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ACT and Stratford Shakespeare Festival Team Up for Racine's 'Phedre'


American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) announced Jean Racine's passionate play Phèdre as one of its productions for the 2009–10 season in a first-time coproduction with Canada's prestigious Stratford Shakespeare Festival. Artistic Director Carey Perloff will direct the French classic adapted and translated by Timberlake Wertenbaker, whose critically acclaimed translations of Hecuba and Antigone appeared previously at A.C.T. Seana McKenna, a 17-year member of Stratford's Acting Company, will star in the title role. Phèdre will be produced in Stratford's 2009 season and then will move to San Francisco in early 2010. This world premiere translation was commissioned by A.C.T. and developed in a workshop production last year at Stratford.

"We are thrilled to be producing Racine for the first time in A.C.T.'s history," says Perloff. "Timberlake's extraordinary and fresh translation of Phèdre pays homage to the gorgeous poetry of the original while sustaining this play's explosive heat and visceral sexuality. I have admired Stratford's work for many years and am excited to work at the theater, where Heather Kitchen, my partner at A.C.T., started her career."

Stratford Shakespeare Festival, located in Ontario, Canada, is one of Northern America's most prestigious repertory companies with a season of 13 classical and new plays and supports a long-standing company of over 200 actors. "Stratford and A.C.T. have an amazing synergy: both are actor-driven theaters deeply rooted in the classics," adds Perloff. "I am amazed at the muscularity of Stratford's Acting Company, who perform major classics in repertory for eight months in 2,000-seat houses. In particular, Seana McKenna is a remarkable talent, capable of keeping A.C.T. audiences on The Edge of their seats through Racine's erotic and complicated tragedy."

The A.C.T. artistic team continues to work on finalizing the full line-up for the 2009–10 season, which will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the historic landmark American Conservatory Theater.

Playwright Timberlake Werterbaker was resident writer for Shared Experience (1983) and The Royal Court Theatre (1984–85). Her plays include New Anatomies, first staged at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London; Abel's Sister, first performed at The Royal Court Theatre Upstairs in 1984; and The Grace of Mary Traverse (1985), winner of the Plays and Players Most Promising Playwright Award. She is best known for her play Our Country's Good (1988), based on the novel The Playmaker, by Thomas Keneally. First performed at the Royal Court in 1988, it was awarded the Laurence Olivier/BBC Award for Best New Play and the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best New Foreign Play and was nominated for six Tony Awards. The Love of the Nightingale (1989) was first performed in 1988 at The Royal Shakespeare Company's The Other Place, Stratford, and won the Eileen Anderson Central Television Drama Award. Three Birds Alighting on a Field (1992), a satirical portrait of the art world, was first performed at the Royal Court in 1991 and won the London Critics' Circle Best West End Play Award, the Writers' Guild Award (Best West End Play), and the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. The Break of Day (1995) was first performed at the Royal Court in 1995 by Out of Joint Theatre Company, directed by Max Stafford-Clark, and toured as a companion piece to Anton Chekhov's The Three Sisters. After Darwin was first performed at The Hampstead Theatre, London, in 1998. Wertenbaker has adapted and translated work by Marivaux, Anouilh, Maeterlinck, Pirandello, Sophocles, and Euripides (Hecuba, for A.C.T.). She also wrote the screenplays for film adaptations of Edith Wharton's The Children and Henry James's The Wings of the Dove. She is the author of a television play, Do Not Disturb, and her work for radio includes Dianeira, broadcast by BBC Radio 3; an adaptation and translation of Hecuba broadcast by BBC Radio 3; and an adaptation of Ismail Kadare's The H File and Scenes of Seduction on Radio 4. Her play Galileo's Daughter was performed in Bath in 2004 by the Peter Hall Company. Her recent plays include Divine Intervention, an adaptation of Gabriela Preissova's Jenůfa, and Arden City for The National Theatre's Connections program.

