northwest Arkansas. Housed at the historic Victory Theater in downtown Rogers, RLT produces a wide variety of plays, musicals and special events each year in its 200 Seat theatre. With a subscription base of more than 450 members and funding support from some of the area’s most prominent businesses, foundations and community groups, RLT is a vibrant part of the region, and is looking to expand its reach into regional professional theatre. Over 20,000 audience members have attended RLT productions in the past two seasons.

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