Vinie Burrows Joins The Cast Of Mint Theater's World Premiere CHEKHOV/TOLSTOY: LOVE STORIES
Mint Theater Company Producing Artistic Director Jonathan Bank today announced the first cast member for the World Premiere pairing of Chekhov/Tolstoy: Love Stories, a program of short plays adapted from stories by two of the world's greatest authors, Anton Chekhov and Leo Tolstoy adapted for the stage by Miles Malleson (Conflict, Yours Unfaithfully).Vinie Burrows, now 95, made her Broadway debut in 1950 and has been hailed by The New York Post as "one of the reigning divas of Black theatre." Her Off-Broadway credits range from the recent Mies Julie - Classic Stage Company, Light Shining in Buckinghamshire - New York Theatre Workshop, The Homecoming Queen, world premiere - Atlantic Theater, A Midsummer Night's Dream - Public Theater - Delacorte, Samara - Soho Rep, Good Person of Szechwan - The Foundry Theatre/LaMaMa/The Public Theater, to the landmark production of Genet's The Blacks, the longest-running Off-Broadway non-musical of the '60s, with James Earl Jones, Roscoe Lee Browne, Louis Gossett, Jr., Cicely Tyson, Godfrey Cambridge, & Maya Angelou. Her Broadway credits include the original productions of Mandingo, The Ponder Heart, The Skin of Our Teeth, Mrs. Patterson, The Green Pastures, The Wisteria Trees. In a recent American Theatre Magazine article, Phylicia Rashad (best known for her Emmy Award nominated role as Clair Huxtable on the "The Cosby Show" and as the first black actress to win the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play) talked about what the secret is to a long life in the theatre? "One of the most incredible artists I know is Vinie Burrows. She won't mind me saying this-I think she's about 93 years old. And she was Peaseblossom in this past summer's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream in the park. When I came to New York, Vinie Burrows was a name I heard all the time; she was always creating work for herself, never waiting for somebody to come with a production. She was in the trenches. And she's still performing. She is an inspiration. This lady, she's like fire. This is the thing about artists. Artists don't retire. Never. It's to the end, girl. It's to the end. Geoffrey Holder said, 'Darling, theatre artists never die. We just go on tour.'" Mint introduced theatergoers to Miles Malleson with the acclaimed, New York Times Critic's Pick productions of Conflict and Yours Unfaithfully. The New York Times described Yours Unfaithfully as "a bit like a sex farce with real sorrow instead of slammed doors, and something like a drawing room comedy with moral conundrums peeking out beneath the cushions." Performances will begin January 23rd and continue through March 14th only at Theatre Row (410 West 42nd Street). Opening Night is set for February 10th. Additional cast members will be announced shortly. Chekhov's "An Artist's Story" tells the story of Nicov, a painter who encounters two very different women on a visit to the country. The flirtatious Genya flatters the artist with questions about miracles and the eternal, while her pragmatic sister Lidia ridicules the artist, questioning the necessity of landscapes in a world where people are poor and hungry. Together, they bring him to a new understanding of himself. When it was first presented in 1919 by the Pioneer Players, an independent theater society known for its productions of feminist and Russian drama, Malleson played the title role. Tolstoy's "What Men Live By" tells the story of a Russian peasant couple whose lives intersect with a mysterious stranger whose odd ways and brilliant smile bring them to a new understanding as well. "What Men Live By" reflects Tolstoy's dedication to living out a Christian pacifism based on personal conscience. In the midst of World War I, pacifist Malleson was inspired by Tolstoy's empathetic vision. Infusing his adaptation with string quartet music composed for the production by Norman O'Neill, Malleson's adaptation premiered as part of an all-female student program by London's Academy of Dramatic Arts, providing audiences with "the pure milk of the Tolstoyan word on loving-kindness." Audiences shell-shocked by the war welcomed this balm; audiences today will also warm to this hopeful tale of love and redemption. Mint's production will be the first-ever pairing of Malleson's Russian gems, co-directed by Mint Artistic Director Jonathan Bank and his longtime collaborator, Jane Shaw. Jane has designed sound, and composed and arranged music for thirty Mint productions; she will be making her directorial debut. Chekhov/Tolstoy: Love Stories will have scenic design by Roger Hanna, costume design by Oana Botez, lighting design by Matthew Richards, sound design by Jane Shaw, and prop design by Chris Fields. Casting by Stephanie Klapper, CSA. William Miles Malleson (1888-1969) is remembered, if at all, as a character actor on stage and screen "who had a line in nitwits in which he was unrivalled," such as the Sultan in The Thief of Bagdad (which he also wrote), the hangman in Kind Hearts and Coronets (with Sir Alec Guinness, 1949) and Rev. Chasuble in The Importance of Being Earnest (Edith Evans, 1952). But as the author of numerous plays charged with the passion of reform, he never enjoyed the kind of popular success he had as an actor. The Stage and Television Today published a warm testimonial at his death in 1969: "Malleson was an actor of distinction, an artist of imagination and depth, whose best characterizations, especially in Shakespeare, were among the treasures of our theatre for many years...He excelled in comedy that came from guileless but not silly men. His nit-wits had souls as well as stupidities. What might have been merely grotesque was never so, it was lit by human feeling. His work in the theatre spanned nearly sixty years, from the time he made his debut at Liverpool Playhouse under Basil Dean in 1911, in Justice. He worked with Granville Barker and J.B. Fagan, with Playfair, Gielgud and Olivier, at the Old Vic in London and Bristol; in the West End and in the provinces. His acting, within its range, was unrivaled for effect, interest and significance, and he contributed valuable work as a translator of Moliere, as a writer, notably with The Fanatics and Six Men of Dorset-with H. Brooks-and as an influence for all that was intended to be of value to the theatre, irrespective of profit or fame." Performances for Chekhov/Tolstoy: Love Stories will be Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 7:30PM with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2PM. Additional Wednesday matinees at 2PM on February 5th & 19th and March 4th & 11th; no evening performances on February 5th, 11th, or 18th. All performances will take place at Theater Row (410 West 42nd Street between 9th and Dyer Avenues). Tickets for Chekhov/Tolstoy: Love Stories will be $35 to $65, with Premium Seats available at $79 (all include $2.25 Theatre Row restoration fee) and can be purchased online at Telecharge.com, by phone at 212-239-6200 or in person at the Theatre Row Box Office. "Thank heaven for the unwavering commitment of Jonathan Bank, the theatrical archaeologist whose Mint Theater Company unearths long-forgotten plays and imbues them with new life," declared The New York Times in response to a recent Mint production. Terry Teachout writing about Mint's production of Conflict in The Wall Street Journal said "I've reviewed 13 Mint productions since 2005, each one a gem-but it's still worth saying yet again that no New York-based theater company has a better batting average. The invisible hero of Conflict is, of course, Jonathan Bank, the Mint's producing artistic director. It's a wonder how he manages to track down so many plays that both deserve and richly re-pay a second hearing. Mr. Bank is one of a handful of theater artists in America whose name is an absolute guarantee of quality, and Conflict is further proof of his perfect taste." Mint was awarded an OBIE Award for "combining the excitement of discovery with the richness of tradition" and a special Drama Desk Award for "unearthing, presenting and preserving forgotten plays of merit."