Rachel Axler Makes Her Off B'way Playwriting Debut In SMUDGE, Opens 1/11/2010

Rachel Axler Makes Her Off B'way Playwriting Debut In SMUDGE, Opens 1/11/2010

Two-time Emmy Award-winning comedy writer Rachel Axler will make her off Broadway playwriting debut at the NEA-rejected Women's Project with Smudge, a dark comedy directed by Pam Mackinnon about the changing face of the American family and the limits of love and cheesecake. Smudge features Cassie Beck, Greg Keller and Brian Sgambati.

Smudge begins previews at Women's Project, Julie Crosby, Producing Artistic Director, 424West 55th Street, Sunday, January 3, at 3:00pm, opens Monday, January 11, at 7:00pm for a scheduled run through February 7.

Rachel Axler is currently a staff writer of NBC's hit comedy series "Parks & Recreation" and won her two Emmy Awards for her work as a staff writer on "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart.

Smudge is centered on a hopeful young couple who give birth to a smudge and was inspired by "the most horrible thought" Ms. Axler ever had.

"Probably a good topic for a play," Ms. Axler said. "I think most of my plays are hybrids, with comic dialogue and darker, or more serious, themes."

(Ms. Axler expands on her horrible thought, Smudge and life as the only woman on a otherwise all male, late-nite comedy writing staff at www.womensproject.org/Smudge_playwright.html.)

(The New York Times's Bill Carter writes about the women writers of late-nite TV, or rather the absence of women writers in late-nite TV, in his November 11, 2009 business page report: www.nytimes.com/2009/11/12/business/media/12women.html?scp=1&sq=comedy+writers&st=nyt.)

"I first read Rachel Axler's dark comedy Smudge on an Amtrak train returning from Boston," said Women's Project's Producing Artistic Director. "The play is uproariously funny, yet so dark that at times I found myself trying not to laugh aloud. I failed, and the other passengers on the train kept turning their heads. Rachel Axler thinks and writes like no other playwright today. Smudge is not for the faint of heart or closed of mind."

Narelle Sissons is designing the scenery, Clint Ramos, costumes, Russell Champa, lights, and Asa Wember, sound.

Box Office
Single tickets for Smudge are $52.00 and are on sale now at www.Telecharge.com or 212.239.6200. Member Tickets $15.00 at membership@womensproject.org or 212.765.2105. For groups of nine or more, tickets are $25.00 at membership@womensproject.org or 212.765.2105

Background
In 2008, Cassie Beck was featured in two shows at Playwrights Horizon, Prayer for My Enemy and Drunken City, for which Ms. Beck won a Theatre World Award winner. Greg Keller was seen on Broadway in Uncle Vanya and seen Off Broadway in another Anton Chekhov play, The Seagull at Classic Stage Company. Brian Sgambati was seen in the Signature Theatre Company's 2006 production of Landscape of the Body and on Broadway in all three parts of The Coast of Utopia and King Lear, both at Lincoln Center Theater.

Rachel Axler is a playwright and Emmy-winning television writer. Her play, Archaeology, premiered at The Kitchen Theatre in 2009. Other plays of hers have been developed through The Lark Play Development Center, Manhattan Theatre Club, The Playwrights Foundation and the Eugene O'Neill National Playwrights Conference. Rachel has held fellowships at The Dramatists Guild and The Lark, and is currently working on commissioned plays for South Coast Rep and Lincoln Center Theater. Humor pieces of hers have been published in The New York Times, In Character and two editions of Monologues for Women, By Women.

Pam Mackinnon directed the world premieres of Jason Grote's Maria/Stuart (Woolly Mammoth) and Richard Greenberg's Our Mother's Brief Affair (South Coast Rep); productions of Adrian Hall's adaptation of Penn Warren's All The King's Men (Intiman), Lanford Wilson's Burn This (Juilliard) and Richard Dresser's Below the Belt (ACT-Seattle) She most recently directed the world premiere productions of Cusi Cram's A Lifetime Burning (Primary Stages) with Jennifer Westfeldt and John Patrick Shanley's Savage in Limbo (Juilliard). Click www.womensproject.org/Smudge_creativeteam.html for more background.

Women's Project (WP) produces theater created by women, providing a forum for women's perspectives on political, social, and cultural topics. Now under the direction of Producing Artistic Director Julie Crosby, WP was founded in 1978 by Julia Miles to address the conspicuous under-representation of women theater artists in the professional theater. During its 32 years, countless artists have achieved significant recognition through WP productions, including Anne Bogart, Eve Ensler, Maria Irene Fornes, Lynn Nottage, Suzan-Lori Parks, Leigh Silverman, and Anna Deavere Smith, among the many. WP has staged over 600 mainstage productions and developmental projects, and published ten anthologies of plays by women. In 1998, WP purchased a historic off-Broadway venue on Manhattan's West 55th Street, making WP the first and only women's theater company to hold the keys to its own stage.

The National Endowment for the Arts in Washington, D.C. is no longer funding Women's Project's development of female playwrights and directors, perhaps figuring that Women's Project, coming off its most successful seasons in recent history (Freshwater, Aliens with Extraordinary Skills, crooked, Sand) and this year's hit extended by popular demand, Or, by Liz Duffy Adams, can create great theater by women without Federal support or stimulation. (Women's Project was also rejected for NEA stimulus money and therefore no woman's job was saved by the Federal government.) Have no doubt, Women's Project will present women theater artists no matter how the winds blow in Washington.

Following Smudge on the Women's Project's stage is Lascivious Something, Sheila Callaghan's tale of an American and his young Greek bride who escape to an island, plant a small vineyard and are visited by an uninvited, fractious American woman. Lascivious Something, presented in association with Cherry Lane Theatre, is directed by Daniella Topol and runs May 2 through June 6.

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