A.C.T. Presents John Guare's 'RICH AND FAMOUS' Opening 1/8

American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) continues its 2008-09 season with John Guare's Rich & Famous, directed by John Rando (Urinetown, The Musical and Wedding Singer on Broadway) in its first major revival since its 1976 New York debut. From the ingenious mind of John Guare, who brought Six Degrees of Separation and The House of Blue Leaves to the American stage, this delicious dark comedy springs to life with twisted humor, rapid-fire dialogue, and outrageous plot twists. The revival script includes significant rewrites to the original text, as well as hilarious songs freshly scribed by Guare himself. In Rich and Famous, playwright Bing Ringling yearns to savor the sweet taste of celebrity, and he's hoping play number 844 will be his lucky break. But on opening night, he slips into a nightmarish phantasmagoria that shows him just how wrong things can go.

Along with the comedic geniuses of John Guare and director John Rando, this production brings together an explosive combination of acting talent from Broadway and an A.C.T. favorite. Brooks Ashmanskas, who was nominated for a 2007 Tony Award for Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me and has also appeared in the Broadway companies of The Producers and Gypsy, takes on the role of struggling playwright Bing Ringling. Joining Ashmanskas as a whirlwind of outlandish characters from the early '70s New York theater scene are Mary Birdsong (Reno 911! on Comedy Central and Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me and Hairspray on Broadway), Stephen DeRosa (Hairspray and Into the Woods on Broadway), and A.C.T. core Acting Company member Gregory Wallace ('Tis Pity She's a Whore and The Government Inspector last season at A.C.T.). Rich and Famous plays at A.C.T. January 8 through February 8, 2009. Opening night is Wednesday, January 14, 2009 at 8 p.m. Tickets-starting at $14-are available by calling A.C.T. Ticket Services at 415.749.2228, or at

Looking at artistic success and America's obsession with celebrity with a hilariously satiric eye, Guare has created a story that feels as fresh and moving as it did 30 years ago. Director John Rando's production embraces the feeling of the early '70s New York City in color and feel, while focusing on the transformative work required of the four actors in the show. "This has always been one of Guare's plays that I've wanted to do," says Rando, who won a Tony Award and Outer Critics Circle Award for his production of Urinetown, The Musical, which began its national tour at A.C.T. "It's a wickedly funny story of an aspiring young artist at a time when being a hip artist in New York City was the thing to be. I cannot wait to dive into the wacky world of this affectionate look at theater then and now."

"John Guare's work has the unique ability to simultaneously exist on many different planes of reality that are disparate, fully realized, and by definition dramatic-and Rich and Famous is a perfect example of this," adds Ashmanskas, who plays Bing Ringling. "It is Guare's fantastic bravery and honesty that keeps me hysterical with laughter. To get a chance to tackle this sincere, sophisticated, and adorably desperate role in a brilliantly revised version of this terrific play directed by the genius John Rando alongside a stellar cast, including my old pals Mary Birdsong and Stephen DeRosa, is almost too good to be true. I would be thrilled to work at A.C.T. under any circumstances, but this is truly exciting and an honor."

"One of my longstanding artistic dreams at A.C.T. has been to bring the extraordinary and delightful American master John Guare to San Francisco to work on a play. He is a consummate teller of tales and a writer who is constantly surprising and original," says Artistic Director Carey Perloff. She adds of Rando's return to A.C.T.: "Ever since John's unforgettable direction of Urinetown, we have looked for another project to do together. As soon as I read Rich and Famous, I knew we had found it. John's deep experience with classic comedy and with a wide range of musical forms, as well as his wit and his huge visual imagination, make him a perfect fit for Guare's wild and imaginative world."

Set by designer Scott Bradley in a run-down, converted theater space, the production will allow the actors to fully inhabit the myriad of juicy and fun characters. The other designers helping create the zany ride of Bing's nightmarish opening night are Alexander Nichols (light designer), Gregory Gale (costume designer), Jeremy Lee (sound designer), and Laura Burton as musical director and performance pianist.

