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'Bury the Dead' and 'Being Audrey' Part of Transport Group Season

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Transport Group, the winner of a special 2007 Drama Desk Award and a 2007 Obie Award, has announced its 2008-09 season: Bury the Dead, written by Irwin Shaw and directed by Joe Calarco, and Being Audrey, music and lyrics by Ellen Weiss, book by James Hindman, additional book and lyrics by Cheryl Stern, developed with Jack Cummings III and Adam R. Perlman, and directed by Jack Cummings III.  All performances will take place at 220 East 4 Street, between Avenues A and B.

Irwin Shaw’s harrowing 1936 classic play Bury the Dead takes place during “the second year of the war that is to begin tomorrow night.”  While a military burial detail goes about its sad duties, the dead soldiers shockingly begin to rise up, pleading not to be buried.  Word of their insurrection spreads rapidly: the dead will not yield so easily.  In a series of touching scenes the dead men talk with their loved ones of the days of living, now lost forever.  Lucille Lortel Award-Winner Joe Calarco (Shakespeare’s R & J) will direct the first major New York City revival of Shaw’s legendary anti-war play.

Bury the Dead, which will star OBIE Award winner Donna Lynne Champlin (Transport Group's The Dark at the Top of the Stairs and Marcy in the Galaxy), begins previews October 31, opens November 9, and closes November 23, 2008.

In Being Audrey, Claire Stark has it all: a beautiful life, the husband of her dreams…and a view of Bergdorf Goodman.  When her world threatens to collapse, Claire seeks refuge in a romantic adventure inspired by the films of Audrey Hepburn, but now she must make one of the most difficult decisions of her life—fantasy or reality?  Cheryl Stern (who played Mamie Eisenhower in Transport Group’s critically acclaimed production of First Lady Suite) stars in the central role of this jazz-infused musical under the direction of Jack Cummings III (Drama Desk nominee for The Audience).

Being Audrey begins previews March 27, opens April 5, and closes April 26, 2009.

Artistic director Jack Cummings III said, “I am thrilled with our eighth and most eclectic season to date.  We are continuing our deep voyage into the American psyche which I find fascinating—a psyche that seems to move backward and forward simultaneously.  Exploring this theme, we have two exhilarating productions to offer this season.  Irwin Shaw’s Bury the Dead is a classic American anti-war play that although written in 1936, remarkably feels as if it was written today given the global and domestic pressures currently facing our country.  Ellen Weiss and James Hindman’s original musical Being Audrey is a fascinating look into the joys and pitfalls of America’s favorite pastime—Hollywood icon worship.  Both productions investigate answers to the ongoing American questions: How did we get here and where are we going?”

Irwin Shaw was an American playwright, screenwriter and novelist who was also a highly regarded short story author.  He was born Irwin Gilbert Shamforoff in 1913 in the South Bronx, New York City, to Russian-Jewish immigrants.  His younger brother, David Shaw, became a noted Hollywood producer.  Shortly after Irwin’s birth, the Shamforoffs moved to Brooklyn, and Shaw changed his surname upon entering college.  He spent most of his youth in Brooklyn, where he graduated from Brooklyn College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1934.  Shaw began screenwriting in 1935 at the age of 21, and he scripted for several radio shows, including Dick Tracy, The Gumps and Studio One. He recaptured this period of his life in his short story “Main Currents of American Life,” about a hack radio writer grinding out one script after another while calculating the number of words equal to the rent money.  In 1936, Shaw’s first play, Bury the Dead, was produced.  During the 1940s, Shaw wrote for a number of films, including Talk of the Town (a comedy about civil liberties), The Commandos Strike at Dawn (based on a C.S. Forester story about commandos in occupied Norway) and Easy Living (about a football player unable to enter the game due to a medical condition).  Shaw married MarIan Edwards (daughter of well known screen actor Snitz Edwards.)  They had one son, Adam Shaw, born in 1950, himself a writer of magazine articles and non-fiction.  Shaw enlisted in the U.S. Army and was a warrant officer during World War II. 

