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TFANA Presents Bill Camp In Samuel Beckett's FIRST LOVE

Premiering this Thursday, February 25.

TFANA Presents Bill Camp In Samuel Beckett's FIRST LOVE

Theatre for a New Audience presents First Love, a theatricalization for Zoom of Samuel Beckett's short story of the same name, directed by six-time OBIE winner JoAnne Akalaitis and performed by Tony and Emmy Award nominee Bill Camp (Broadway: Death of a Salesman, The Crucible; TV: The Queen's Gambit, The Night Of). The creative team includes Eamonn Farrell (Video Design), Jennifer Tipton (Lighting Design) and Kaye Voyce (Scenic and Costume Design).

First Love is Camp's fifth production with TFANA, following Measure for Measure; Macbeth; Howard Brenton's Sore Throats; and Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground, adapted by Camp and Robert Woodruff. It is Akalaitis' second collaboration with the company, preceded by The Iphigenia Cycle: Euripides' Iphigenia in Aulis and Iphigenia in Taurus, which originated at Chicago's Court Theatre.

Described by novelist John Banville as "the most nearly perfect short story ever written," First Love is the confession of a Dublin man, one of literature's great loners, expelled from home and hearth after the death of his beloved father. He confides in us the highs and lows of living rough, the charms of Europe's various graveyards, and his obsession with Lulu, the woman who, against his will, once inflamed his desire and brought him in from the cold. With Swiftian wit and savage compassion, Beckett captures the strange contortions-and the tragedy-of a solitary nature trapped in the toils of love.

This remote collaboration between Akalaitis and Camp embraces the constraints of Zoom to present a work whose author's timeless, placeless visions of confinement, repetition, and alienation have reached chilling new levels of familiarity. Having worked together on Beckett Shorts at New York Theatre Workshop in 2007, they undertook First Love after, as Akalaitis describes, "the self-imposed retreat" of the pandemic fortuitously led her back to a book of Beckett shorts that had long sat untouched on her shelf. Many years ago, she had taught the story to her students at Bard, emphasizing, "One of you should make this into a work of theater!" After re-experiencing the text, written by Beckett in the immediate aftermath of World War II, Akalaitis began discussing First Love with Camp in the summer of 2020. They proposed to Horowitz that First Love be adapted for Zoom. The Beckett Estate agreed, provided no text was cut.

An upstairs room in Camp's family's home in Vermont is the sole setting for the entirety of the piece. The creative team includes lighting designer Jennifer Tipton, costume designer Kaye Voce, and video designer Eamonn Farrell, who also designed Ashley Tata's innovative Zoom production of Caryl Churchill's Mad Forest, produced by the Fisher Center at Bard and co-presented by TFANA in Spring 2020.

Akalaitis observed, "If theaters opened up tomorrow, I wouldn't do this on the stage: it's made specifically for Zoom and our times, and very do-it-yourself. Part of my wanting to do it is to acknowledge that the world has changed. One of the big game players in cultural change was Samuel Beckett, to whom I owe so much. It just felt right to put this work by a young, war-damaged Beckett-this mean-spirited, mordant, misanthropic piece from the point of view of this fucked up, misogynist character-in the hermetic setting of Zoom."

Jeffrey Horowitz said, "Samuel Beckett is an indispensable part of TFANA's offerings. In 2012, we presented Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord Fragments, five texts by Samuel Beckett, directed by Peter Brook and Marie-Hélène Estienne. In 2017, we offered Yale Repertory Theatre's production of Happy Days, with Dianne Wiest directed by James Bundy. And in 2020, when the pandemic shut us down, rehearsals were about to begin for Waiting for Godot, with Michael Shannon and Paul Sparks directed by Arin Arbus; we'll return to Godot on stage when theaters reopen. It's exciting now to continue TFANA's commitment to Beckett with this virtual exploration of First Love."

Live TFANA Talks events with Bill Camp, JoAnne Akalaitis, and the artistic team, moderated by Alisa Solomon of TFANA's Council of Scholars, will take place at 8:45pm on February 25 and 26. Information on how to participate can be found at tfana.org.

Since theaters closed during the pandemic, TFANA has been exploring the potentials of digital performance, offering new ways of experiencing works by contemporary and classical playwrights. Following its co-presentation of Mad Forest last Spring, the company in Fall 2020 supported the continued development of Mary Kathryn Nagle's Sovereignty with two live virtual explorations of her work, kicking off its Artists & Community series. In January 2021, TFANA, the Royal Shakespeare Company, and the Young Vic co-presented a heralded live-streamed concert that began an investigation into the 1939 A Midsummer Night's Dream-based Broadway musical Swingin' the Dream. Later in January, as part of the Artists & Community series, TFANA offered the new collaboration between director Arin Arbus and actor John Douglas Thompson: an exploration of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, featuring a diverse ensemble of actors. These Merchant readings shared the company's first steps toward a full production by TFANA.

TFANA's new Artists & Community series explores vital connections between the theatre and our world. Artists & Community projects embrace a spirit of inquiry and discovery and take varying forms, from livestreams to podcasts. All artists and other participants are compensated. The Series includes plays and sections of plays by Shakespeare and a range of diverse authors and composers complemented by post-performance discussions.

The Artists & Community series is presented under the auspices of the Merle Debuskey Studio Program. The program is named for Merle Debuskey, legendary press agent and longtime TFANA Board Member and advocate, through a bequest from his estate.

Debuskey was an influential force on and off Broadway for decades, notably as chief promoter of Joseph Papp's Public Theater and Shakespeare in the Park. He represented hundreds of shows, including the Broadway hits How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, A Chorus Line, and Jesus Christ Superstar. He served as President of the Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers for many years.

First Love premieres February 25 at 7pm EST on Vimeo. After the premiere, the recording will be available to watch until March 1 at 7pm EST. Admissions is free but registration is required. Visit www.tfana.org.


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