A.C.T.'s production of Rich and Famous is made possible by Blue Shield of California and Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, as well as producers Gene and Abby Schnair; and associate producers Gayle and Steve Brugler, Dr. and Mrs. Ronald E. Cape, Kenneth Jaffee and Karen White, and Joseph and Lisa Skokan. A.C.T. would also like to acknowledge our company sponsors Roberta B. Bialek, Rena Bransten, Priscilla and Keith Geeslin, Burt and Deedee McMurtry, Jeff and Laurie Ubben, and Susan Van Wagner.

Tickets for Rich and Famous can be purchased by visiting A.C.T. Ticket Services, located at 405 Geary Street, by calling 415.749.2228, or via the A.C.T. website at Groups of 15 or more people are eligible for discounts; please call Edward Budworth at 415.439.2473.

Sponsored by Bank of the West, a Bring What You Can/Pay What You Wish performance will be held on Thursday, January 15, 2009, at 8 p.m. Patrons will be allowed to pay any amount for tickets when they bring a donation of children's books, diapers, or coffee beans to benefit Raphael House, a shelter and support program for homeless families in San Francisco's Tenderloin District. Patrons are limited to one ticket per donated item, one ticket per person. Tickets go on sale at 6 p.m. the day of the performance.

First major revival
Rich and Famous
by John Guare
Directed by John Rando

Playwright Bing Ringling yearns to savor the sweet taste of celebrity, and he's hoping play number 844 will be his lucky break. But on opening night, Bing slips into a nightmarish phantasmagoria that shows him just how wrong things can go. From the ingenious mind of John Guare, who brought Six Degrees of Separation and The House of Blue Leaves to the American stage, Rich and Famous springs to life with twisted humor, rapid-fire dialogue, and outrageous new songs freshly scribed by Guare himself. A.C.T. welcomes this newly revised, delicious dark comedy-directed by John Rando (A.C.T.'s Urinetown, The Musical)-in its first major revival since its 1976 New York debut.

Cast: Brooks Ashmanskas, Mary Birdsong, Stephen DeRosa, Gregory Wallace

Creative Team: Scott Bradley (set designer), Laura Burton (musical director and performance pianist), Gregory Gale (costume designer), Jeremy Lee (sound designer), Alexander Nichols (light designer)

Tickets: $14-$57 previews; $17-$71 Tue.-Fri. & Sun. evenings; $22-$82 Sat. evenings and weekend matinees. Tickets are available through A.C.T. Ticket Services, 405 Geary Street at Mason, 415.749.2228, and online at

InterACT Events-Free of charge!

KORET PROLOGUE featuring John Rando Tuesday, January 13, 2009, at 5:30 p.m.

American Conservatory Theater (415 Geary Street, San Francisco)

Get inside the artistic process. Join us for this half-hour discussion with director John Rando introducing the production. FREE and open to the public (no tickets required). Doors open at 4 p.m.

Friday, January 16, 2009, at 8 p.m.

American Conservatory Theater (415 Geary Street, San Francisco)

Join members of the San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis for an exciting post-performance discussion that explores the psychological aspects of Rich and Famous and addresses audience questions.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009, at 7 p.m.
Sunday, January 25, 2009, at 2 p.m.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009, at 2 p.m.

Join us for a lively Q&A session with the actors and A.C.T. artistic staff members after these performances.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009, at 8 p.m.

A dynamic series for LGBT theater lovers that includes a catered afterparty with complimentary wine and desserts and a cast meet and greet. Visit for more information about how to subscribe to OUT nights.


