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Photo Flash: Opening Night Of THIS BEAUTIFUL CITY

The Vineyard Theatre (108 East 15th Street) presents the New York premiere of The Civilians' newest work This Beautiful City, in a co-production with Los Angeles' Center Theatre Group, with previews began February 3 prior to its official press opening February 22. Steven Cosson directs.

Written by Steven Cosson and Jim Lewis, with music and lyrics by Michael Friedman, This Beautiful City explores the growth of the evangelical Christian movement, and like The Civilians' Off-Broadway hit Gone Missing last season, This Beautiful City is docu-drama in nature, drawn principally from interviews The Civilians have conducted with people involved with or affected by the mega-church movement in Colorado Springs.

A play with music, This Beautiful City was created from interviews by Emily Ackerman, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Brad Herberlee, Stephen Plunkett, Alison Weller and the authors with actual persons over the course of 10 weeks in Colorado Springs. Every leading church in the area participated in the project, as did numerous civic organizations, progressive activists, and individuals from all walks of life.

A success at the Humana Festival of New American Plays this past spring in Louisville, Kentucky, This Beautiful City subsequently had its Los Angeles premiere at Center Theatre Group's Kirk Douglas Theatre prior to its upcoming bow at The Vineyard this winter.

The cast of This Beautiful City includes Emily Ackerman, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Brad Heberlee, Brandon Miller, Stephen Plunkett and Alison Weller, along with musicians Chris Biesterfeldt , Benjamin Campbell and Richard Huntley. Music direction is by Erik James.

The production has set design by Neil Patel, costume design by Alix Hester, lighting design by David Weiner, sound design by Ken Travis, and projection design by Jason Thompson. Choreography is by John Carrafa.

Since its founding in 2001 by Artistic Director Steven Cosson, The Civilians have created seven original shows: Canard, Canard, Goose?; The Ladies; Paris Commune; Gone Missing; (I Am) Nobody's Lunch; Shadow of Himself; and This Beautiful City. The Civilians' work has produced throughout New York and at theaters nationally including A.R.T., La Jolla Playhouse, HBO's US Comedy Festival, and Actors Theatre of Louisville. The company has also toured nationally and internationally to universities, arts presenters and festivals. The Civilians received an Obie in 2004 in recognition of its accomplishments in its first two seasons of work.

The Vineyard opened its current season with the critically acclaimed world-premiere production of Tarell Alvin McCraney's play Wig Out! which extended twice, playing to packed houses and breaking box office records that surpassed such past hits as [title of show] and Avenue Q.

Under the artistic leadership of Douglas Aibel, Vineyard Theatre has presented some of the most provocative and original new plays and musicals written for the stage in the past 27 years. The Vineyard received its first Tony Awards with Avenue Q, winner of three 2004 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Other productions of note at The Vineyard include two Pulitzer Prize-winners, Edward Albee's Three Tall Women and Paula Vogel's How I Learned to Drive; Craig Lucas' The Dying Gaul, Becky Mode's Fully Committed, After Ashley by Gina Gionfriddo, Julia Cho's The Piano Teacher, the musical The Slug Bearers of Karyol Island by Ben Katchor and Mark Mulcahy, and Christopher Shinn's Where Do We Live; as well as premieres of new works by Nicky Silver, Kirsten Childs, Polly Pen, Cornelius Eady and Doug Wright. The Vineyard's hit musical [title of show] received three OBIE awards for its creators, Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell, and its director, Michael Berresse, in 2006, transferring to Broadway this past summer.

Douglas Aibel is the Artistic Director of Vineyard Theatre; Jennifer Garvey-Blackwell is Executive Director.

Performances of This Beautiful City are set to run through March 15. Performances are Tuesdays at 7pm, Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8pm, and Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are $60. A limited number of student rush tickets are available for $20 each, two hours prior to the curtain at the box office, with a valid student ID (limit of 2 tickets per ID). For reservations and more information about The Vineyard Theatre, call 212-353-0303 or visit www.vineyardtheatre.org.

Photos by Michael Portantiere

Photo Flash: Opening Night Of THIS BEAUTIFUL CITY
Marsha Stephanie Blake, Alison Weller, and Emily Ackerman

Photo Flash: Opening Night Of THIS BEAUTIFUL CITY
Jim Lewis, Michael Friedman, and Erik James

Photo Flash: Opening Night Of THIS BEAUTIFUL CITY
Alison Weller, Brad Heberlee, Marsha Stephanie Blake and Stephen Plunkett

Photo Flash: Opening Night Of THIS BEAUTIFUL CITY
Douglas Aibel, Andrea Stiles , and Emily Ackerman

Photo Flash: Opening Night Of THIS BEAUTIFUL CITY
Marion Friedman, Steven Cosson, and Donya Washington.

Photo Flash: Opening Night Of THIS BEAUTIFUL CITY
Jennifer Garvey-Blackwell and Michael Friedman

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