Rubicon Theatre Company Announces 15th Anniversary Season; 'OUR TOWN/YOUR THEATRE' Initiative


Rubicon Theatre Artistic Directors Karyl Lynn Burns and JAMES O'NEIL announced the company's 15th Anniversary Season at a preview event for subscribers, donors and media last earlier this month at the theatre's home in Ventura's Downtown Cultural District. The event was hosted by Rubicon Board President DR. ROZ WARNER and Board of Advisors' Chair/Board Vice-President Jeff Smith, with onstage appearances by several of the directors, writers and performers for the season.

Dr. Warner began the event by announcing a new initiative which is reflected in the title of the 2012-2013 Season: OUR TOWN/YOUR THEATRE. "During the coming season," said Warner, "we hope to reconnect with old friends; to throw open the doors of the theatre and welcome new attendees of different ages, interests and backgrounds; and to find new ways to take the art into the community."

The OUR TOWN/YOUR THEATRE Season opens with a World Premiere revisal of a classic American musical -- PAL JOEY. The production opens October 20 (first preview October 17), and runs through November 11, 2012. Reconceived by longtime Ventura resident and Tony Award-winner Peter Schneider, bookwriter Patrick Pacheco, and arranger and orchestrator Michael Reno, Pal Joey is based on the short stories and original libretto penned by John O'Hara. Schneider (former President of Disney Animation, Broadway producer of The Lion King, and Director of the West End production of Sister Act)will direct.

(Photo credit: James Scolari. Pictured: James O'Neil.)

Beloved by audiences for the rich RODGERS AND HART score with songs like "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" and "I Could Write a Book," the original Broadway production of Pal Joey (starring a young, charismatic Gene Kelly) nonetheless received mixed responses from critics, who considered subjects such as sexual politics, blackmail and corruption too racy for 1940. But times changed and some of the songs became pop hits, and by the mid-1950s, the show was both a critical and popular success on the Great White Way. It was later made into a film with a starry cast including Frank Sinatra.

In this revised version, set after World War II, Joey is recast as an African-American singer with the voice of an angel, easy good looks, and a dangerous dream – to headline his own nightclub. When he lands at a low-rent Chicago club and is befriended by a jazz pianist with a talent for writing tunes, he sees his chance to rise. But…it's 1948…and Joey's ambitions are thwarted by the mores of the time and his own restless nature. Joey shuts out his past, steps over his only true friend, and uses his sexuality to get what he wants. The person he can't seem to shake, though, is Linda, a young artist who is as grounded as Joey is airborne. If Joey gets what he wants, will he hang onto it? And will it be enough?

For Rubicon's production of Pal Joey, Schneider has secured permission to use other songs from the Rodgers and Hart catalogue. Sparkling classics such as "The Lady is a Tramp," "Sing for Your Supper" and "Glad to be Unhappy" are now intermingled with gems from the original show. In addition to orchestrating for a six-piece band (including two pianos), Michael Reno also serves as Musical Director.

Rubicon's holiday offering is a staged concert reading of a new musical - LITTLE MISS SCROOGE - a Dickensian musical extravaganza which runs December 15 through December 23, 2012, with previews beginning December 12.

Little Miss Scrooge reunites Tony and Olivier Award-winner John Caird (Les Misérables and Nicholas Nickleby) and Tony nominee Paul Gordon (Jane Eyre), who developed Daddy Long Legs at Rubicon. (Daddy has since played at 14 theatres in the U.S. and opens in Japan this fall.) Music and lyrics are by Gordon, with a book by Gordon, John Caird and Caird's son Sam Caird (a London-based director regarded as an expert on Dickens). The two Cairds will share directing responsibilities. Musical supervision, direction and orchestrations are by Brad Haak (current conductor of Mary Poppins on Broadway).

A modern retelling of "A Christmas Carol," with added characters and plot lines from novels such as "Great Expectations," "Little Dorritt" and "Bleak House," the story follows Estella (Essie) Scrooge, a Wall Street tycoon and direct descendent of Ebenezer.

Young and attractive, but a Scrooge at heart, Essie's faith in the money markets is tested when fate forces her to visit the desolate, recession-hit town of Pickwick, Ohio on Christmas Eve. There she meets Philip (Pip) Nickleby, who runs the Harthouse Hotel, a refuge for the sick, dispossessed and homeless.

