Palo Alto Players to Present Aaron Sorkin's THE FARNSWORTH INVENTION, 6/13-29

Palo Alto Players to Present Aaron Sorkin's THE FARNSWORTH INVENTION, 6/13-29

The fifth, and final, show of Palo Alto Players' 83rd season is The Farnsworth Invention. Written by Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, Moneyball, The Social Network, A Few Good Men), this fast-talking, witty drama tells the story of two men locked in an epic competition to lay claim to the most influential invention of the last century: television. A true David-and-Goliath battle between Philo Farnsworth, a young Idaho farm boy, and David Sarnoff, an enterprising Russian immigrant and CEO of RCA, The Farnsworth Invention will captivate audiences with its remarkable tale of scientific discovery, double-dealings, and corporate espionage. The Farnsworth Invention will run for 11 performances (June 13-29, 2014); post-show Talk Back events will be held after the June 19 & June 22 performances, led by director Dave Sikula and Steve Player (Palo Alto resident and nephew of Philo T. Farnsworth). All performances and post-show events will take place at the Lucie Stern Theater, located at 1305 Middlefield Road in Palo Alto. Tickets are on sale now by ordering online at or calling 650.329.0891.

It's not every day that a fourteen-year-old boy living on a farm in Idaho comes up with an invention that completely revolutionizes everything about the modern world - but that's exactly what Philo T. Farnsworth did when he invented the electronic television. David Sarnoff, the son of Russian emigrants and CEO of RCA, soon became aware of Farnsworth's invention and knew a good thing when he saw it. But as scientific discovery becomes a race to market, and allegations of theft become lawsuits, the true inventor of "television" becomes harder to identify. Aaron Sorkin treats this source material with sensitivity to both sides, allowing the audience to make their own decisions about who's right, who's wrong, and what lies in between. In The Farnsworth Invention, Sorkin brings this epic story to life with crackling dialogue and a plot that proves truth can be stranger than fiction.

Show director Dave Sikula relishes the opportunity to bring one of Sorkin's plays to the stage of Palo Alto Players. Sikula explains, "While on its face, the play is about the fight over who gets credit for the invention of television, it's really about how the entrepreneurial spirit of the individual in America was overwhelmed by corporate forces. I hope the audience comes away appreciating not only Philo's brilliance (after inventing television, he started working on nuclear fusion!), but also how vital that streak of individualism is to innovation."

That spirit of innovation and individualism is key to the success found by so many in Silicon Valley, including Steve Player, the nephew of Philo T. Farnsworth, who will participate in two special Talk Back events, led by Sikula, which will take place after the performances on June 19 and June 22. Artistic Director Patrick Klein says, "This play has special resonance for this community and we're so excited to have Steve join us! The innovative and enterprising nature displayed by both Sarnoff and Farnsworth is something that has really come to define this part of the Bay Area, and Sorkin tells their story in a really interesting way. It's clear that he [Sorkin] has a real love for this area. After all, between Moneyball and The Social Network, he set two of his most successful screenplays here!"

With over 90 individual speaking parts in the script, The Farnsworth Invention is an especially challenging play to bring to the stage. "The thing I'm enjoying most about the rehearsals is watching the flexibility of the cast," says Sikula. "There are 93 speaking parts in the script, and all the actors, with the exception of Michael Sally [David Sarnoff] and Dominic Falletti [Philo Farnsworth], play multiple roles. I was blessed with a group of actors who are able to paint distinct characters in the space of as few as two lines."

The cast includes:

Michael Sally, Oakland - David Sarnoff

Dominic Falletti, Half Moon Bay - Philo Farnsworth

Tom Caldecott, Menlo Park - Toleman et al

Dee Baily, Portola Valley - Solomon et al

Shuyi Jia, Sunnyvale - Hon et al

Sophia Naylor, Palo Alto - Betty et al

Stephanie Crowley, Redwood City - Lizette et al

Jennifer Gregoire, San Bruno - Pem et al

Mylissa Malley, San Jose - Agnes Farnsworth et al

Frank Swaringen, Scotts Valley - Wilkins et al

Vic Prosak, San Jose - Wachtel et al

Charles Evans, San Francisco - Gorrell et al

Jonathan Ferro, San Francisco - Gardner et al

Gary Mosher, San Jose - Eversom et al

Gary Gerber, Foster City - Willis et al

This production will also feature direction by Dave Sikula, set design by Kuo-Hao Lo, costume design by Shannon Maxham, lighting design by Selina Young, sound design by Jeff Grafton, and hair and makeup design by Shiboune Thill.

Opening night for The Farnsworth Invention is Saturday, June 14, 2014 at 8pm, and the show runs until June 29, 2014; there is also a paid preview performance on Friday, June 13 at 8pm. The curtain lifts at 8pm Thursday through Saturday, and Sunday performances are a matinee at 2:30pm. Ticket prices are priced according to seating chart, and range from $23 to $45. Discounted tickets are available to Seniors and Students for Thursday and Sunday performances only. Special discounts of 20-25% for groups of 10 or more are also available. For ticket services, please call 650.329.0891 or visit Palo Alto Players online at

Palo Alto Players' 83rd season concludes with The Farnsworth Invention. Season subscriptions for Palo Alto Players' 84th season (2014-2015) are available for as little as $140. The 2014-2015 season is "A Season of Mythic Proportions" and will begin in September with Big Fish (book by John August, music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa). In November, audiences will be entertained by the hare-raising comedy classic Harvey (by Mary Chase). 2015 begins with the beautifully haunting Eurydice (by Sarah Ruhl), and the spring musical, The Addams Family, is sure to delight and thrill (book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa). The 84th season will close in June 2015 with Chinglish, a new comedy about the misadventures of miscommunication (by David Henry Hwang).

In cooperation with The City of Palo Alto, The Farnsworth Invention and the 83rd season of Palo Alto Players are produced at the Lucie Stern Theater located at 1305 Middlefield Road in Palo Alto, CA. Use of this facility is made possible through support from The City of Palo Alto, Community Services Department, Division of Arts and Sciences, and from our patrons.

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