The Young Lions, Shaw’s first novel, was published in 1949.  Based on his experiences in Europe during the war, the novel was very successful and was adapted into a 1958 film.  Although the adaptation was as faithful as could be expected of Hollywood in 1958, Shaw was not happy with it.  Shaw’s second novel, The Troubled Air, chronicling the rise of McCarthyism, was published in 1951.  He was among those who signed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the John Howard Lawson and Dalton Trumbo convictions for contempt of Congress, resulting from hearings by the House Committee on Un-American Activities.  Falsely accused of being a communist by the Red Channels publication, Shaw was placed on the Hollywood blacklist by the movie studio bosses.  In 1951 he left the United States and went to Europe, where he lived for 25 years, mostly in Paris and Switzerland.  He later claimed that the blacklist “only glancingly bruised” his career.  During the 1950s he wrote several more screenplays, including Desire Under the Elms (based on Eugene O’Neill’s play) and Fire Down Below.  While living in Europe, Shaw wrote more bestselling books, notably Lucy Crown (1956), Two Weeks in Another Town (1960), Rich Man, Poor Man (1970) (for which he would later write a less successful sequel entitled Beggarman, Thief) and Evening in Byzantium (made into a 1978 TV movie).  Rich Man, Poor Man was adapted into a highly successful ABC television miniseries in 1976.  His novel Top of the Hill, about the Winter Olympics at Lake Placid in 1980, was made into a TV movie, starring Wayne Rogers, Adrienne Barbeau, and Sonny Bono.  His last two novels were Bread Upon the Waters (1981) and Acceptable Losses (1982).  He died in 1984 after undergoing treatment for prostate cancer.

Joe Calarco is the adaptor/director of Shakespeare’s R&J, which ran for a year in New York and earned him a Lucille Lortel Award.  He also directed the play’s premieres in Chicago (five Jeff Award nominations including Best Play and Best Director) and Washington, D.C. (Helen Hayes Award nominations for Best Play and Best Director).  R&J completed a celebrated run in London’s West End in late 2003, for which he received honorable mention from the Evening Standard Awards for his direction.  He directed the Japanese premiere in Tokyo in January of 2005.  Mr. Calarco directed the critically-acclaimed world premiere of the musical Sarah, Plain and Tall at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in New York and attended the O’Neill Musical Theatre Conference in the summer of 2003 to further work on the musical.  He directed Julia Jordan’s The Summer of the Swans at the Lucille Lortel and her play Boy for Primary Stages.  He is an Artistic Associate at Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia where he directed productions of Urinetown, William Finn’s Elegies: a song cycle (three Helen Hayes nominations including Best Musical), the world premiere of Norman Allen’s Nijinsky’s Last Dance (4 Helen Hayes Awards including Best Play and Best Director), Side Show (four Helen Hayes Awards including Best Musical and Best Director), and the world premiere of his own play, in the absence of spring, which premiered in New York at Second Stage as the inaugural production of their New Plays Uptown series, under his own direction.  He directed the national tour of Ring of Fire.  Regional credits include: The Burnt Part Boys (Barrington Stage Company), The Glass Menagerie (starring Mare Winningham) and Lincolnesque (The Old Globe), M Butterfly and The Last Five Years (Philadelphia Theatre Company, Barrymore nomination for Best Director, win for Best Musical), Elegies: a song cycle (also at PTC, seven Barrymore nominations, two wins: best musical director and best ensemble of a musical), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare Theatre), My Fair Lady and Of Mice and Men (The Hangar Theatre), Edward II, Suddenly Last Summer, To Kill A Mockingbird, Keely & Du, Educating Rita, How I Got That Story, Goodnight Desdemona, Goodmorning Juliet, Babes In Arms, and Godspell.  He directed Twice Charmed: an original twist on the Cinderella story for Disney Creative Entertainment, and the premiere of The Mistress Cycle for the New York Musical Theatre Festival for which he also directed a reading of the musical Liberty Smith. 

He also recently directed a presentation of Meet John Doe for the National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT).  As a writer, his adaptation of Antigone was workshopped at the National Theatre in London.  He was a contributor to The Audience, conceived and directed by Jack Cummings III for Transport Group.  He is writing the book for the musicAl Golden Gate for Second Stage and the book for the musical The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, which had its West End premiere in conjunction with Mercury Musical Developments in London and was recently seen at Barrington Stage Company under his direction.  He served as resident playwright at Expanded Arts, Inc. for two years.  He has been Joseph Papp artist in residence at Second Stage, is one of New York Theatre Workshop’s “usual suspects,” is a Drama League directing fellow, and a graduate of Ithaca College.

 

In 2006, Ellen Weiss wrote the original vocal and harmonica score for Transport Group’s revival of the play All The Way Home.  In 2005, she was one of the writers for the company’s historic production of The Audience, nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Musical.  A member of the Lehman Engle B.M.I. Advanced Musical Theatre Workshop and a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University Drama Dept., her other works include Memorable, (director Larry Fuller) presented by the York Theater Company, The Little Match Girl, Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, Requiem for William (director Jack Cummings III).  Her songs have been recorded and performed by renowned Broadway Stars Donna Murphy, Daisy Egan, Barbara Walsh, Brent Barret, Stephen Bogardus, Danny Burstein, Sarah Uriarte Berry and the late Laurie Beechman.  Ellen’s CD Sapphire Streams: Songs of Samba and Swing includes the world famous Brazilian guitarist Romero Lubambo and New York VoicesDarmon Meader’s saxophone and Lauren Kinhan’s amazing vocals.

