Sarah Ruhl & Les Waters Join Forces for THREE SISTERS at Berkeley Rep

Audiences and critics on both coasts embraced Eurydice and In the Next Room (or the vibrator play), two shows steeped in longing from playwright Sarah Ruhl and director Les Waters. Now this talented team turns its attention to a fresh translation of a masterpiece: Anton Chekhov's Three Sisters. Ruhl enlivens this classic with the same elegant understanding of intimacy that infused those earlier collaborations, while Waters and a cast of 14 deliver another sumptuous production. This West Coast premiere begins previews on Berkeley Rep's intimate Thrust Stage on April 8, opens April 13, and runs through May 22. Three Sisters is a co-production between Berkeley Rep, where Waters serves as associate artistic director, and Yale Repertory Theatre.

"There's nothing I love more than doing a new play in Berkeley," Ruhl remarks. "In this case it will be a new old play. The combination of Chekhov and Les Waters is thrilling to me. I wish the two of them could have communed together by the Black Sea. Instead, I am looking forward to their collaboration in the twenty-first century by the Pacific. I think Mr. Waters and Mr. Chekhov have in common the way they think of silence and structure and the very subtle emotional passage of human beings through the moments in their daily lives. How they see turbulence under calm passages, and humor in the midst of elegy."

"It is our responsibility as theatre artists to stage classics as if they're new plays and to give each new play the weight of a classic," Waters comments. "This production gives me an opportunity to do both - and it's wonderful to work with two of my favorite writers on the same show. Chekhov is a genius, and Three Sisters can rightfully be described as a masterpiece. Sarah Ruhl has done a beautiful job creating an adaptation that is contemporary, lean, and spare. This is one of my three favorite plays of all time, and I look forward to sharing it with our audience."

Three Sisters is supported by many generous sponsors. BART and Wells Fargo have renewed their commitment as season sponsors at Berkeley Rep, and the 2010-11 season producers are Marjorie Randolph and Wayne Jordan and Quinn Delaney. The executive producers of this show are Mitch and Pam Nichter and the Strauch Kulhanjian Family. The Bernard Osher Foundation serves as production sponsor.

Three Sisters depicts an entire village of unlucky lovers struggling with the bittersweet distance between reality and dreams. Chekhov remains the most important dramatist in Russian history and one of the greatest playwrights of all time. His four final plays - The Cherry Orchard, The Seagull, Three Sisters, and Uncle Vanya - are considered masterpieces of modern drama. This new adaptation, based on a literal translation by Elise Thoron with Natalya Paramonova and Kristin Johnsen-Neshati, explores the intertwined mysteries of denial and hope.

Ruhl is "one of the hottest playwrights around, a Pulitzer nominee and MacArthur ‘genius' letting her imagination run wild," proclaims the San Jose Mercury News. "In Les Waters, who directed her exciting Eurydice a few seasons back, she has found an expert collaborator," adds The New Yorker. Discover the humor and heartbreak of one of the world's great plays, told anew through the lyricism of two leading voices in Contemporary Theatre.

Sarah Ruhl has written numerous award-winning plays including Eurydice, which made its West Coast premiere at Berkeley Rep in 2005, and In the Next Room (or the vibrator play), which was commissioned by Berkeley Rep, premiered there in 2009, and earned a Tony nomination for Best Play when it reached Broadway. Ruhl's other scripts include The Clean House, Dead Man's Cell Phone, Demeter in the City, Late: a cowboy song, Melancholy Play, Orlando, Passion Play: a cycle, and Stage Kiss. She is the winner of a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, as well as a Fourth Forum Freedom Award, a Helen Hayes Award, the Helen Merrill Award, the PEN/Laura Pels Award, the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, a Whiting Writers' Award, and nominations for the NAACP Image Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Her plays have been performed at theatres across the country including Arena Stage, Clubbed Thumb, Cornerstone Theater Company, the Goodman Theatre, Lincoln Center Theater, Madison Repertory Theater, the Piven Theatre Workshop, Playwrights Horizons, Second Stage Theatre, the Wilma Theater, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, and Yale Rep. These scripts have also been produced internationally and translated into Arabic, German, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Russian, and Spanish. A member of New Dramatists and 13P, Ruhl received her MFA from Brown University, where she studied with renowned playwright Paula Vogel.