Carey Perloff is celebrating her 17th season as artistic director of A.C.T., where she most recently directed John Ford's 'Tis Pity She's a Whore and Nikolai Gogol's The Government Inspector. Known for directing innovative productions of classics and championing new writing for the theater, Perloff has also directed for A.C.T. the world premieres of Philip Kan Gotanda's After the War (A.C.T. commission) and her own adaptation (with Paul Walsh) of A Christmas Carol;  the American premieres of Tom Stoppard's The Invention of Love and Indian Ink and Harold Pinter's Celebration and The Room; A.C.T.–commissioned translations/adaptations of Hecuba, The Misanthrope, Enrico IV, Mary Stuart, Uncle Vanya, and A Mother (based on Maxim Gorky's Vassa Zheleznova); Harley Granville-Barker's The Voysey Inheritance (adapted by David Mamet); the world premiere of Leslie Ayvazian's Singer's Boy; and major revivals of Bertolt Brecht/Kurt Weill's Happy End (including a critically acclaimed cast album recording), A Doll's House, Waiting for Godot, The Three Sisters, The Threepenny Opera, Old Times, The Rose Tattoo, Antigone, Creditors, Home, The Tempest, and Stoppard's Travesties, The Real Thing, Night and Day, and Arcadia. Perloff's work for A.C.T. also includes Marie Ndiaye's Hilda, the world premieres of Marc Blitzstein's No for an Answer and David Lang/Mac Wellman's The Difficulty of Crossing a Field, and the West Coast premiere of her own play The Colossus of Rhodes (Susan Smith Blackburn Award finalist). Her play Luminescence Dating premiered in New York at the Ensemble Studio Theatre, was coproduced by A.C.T. and the Magic Theatre, and is published by Dramatists Play Service. Her play Waiting for the Flood has received workshops in A.C.T.'s First Look series and at New York Stage & Film and Roundabout Theater Company; her latest play, Higher, was developed at New York Stage & Film and as part of A.C.T.'s First Look series at Stanford University. Her one-act play The Morning After was a finalist for the Heideman Award at Actors Theatre of Louisville. Perloff has collaborated as a director on new plays by many notable contemporary writers, including Gotanda, Robert O'Hara, and Lucy Caldwell. She is currently developing a new dance-theater piece, The Tosca Project, with choreographer Val Caniparoli; a major production of Phèdre (translated by Timberlake Wertenbaker) for the Stratford Shakespeare Festival; and a new Bacchae for the Getty Center in Los Angeles.

Before joining A.C.T., Perloff was artistic director of Classic Stage Company in New York, where she directed the world premiere of Ezra Pound's Elektra, the American premiere of Pinter's Mountain Language and The Birthday Party, and many classic works. Under Perloff's leadership, Classic Stage won numerous OBIE Awards, including the 1988 OBIE for artistic excellence. In 1993, she directed the world premiere of Steve Reich and Beryl Korot's opera The Cave at the Vienna Festival and Brooklyn Academy Of Music.

Seana McKenna last appeared in The Clean House (CanStage) and in Burn Up for BBC. Stratford credits include Shakespeare's Will, The Glass Menagerie, Private Lives, Noises Off, and Good Mother. Shakespearean roles include Katherina the Shrew, Juliet, Cordelia, Viola, Olivia, Portia, Titania, Lady Macbeth, and three Queens of England (Stratford); Beatrice (MTC); Hermione (Kansas City Rep); and Cleopatra (Centaur). She has starred in A Streetcar Named Desire (TNB; MTC/Citadel), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (MTC; The Grand), Pygmalion (Shaw), and Hedda Gabler (MTC). Awards include three Doras, for Orpheus Descending (MTC/Mirvish Productions), Saint Joan (Theatre Plus Toronto/NAC), and for directing Valley Song (New Globe); a Jessie for Wit (Vancouver Playhouse/CanStage); and a Genie for The Hanging Garden. Next, she will reprise the title role in Medea (MTC/ Mirvish Productions), directed by husband Miles Potter.

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