 

James Hindman is currently performing on Broadway in the new Disney Musical, Mary Poppins.  He wrote and conceived Pete ‘n’ Keely which received an Outer Critics Circle Award nomination (Best Off-Broadway Musical) and two Drama Desk nominations.  He also received a Drama Desk nomination for his contribution to the Off Broadway musical, The Audience.  He co-wrote A Christmas Survival Guide and Heaven Help Us which premiered at Florida Stage (Carbonell Award Nom.) and The Denver Theatre Center.  He co-wrote I Love New York (Bistro Award).  His plays, Incubus (Riverside Theatre Award) and Mercada (accepted: NY Fringe Festival, Vineyard Theatre reading), are currently being developed at The Lark Play Development Center.  He also co-wrote Are We There Yet? which has been performed around the country including productions at Westchester Broadway Theatre and Queens Theatre In The Park.  Currently he is working on a new musical Coming To America which had its first production at Kalliope Stage in Cleveland, OH.  He and co-writer Ray Roderick were commissioned to develop a show for Busch Gardens Theme Park.  As an actor, James' Broadway and touring credits include: The Scarlet Pimpernel, 1776, City of Angels, A Grand Night for Singing, Once Upon a Mattress, Falsettos, Dancing at Lughnasa, Cats and Joseph... Off-Broadway: The Foreigner, First Lady Suite, A Man Of No Importance, Bat Boy, Merrily We Roll Along, Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah and Surviving Grace.  Television: The Sopranos, Law and Order (all three).

 

As an actress, Cheryl Stern has appeared on Broadway with Cynthia Nixon, Jennifer Tilly and Kristen Johnston in The Women ( Roundabout; filmed for PBS), Candide (NY City Opera) and was featured with Jackie Mason in Laughing Room Only.  Off Broadway, Cheryl recently starred as Alice B. Toklas in 27 Rue de Fleurus.  She won critical acclaim in the Drama Desk nominated production of First Lady Suite at Transport Group.  Other Off Broadway credits include Requiem for William (also at Transport Group), I Love You, You’re Perfect.., Game Show, That’s Life! and The Immigrant.  She has appeared in first national tours of A Grand Night for Singing, Les Miserables, Evita and Fiddler on the Roof.  Cheryl also created the leading role of Maryanne in Hats! at the New Denver Civic Theatre.  As a writer, credits include Transport Group productions of Normal (starring Barbara Walsh), The Audience, and Requiem for William.  Other writing credits include Are We There Yet?, a new revue written with Jim Hindman, Ray Roderick and John Glaudini which had it’s New York area premiere at the Westchester Broadway Theatre and is now being performed regionally, The Gene Game (EST), That’s Life! (contributing writer of the Off Broadway revue) - Outer Critic’s Nom, Buffalonia (solo performance, EST), Carnival of the Animals (new verses for Cleveland Orchestra), In the Cracks (Triad, CNBC’s America’s Talkin’), Littlest Light on the Christmas Tree (Vital Theatre), and A Christmas Survival Guide (contributing lyricist; Samuel French).

Founded in 2001, Transport Group, under the leadership of Jack Cummings III, artistic director, and Lori Fineman, executive director, is a not-for-profit theatre company that develops and produces work by American Playwrights and composers with the aim of exploring the American consciousness in the 20th and 21st centuries.  Transport Group presented its premiere production in 2002: Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, which featured older actors in the roles of Emily and George and a twelve-year-old girl as the Stage Manager.  Its second production, Requiem for William, an evening of seven seldom produced plays by William Inge, that featured a cast of 26 as well as original songs, premiered in 2003.  In 2004 the company presented the first New York revival of Michael John LaChiusa’s First Lady Suite, which received rave reviews, played to sold-out houses, and earned two Drama Desk Award nominations including outstanding revival of a musical.  Recent productions include the world premiere of the musical The Audience, which featured a cast of 46 actors and earned three Drama Desk Award nominations, including outstanding musical; Normal, a new musical about a mother’s battle to save her daughter from anorexia; cul-de-sac, a new play by Tony Award nominee John Cariani; the first New York revival of Tad Mosel’s Pulitzer Prize play, All the Way Home; the 50th anniversary, Obie-winning production of William Inge’s The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, and the world premiere musicals Crossing Brooklyn and Marcy in the Galaxy.  Transport Group is the winner of a special 2007 Drama Desk Award for its “breadth of vision and its presentation of challenging productions.”

Transport Group productions play at 220 East 4 Street, between Avenues A & B (6 to Astor Place, W/N to 8th Street or F/V to Second Avenue).  Tickets will be available at www.transportgroup.org or by phoning (212) 560-4372 or TheaterMania at (212) 352-3101.  For more information about Transport Group, visit www.transportgroup.org


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