Ensemble Studio Theatre Presents WHITE PEOPLE, 2/16-3/13

By: Feb. 16, 2011
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You start writing a play in your late 20s when you are a struggling New York playwright, working as the literary manager of the Ensemble Studio Theater (EST) . This is your family play, a dark comedy of love, hate, prejudice, and alcohol, but you are in way over your dramatic head - the play doesn't work, so you abandon it. Then you spend a couple of decades in the Hollywood wars, writing and rewriting screenplays (and being rewritten). When you've had enough, you come home to New York, where you find the old play... but now you know exactly what it needs.

"This play has two authors," says the playwright, Neil Cuthbert. "Me at 30 and me at 59. The 30 year old vividly remembered all the details of this life. The 59 year old knew how to shape them into a play. Before I was the age of the kids... Now I'm the age of the parents."

The play was born at EST, and Mr. Cuthbert wanted it to return there.

White People, a comedy by Neil Cuthbert and Neil Cuthbert, directed by Michael Barakiva, begins previews at the Ensemble Studio Theatre, 549 West 52nd Street, Wednesday, February 16, at 7:00pm for an opening Monday, February 21, at 7:00pm and a run through Sunday, March 13. "Coming back to the Ensemble Studio Theatre is a kind of homecoming for Neil but not the kind where your parents smile at you but really don't want you living in the basement," said EST Artistic Director William Carden, whose history at EST is as long as Mr. Cuthbert's. "He belongs here and so do his plays."

Set on a single day in 1975 the play is a bruising family comedy in which the long repressed conflicts of a middle class WASP family finally explode. The father is drinking again; the son has moved home to write an epic science fiction novel; the daughter receives a visit from a mysterious stranger; and the domineering racist grandmother comes for lunch on the wrong day.

"Two decades of watching my work being brutally rewritten (sometimes by the producer's relatives) into movies I could not bear to watch sent me running back to my roots as a playwright, where the script belongs to the writer," Mr. Cuthbert said. "Developing, finishing and premiering this play at EST really is like coming home. EST has weathered some tough blows in the last few years, including the tragic death of our founder. No one expected the company to survive, but now it is coming back strong. It is a great American Theater."

Cast in White People are James Demarse, Cecilia DeWolf, David Gelles, Delphi Harrington, Matthew Minor, Mickey Solis and Jennifer Joan Thompson. Sets are by Maiko Chii, costumes by SuzAnne Chesney, lighting by Cat Tate Starmer, sound by Matt Sherwin and props by Sylviane Jacobson. Joshua Scherr is the production stage manager.

Mr. Cuthbert has written screenplays for most of the major studios and is credited on three, Hocus Pocus, Mystery Men, and "his murdered child" The Adventures of Pluto Nash. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America, the Writers Guild East and PEN USA.

For television he has written pilots and episodes for CBS, Showtime, and NBC. He recently moved back to the east coast with his wife, painter and EST member Wende Dasteel. His new plays include Preston, White People, The Boss, and Bar Play Night.

The Ensemble Studio Theatre www.ensemblestudiotheatre.org was founded on the belief that extraordinary support yields extraordinary work. It is a dynamic and expanding family of member artists committed to the discovery and nurturing of new voices and the continued support and growth of artists throughout their creative lives. Through its unique collaborative process it develops and produces original, provocative and authentic new plays that engage and challenge its audience and audiences across the country. Ensemble Studio Theatre's 500+ community of member artists include winners of accolades and higher awards including Pulitzer Prizes, Oscars, Tonys, Emmys, and Obies. The Ensemble Studio Theatre is a lifelong artistic home for its member playwrights, directors, actors, designers, technical personnel and administrators. Each year, the Ensemble produces over 300 projects, including readings, workshops, and fully produced mainstage full-lengths.

Box Office
Post opening, tickets are $30, $15 tickets for students/senior. Previews are pick your own price. Tickets may be ordered at www.ensemblestudiotheatre.org or 866-811-4111. Performances are generally Wednesday through Saturday and Monday evenings at 7:00pm with matinees Saturdays at 2:00pm and Sundays at 3:00pm except March 6, when the matinee is 5:00pm.


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