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NATURAL LIFE to Open in March at T. Schreiber Theatre

"Natural Life" by Eduardo Ivan Lopez tells the tale of a death row inmate convicted of murder. But unlike the heroes of "The Exonerated," she is guilty of the crime. The play is inspired by a true incident in the 1980's. T. Schreiber Theatre, 151 West 26th Street, will present the play's world premiere March 2 to April 2, directed by Jake Turner.

The play centers on the relationship between the convict, named Claire, and a highly principled TV reporter named Rita, who earns Claire's confidence while covering her story. Rita's objectivity is challenged when she discovers the mitigating circumstances that drove Claire to commit her crimes. Claire's is a story of shocking abuse, forced prostitution, alcoholism, violence and desperate but ill-fated attempts at redemption. In Rita's effort to "set the record straight," she bonds with the inmate. Both women, defiantly independent, are forced to make crucial decisions as they face exploitation at the hands of men in their lives.

The play becomes more than just a haunting crime story, tale of friendship or social drama as the playwright explores -- Rashomon-like -- the contradictory perceptions of Claire's case. Is Claire truly guilty or is she a victim? We are challenged to judge whether Claire deserves the death penalty, whether Rita has the right to intervene and whether death or life in prison are the ultimate -- or appropriate -- punishment.

The play is fictional but inspired by real events. Claire's life story is based on an actual case involving a Midwestern woman in the 80's. The character of Rita is inspired by a local investigative TV journalist assigned to cover the case. Some of the characters were entirely invented by the playwright for dramatic purposes.

Lopez's naturalistic, almost documentary script will be acted realistically but staged in a nightmarish, almost expressionist setting to suggest that the justice system is dysfunctional. Televisions on the periphery of the stage will carry excerpts of Rita's TV news stories indicating the eye of the media on the case and also providing a Brechtian meta-theatrical effect while establishing the locations and dates of the action.

Holly Heiser plays Claire and Anna Holbrook plays Rita. The other actors are Joseph Calderone, Don Carter, Noelle McGrath, Joseph Giardina, and Bob Rogerson. Lighting designer is Dennis Parichy. Sound/video designer is Andy Cohen. Set designer is Pei-Wen Huang-Shea. Costume designer is Hope Governali.

IF YOU GO:
March 2 to April 2, 2016
T. Schreiber Theatre, 151 West 26th Street (7 fl.)
Presented by T. Schreiber Studio and Theatre.
Wed-Sat at 8:00 PM plus matinees March 23 and 30 at 2:00 PM.
$20 general admission
Box office: 212-352-3101, www.tschreiber.org

Eduardo Ivan Lopez (Playwright) was born in Puerto Rico and immigrated to Brooklyn with his family when he was nine years old. Eager for adventure and new places, he joined the U. S. Marine Corps and was shipped to the Far East for a tour of duty. After serving four years in the Corps, he was honorably discharged from the military and traveled to Boston to continue his education. He received a bachelor's degree from Boston College and a Master of Arts from Tufts University. While at college he became involved in the theater department and realized that he wanted to write plays. His Off-Broadway productions include "Lady with a View," "Spanish Eyes" and "A Silent Thunder." His comedy "Fireflies" was produced Off-off-Broadway and received a Best Play award from HOLA. His screenplay for "The Laureate" was produced by the American Film Institute in Los Angeles and won a Best Screenplay award from the Suffolk Film Festival. He has written four documentaries for the A&E Channel. Two of his plays have been published by Broadway Play Publishing and Penguin's Mentor Books.

Jake Turner (Director) directed "The Darling Siblings" at Cherry Lane Theatre, "Hole in His Heart" at Atlantic Theatre, "Lady Liberty" at McGinn/Cazale Theatre, "Brothers & Strange Romance" both with Sun Dog Theatre and "Lenny and Lu" at Flea Theatre. He has directed daytime dramas for ABC, CBS and NBC and has been guest artist and instructor for Yale, Julliard, NYU, Lincoln Center, Rutgers and Brooklyn College. He has choreographed fights and movement for Broadway, film and TV, where he won an Emmy Nomination. He has acted in film and TV, on and off Broadway and in theaters throughout the US, Canada and Europe.

T. Schreiber Theatre began operations in conjunction with Terry Schreiber's acting studio in 1969, at the beginning of the Off-Off Broadway movement, in a converted loft on the Upper East Side. In the mid-70's, the organization attracted national attention when Walter Kerr's glowing review of Schreiber's production of "The Trip Back Down" launched a Broadway production starring John Cullum. The organization moved to East 4th Street in the 80's, during which time Mr. Schreiber directed two more Broadway shows, "Devour the Snow" and "K-2." In 1996 the Studio moved to its current, renovated multi-use space on the seventh floor of 151 West 26th Street, where classes and productions run continuously throughout the year. Actor alumni of T. Schreiber Studio and Theater include Edward Norton, Peter Sarsgaard, Jonny Orsini, Julia Garner, Julia Udine and Julie Halston.

"Natural Life" is T. Schreiber Studio and Theatre's 2013 New Works Project Winner. The organization's New Works Project develops new plays through staged readings and collaborative refinement, culminating in workshop presentations. In this case, due to the merits of the play and overwhelming audience response, the piece was chosen for a full production. The theater presents five full productions per year, a mix of revivals and new works.

From May 4 to June 5, T. Schreiber Theatre will present "Harper Regan" by Simon Stephens, directed by Terry Schreiber. In this bittersweet drama, a working wife and mother faces disquieting truths when she leaves her job and family in Uxbridge while her father is dying in Manchester. Playwright Simon Stephens won the 2015 TONY Award for Best Play for "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time."



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