Lantern Theater Company Presents New Jerusalem

Lantern Theater Company opens its 2011/12 season with the Philadelphia premiere of David Ives' award-winning New Jerusalem, The Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza at Talmud Torah Congregation: Amsterdam, July 27, 1656. Based on true events in the life of one of the greatest philosophers in history, Baruch de Spinoza, this recent off-Broadway hit challenges traditional political and religious thinking with conviction, passion, and wit.

As the Inquisition bears down on them, a small Jewish community flees Portugal to find a tenuous peace in seemingly liberal Amsterdam. But Spinoza, a favorite son of the community and the rabbi's heir apparent, is a revolutionary thinker. When the boldness of his ideas strains the bounds of Amsterdam's professed tolerance, it leads to a dangerous confrontation between powerful political forces and his own beloved community. Well-liked, and considered to be a brilliant religious student, Spinoza is accused of atheism for his radical new ideas and risks excommunication from the Jewish faith, including complete social isolation.

Directed by the Lantern's Artistic Director Charles McMahon, New Jerusalem runs October 6 - 30, 2011 (press opening: October 12, 7 p.m.). [A full performance schedule follows in the fact sheet below.] Tickets are $20 - $36 and are available online at lanterntheater.org or by calling the Lantern Box Office at (215) 829-0395. $10 student rush tickets are available 10 minutes before curtain with valid ID; cash only. Additional discounts are available for seniors and groups of 10 or more. Lantern Theater Company is located at St. Stephen's Theater, 10th & Ludlow Streets in Center City Philadelphia.

On October 10 and 21 - 23, the Lantern will present the Fall Philosophy Festival: Theater and the Age of Reason, a festival including panel discussions and performance lectures centered around New Jerusalem that will explore the Jewish experience in Europe and Spinoza's lasting influence on art, literature, and philosophy.

David Ives' account of Spinoza's undocumented interrogation, presented as a classic courtroom drama, still holds relevance today, 350 years after Spinoza was forced to defend his beliefs to a barely tolerant society. Director Charles McMahon explains, "Spinoza laid much of the groundwork for many of the modern political and ethical philosophies of the West and had significant impact on the Founding Fathers of the United States. In language that is contemporary and clear, Ives' script presents arguments that have gone on for hundreds of years. You don't have to be a scholar of philosophy to be captivated by this thought-provoking and oftentimes funny play."

Cast & Production Team
In the role of Baruch de Spinoza is Sam Henderson, who has been seen throughout Philadelphia in productions with companies such as Arden Theatre Company, The Wilma Theater, and Theatre Exile. He has previously appeared at the Lantern as Stanley in The Birthday Party and as Edgar in King Lear.

Spinoza's fate will rest in the hands of Gaspar Rodrigues Ben Israel, the parnas, played by David Blatt (seen in the Lantern's A Midsummer Night's Dream and Uncle Vanya). Seth Reichgott will play his accuser, Abraham van Valkenburgh. Reichgott has been seen in numerous Lantern productions, including The Government Inspector, Othello, Noonday Demons and Other Distractions, and the world premiere of The Foocy.

Caught in the middle of the debate are Rabbi Mortera, brought to the stage by David Bardeen (Edmund in Long Day's Journey into Night) and Simon de Vries, friend and confidant of Spinoza, played by Jake Blouch (Mairtin in A Skull in Connemara). Making their Lantern debuts in this production are Mary Tuomanen as Spinoza's love interest Clara van den Eden and Kittson O'Neill as his sister Rebekah de Spinoza.

Nick Embree, head of the Theater Design and Technology Program at the University of the Arts, will create the world of New Jerusalem. He has worked on a range of productions with the Lantern over the past 12 years, such as Vigil, Scapin, Richard III, and The School for Wives. Lighting designer Shon Causer (A Skull in Connemara) and sound designer Nick Rye (Henry IV, Part 1) return to the Lantern, and are joined by costume designer Maggie Baker in her Lantern debut.

About the Playwright
David Ives is well known for his evenings of one-act comedies called All In The Timing and Time Flies. All In The Timing won the Outer Critics Circle Playwriting Award, ran for two years Off-Broadway, and in the 1995-96 season was the most performed play in the country after Shakespeare productions. His full-length plays include Venus In Fur, which recently enjoyed vast critical and audience success Off-Broadway; New Jerusalem: The Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza..., which won the prestigious Hull-Warriner Award; Is He Dead? (adapted from Mark Twain); Irving Berlin's White Christmas; Polish Joke; and Ancient History. He has translated Feydeau's classic farce A Flea In Her Ear as well as Yazmina Reza's drama A Spanish Play and Pierre Corneille's The Liar. He is also the author of three young-adult novels, Monsieur Eek, Scrib, and Voss. A graduate of Yale School of Drama and a former Guggenheim Fellow in playwriting, Ives lives in New York City.

Fall Philosophy Festival: Theater and the Age of Reason
October 10 and 21 - 23, 2011

Presented in conjunction with the Lantern's production of New Jerusalem, the Fall Philosophy Festival will explore the Jewish experience in Europe and Spinoza's lasting influence on art, literature, and philosophy through a series of special events with participating artists and guest scholars.

Monday, October 10
7 p.m.
Panel Discussion: The Sephardic Community in Amsterdam
Featuring: Anne Oravetz Albert, Department of History, University of Pennsylvania
Location TBA; approx. 90 minutes
$10 ($8 for subscribers, seniors, students, and groups of 10+)

Friday, October 21
6 p.m.
Festival Kick-Off Party
Mingle with Lantern staff, artists and fellow theater-goers. Happy hour specials and complimentary light fare.
Marathon, 10th and Walnut Streets
FREE

7 p.m.
Curtain Raiser/Lecture: Spinoza's Thinking
Created and performed by Assistant Director and Lantern teaching artist M. Craig Getting.
In the Lantern Lab; 25 minutes
FREE

8 p.m.
Performance: New Jerusalem by David Ives
On the Lantern Mainstage; approx. 2hrs

Saturday, October 22
2 p.m.
Panel Discussion: Out of Order! Courtrooms As Theater, Courtrooms In Theater
Featuring: Vince Regan, Assistant Chief District Attorney of Philadelphia, Philadelphia playwright Bruce Graham, and an additional guest TBA.
On the Lantern Mainstage; approx. 90 minutes
$10 ($8 for subscribers, seniors, students, and groups of 10+)

7 p.m.
Curtain Raiser/Lecture: Spinoza's Thinking

8 p.m.
Performance: New Jerusalem by David Ives

Sunday, October 23
1 p.m.
Curtain Raiser/Lecture: Spinoza's Thinking

2 p.m.
Performance: New Jerusalem by David Ives

5:00 PM
Keynote Lecture & Closing Reception: How Spinoza Made America Possible
Speaker: Professor Jonathan Israel, a British writer on Dutch history, the Age of Enlightenment, and European Jewry
Location TBA; approx. 2 hours
$15 ($12 for subscribers, students, and groups of 10+)

2011/12 Season
Lantern Theater Company will continue its 2011/12 season with Private Lives by Noel Coward, directed by Kathryn MacMillan (December 8 - 31, 2011); The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis, adapted and performed by Anthony Lawton (February 7-12, 2012); William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, directed by Charles McMahon (March 1-April 1, 2012); and The Island, written by Athol Fugard, John Kani, and Winston Ntshona, and directed by Peter DeLaurier (May 17-June 10, 2012).

Lantern Theater Company thanks its 2011/12 season corporate partners at Marathon, La Fourno Ristorante Trattoria, and Dunkin' Donuts, and its community partners at St. Stephen's Church.

 

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