Obie Award-winner Les Waters has served as associate artistic director of Berkeley Rep since 2003. In the last six years, his shows have ranked among the year's best in the New York Times, The New Yorker, Time Magazine, Time Out New York, and USA Today. Waters has a history of collaborating with prominent playwrights like Caryl Churchill, Charles Mee, and Wallace Shawn, and champions important new voices such as Will Eno, JorDan Harrison, Sarah Ruhl, and Anne Washburn. In 2007, he directed the off-Broadway production of Ruhl's Eurydice at Second Stage after helming productions at Berkeley Rep and Yale Rep. In 2009, he made his Broadway debut with In the Next Room (or the vibrator play), which also began in Berkeley. His other productions at Berkeley Rep include the world premieres of Concerning Strange Devices from the Distant West, Fêtes de la Nuit, Finn in the Underworld, Girlfriend, and To the Lighthouse; the American premiere of TRAGEDY: a tragedy; and extended runs of The Glass Menagerie, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, The Pillowman, and Yellowman. Waters has numerous credits in New York, his native England, and at theatres across America. He led the MFA directing program at UCSD and is an associate artist of The Civilians, a theatre group in New York.

Three Sisters showcases an ensemble of 14 accomplished actors. David Abrams (Fedotik) recently played the title role in Hamlet at College of Marin. He's also been seen at North Bay Shakespeare Company and Ross Valley Players. James Carpenter (Chebutykin) has appeared in countless local shows, including The Lieutenant of Inishmore and more than 30 other productions at Berkeley Rep. Richard Farrell (Ferapont) has performed off Broadway, regionally (including 12 seasons with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival), and locally at Marin Theatre Company and TheatreWorks. Cobe Gordon (Rode) co-created The Salesmen at Art/Works Theatre in Los Angeles. He has performed at A.C.T. as part of its Young Conservatory and its MFA program. Emily Kitchens (Natasha) has been seen locally in shows like Clybourne Park at A.C.T. and Much Ado about Nothing and Pastures of Heaven at Cal Shakes. Bruce McKenzie (Vershinin) appeared on Broadway in The Farnsworth Invention and at Berkeley Rep in Big Love, Concerning Strange Devices from the Distant West, Fêtes de la Nuit, and Homebody/Kabul. Alex Moggridge (Andrei) has many local credits including shows with A.C.T., Aurora Theatre Company, Magic Theatre, Marin Theatre Company, SF Playhouse, and the Shotgun Players. Barbara Oliver (Anfisa) began performing at Berkeley Rep in its first season more than 40 years ago. The founder of the Aurora Theatre, she has also worked with A.C.T., Cal Shakes, and PlayGround. Natalia Payne (Masha) has been seen in shows such as Memory House at the Vineyard Playhouse, Me, Myself & I at Playwrights Horizons, and Trouble in Mind at Yale Rep. Keith Reddin (Kulygin) most recently appeared in Ruhl's Passion Play at Epic Theatre Ensemble. His extensive experience as an actor and playwright includes authorship of Life During Wartime, which was produced at Berkeley Rep in 1990. Thomas Jay Ryan (Tuzenbach) worked with Waters on the Broadway production of In the Next Room and Berkeley Rep's presentation of TRAGEDY: a tragedy. His many screen and stage credits include the title role in HAl Hartley's Henry Fool. Wendy Rich Stetson (Olga) has appeared in A Free Man of Color and In the Next Room on Broadway; in American Silents, Big Bill, Cymbeline, Hamlet, and Tartuffe off Broadway; and at many regional theatres. Heather Wood (Irina) has performed with Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, the Goodman, Guerrilla Shakespeare, New York Classical Theatre, The Old Globe, and Trinity Repertory Company. Sam Breslin Wright (Solyony) appeared on Broadway in Macbeth and, along with Thomas Jay Ryan, shared the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Ensemble for The Temperamentals.

Four designers are creating Three Sisters for Mr. Waters. Annie Smart (scenic design) devised sets and costumes for 14 previous shows at Berkeley Rep. She also worked on the Broadway production of In the Next Room and the London production of Tiny Kushner. Ilona Somogyi (costume design) created costumes for Yale Rep's production of Passion Play. Her other credits include Arena Stage, the Atlantic Theater, Center Theatre Group, OSF, Playwrights Horizons, and South Coast Rep. Alexander V. Nichols (lighting design) has designed, scenery, lights, and projections for 19 previous shows at Berkeley Rep. His work on Wishful Drinking moved to Broadway and Taking Over ended up off Broadway. David Budries (sound design) has designed sound for Broadway, off Broadway, and regionally at CenterStage, Dallas Theater Center, Ford's Theatre, Hartford Stage, McCarter Theatre Center, South Coast Rep, and Yale Rep. The stage manager is Michael Suenkel, Berkeley Rep's resident production stage manager.

