John Grisham's A TIME TO KILL Opens at Arena Stage May 6-June 19

By: Apr. 14, 2011
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What is the true meaning of justice? That is the question posed to audiences in A Time to Kill, the world premiere and first stage adaptation of a novel by John Grisham. By special arrangement with Daryl Roth and adapted for the stage by Tony Award winner Rupert Holmes (The Mystery of Edwin Drood), A Time to Kill brings the heat of the Deep South to Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater. Directed by Ethan McSweeny (Broadway's Gore Vidal's "The Best Man"), A Time to Kill runs May 6-June 19, 2011 in the Kreeger Theater.

"Producing a work that asks big questions about how we live in the world takes a dynamic team," says Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith. "Rupert Holmes and Ethan McSweeny are an ideal duo to take on this powerful courtroom drama. Daryl Roth, a committed and bold producer, brought this potential project to Arena over a year ago, and we have been thrilled to work together on the birth of this new play."

The Cast of A Time to Kill features Sebastian Arcelus as the defendant's attorney Jake Brigance (recently seen on Broadway starring in Elf and Jersey Boys), Dion Graham as Carl Lee Hailey (Marcus Gardley's On the Levee at Lincoln Center), Rosie Benton as Jake's youthful law clerk Ellen Roark (seen at Arena last season in Stick Fly and in Broadway's Accent on Youth), Erin Davie as Jake's wife Carla Brigance (Broadway's A Little Night Music) and Brennan Brown as Rufus Buckley (The Persians in New York, dir. by McSweeny). The distinguished cast is rounded out by Jeffrey M. Bender, Trena Bolden Fields, Jonathan Lincoln Fried, Deborah Hazlett, Joe Isenberg, Chike Johnson, Michael Marcan, Hugh Nees, Evan Thompson and John C. Vennema.

A Time to Kill depicts a Mississippi town's upheaval when Carl Lee Hailey takes the law into his own hands following an unspeakable crime committed against his daughter. Now on trial for murder, Carl Lee's only hope lies with one young, idealistic lawyer Jake Brigance, who is outmatched by the formidable district attorney, Rufus Buckley, and under attack from both sides of a racially divided city.

"Growing up in D.C., quite a few of my formative theater experiences were at Arena Stage," shares McSweeny, "so it is a special honor to be a part of the inaugural season in the beautiful new Mead Center. Inside the thriller that is A Time to Kill is an intriguing moral question: is vigilante justice ever permissible? And do we want to live in a world like that? I'm hoping audiences come away with not only a powerful piece of theater, but also something that will spark debate on the way home."

"I'm tremendously excited to be working with this cast and this director in this remarkable venue," says Holmes. "We all know John Grisham as the master of the legal thriller, but A Time to Kill was his first novel, his first literary child, a work of great passion and pungency. I hope this newly created play, a courtroom drama without boundaries, will intrigue, entertain and stimulate its world-premiere audience, causing them to consider what they would have done if they were the defendant-or his defenders-and how they would feel if they were his jury."

Though written more than 20 years ago, the themes of justice and revenge expressed in A Time to Kill remain relevant in today's world. Projections designed by Jeff Sugg and displayed on 1980s-type television sets reinforce the trial as a media sensation, and a turntable set designed by James Noone helps tell the story in and out of the courtroom.

Rupert Holmes (Playwright) has won Tony Awards as an author, a lyricist and a composer, and twice received the coveted Edgar Award from The Mystery Writers of America for his stage works. He is also an award-winning mystery author (the novels Where the Truth Lies and Swing, and numerous anthologies including Best American Mystery Stories 2008 and On a Raven's Wing). He is delighted to be working at Arena Stage and returning to Washington, D.C., where his comedy-thriller Solitary Confinement set a new box office record at the Eisenhower Theater, his musical The Mystery of Edwin Drood had a memorable run at the Kennedy Center Opera House, and where he recently served as a guest speaker at the National Book Festival. Holmes also created and wrote AMC's critically acclaimed television dramedy Remember WENN, which recently received a retrospective evening at the Library of Congress. Broadway: Curtains (Drama Desk Award, Best Book; Tony nominations, Best Book and Best Lyrics), Say Goodnight, Gracie (Tony nomination, Best Play; National Broadway Theatre Award, Best Play), Accomplice (Edgar Award), The Mystery of Edwin Drood (Tony Award, Best Musical; Holmes also won Tonys for Best Book and Score, being the first person in Tony history to singly do so).