A snow storm hits and Essie is trapped for the night. When she finally drifts off, she is confronted by three mysterious visitors who take her on a guided tour of her life and…well…give her the Dickens.

The staged concert of Little Miss Scrooge features three residents of Ventura County: Andrew Samonsky, ALYSON LINDSDAY (SCHUSTER) and Ted Neeley.

Samonsky, a graduate of Buena High School in Ventura who received his MFA at UC Irvine, will create the role of Pip Nickleby. Samonsky has become one of Broadway's hottest young stars and played Lt. Cable in the acclaimed Lincoln Center production of South Pacific (reprising his role for PBS).He also starred opposite Mary Testa in the Obie nominated production of John Michael LaChiusa's Queen of the Mist.

For Rubicon, Samonsky played Jonathan in the West Coast premiere of tick…tick..BOOM!, which then transferred to the Coronet in Los Angeles for a successful commercial run.

Lindsay, a Ventura native, recently returned to the U.S. after completing her MFA at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. While overseas, Lindsay worked at RSC, performed in the Spanish TV show "That's English," the Blue Orange Theatre's What the Butler Saw, the World Premiere Rocket Science (winner of the Richard Rodgers' Award for New Musical Writing), and Jerry Springer: the Opera (Edinburgh Fringe Festival). Lindsay previously appeared in Rubicon's Picasso at the Lapin Agile and played Miranda in The Tempest.

Neeley, a recent transplant to the area from his native Texas, is best known for his starring roles in the film, Broadway and national tour productions of Jesus Christ Superstar. Other credits include tours of Hair, Sgt. Pepper's… and Tommy and the film "Of Mice and Men." At Rubicon, Neeley appeared as Willie in the World Premiere stage adaptation of Murder in the First, Lucky in Waiting for Godot, and starred in Ted Neeley and The Little Big Band.

The fully staged World Premiere of Little Miss Scrooge is slated for Rubicon's 2013-14 Season.

The OUR TOWN/YOUR THEATRE Season continues February 2 through February 24, 2013 (first preview January 30, 2013), with the American premiere of EXTRAS by SABINA BERMAN, a free adaptation of Marie Jones' Olivier Award-winning play Stones in His Pockets.

A side-splittingly funny social satire, eXtras is the story of villagers in an impoverished Mexican community whose lives are suddenly upended by the arrival of a Hollywood film company. Cultures clash and the locals greet the visitors in a myriad of ways -- with anticipation and hope, bemused indifference, desperation, and resentment. Could the chaotic presence of these crazy strangers be an opportunity for fame or fortune? A chance to find love? A means of escape?

Two talented actors breathe life into more than twenty hilarious characters – from the arrogant director, to the downtrodden crew, to the self-absorbed starlet, to the villagers themselves, whose lives are unalterably changed by their brush with capitalism. Berman's adaptation underscores what it means to be an "extra" in a globalized society. eXtras will be performed in English during subscriber performances, with added performances in Spanish.

Widely regarded as Mexico's leading contemporary dramatist, Sabina Berman has won the Mexican National Theatre Prize an unprecedented four times and has written film scripts, poetry, prose, and news, in addition to her works for the stage. For her collection of interviews with Mexican women in positions of power "Mujeres y Poder," she won one of two National Journalism Awards. Some of her major plays include Pancho Villa and a Naked Woman (which became a film in 1992) and Happy New Century, Dr. Freud. She wrote director Jorge Fons' movie about the murders on the border of Juarez and the adaptation of "The History of Love" for director Alfonso Cuarón.She also wrote and co-produced the film "Backyard," which represented Mexico at the Oscars in 2010 and won numerous international awards, including the Silver Medal at the Film Festival in Toronto and several Ariels from the Mexican Academy of Arts and Cinema.

Rubicon's spring offering is Thornton Wilder's Tony and Pulitzer Prize Award-winning classic OUR TOWN, which begins previews on March 5 and runs March 9 through 31, 2013.

Rubicon Artistic Associate Jenny Sullivan (whose credits include Off-Broadway and Williamstown Theatre Festival) helms the production, which is the centerpiece of the season.