Along with Three Sisters, theatregoers can enjoy three dozen special events:
Low-cost previews take place on Friday, April 8; Saturday, April 9; Sunday, April 10; and Tuesday, April 12.
30 Below - the coolest night of theatre for the under-30 crowd - returns on Friday, April 8 at 8:00 PM. Sponsored by the SF Bay Guardian, it includes a performance of Three Sisters and a wild post-show party hosted by Ale Industries, Picante Catering, and Raymond Vineyards. Tickets start at only $14.50 for anyone under 30 years old - that's less than popcorn and a movie!
Opening-night festivities are held on Wednesday, April 13, including a pre-show dinner for donors at the Hotel Shattuck Plaza and a post-show party for the audience featuring wines from Raymond Vineyards.
Teen Night begins at 6:30 PM on Friday, April 15 and includes dinner, a behind-the-scenes discussion with a member of the artistic team, and a performance of Three Sisters. Tickets are only $10 for high-school students. For details, call (510) 647-2972 or e-mail school@berkeleyrep.org.
Free 30-minute docent presentations about the show take place at 7:00 PM on the following Tuesday and Thursday evenings: April 12, April 14, April 19, April 21, April 26, April 28, May 3, May 5, May 10, May 12, May 17, and May 19.
Post-play discussions moderated by theatre professionals follow the 8:00 PM shows on Thursday, April 28; Tuesday, May 3; and Friday, May 13.
And, on select evenings, patrons can whet their palates for the play with free tastings from these culinary artisans one hour before curtain: Almare Gelato on April 17; Artesa Vineyards and Winery on April 15; Clarine's Florentines on May 15; Dr. Kracker on April 30; Inna Jam on April 16; Oren's Kitchen on May 1; Peterson's Winery on May 6; Raymond Vineyards on April 23, April 29, May 8, and May 14; and Semifreddi's on April 22 and May 7.

One ticket for Three Sisters starts as low as $29. Additional savings are available for groups, seniors, students, and anyone under 30 years of age - meaning discounted seats can be obtained for as little as $14.50. The Thrust Stage is located at 2025 Addison Street, only half a block from BART and near bus lines, bike routes, and parking lots. For tickets or information, call (510) 647-2949 or toll-free at (888) 4-BRT-Tix - or simply click berkeleyrep.org.

ABOUT BERKELEY REP
Berkeley Repertory Theatre has grown from a storefront stage to a national leader in innovative theatre. Known for its core values of imagination and excellence, as well as its educated and adventurous audience, the nonprofit has provided a welcoming home for emerging and established artists since 1968. The Theatre welcomes an annual audience of 180,000, serves 20,000 students, and hosts dozens of community groups, thanks to 1,000 volunteers and more than 400 artists, artisans, and administrators. With two stages, a school, and a Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre, Berkeley Rep is proud to premiere exhilarating new plays. In the last six years alone, the company has helped send six shows to Broadway: American Idiot, Bridge & Tunnel, Ghetto Klown, In the Next Room (or the vibrator play), Passing Strange, and Wishful Drinking. Come see tomorrow's plays today at Berkeley Rep.

ABOUT YALE REP
Yale Repertory Theatre is dedicated to the production of new plays and bold interpretations of classics and has produced well over 100 premieres - including two Pulitzer Prize winners and four other nominated finalists - by emerging and established playwrights. Eleven Yale Rep productions have advanced to Broadway, garnering more than 40 Tony Award nominations and eight Tony Awards. Yale Rep is also the recipient of the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre. Established in 2008, the Yale Center for New Theatre is an integrated, artist-driven initiative that devotes major resources to the commissioning, development, and production of new plays and musicals at Yale Repertory Theatre and across the country. Professional assignments at Yale Repertory Theatre are integral components of the program at Yale School of Drama, the nation's leading graduate theatre training conservatory. Visit yalerep.org.

 

Photo Credit: Walter McBride/WM Photos


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