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'Tobacco Road' Now Playing at La Jolla Playhouse Through 10/26


The cast and creative team have been assembled for the gritty, provocative 1930s drama Tobacco Road, which ran on Broadway from December 4, 1933 to May 31,1941, the longest Broadway run ever at the time. Today, 75 years since it opened, it remains the second-longest running drama in Broadway history, second only to Life with Father. It plays September 30 through October 26, 2008 in the Mandell Weiss Forum at La Jolla Playhouse.

Tobacco Road’s savage humor, religiosity and bold sexuality shocked Depression-era audiences and critics alike when it was first dramatized for the stage in 1933 by Jack Kirkland. It was based on Erskine Caldwell’s novel, Tobacco Road, published in 1932. 

Rarely performed since then, La Jolla Playhouse’s searing and modern production promises to astound a new generation with its emotionally gripping and glaringly truthful look at humanity.  In a ramshackle farm in Georgia during the Great Depression, the Lester family has become squatters on their own land. With no money, fuel or seed, their future on the farm seems hopeless. Unmoved by his wife’s pleas for a new life in the city, his daughter’s misery with her lecherous new husband, or his son’s questionable love affair with a traveling female preacher, stubborn patriarch Jeeter isn’t going anywhere. Their unbearable hunger and desperation causes a shattering endgame, in which a final act of compassion outshines the meanness of their lives.  

Director David Schweizer makes his debut at the Playhouse with Tobacco Road, following his long and successful directing career with productions like Horizon, Boys from Syracuse and Wintertime. Schweizer will direct this searing portrait of the darker side of humanity and the perseverance of love, infusing it with resonance for modern audiences. 

The cast features: Lucy Ann Albert (Grandma), Catherine Curtin (Sister Bessie), Kate Dalton (Ellie May), Mary Deaton (Pearl), John Fleck (Jeeter Lester), Joel J. Gelman (George Payne), Jan Leslie Harding (Ada Lester), Jesse MacKinnon (Henry Peabody), Chris Reed (Lov Bensey), Sam Rosen (Dude Lester), and Josh Wade (Captain Tim, u/s Dude).

Directed by David Schweizer, Sound Design and Composition by Shahrokh Yadegari, Lighting Design by Christopher Akerlind, Voice and Dialect Coached by Annie Hinton, the Fight Master is George Yé, Dramaturgy by Gabriel Greene, Stage Manager is Anjee Nero, and the Assistant Stage Manager is Annette Yé.

“Tobacco Road is no-holds-barred theater that fascinated 1930s audiences in part because it commented on their precarious depression era lifestyle in a provocative and surprising way,” explained Schweizer. “Once again, now, it has intense contemporary relevance, in fact, it couldn’t be more timely given our current economic crises. Yet, there is also something about the play’s portrait of survival and human resourcefulness –scrappy, cunning human resourcefulness in the face of unbearable odds- that I find inspiring.”

La Jolla Playhouse Artistic Director, Christopher Ashley, said “Seventy five years after it premiered on Broadway, Tobacco Road remains an incredibly relevant work, one that deserves to be re-discovered by a new generation” said. “I’m thrilled to welcome director David Schweizer to the Playhouse. His incisive and bold vision for the play takes the world of 1930s Georgia sharecroppers and plants it firmly in our modern consciousness.”

Preview performances begin September 30, and Tobacco Road officially opens October 5. It closes October 26, 2008.

The lead sponsor of Tobacco Road is American Express.  The Co-sponsor is Northern Trust.  Media sponsors include KPBS and Jazz 88.3 FM.  La Jolla Playhouse receives support from the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture.

PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE: Tuesdays @ 7:30 pm / Wednesdays @ 7:30 pm / Thursdays @ 8:00 pm / Fridays @ 8:00 pm / Saturdays @ 2:00 pm (no Saturday matinee during first preview week) & 8:00 pm / Sundays @ 2:00 pm & 7:00 pm

Single ticket prices range from $29 to $62. To purchase: call (858) 550-1010 or go online to

This production contains adult content and graphic language.

The nationally acclaimed, Tony Award-winning La Jolla Playhouse is known for its tradition of creating the most exciting and adventurous new work in regional theatre. Led by Artistic Director Christopher Ashley, the Playhouse was founded in 1947 by Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire and Mel Ferrer, and is now considered one of the most well respected not-for-profit theatres in Southern California. During the tenure of Director Emeritus Des McAnuff, numerous Playhouse productions moved to Broadway, including The Farnsworth Invention, Big River, The Who’s Tommy, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, A Walk in the Woods, Dracula, Billy Crystal’s 700 Sundays, the Pulitzer Prize-winning I Am My Own Wife, and the currently-running Jersey Boys.

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