Our Town is set in Grover's Corners, New Hampshire, a quintessentially American town following the turn-of-the-last century. The piece reminds audiences of the precious nature of every moment of every day, and is as powerful and poetic today as it was when first produced more than 75 years ago. In Rubicon's production, Ventura resident and Artistic Director JAMES O'NEIL narrates Wilder's immortal tale of birth, love, marriage, death and daily life.

"Oh earth, you're too wonderful for anyone to ever realize you," exclaims the character of Emily in the play, portrayed in the Rubicon production by Lauren Patten (Rubicon's Anne Frank and Elma in Bus Stop). DILLON FRANCIS, a Ventura College student and graduate of Foothill High, who has appeared in Defying Gravity and The Diary of Anne Frank at Rubicon, has been cast as George Gibbs. Joseph Fuqua, a Yale MFA who has played leading roles in more than 20 Rubicon productions including Hamlet, plays the town organist Simon Stimson in this great American classic; and ROD LATHIM, a Santa Barbara-based actor and director whose work at Rubicon includes Children of a Lesser God and Man of La Mancha, plays Howie Newsome, the milkman.

Tony Award-winner Peter Hunt (1776 on Broadway) has signed on as lighting designer, having lit a production of the show in which Wilder himself played the Stage Manager.

LONESOME TRAVELER returns to Rubicon for an encore run April 27 through May 19, 2013 (with a first preview on April 24). Conceived and directed by NAACP Award-winner JAMES O'NEIL, with Musical Arrangements and direction by Dan Wheetman (Tony nominee, Ain't Nothin' But the Blues), Lonesome Traveler premiered last year to thrilled audiences and praise from the critics, breaking box office records of recent years. It subsequently had a successful run at Laguna Playhouse.

In Lonesome Traveler, a group of young singers and multi-instrumentalists take audiences on a journey down the rivers and streams of American Folk -- from the hills of Appalachia to the nightclubs of New York and San Francisco; from the mid-1920s to the mid-1960s.

Returning artists include Justine Bennett and BRENDAN (B. WILLING) JAMES, recording artists at the core of the Ventura music scene; SYLVIE DAVIDSON, a Seattle-based actress and singer (Book It); Anthony Manough, whose Broadway credits include The Lion King and Jesus Christ, Superstar); actor and singer Justin Flagg from New York (The Jazz Singer); Nicholas Mongiardo-Cooper (a recent West Coast arrival from N.Y. who just completed a run at South Coast Rep); and second-generation musicians JAMES WEBB (son of Jimmy Webb) and TREVOR WHEETMAN (son of Dan Wheetman). Jennifer Leigh Warren (Little Shop of Horrors in New York) joined the group in Laguna and will be a part of the Rubicon production.

The performers create characters inspired by Leadbelly, Odetta, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, The Carter Family, The Weavers, Peter Paul & Mary and others whose music changed America forever. Song titles include "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," "This Land is Your Land," "Deportee," with new additions such as "The Wabash Cannonball," "Turn, Turn, Turn" and "I'll Fly Away."

The OUR TOWN/YOUR THEATRE Season ends with a fall run of THE SEARCH FOR SIGNS OF INTELLIGENT LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE, written by Jane Wagner. The production previews September 4, opens September 7, and closes September 29, 2013.

Set on the corner of "Walk, Don't Walk" somewhere in New York City, Trudy the bag lady offers her services to take intergalactic visitors on a tour of reality-what she describes as "a collective hunch."

On the way, she meets a bored socialite, a misfit teen, a divorced bodybuilder, a group of feminists from the 1970s, and a host of other characters, who ponder the meaning of soup, art, fried clams, and the color scheme of Howard Johnson's.

Actress Karyl Lynn Burns (Rubicon productions of Shirley Valentine, The Little Foxes and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) follows in the footsteps of Lily Tomlin, who originated the role, playing more than a dozen roles in this comic one-person tour-de-force.

Individuals who purchase subscription packages receive a 20% savings on tickets, priority seating, exchange privileges, lost ticket insurance, and also receive advance notice of special events.

Pricing for five- or six-show packages begin as low as $106.70. Pricing has been reduced for two series this season –Friday evenings and previews. Subscriptions may be purchased at the Rubicon Theatre Company Box Office at 1006 E. Main Street, Ventura, CA 93001, or by calling (805) 667-2900. Order forms are also available online at


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