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Padua Playwrights Presents MAYAKOVSKY AND STALIN


Padua Playwrights Presents MAYAKOVSKY AND STALIN

Two love stories. Two suicides. Padua Playwrights presents the world premiere of Mayakovsky and Stalin, written and directed by legendary poet/playwright Murray Mednick (The Gary Plays), opening at the Lounge Theatre on July 21.

Mednick's newest work is a dramatic character study incorporating historical footage and photos to explore two distantly connected relationships: that of Soviet poet Vladimir Mayakovsky and his married lover and "muse," Lilya Brik, and of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and his wife Nadya.

According to Mednick, "The play traces the parallel stories of these two couples. Lilya was a B actress who convinced Stalin, after Mayakovsky's suicide, to restore Mayakovsky to the canon of accepted Soviet poets. Nadya committed suicide during a state dinner, renouncing both her husband and his policies. It's about the repercussions of power, about the push and pull between secularism and religion."

Daniel Dorr (Antaeus Theatre Company's As You Like It, The Crucible, Macbeth) and Maury Sterling (Mednick's Fedunn at the Odyssey, "Max" on Showtime's Homeland) head the cast in the two title roles. Laura Liguori(Mednick's The Gary Plays at Open Fist, The Red Dress at the Odyssey) plays Lilya, Mayakovsky's married, Jewish lover and muse, while Lili's husband, Osip - a Jewish scholar, literary critic, film director and publisher who encouraged his wife's affair while remaining the poet's most trusted adviser - is played by Andy Hirsch (Abbie Hoffman in Odyssey Theatre'sChicago Conspiracy Trial, HBO's Big Love). Nadya, Stalin's disillusioned, mentally unstable second wife, is portrayed by Casey McKinnon (The Tragedy of JFK as told by Wm. Shakespeare at The Blank). Also in the cast are Rhonda Aldrich (Picnic, Top Girls, Henry IV at Antaeus; Star Trek: TNG) as Lili's mother, Yelena; Alexis Sterling (All My Sons at the Ruskin) as Lili's sister and Mayakovsky's former lover, Elsa; Ann Colby Stocking(The Golden Dragon at Boston Court) as the maid, Masha; and Max Faugno (The Brothers Karamazov at Circle X - LADCC best ensemble award) in the role of the "chorus."

Like all of Mednick's work, Mayakovsky and Stalin is driven by poetic impulse rather than by linear story-telling.

"As Murray Mednick experiments with language... he is emblematic of a Los Angeles dramatic tradition in much the same way that Clifford Odets is identifiable with Gotham or David Mamet with Chicago," wrote Bob Verini in Variety.

The creative team for Mayakovsky and Stalin includes set and projections designer Nick Santiago, lighting designer Matt Richter, costume designerShon Le Blanc, composer and sound designer John Zalewski, graphic designer George McWilliams and casting director Raul Clayton Staggs. The stage manager is Danny Crisp, and Racquel Lehrman, Theatre Planners produces for Padua Playwrights.

Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky (July 19, 1893 - April 14, 1930) was a Russian Soviet poet, playwright, artist and actor who was a revolutionary force in 20th century Russian literature. His early poems established him as one of the more original poets to come out of the Russian Futurist movement, rejecting traditional poetry in favor of formal experimentation. Mayakovsky produced a large and diverse body of work during the course of his career: he wrote poems, wrote and directed plays, appeared in films, edited the art journal LEF, and created agitprop posters in support of the Communist Party during the Russian Civil War. Though Mayakovsky's work regularly demonstrated ideological and patriotic support for the ideology of the Communist Party and a strong admiration of Vladimir Lenin, Mayakovsky's relationship with the Soviet state was complex and often tumultuous. He often found himself engaged in confrontation with the increasing involvement of the Soviet State in cultural censorship and the development of the State doctrine of Socialist realism. Works that contained criticism or satire of aspects of the Soviet system, such as the poem "Talking With the Taxman About Poetry" (1926), and the plays The Bedbug (1929) and The Bathhouse (1929), were met with scorn by the Soviet state and literary establishment. In 1930, Mayakovsky committed suicide. Even after death, his relationship with the Soviet state remained unsteady. Though Mayakovsky had previously been harshly criticized by Soviet governmental bodies like the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers, Joseph Stalin posthumously declared Mayakovsky "the best and the most talented poet of our Soviet epoch."