John Guare (Playwright) was born in 1938 and educated at Georgetown and Yale universities. His plays include To Wally Pantoni, We Leave a Credenza (1964), his off-off-Broadway debut; Muzeeka (1968, OBIE Award), his breakthrough play; Cop-Out (1968); The House of Blue Leaves (1971, New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best American Play; 1986 revival, four Tony Awards); Two Gentlemen of Verona (1971); Marco Polo Sings a Solo (1973); Rich and Famous (1974); Landscape of the Body (1977); Bosoms and Neglect (1979); Moon Over Miami (1988); Six Degrees of Separation (1990, OBIE Award, New York Drama Critics' Circle Award, Olivier Award for Best Play), which became a film in 1993; Four Baboons Adoring the Sun (1992, Tony nom. Best Play); Lake Hollywood (1999); Chaucer in Rome (2001); A Few Stout Individuals (2002); and an adaptation of His Girl Friday, which premiered to great acclaim at London's National Theatre in 2003. Guare's series of plays on 19th-century America-Gardenia (1982), Lydie Breeze (1982), and Women and Water (1984)-have been performed in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., London, and Australia. His libretto (written with Mel Shapiro) for Two Gentlemen of Verona (1971) won a Tony Award; the musical itself won the Tony and New York Drama Critics' Circle awards for best musical in 1972. He collaborated with Czech director Milos Forman on the screenplay Taking Off (1971), which won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. His screenplay Atlantic City (1981), directed by Louis Malle, won the New York, Los Angeles, and National Film Critics' Circle awards for best screenplay and was nominated for an Academy Award. His narration for Psyche, a tone poem by César Franck, premiered at Avery Fisher Hall in 1997, conducted by Kurt Masur with the New York Philharmonic.

Guare was a founding member in 1965 of the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's National Playwrights Conference and in 1976 was resident playwright at the New York Shakespeare Festival. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1989 and to the Theater Hall of Fame in 1993. He received the New York State Governor's Arts Award in 1996 and the Gold Medal in Drama from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2004. The Signature Theatre Company in New York City honored Guare by devoting its 1998-99 season to his plays. He has served as a trustee of the PEN American Center, co-edits the Lincoln Center Theater Review, teaches playwriting at Yale School of Drama, and is a council member of the Dramatists Guild of America.

Guare's new play, A Free Man of Color, will premiere at The Public Theater/Shakespeare in the Park in 2009.

John Rando (Director) is the Tony Award- and Outer Critics Circle Award-winning director of Urinetown, The Musical. He also premiered the national tour of Urinetown at A.C.T. Other Broadway credits include The Wedding Singer, A Thousand Clowns, Dance of the Vampires, and Neil Simon's The Dinner Party. With New York City Center's Encores!®, he has directed On the Town, Damn Yankees, Face the Music, Of Thee I Sing, The Pajama Game, Do Re Mi, and Strike Up the Band. Last year he directed the Spanish version of The Wedding Singer (El Rey de Bodas) in Madrid. In 2005 he directed the Canadian premiere of Urinetown, which won six Dora Mavor Moore Awards, including outstanding production and outstanding direction. In 2004, Rando directed the inaugural presentation of The Downtown Plays for the Tribeca Theatre Festival presented by Drama Dept. Other off-Broadway credits include Pig Farm for Roundabout Theatre Company; Bright Ideas for Manhattan Class Company; Polish Joke for Manhattan Theatre Club; Mere Mortals for Primary Stages; Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight at the Promenade Theatre; The Comedy of Errors for The Acting Company; and The Venetian Twins, When Ladies Battle, and Twelfth Night for The Pearl Theatre Company. He has also directed multiple productions at a variety of regional theaters, including The Old Globe, the Mark Taper Forum, the Geffen Playhouse, the Williamstown Theatre Festival, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Berkshire Theatre Festival, Actors Theatre of Louisville, The Cleveland Play House, and Syracuse Stage, among many others. His upcoming projects include The Toxic Avenger Musical off Broadway and The Man Who Came to Dinner at the Alley Theatre. Rando was a Drama League directing fellow and in 2004 received The Outstanding Young Texas Ex Award from the University of Texas.

Brooks Ashmanskas's Broadway credits include The Ritz, Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me (2007 Tony and Drama Desk award noms. Best Featured Actor in a Musical), The Producers, Gypsy with Bernadette Peters, a variety of roles in Little Me with Tony Award winner Martin Short, The Comic in Dream, and Bud Frump in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying with Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker. Off-Broadway credits include Stephen Sondheim's Wise Guys, A. R. Gurney's Labor Day at Manhattan Theatre Club, Neil Simon's London Suite, Jason Robert Brown's Songs for a New World, Tonight at 8:30, Jon Robin Baitz's It Changes Every Year, and Nicky Silver's Fit to Be Tied. Ashmanskas's regional credits include Present Laughter, with Victor Garber, and She Loves Me at the Huntington Theatre Company; Bye Bye Birdie, Girl Crazy, and Side Show at The Kennedy Center; Animal Crackers at Arena Stage; and the world premiere of Paper Moon at Paper Mill Playhouse; as well as productions at Hartford Stage, The Old Globe, and the Williamstown Theatre Festival. He received his education from Bennington College, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, The Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon, and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff.

