American Century Theatre Presents STAGE DOOR, 4/13

Dynamic writing duo Edna Ferber (the author of Show Boat) and George S. Kaufman (coauthor of The Man Who Came to Dinner, You Can't Take It with You, and other hit comedies) brought high comedy and laughter to American audiences in the 1930s with their witty, stylish hits Stage Door, The Royal Family, and Dinner at Eight. Stage Door was a huge Broadway success in 1936 at the Music Box Theatre (staged by Kaufman) and was made into a star-studded Hollywood movie featuring a young Katherine Hepburn. The play, however, is rarely done in modern times because of the large cast. A magnificent vehicle for theatre actresses, Stage Door is the kind of seldom-produced classic comedy that The American Century Theater was created to produce-and will be presenting in April of 2011.

Stage Door chronicles the hopes, ambitions, romances and misfortunes of aspiring New York stage actresses living in Mrs. Orcutt's Footlights boarding house. Ever hopeful, the girls pound the pavements by day looking for their big break and may return home downhearted or over-the-moon. Hollywood is seen as both a dream-come-true and a cop-out, and a decision to "go Hollywood" becomes a conversational pivot point of integrity and artistry in the play.

"Stage Door was on the list of plays we compiled when we were first envisioning a professional company dedicated to producing 20th-century stage masterpieces," says TACT artistic director Jack Marshall. "It fits our mission in so many ways-a great play that other companies hesitate to produce because of its requirements, a play that was overshadowed by a movie that didn't do it justice, and a major work of important 20th-century writers. And it also gives today's audiences a fascinating glimpse of what the life of an aspiring actress was like during the Depression."

Directing this production in classic 1930s style is Marie Sproul, a TACT discovery who has been directing in Maryland, including a recent production of another large-cast Kaufmann comedy. Producer Eleanor Gomberg has served TACT in many capacities, most recently producing the company's 12th-season hit, Hellzapoppin'.

The cast of 23 includes Kate Volpe as stagestuck Terry, Nick Hanson as Kingsley, and Allison Leigh Corke as Hollywood-bound Jean. Returning to TACT are Jane Petkofsky as Mrs. Orcutt, Steve Lebens as Aldoph Gretzle, and Leigh Anna Frye as Linda. Newcomers to TACT include Heather Benjamin, Sherry Berg, Katie Culligan, Carina Czipoth, Elizabeth Darby, Joshua Dick, Ashley Faye Dillard, Rebecca Ellis, Jacqui Farkas, Ty Hallmark, Michael Hammond, Clare Johnson, Shannon Listol, Emily Morrison, Bradley Smith, Jennifer Speerstra, and Rachel Spicknall.

Set design is by Sarah Kendrick, costumes, by Christiane Marcus, and the lighting design, is by Dave Walden (designer for TACT's productions of The Cradle Will Rock and Moby Dick Rehearsed). Zoe Jackson is the sound designer, and Rebecca Christy (who has handled props and producer roles for TACT) and Avery Burns are properties designers. The show's stage manager is ­­­­­­­Lindsey Moore.

It was written in Three Comedies (Applause Books, 1999) that Kaufman and Ferber "inebriated America during the Prohibition Twenties, then made everyone forget the Depression in the Thirties via gales of sophisticated laughter." And The Wall Street Journal's Edwin Wilson wrote of their work: "A world of style and flair and grand gesture . . . indisputable magic."



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