FIFTH OF JULY Begins Tonight at Aurora Theatre Company

Lanford Wilson's "Talley Trilogy" continues on the Aurora Theatre Company main stage with FIFTH OF JULY. Aurora Artistic Director Tom Ross (A Bright New Boise, This Is How It Goes, Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance, The Shape of Things) helms FIFTH OF JULY, featuring Craig Marker (The Shape of Things, The Persians), Elizabeth Benedict, John Girot, Jennifer Le Blanc, Oceana Ortiz, Harold Pierce, Josh Schell, and Nanci Zoppi. FIFTH OF JULY plays tonight, April 17 through May 17 at the Aurora Theatre in Berkeley. For tickets ($32-60) and information the public can call (510) 843-4822 or visit auroratheatre.org.

It's 1977, thirty-three years after Talley's Folly, and Ken Talley has retreated to his childhood home in Missouri, confused about his future after losing his legs in the Vietnam War. As he contemplates selling his childhood home, family and friends from Ken's radical student days at UC Berkeley gather around him, helping Ken decide the fate of the Talley legacy as well as his own. Alternately funny and moving, FIFTH OF JULY contemplates the illusions of the 1960's in a bittersweet portrait of the Woodstock generation at the precise moment they realize the fireworks ended yesterday.

The last play chronologically, but the first play Lanford Wilson wrote in what would become his "Talley Trilogy," FIFTH OF JULY premiered on Broadway in 1980. About the play, The New York Times wrote "how much beauty there is! Mr. Wilson's powerful play seems infinitely wise about love and family, about America's past, present and future...Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Mr. Wilson's talent is his ability to empathize with all kinds of people." The Los Angeles Times called FIFTH OF JULY "Masterful... topical, ebullient and elegiac," and the Chicago Reader stated, "Wilson's special brand of humor and poetry makes his plays stand out from anything else that precedes or follows them." The New York Daily News called the play "one of the most incredibly well-written...profound and moving and often hilarious plays in the American theatre."

Aurora Theatre Company has assembled an outstanding ensemble for FIFTH OF JULY. Craig Marker returns to Aurora Theatre Company as Ken Talley in FIFTH OF JULY; he previously appeared in the company's productions of The Shape of Things and The Persians. Additional credits include productions at San Francisco Playhouse (Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, reasons to be pretty), American Conservatory Theater (Curse of the Starving Class, The Circle), Marin Theatre Company (Othello), TheatreWorks (Third, Theophilus North?), California Shakespeare Theater (Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth), Center Repertory Company (Clybourne Park, Arms and the Man), and San Jose Repertory Theatre (Game On, The Understudy), among others. Also returning to the Aurora stage is Elizabeth Benedict as Sally Talley; Benedict previously appeared in the company's hit production of The Best Man and Hedda Gabler. Additional regional credits include productions at B Street Theatre (Becky Shaw), A Traveling Jewish Theatre (All Through the Night), TheatreWorks (The Cripple Of Inishmaan), American Conservatory Theater, Pacific Alliance Stage Company, Circle In The Square, Arena Stage, and New Dramatists, among others.

Making his Aurora debut in FIFTH OF JULY is John Girot as Ken's best friend John. Credits include productions at Virago Theatre Company, Jewel Theatre Company, PlayGround, Central Works, Project Artaud, Looking Glass Theatre, and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, among others. Jennifer Le Blanc makes her Aurora debut as June Talley; credits include productions at TheatreWorks (Silent Sky, 33 Variations, Sense and Sensibility), Shotgun Players (By and By), Word for Word, Center Repertory Company, Marin Shakespeare Company, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, and Livermore Shakespeare Festival, among others. Oceana Ortiz makes her professional stage debut as Shirley Talley; previous credits include productions at California Shakespeare Festival's Summer Conservatory.

Also making his Aurora stage debut is Harold Pierce as Weston; credits include productions at Shotgun Players (In the Wound), California Shakespeare Theater (The Verona Project), Theatre Works (Of Mice and Men), Marin Theater Company, and Just Theater. Josh Schell makes his Aurora debut as Ken's lover, Jed; credits include productions at Marin Theater Company (In the Red and Brown Water), Shotgun Players (Our Town), San Francisco Playhouse (Jerusalem), Crowded Fire Theater (The Bereaved), and Cutting Ball Theater (Pelleas and Melisande), among others. Nanci Zoppi makes her Aurora debut as Gwen; credits include productions at B Street Theatre (Italian American Reconsiliation), Capital Stage Company, California Musical Theatre, New Helvetia Theatre, The Actor's Theatre, and Circle in the Square, among others.

Aurora Theatre Company Artistic Director Tom Ross helms FIFTH OF JULY. Ross inaugurated Aurora Theatre Company with Barbara Oliver in 1992. He has directed 25 productions for the company, including last season's hit production of A Bright New Boise, Neil LaBute's This Is How It Goes, Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance, The Soldier's Tale (co-directed with Muriel Maffre), Tennessee Williams' The Eccentricities of a Nightingale, the World Premiere of The First Grade, Gore Vidal's The Best Man, Mae West's SEX, and Harold Pinter's The Birthday Party. For Aurora Theatre Company, Ross has also directed acclaimed productions of Marius, Blue/Orange, Betrayal, Lobby Hero, which went on to be presented as a co-production between Aurora Theatre Company, Jonathan Reinis, Inc., and the Napa Valley Opera House, The Shape of Things, The Entertainer, The Homecoming, The Weir, Death Defying Acts, Abigail's Party, The Mystery of Irma Vep (co-directed with Danny Scheie), and The Aspern Papers, among others. He also wrote and directed A Karen Carpenter Christmas in both San Francisco and Seattle. Prior to coming to the Bay Area, Ross worked for eight years at The Public Theater in New York as Executive Assistant to Joseph Papp and as co-Director of Play and Musical Development. While in New York, Ross also penned the book adaptation of the New York Drama Desk nominated musical Up Against It, based on Joe Orton's screenplay for The Beatles.

