Maryann Plunkett, Jay O. Sanders and More Star in CHRISTMAS EVE 1953 Online Reading to Benefit Shadowland Stages

The show premieres Saturday, December 19th at 8pm, and is available for viewing through Tuesday, December 22nd.

By: Dec. 10, 2020
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Maryann Plunkett, Jay O. Sanders and More Star in CHRISTMAS EVE 1953 Online Reading to Benefit Shadowland Stages

SHADOWLAND STAGES today announced that the theatre will present a special online benefit reading of CHRISTMAS EVE 1953, a short story by Tom Hanks that has been adapted for the stage by SHADOWLAND STAGES' artistic associate, James Glossman.

As previously announced, SHADOWLAND was forced to cancel its entire 2020 season due to the pandemic, and its live producing program is still on hiatus, until gatherings are allowed. Artistic Director Brendan Burke said "2020 has been a difficult year for SHADOWLAND, and for theatres everywhere. WIth the safety of our audience and staff being our first priority, we're not yet able to welcome our patrons back into our theatre. But we are thrilled and fortunate to announce this special fundraising event - the reading of a new play, an adaptation of a short story by one of America's finest actors, Tom Hanks, starring some of the best talents of the American stage."

CHRISTMAS EVE 1953 is a story by Tom Hanks that was included in his book "Uncommon Type: Some Stories" - a collection of seventeen wonderful short stories showing that two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks is as talented a writer as he is an actor. This reading is performed with permission of the author. The story was adapted for the stage by James Glossman (bio below) and is part of a trio of stories Glossman has adapted from the book. This will be the first time it is heard.

CHRISTMAS EVE 1953 tells the story of Virgil Buell and his wife Delores, who every year on Christmas Eve get the house ready for a celebratory Christmas morning with their kids. And every Christmas Eve, right at midnight, Virgil gets a long distance phone call from his old Army buddy, Bud. Bud's annual call, from somewhere in the world, sends Virgil careening back through the tunnel of memory to the shells and shrapnel of their shared, explosive past. A Yuletide fable of love, loss, redemption and hope.

The extraordinary artists donating their talents to this benefit reading include:

Leyu Girma - Leyu Girma is 11 years old and she lives in South Orange, NJ. Her recent performances include being a part of a stage reading of Jim Glossman's adaptation of THE DOOR INTO SUMMER by Robert Heinlein alongside Stephen Colbert and other established actors. At Farbrook School (Short Hills, NJ) she read the part of King Lear in THE TRAGEDY OF KING LEAR, performed as a messenger in THE CHILDREN OF HERAKLES and played the hippo in the adaptation of the Blue Faience Hippopotamus (all adapted and produced by Jim Glossman). She performed the part of a fairytale character in the musical SHREK at South Orange Performing Arts Center in South Orange, NJ (with Class Act Studio).

Maryann Plunkett - Tony Award winner Maryann Plunkett recently played Joanne Rogers opposite Tom Hanks in the film "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" and Mrs. Kirk in Greta Gerwig's "Little Women", both receiving substantial Academy Awards attention. She also appeared as Mrs. Fang in "The Family Fang" opposite Christopher Walken, Nicole Kidman, and Jason Bateman. During this pandemic, she has appeared at the center of Richard Nelson's internationally-lauded Apple Family Zoom Trilogy and is currently filming the streaming series Dr. Death with Alec Baldwin. Her stage work includes Juno in JUNO & THE PAYCOCK in rep with Bessie Burgess in THE PLOUGH & THE STARS for Irish Rep's recent O'Casey Festival, the Bengson's new musical THE LUCKY ONES for Ars Nova, and a decade of appearances in Richard Nelson's multiple-award-winning Rhinebeck Panorama - 4 Apple Family, 3 Gabriel Family and 1 Michaels Family plays - all at The Public Theater, followed by acclaimed European and World tours. She was a founding member of Portland Stage repertory company in Maine who went on to play on Broadway as Bernadette Peters's replacement in the role of "Dot" in SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE in 1985. It was two years later when she won the Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical for her performance as "Sally Smith" in ME AND MY GIRL. Other Theater includes: AGNES OF GOD, THE CRUCIBLE, ST. JOAN, AN OAK TREE, and a long list of Shakespeare, Chekhov, etc. Other Film/TV includes : "Manifest", "The Apple Family", "The Gabriel Family", "MAD", "Youth in Oregon", "The Squid and the Whale", "Bull", "The Good Wife", "The Knick", "Chicago Med", "L&O", etc. She has also done numerous audiobooks and commercial voiceover work.

Jay O. Sanders - is perhaps most recognized for his work in the films "The Day After Tomorrow" (2004) and "Green Lantern" (2011), but other notable film roles include "Glory" (1989), "JFK" (1991), "Angels in the Outfield" (1994), "Half Nelson" (2006), and "Revolutionary Road" (2008). He is currently on indefinite pause from Conor McPherson's Broadway hit GIRL FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY. During the pandemic, he appeared online in Richard Nelson's zoom trilogy (WHAT DO WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT?, AND SO WE COME FORTH, & INCIDENTAL MOMENTS OF THE DAY), which grew out of a series of stage plays (THE APPLES, THE GABRIELS, and THE MICHAELS) all at The Public Theater over the last decade. He played the title role in UNCLE VANYA directed and co-translated by Nelson for the newborn Hunter Theater Project (for which Sanders won the 2019 Drama Desk Award for Best Actor), the title role in CYRANO DE BERGERAC (adapted and directed by Joseph Haj) at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, and has been a regular presence at the Delacorte Theater/Shakespeare in the Park for over 40 years. Television: "Manhunt: Deadly Games", "Sneaky Pete", "The Sinner", "True Detective". Sanders is also a prolific narrator of PBS documentaries, including WGBH's "Nova" and WNET's "Secrets of the Dead" and the playwright of an exploration of the people and events of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda called "Unexplored Interior" which premiered in 2015 as the inaugural production of Washington D.C.'s Mosaic Theater.

