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25th Anniversary Production Of ORSON'S SHADOW Comes to Theatre For the New City

Performances run March 14 to 31.

By: Feb. 23, 2024
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From March 14 to 31, Theater for the New City (TNC), in association with Oberon Theatre Ensemble and Strindberg Rep, will present the 25th Anniversary presentation of "Orson's Shadow" by Austin Pendleton, directed by the author. It is the first time Mr. Pendleton has directed his own work. Theater for the New City encourages authors to direct their own work because it ensures that their philosophy and values are kept intact. TNC is a playground for emerging writers in which they can express divergent views, sometimes unique to themselves, because later productions will allow the director's view to influence the work.

"Orson's Shadow," based on true events, takes place on the stage of the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin and later on the stage of The Royal Court Theatre. In his declining years, Orson Welles is directing a production of Eugène Ionesco's "Rhinoceros," starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Plowright. Olivier is fresh from his triumphant theatrical portrayal of vaudevillian Archie Rice in John Osborne's "The Entertainer" and is about to reprise the role in its film adaptation. He and Plowright are in the early stages of a romantic liaison and his tumultuous marriage to Vivien Leigh is all but ended. The noted critic Kenneth Tynan becomes entangled in the conflicts between Welles, Olivier, and Leigh, adding tension and complexity to their relationships and influencing their decisions and perceptions. The play debates the merits of stage versus screen, the internal struggle that theatrical performers endure when contemplating a leap to films, and the ways the studio system frustrated the careers of individual artists. It is also a study of theatrical egos, each of the protagonists living more on the stage than in real life, each one feeling insecure while jockeying for power.

The piece received critical note during its first production at Steppenwolf in 2000 and its New York debut at Barrow Street Theater in 2005. Its sharp writing and engaging performances contributed to its favorable reception, establishing it as a noteworthy work in contemporary theater. Since that time, Mr. Pendleton has worked on the play, making revisions and further developing the script.

Austin Pendleton is an actor, a director, a playwright and a teacher of acting at HB Studio in New York, where he studied with Uta Hagen and Herbert Berghof.  His other plays include "Booth" and "Uncle Bob." All his plays have been published and produced extensively. "Booth" explores the life and relationships of the Booth family, particularly focusing on the famous actor Edwin Booth and his troubled brother, John Wilkes Booth, who infamously assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. "Uncle Bob" revolves around the relationship between a young man named Josh and his eccentric uncle, Bob. It explores themes of family, sexuality, morality, and the complexities of human relationships with humor, depth, and emotional resonance. Pendleton's first Broadway appearance was as Motel in the original cast of Fiddler on the Roof; his first off-Broadway appearance was in "Oh Dad, Poor Dad..." by Arthur Kopit.  Both of these were directed by Jerome Robbins.  He is a member of the Ensemble in Chicago's Steppenwolf Theater.  He has appeared in several hundred movies and on TV in such shows as "Homicide," "Oz" and "Law and Order."   He has directed Tony-nominated shows on Broadway ("Spoils of War," "The Little Foxes") and directed extensively at other theaters, notably the Williamstown Theatre Festival, where he apprenticed and got his start under the guidance of its Artistic Director, Nikos Psacharopoulos

He writes, "I've worked several times over the years at Theater for the New City.  Every single one of those times I had a productive, enriching, and exciting time.  Crystal provides loving, comprehensive, and  productively stern support.  It's wonderful just knowing that her theater is THERE.  And I've never seen a show there, either, that wasn't eminently worth seeing."

The actors are Brad Fryman as Orson Welles, Ryan Tramont as Laurence Olivier, Patrick Hamilton as Kenneth Tynan, Luke Hofmaier as Sean, the Stage Manager; Natalie Menna as Vivien Leigh and Kim Taff as Joan Plowright

Lighting Design is by Alexander Bartenieff. Costume Design is by Billy Little. Sound Design is by Nick Moore. David Schweitzer is co-director. Mark Karafin is Assistant Director and Company Manager. Jose Ruiz is Stage Manager.



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