Mary Birdsong most recently costarred in Suburban Shootout, A New Television pilot for HBO, directed by Emmy Award-winning director Barry Sonnenfeld. She won a Theatre World Award in 2007 for her Broadway debut in the musical Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me and appeared on Broadway as Velma Von Tussle in Hairspray. Off-Broadway she appeared as Vixen Fox in Elaine May's Adult Entertainment (dir. Stanley Donen). Off-off Broadway she starred as Judy Garland in Judy Speaks (which she also wrote) at Ars Nova and as Portia in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar at Moonwork, both directed by Gregory Wolfe. Television credits include Reno 911! (Deputy Cherisha Kimball), The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Ed, Welcome to New York (with Christine Baranski), Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and numerous pilots opposite such actors as James Caan, Jill Clayburgh, Cheri Oteri, and Scott Wolfe. Birdsong created several original characters in the NBC sketch comedy Live On Tape and wrote a series of one-acts for her alter ego, 1940s B-movie star Janet Lamé, who appeared on NBC's Late Friday. Film credits include Made of Honor (with Patrick Dempsey), Adventureland (by Superbad's Greg Mottolla), Reno 911!: Miami, Beer League, and the just-wrapped High School (with Adrien Brody and Michael Chiklis). Her voice can be heard on numerous commercials, and she sings in the rock bands 99 Cent Whore and Cottonhead.

Stephen DeRosa has appeared on Broadway in Hairspray (Wilbur Turnblad; also first national tour), Into the Woods (The Baker); Twentieth Century (Roundabout Theatre Company); Henry IV (Lincoln Center Theater); The Man Who Came to Dinner (Roundabout/PBS live broadcast). Off-Broadway credits include Walmartopia, The IT Girl, Newyorkers, Do Re Mi (Encores!®), The Mystery of Irma Vep, and Love's Fire (The Acting Company/The Public Theater/ Royal Shakespeare Company/Barbican). Regional Credits include productions at Berkshire Theatre Festival, the Williamstown Theatre Festival, the Alley Theatre, The Old Globe, the Huntington Theatre Company, Arden Theatre Company, and many others. Television credits include appearances on Law & Order, Rescue Me, Suddenly Susan, Third Watch, Totally 4 Teens, Canterbury's Law, and Ugly Betty. He can be heard on the CD Infinite Joy: The Songs of William Finn. DeRosa received his master of fine arts from the Yale School of Drama.

Gregory Wallace, an A.C.T. associate artist and core Acting Company member, has been seen at A.C.T. in 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, The Government Inspector, The Imaginary Invalid, Travesties, The Rivals, Gem of the Ocean, The Gamester, A Doll's House, Waiting for Godot, The Three Sisters, The Dazzle, Night and Day, Blithe Spirit, Celebration and The Room, "Master Harold"...and the boys, The Misanthrope, Edward II, A Christmas Carol, Tartuffe, Insurrection: Holding History, and Angels in America (Bay Area Theatre Critics' Circle Award). Other theater credits include Our Country's Good (Broadway), A Light Shining in Buckinghamshire (New York Theatre Workshop), As You Like It (Public Theater), Much Ado about Nothing (ALLIANCE THEATRE), The Screens (Guthrie Theater), The Learned Ladies (Williamstown Theatre Festival), King Lear (Whole Theater), The Queen and the Rebels (CENTERSTAGE), and The Beaux' Stratagem (Berkeley Repertory Theatre). Screen credits include Peter Sellars's The Cabinet of Dr. Ramirez, The Beverly Hillbillies, Dark Goddess, "Crime Story," and Internal Affairs. He is a Fox Fellow and a graduate of the Yale School of Drama.

Zoey's Playlist on NBC

Related Articles

More Hot Stories For You