David Strathairn - Often recognized for his role as CIA Deputy Director Noah Vosen in the 2007 film "The Bourne Ultimatum" (a role he reprised in 2012's "The Bourne Legacy"), David Strathairn also played Dr. Lee Rosen on the Syfy series "Alphas" from 2011 to 2012 as well as Secretary of State William H. Seward in Steven Spielberg's film "Lincoln" (2012). He won an Emmy and was nominated for a Golden Globe for his role in the TV film "Temple Grandin" (2010), and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for portraying journalist Edward R. Murrow in "Good Night, and Good Luck" (2005). His many theatre roles include


Sharon Washington - Sharon has recently been seen in Todd Phillip's "The Joker" with Joaquin Phoenix, Andrea Berloff's "The Kitchen" with Tiffany Haddish, and "On The Basis Of Sex" with Felicity Jones. Television viewers may recognize her from her recent guest star appearance in the final season of "Madam Secretary". Other film appearances include "The Bourne Legacy", "Michael Clayton", "Freedomland", "The School of Rock", "The Long Kiss Goodnight", "Malcolm X", and "Die Hard With A Vengeance". Recently Sharon added playwright to her resumé, writing and performing her solo play FEEDING THE DRAGON which received its world premiere at City Theatre in Pittsburgh followed by a successful run Off-Broadway for which she was nominated for an Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Solo Performance, a Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Solo Show, and won an Audelco Award for Solo Performance. On Broadway Sharon appeared as The Lady in the critically-acclaimed musical THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS by Kander & Ebb directed by five-time Tony Award winner Susan Stroman. Other Off-Broadway credits include roles in DOT at the Vineyard Theatre, written by Colman Domingo and also directed by Susan Stroman; WHILE I YET LIVE by Billy Porter at Primary Stages; LUCE by JC Lee at Lincoln Center Theater (LCT3); and WILD WITH HAPPY also by Colman Domingo at The Public Theater for which she received a Lucille Lortel Award nomination and an Audelco Award. Sharon has worked many times on the New York Shakespeare Festival stage including playing Lady Anne to Denzel Washington's Richard in RICHARD III and Valeria to Christopher Walken's CORIOLANUS; as well as in the award-winning adaptation of CAUCASIAN CHALK CIRCLE directed by George C. Wolfe.

James Glossman - James Glossman has directed (and sometimes written or adapted) well over 200 plays and musicals - from classics to new works by emerging playwrights. At SHADOWLAND these include the American premiere of John Cleese's new farce, BANG BANG! (with Sean Astin), Jeff Daniels' GUEST ARTIST and Jeff Sweet's BLUFF (both w/John Astin), ALL MY SONS (w/Richard Benjamin & Paula Prentiss), THE PRICE (w/Stephanie Zimbalist & Orson Bean), Noël Coward's A SONG AT TWILIGHT (w/Orson Bean & Alley Mills--also Odyssey Theatre, LA), NATURAL HISTORY (w/ Michele Pawk & John Dossett), RED, CLYBOURNE PARK, CIRCUMFERENCE OF A SQUIRREL, SEDITION, THREE VIEWINGS (w/Stephanie Zimbalist and Tom Teti), THE OUTGOING TIDE, and many others. He has also appeared onstage here as Thomas Edison in the NY premiere of THE DANGERS OF ELECTRIC LIGHTING. His adaptation of Raymond Chandler's noir classic, TROUBLE IS MY BUSINESS, received its world premiere at Portland Stage Co following a SHADOWLAND workshop starring David Strathairn. His two decades' collaboration with journalist and author Jim Lehrer has resulted, so far, in the productions of KICK THE CAN, THE SPECIAL PRISONER (w/ William Schallert), and FLYING CROWS (available from Dramatic Publishing Co). His stagings of THE VALUE OF NAMES, starring the late, great Jack Klugman as a once-blacklisted actor, played in NY, NJ, and Los Angeles, opposite Dan Lauria and Louis Zorich. In addition to adapting what will eventually be a triptych of these stories by Tom Hanks, he recently completed a new stage adaptation of Science Fiction Grand Master Robert A Heinlein's classic time-travel thriller, THE DOOR INTO SUMMER.

Tickets to stream the recorded reading are available to those who make a suggested donation ranging from "Pay What You Will" to "As Much as You Want!" at Donors will be provided with the link where the recorded reading can be viewed from its premier, Saturday, December 19th at 8pm through Tuesday, December 22nd at 8pm. PLEASE NOTE: This event is NOT happening in the theatre, and tickets for this special event can only be secured in advance at only. Due to reduced staffing during the pandemic, tickets are not available by phone, and with regrets (due to safety concerns) tickets are not available in person at the box office.


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