Lilya Yuryevna Brik (Nov. 11, 1891 - Aug. 4, 1978) was a Russian actress, writer and socialite connected to many leading figures in the Russian avant-garde between 1914 and 1930. She was known as the beloved (muse) of Vladimir Mayakovsky. She was married for a long time to the poet, editor and literary critic Osip Brik (1888-1945), and she was the older sister of the French-Russian writer Elsa Triolet (1896-1970). Pablo Neruda called Lilya "muse of the Russian avant-garde." Her name was frequently abbreviated by her contemporaries as "?.?." or "?.?.?." which are the first letters of the Russian word «??????» lyubov, or "love." There were attempts to present her as a greedy and manipulative femme fatale, but those who knew her noted her altruism and intelligence. She helped many aspiring talents and was acquainted with many leading figures of Russian and international culture, such as Sergei Eisenstein, Lev Kuleshov, Boris Pasternak, Vsevolod Meyerhold, Kazimir Malevich, Sergei Paradjanov, Maya Plisetskaya, Rodion Shchedrin, Andrei Voznesensky, Yves St. Laurent and Pablo Picasso. It was Lilya who, in the mid-1930s, famously addressed Stalin with a personal letter that prompted Stalin's posthumous declaration declaring Myakovsky "the best and most talented" and changed the way the poet's legacy has been treated since in the USSR.

Joseph Stalin (Dec. 18, 1878 - March 5, 1953) was the dictator of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) from 1929 to 1953. Under Stalin, the Soviet Union was transformed from a peasant society into an industrial and military superpower. However, he ruled by terror, and millions of his own citizens died during his brutal reign. Born into poverty, Stalin became involved in revolutionary politics, as well as criminal activities, as a young man. After Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin died in 1924, Stalin outmaneuvered his rivals for control of the party. Once in power, he collectivized farming and had potential enemies executed or sent to forced labor camps. Stalin aligned with the United States and Britain in World War II (1939-1945) but afterward engaged in an increasingly tense relationship with the West known as the Cold War (1946-1991). After his death, the Soviets initiated a de-Stalinization process.

Nadezhda ("Nadya") Alliluyeva Stalin (Sept. 22, 1901 - Nov. 9, 1932) was the youngest child of Russian revolutionary Sergei Alliluyev, a railway worker who sheltered Stalin after one of his escapes from Siberian exile during 1911. When staying in St Petersburg (later Petrograd), Stalin often lodged with the Alliluyev family. The couple married in 1919, when Nadya was 18 and Stalin was already a 40-year-old widower. Nadya found life in the Kremlin suffocating. Her husband, whom she once saw as the archetypal Soviet "new man," turned out to be a quarrelsome bore, often drunk and flirtatious with his colleague's wives. According to her close friend, Polina Zhemchuzhina, the marriage was strained, and the two argued frequently. On Nov. 9, 1932, after a public spat with Stalin at a party dinner, enraged at the government's collectivization policies on the peasantry, Nadezhda shot herself in her bedroom. The official announcement was that she died from appendicitis.

Murray Mednick, a pioneer of the off- and off-off-Broadway movements in the '60s and '70s and playwright-in-residence for Theater Genesis, wrote such ground-breaking works as The Hawk, The Hunter, Sand, Are You Lookin' and The Deer Kill (1970 OBIE Award for Outstanding Play), and was the founder/artistic director of the Padua Hills Playwrights Workshop/Festival in Los Angeles from 1978 to 1995. He is the recipient of two Rockefeller Foundation grants and a Guggenheim Fellowship, an American Theatre Critics Association Best New Play citation (for Joe and Betty), a Career Achievement Award from the LA Weekly, an Ovation Lifetime Achievement Award for Outstanding Contributions to Los Angeles Theater from the L.A. Stage Alliance, a Local Hero Award from Back Stage West, and the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle's Margaret Harford Award for Sustained Excellence in Theater. Last season, L.A,'s Open Fist Theatre Company produced six plays from Mednick's "Gary Plays" cycle in repertory, to audience and critical acclaim.

Mayakovsky and Stalin opens for press on July 21, with performances thereafter on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 3 p.m.through Aug. 19 (dark Friday, Aug. 17). There will be two preview performances, on Thursday, July 19 and Friday, July 20, both at 8 p.m. Tickets are$25, except ticket to previews which are $15. The Lounge Theatre is located at 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90038. For reservations and information, the public should call 323-960-4443 or go to

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