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BWW Feature: WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? at Katonah Classic Stage

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An evening with Mark Linn-Baker, Carolyn McCormick, Jared Zirilli, and Evy Oritz

BWW Feature: WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? at Katonah Classic Stage

Starting a new theatre company is always a challenge, even under the best circumstances. But when the unexpected happened shortly after the founding of Katonah Classic Stage in late 2019, it was a doozy. COVID: The Horror Story to End All Horror Stories.

But it didn't end Katonah Classic Stage.

Founder and artistic director Trent Dawson, and his wife, Sharron Kearney, who serves as executive director of the company, knew there was "a hunger for professional theatre around here [Westchester County]". Pandemic or not, they were determined to bring it to Westchester.

Dawson, a three-time Emmy award nominee who has acted on television, film, and stage, is passionate about the classics and contemporary classics. He and Kearney planned to launch Katonah Classic Stage with Twelfth Night, but COVID restrictions prevented that from happening because it requires such a large cast. They pivoted to stage Private Lives, but then the Delta variant hit, and they needed to find a play that had fewer characters. They chose to do a full production of David Mamet's vitriolic and incendiary play Oleanna. It starred Jordan Lage, who has done some two dozen Mamet plays and five of his films, and Lea DiMarchi as John and Carol. Dawson directed the play. It was a huge hit that sparked a lot of conversation among the audience members.

Next up is a fundraiser in the form of a reading of Edward Albee's Tony Award and New York Drama Critics' Circle Award winning play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Again seeking superb professional actors, the reading stars Mark Linn-Baker as George, Carolyn McCormick as Martha, Jared Zirilli as Nick, and Evy Oritz as Honey. Despite the "biting comedy" and intensity of the play, Katonah Classic Stage promises that this will be "community engagement event where the audience can enjoy wine or beer and some refreshments and then stay after the show to ask questions or just chat with the actor," says Kearney.

Katonah Classic Stage does not have a brick-and-mortar theatre, something that has more advantages than disadvantages as it's growing, especially during the pandemic. It was painful enough for long-established theatre companies to pay rent and insurance with no revenues while the theatre was dark for more than a year and a half. The old business models of most organizations, both for profit and nonprofit, need to be updated for today's times. It gives a new theatre company more opportunity to grow, gaining new audiences as it performs in different venues, while keeping overhead low. Westchester is sizeable and beautiful. Why not take advantage of what it has to offer?

In addition, Katonah Classic Stage also has an annual international short film festival at the John Jay Homestead. The Bedford Playhouse provided the equipment. Budding filmmakers from all over the world submitted their work. It was a happy accident that happened during COVID, but it had legs.

As does the Katonah Classic Stage Company, which plans to produce Private Lives in 2022 and do more readings. It strives to make theatre an enriching, transformative experience with the works of master dramatists and performances by exceptional talent. Its long-term goals include "multiple productions in rep over the course of a full season," having educational outreach, and Shakespearean training programs for people of all ages. It's professional to the core.

To learn more about this exciting theatre company, visit www.katonahclassicstage.com and follow it on Instagram @katonahcs and Facebook on the Katonah Classic Stage page. Treat yourself, family, and friends to a late Hanukkah gift or early Christmas and/or Kwanzaa gift with tickets to Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The reading will take place on Thursday, December 9, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. at the Bedford Historical Hall, 608 Old Post Road in Bedford, NY. For tickets, go to www.katonahclassicstage.com/woolf.


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From This Author Sherry Shameer Cohen