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Mint Theater Announces Its 2011 Offerings

The Drama Desk and Obie Award-winning Mint Theater Company today announced its plans for 2011. First up will be Arnold Bennett's comedy, What the Public Wants, beginning January 13th through March 13th at the Mint's home in the heart of the theater district, at 311 West 43rd Street.

What The Public Wants is Arnold Bennett's sly satire on tabloid journalism - a lively look at life behind the headlines and proof that the more things change, the more they stay the same. This clever 1909 comedy charts the efforts of media mogul Sir Charles Worgan to boost circulation as well as his social standing. He owns forty different publications and claims to have "revolutionized journalism." He employs over a thousand people and is worth millions - and yet Worgan wants more - he wants respect from the "superior people" who look down their noses at him. But is he willing to pay the price?

"One of the best comedies of our time," wrote Max Beerbohm of the play's London premiere in The Saturday Review. "No one but Bernard Shaw sends up ideas as skyrockets more successfully than Mr. Bennett," wrote the Chicago Evening Post of the play's American debut in 1913.

Loosely inspired by the rise of Lord Northcliffe, founder of Britain's leading tabloid, The Daily Mail, What The Public Wants was first produced by The Stage Society in London in March 1909. "A brilliantly illuminating satire," declared The London Times, and the play promptly transferred to the West End where it was hailed as "a very amusing and often very witty farce." What The Public Wants proved so popular it was published in three different editions between 1909 and 1911.

What The Public Wants was first seen in the U.S. in 1913, when the Manchester Repertory Company toured Boston and Chicago. The Boston Globe described the play as a "delightfully clever satire, often of scintillating brilliancy, thoroughly interesting and constantly entertaining," while the Chicago Tribune praised Bennett's play as "luminous and watchful, a gem." In 1922, The Theatre Guild produced the New York premiere.

Bennett's prescient comedy has been revived numerous times in England; each time critics have commented on how the play never shows its age. "The thing that impresses one most about What The Public Wants is its curious up-to-dateness... Indeed, its purpose is all the more urgent now, since the ills of the Press, which the play diagnoses so well, have grown alarmingly, especially in the last few years," wrote The Stage. "The satire is as topical, the wit as keen, and the humor as penetrating." 100 years after it was written, Bennett's savage wit still hits the target.

There was a time, in the first quarter of the last century when Arnold Bennett was one of the world's most famous and successful authors. When he was dying, the streets beneath his window were laid with straw to deaden the noise-Bennett was the last person in London to be accorded this honor. When he died on March 27, 1931, it was front-page news in The New York Times. Only 64, he was still "in the full tide of his prodigious literary output, which had brought him more readers and more riches than any other British author." "More riches" turned out to be literally true: The Times later reported that Bennett "disposed of what is expected to rank as the largest literary fortune in history" ($500,000). Tributes came pouring in from all over the world. Today, even his most famous work "The Old Wives Tale", "Clayhanger", "These Twain" has been forgotten.

In the late 1890's, on the advice of friends, Bennett decided to try playwriting. He began with "curtain raisers," short one-acts that preceded full-length plays, but it was not until he established himself as a novelist that Bennett's playwriting career blossomed. In 1908 the Stage Society produced his first full-length play, Cupid and Commonsense, an adaptation of his 1902 novel Anna of the Five Towns. Reviews were strong, and in 1909, they produced Bennett's second play, What the Public Wants, based on his own journalistic experience.

Mint Theater Company, "that truffle hound of half-buried treasures from the past" (Village Voice), has a celebrated reputation for re-discovering worthy but neglected gems and has brought new vitality to timeless but timely plays since 1992. The Mint was awarded an Obie for "combining the excitement of discovery with the richness of tradition." Mint was awarded a special Drama Desk Award for "Unearthing, presenting and preserving forgotten plays of merit."

Next at the Mint will be A Little Journey by Rachel Crothers (May 5 to July 3, 2011), a nominee for the first Pulitzer Prize for Drama and not produced anywhere since 1918. Crothers' legacy was largely forgotten until the Mint revived Susan and God in 2006. "A voice that remains fresh," lauded The New York Times, while Terry Teachout wrote in the Wall Street Journal: "It is a major event, a pitch perfect production of a 69-year-old play whose subject matter is so modern in flavor that it could have been written last week." A Little Journey tells the story of a disillusioned young woman whose money and luck have run out. With no other options, and embittered by her personal and economic failure, she leaves New York, boarding a train at Grand Central Station where she find an unexpected chance at redemption.

In July 2011, as promised, Mint will return to the work of Teresa Deevy (Wife to James Whelan) with Temporal Powers. Winner of the Abbey Playwrighting competition in 1932, Deevy's drama ran for seven performances in 1932. The Irish Times greeted it's initial performance with the claim that it was "one of the most thoughtful works seen for some time at the Abbey," giving evidence of Deevy's "deep thought and fine powers of observation." The last line of the Time's entirely favorable review predicted that the play "should have a successful future in the Abbey repertoire." Temporal Powers was revived once, for six performances in 1937 and then disappeared entirely. Mint will present the American Premiere.

Performances for What the Public Wants will be Tuesday through Thursday at 7 PM, Friday at 8 PM, Saturday at 2 PM & 8 PM, and Sunday at 2 PM. Tickets are $40 (January 13th - 30th only) and $55 thereafter. All performances will take place on the Third Floor of 311 West 43rd Street. Advance tickets are available by calling the Mint box office at 212/315-0231 or go to www.minttheater.org.

And, introducing a new inexpensive way to discover Mint productions - CHEAP TIX: Everyone appreciates a bargain, especially these days. Mint Theater Company is now offering a limited number of seats for every performance at half-price ($27.50).


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