Austin Pendleton to Direct Michael Weller's JERICHO Reading at Abingdon

Abingdon Theatre Company continues its Ghostlight Reading Series with JERICHO by Michael Weller on Monday, December 19 at 7pm. The reading is free and open to the public at Abingdon Theatre Company's June Havoc Theatre (312 West 36th Street). Austin Pendleton is set to direct.

Jericho is an adaptation of Ferenc Molnar's play Liliom. Written in 1909, the play was an international sensation and is widely held as a masterpiece in Europe. Originally set in Budapest, the story centers around a cocky and charismatic carousel barker. It played on Broadway in 1921 and in 1939, Orson Welles performed the title role and directed a radio adaptation co-starring Helen Hayes and Agnes Moorehead. In 1940, a second American stage revival was produced in New York City, starring Burgess Meredith, Ingrid Bergman and Elia Kazan. Most famously, Molnar's Liliom served as the inspiration for the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel, which moved the narrative out of Budapest and into Maine during the end of the 19th century. Jericho is Michael Weller's attempt to locate Molnar's story more accurately in an American time and place-depression era Coney Island-and to confront the notion of love expressed as violence.

Playwright Michael Weller studied music composition at Brandeis University, then worked as a jazz pianist before taking his graduate degree in theater at the University of Manchester, England. His best-known plays are Moonchildren, Fishing, Loose Ends and Spoils of War. His films include "Hair" and "Ragtime" and a teleplay of "Spoils of War." He co-founded (with Angelina Fiordelissi and Suzanne Brinkley) the Mentor Project of the Cherry Lane Theatre and currently serves as a supervising mentor. Mr. Weller's work has received an Academy Award nomination, an N.A.A.C.P. Outstanding Contribution Award, Critics Outer Circle Award, a Rockefeller Foundation Grant and a Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays Award, and has been honored by The Broken Watch Theatre Company which gave their playhouse his name. He is on the counsel of the Writer's Guild Fund and the Dramatists Guild of America. He lives in Brooklyn.

At Abingdon, Austin Pendleton directed and starred in Robert Brustein's The Last Will. He has most recently been represented as a director in New York by A Taste of Honey (Pearl Theatre) and A Day by the Sea (Mint Theater), and as an actor in New York in City Girls and Desperadoes (by Pamela Enz, Secret Theatre) and Straight White Men (written and directed by Young Jean Lee, at The Public Theater). In Boston, he is currently represented as a director at New Rep by Fiddler on the Roof. In the original production of Fiddler on the Roof, directed by Jerome Robbins, he made his Broadway debut playing the role of Motel the Tailor. His acting appearances at New Rep have been King Lear (a role he will soon reprise at the Secret Theatre in New York), Waiting for Godot and Quills. He has written and published three plays, two of which, Orson's Shadow and Uncle Bob have been produced in New York, around the country and internationally. His third play, Booth starring Frank Langella has also played in New York and around the country. Additionally, he also wrote the libretto for the musical A Minister's Wife, adapted from Shaw's Candida, with music by Josh Schmidt and lyrics by Jan Tranen. A Minister's Wife played at the Newhouse Theater in Lincoln Center. He has appeared in approximately 200 movies, including "What's Up Doc," "My Cousin Vinny," "A Beautiful Mind," "Mr. and Mrs. Bridge," "The Mend," and "Wall Street: The Money Never Sleeps." Other recent New York acting appearances include Mother Courage (with Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline) and Romeo and Juliet (with Lauren Ambrose and Oscar Isaac), both at the Delacorte in Central Park. He teaches acting at HB Studio in New York.

With an eye towards production-ready scripts, The Ghostlight Reading Series provides an opportunity for writers, directors and collaborators to share the work with an audience before transitioning into production. By focusing on scripts that that reflect our social, political, historical and cultural diversity, Abingdon aims to become a destination for artists grappling with big questions.

A ghost light is defined as "an electric light that is left energized on the stage of a theater when the theater is unoccupied and would otherwise be completely dark." This new series aims to maximize usage of the two theaters onsite at Abingdon, the 98-seat June Havoc and the 56-seat Dorothy Strelsin, and energize the momentum of a new work.

Abingdon Theatre Company launches its 2017 mainstage season in January with the world premiere of The Mother of Invention, written by James Lecesne (The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey) and directed by Tony Speciale. In March, Abingdon's 24th Season continues with the world premiere of Chess Match, conceived and directed by Anne Bogart, text arranged by Jocelyn Clarke from the words of John Cage, created by Siti Company. In April, Abingdon will break new ground by presenting its first mainstage musical, The Boy Who Danced on Air, music by Tim Rosser and book and lyrics by Charlie Sohne, recipients of a 2015 Jonathan Larson Grant.

Abingdon Theatre Company is dedicated to developing and producing new work by emerging and established American artists. Under the artistic direction of Tony Speciale, the company provides a safe home where playwrights, directors and actors can collaborate within a supportive and nurturing environment. Abingdon Theatre Company searches for stories about the human experience that reflect our social, political, historical and cultural diversity. To date, the company has collaborated with more than 200 playwrights, produced 87 New York and world-premiere plays, presented more than 700 readings, staged over 175 ten-minute plays, and commissioned 6 one-act plays. Notable artists who have worked with Abingdon Theatre Company include Carl Andress, Bryan Batt, Reed Birney, Robert Brustein, Mario Cantone, Maxwell Caulfield, Dick Cavett, John Epperson, Jane Greenwood, Arthur Kopit, Ralph Macchio, Roberta Maxwell, Iddo Netanyahu, Nancy Opel, Austin Pendleton, Sam Pinkleton, Marcia Rodd and Mark Waldrop. Abingdon's 2014 production of Brian Richard Mori's Hellman v. McCarthy, directed by founding artistic director Jan Buttram, was filmed and presented by WNET as part of its inaugural Theatre Close-Up series. abingdontheatre.org

The Ghostlight Reading Series reading of Michael Weller's JERICHO, directed by Austin Pendleton, is set for Monday, December 19 at 7pm at Abingdon's June Havoc Theatre (312 West 36th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues). The reading is free and open to the public. Reservations are required, and seating is subject to availability. For more information, visit www.abingdontheatre.org.



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