Contra Costa Civic Theatre Presents The Bay Area Premiere Of TO MASTER THE ART, April 21- May 21

Originally commissioned by Timeline Theatre in Chicago, this scrumptious story about everyone's favorite French Chef plays April 21 through May 21, 2023.

By: Mar. 24, 2023
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Contra Costa Civic Theatre Presents The Bay Area Premiere Of TO MASTER THE ART, April 21- May 21

After a COVID-induced delay of nearly three years, Contra Costa Civic Theatre will bring the very first production of To Master the Art to Bay Area audiences. Originally commissioned by Timeline Theatre in Chicago, this scrumptious story about everyone's favorite French Chef plays April 21 through May 21, 2023.

Living in Paris in 1948, newlywed Julia Child was left with time on her hands, so she decided to enroll in a cooking class at the prestigious culinary academy, Le Cordon Bleu. She fell in love with the city and its cuisine, and four years later published her seminal cookbook "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", which helped to bring gourmet French living into many American homes for the first time. With wit and humor and a whole lot of butter, To Master The Art tells Julia's personal story, illuminating her journey from amateur cookbook author to international food icon.

This Bay Area premiere production is directed by Marilyn Langbehn, now in her tenth season as CCCT's Executive Artistic Director. Productions for the company include Our Town, Anton in Show Business, Broadway Inside Out, Bright Star, The Last Five Years, All the Way, Ragtime, All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914, Cabaret, The Sound of Music, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)[revised], The Mountaintop, and the world premiere of The Lost Years. Her critically-acclaimed production of August: Osage County received Best Production and Best Director nods at the inaugural Theatre Bay Area awards in 2014. She founded the Theatre's Reading Stage series in 2015 to showcase the work of women playwrights and playwrights of color. To date, the series has produced more than 20 works, including plays by Katori Hall, Theresa Rebeck, Cynthia Wands, Kimber Lee, Leah Nanako Winkler, Jiréh Breon Holder, and Inda Craig-Galván, and the widely-acclaimed world premiere of her play, Running For My Life, about the January 6th insurrection.

"One of the things we all missed during the early days of the pandemic was the ability to gather together around a table and share a meal with family and friends," said director Marilyn Langbehn. "If I never go to another Zoom cocktail party, it'll be too soon. We all tried to stay connected, but you could feel communities getting smaller. It was no surprise that people wanted to get back to eating a meal together as soon as we possibly could. In To Master the Art, Julia Child embodies the idea in the play that food - the cooking, serving, eating, and even the cleanup after - can be such a gift of love to those who share it with you. She was a genius of hospitality, completely unpretentious, deadly serious about her work and not at all serious about herself. The company is having a blast spending time with her!"

Playwright Doug Frew's most important qualification for writing this particular play is his lifelong devotion to everything Julia Child represents, a passion he shares with co-author William Brown. With his late partner Patti McKenny, he co-wrote the lyrics for William Brown's adaptation of She Stoops To Conquer (composer Andrew Hansen) at Northlight. Together they also wrote the musicals Becoming George (composer Linda Eisenstein); 90 North (composer Daniel Sticco), winner of ASCAP's Outstanding New Musical Award and inaugural production of ASCAP's "In the Works" program at the Kennedy Center; and the satirical revue Get Funny Or You're Fired at the Royal George. As a writer and creative director in corporate communications, he has created songs, sketches, videos, speeches, and entire musical comedies in praise of everything from tractors to hamburgers to all manner of pharmaceutical products. He was for several seasons a regular contributor to Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion.

Co-author William Brown is an Associate Artist at TimeLine Theatre in Chicago, where he has also directed the world premiere of Wasteland, Halcyon Days, Paragon Springs, and the Midwest premiere of Not About Nightingales. He has directed 17 plays at Writers, including Moon For The Misbegotten, Company, The Liar, and A Little Night Music. He has directed productions at Northlight, Goodman, Indiana Rep, Marriott, Drury Lane Oakbrook, Court, and Milwaukee Rep. He's directed 20 plays at American Players Theatre, including The Recruiting Officer, King Lear, A Streetcar Named Desire, Travesties, and All My Sons. Bill has been associated with Montana Shakespeare in the Parks for 40 years as both actor and director. He has also acted in more than 100 productions across the country. His adaptations include a Western version of She Stoops To Conquer with music, an 85-minute production of Hamlet for high schools, and a nine-person modern dress adaptation of The Way Of The World. Brown received Joseph Jefferson Awards for Director (The Liar) and Actor in a Principal Role (Nixon's Nixon). He received a 2010 Spirit of Diversity Award from Actors' Equity Association, and the Chicago Tribune named him Chicagoan of the Year for Theatre in 2003. His website is williambrowndirector.com.

Andrew Hansen is a composer, sound designer and an Associate Artist at TimeLine, where he has composed for To Master The Art, Rutherford And Son, Master Class, In The Next Room Or The Vibrator Play, The Normal Heart, and 33 Variations, among many others. He has worked at many theatres in Chicago, including Writers Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Lifeline Theatre, American Players Theatre, Montana Shakespeare In The Parks, Project Runway. Regionally, he has worked with Indiana Repertory Theatre, Summer Shakespeare at Notre Dame and Montana Shakespeare in the Parks. He has received 30 Jeff Nominations and won three Jeff awards (1 Equity, 2 Non-Equity) and three After Dark Awards, including the Jeff Award for Original Incidental Music for the 2010 production of To Master The Art. A graduate of Montana State University, he holds a BA degree in Media and Theatre Art.

Our production features a host of CCCT favorites: Maria Mikheyenko (as "Julia Child") and Michael Sally (as her beloved husband "Paul Child"). Maria was last seen at CCCT as "Mother" in Ragtime; Michael last appeared as "George Wallace" in All the Way. Others in the company include Anne Yumi Kobori (as Simone Beck, co-author of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," and Madame Dorin, owner of La Couronne, the oldest inn in France); Harrison Alter as Chef Max Bugnard, Julia's father Big John McWilliams, and Hollings, a publisher with Houghton Mifflin); Trish Tillman (as editor Avis de Voto, and Director of the Cordon Bleu Madame Brassart); Kelly Rinehart (as alleged Soviet spy Jane Foster Zlatovski, and Judith Jones, publisher at Alfred A. Knopf); Jeremy Cole (as fellow Cordon Bleu student Carolina, and C.I.A. investigator Black); and Laszlo Horner (as Gilles, fellow Cordon Bleu student Mick, and C.I.A. investigator Smith.)

To Master the Art runs for five weekends from April 21 through May 21. Tickets range from $10-$35, and are available on the theatre's website at ccct.org. All performances take place in-person at the theatre, 951 Pomona Ave (cross street Moeser) in El Cerrito. Free parking is available in the adjoining lot and on the street. COVID protocols for attending the in-person performances are updated regularly and are available on the theatre's website at www.ccct.org/safety.

Celebrating its 63rd season in 2022-23, Contra Costa Civic Theatre (CCCT) embraces the notion that theatre is a vital part of a healthy community and serves its citizens best when it provides a welcoming home for all people who value the power of storytelling. Established in 1959 by Louis and Bettianne Flynn and a group of dedicated volunteers and under the artistic direction of Marilyn Langbehn for the past ten years, CCCT is proud to provide entertainment and education to the El Cerrito and East Bay communities that help it to thrive.




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