Lanford Wilson (April 13, 1937 - March 24, 2011) was an American playwright who helped to advance the Off-Off-Broadway theater movement. He was nominated for three Tony Awards and has won a Drama Desk Award and five Obie Awards. In 1962, he moved to New York and began to write plays for Off-Off-Broadway theaters. He worked at odd jobs before finding a job in the subscriptions office of the New York Shakespeare Festival and began his professional career as a playwright writing one-act plays for Caffe Cino, a coffeehouse and small theater run by Joseph Cino, a pioneer of the Off-Off-Broadway theater movement. In 1965, Wilson also began writing plays for Ellen Stewart's La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, where his first full-length plays premiered. Wilson was a co-founder of Circle Repertory Company, for whom he wrote many plays in the 1970s. His play Fifth of July was first produced at Circle Rep in 1978; for its Broadway production opening in 1980, he received a Tony Award nomination. A prequel, Talley's Folly (1979 at Circle Rep.), opened on Broadway before Fifth of July and won him the 1980 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and his first Tony nomination. Wilson's works for the stage include: Home Free! (1964); The Madness of Lady Bright (1964); Balm in Gilead (1965); Ludlow Fair (1965); Wandering (1966); The Rimers of Eldritch (1967); The Gingham Dog (1968) (Wilson's first Broadway production in 1969); Lemon Sky (1968); Serenading Louie (1970); The Hot l Baltimore (1973); The Mound Builders (1975); FIFTH OF JULY (1978; Broadway 1980-82); Talley's Folly (1979; Broadway 1980); A Tale Told (1981, later revised and renamed Talley & Son); Angels Fall (1982; Broadway 1983); Burn This (1986; Broadway 1987-88); Abstinence (1989); Redwood Curtain (1992; Broadway 1993); A Sense of Place (1996); Sympathetic Magic (1998); Book of Days (2000); Rain Dance (2002). Lanford Wilson died on March 24, 2011, at the age of 73, from complications with pneumonia.

Following FIFTH OF JULY, Aurora completes "The Talley Trilogy" with a special addition to the season, readings of Lanford Wilson's rarely performed play TALLEY & SON in April, directed by Jennifer King. Aurora Theatre Company closes its season in June with the Bay Area Premiere of Lisa D'Amour's wicked Obie-winning satire DETROIT, directed by Josh Costello.

Voted Best Theater Company in 2012 by SF Weekly, Aurora Theatre Company continues to offer challenging, literate, intelligent stage works to the Bay Area, each year increasing its reputation for top-notch theater. Located in the heart of the Downtown Berkeley Arts District, Aurora Theatre Company, declared "one of the best regional theaters around" by 7x7 magazine, has been called "one of the most important regional theaters in the area" and "a must-see midsize company" by the San Francisco Chronicle, while The Wall Street Journal has "nothing but praise for the Aurora." The Contra Costa Times stated "perfection is probably an unattainable ideal in a medium as fluid as live performance, but the Aurora Theatre comes luminously close," while the San Jose Mercury News affirmed Aurora Theatre Company is "arguably the finest small theater in the Bay Area," and the Oakland Tribune stated "it's all about choices, and if you value good theater, choose the Aurora."
FOR CALENDAR EDITORS:

Lanford Wilson's "Talley Trilogy" continues on the Aurora Theatre Company main stage with FIFTH OF JULY. It's 1977, thirty-three years after Talley's Folly, and Ken Talley has retreated to his childhood home in Missouri, confused about his future after losing his legs in the Vietnam War. As he contemplates selling his childhood home, family and friends from Ken's radical student days at UC Berkeley gather around him, helping Ken decide the fate of the Talley legacy as well as his own. Alternately funny and moving, FIFTH OF JULY contemplates the illusions of the 1960's in a bittersweet portrait of the Woodstock generation at the precise moment they realize the fireworks ended yesterday.

The last play chronologically, but the first play Lanford Wilson wrote in what would become his "Talley Trilogy," FIFTH OF JULY premiered on Broadway in 1980. Aurora Artistic Director Tom Ross (A Bright New Boise, This Is How It Goes, Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance, The Shape of Things) helms what the New York Daily News called "one of the most incredibly well-written...profound and moving and often hilarious plays in the American theatre," and about which the Chicago Reader stated, "Wilson's special brand of humor and poetry makes his plays stand out from anything else that precedes or follows them." Craig Marker, who starred in Aurora's productions of The Shape of Things and The Persians, returns to the company as Ken Talley; also featuring Elizabeth Benedict, John Girot, Jennifer Le Blanc, Oceana Ortiz, Harold Pierce, Josh Schell, and Nanci Zoppi.



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