John Grisham (Original Author) is the author of 22 novels, one work of nonfiction, a collection of stories and two novels for young readers. He lives with his family in Virginia and Mississippi. A Time To Kill was his first novel.

Ethan McSweeny (Director) made his NY debut with John Logan's Never the Sinner, which received the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards for Best Off-Broadway play in 1998 and originated at D.C.'s Signature Theatre. Before the age of 30 he helmed the Broadway revival of Gore Vidal's "The Best Man" (Tony Award nomination, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards). Mr. McSweeny recently directed a critically acclaimed revival of Dangerous Liaisons for the celebrated Stratford Festival in Canada and has staged more than 60 productions of new plays, musicals and classics for preeminent companies around the United States: recent highlights include the premieres of The Trinity River Plays (Goodman, Dallas Theatre Center), 1001 (Denver Center, Ovation Award), In This Corner (Globe, San Diego Critics Award), A Body of Water (Guthrie and Globe, San Diego Critics Award) and Mr. Marmalade (South Coast Rep, OCIE Award), and the New York premieres of 100 Saints You Should Know and 1001, which were both named among the top 10 plays of 2007 by Entertainment Weekly and Time Out magazines. Washington-area audiences have seen his work on Major Barbara, Ion and The Persians (all at Shakespeare Theatre Company) and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at CenterStage in Baltimore.

Daryl Roth (Producer) holds the singular distinction of producing six Pulitzer Prize-winning plays: Anna in the Tropics; August: Osage County; How I Learned to Drive; Proof; Wit; and Edward Albee's Three Tall Women. Also: Edward Albee's The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?, The Play About the Baby and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; The Baby Dance; Bea Arthur on Broadway; Camping with Henry and Tom; Caroline, or Change; A Catered Affair; Closer Than Ever; Come Fly Away; Curtains; De La Guarda; Dear Edwina; Defying Gravity; Die, Mommie, Die!; The Divine Sister; Driving Miss Daisy; Fela!; Irena's Vow; A Little Night Music; Love, Loss, and What I Wore; The Normal Heart; Manuscript; Medea; Old Wicked Songs; Salome; The Tale of the Allergist's Wife; The Temperamentals; Thom Pain; Through the Night; Thurgood; Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992; Vigil; What's That Smell: The Music of Jacob Sterling; The Year of Magical Thinking.

The Cast of A Time to Kill in alphabetical order:
Sebastian Arcelus (Jake Brigance). Sebastian makes his Arena Stage debut in A Time to Kill after having just appeared in NY City Center's critically acclaimed Encores! presentation of Where's Charley? On Broadway, he has starred as the title character in Elf, Bob Gaudio in Jersey Boys, Fiyero in Wicked, Roger Davis in Rent and Jan in the Beach Boys musical Good Vibrations. He also recently appeared in Lincoln Center Theater's Off-Broadway production of Happiness. Some other regional and international credits include the world premiere of William Finn's Songs of Innocence and Experience (Williamstown), Wicked (1st national tour), The Full Monty (NSMT), West Side Story (Latin America), Miss Julie and Floyd Collins, among others. His voice can also be heard on numerous TV commercials and animated programs.

Jeffrey M. Bender (Dr. Rodeheaver/Redneck/Billy Ray Cobb) was recently seen in Reckless at Denver Center Theater. At Old Globe he performed in Opus, The Mystery of Irma Vep and Lost in Yonkers. He has performed at Lincoln Center in Cymbeline, Seattle Rep in Three Musketeers and in the Acting Company's production of Jane Eyre. For over 12 years, he has been a company member of Shakespeare Theatre of N.J., where he has performed in numerous productions, most recently in The Servant of Two Masters last summer. Mr. Bender has also performed regionally at Delaware Theatre Company, Capital Rep, Shakespeare on the Sound, Public Theatre of Maine and Michigan Shakespeare Festival, as well as numerous NYC theater companies.

Rosie Benton (Ellen Roark) was seen at Arena Stage in last season's Stick Fly (also at Huntington Theatre). Broadway: Accent on Youth (MTC), Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Roundabout). Off-Broadway: Saturn Returns (Lincoln Center), The Wife to James Whelan (Mint) and Howard Katz (Roundabout). Regional: Dissonance, The Night Season (Bay St.), Spike Heels (Syracuse Stage), Betrayal (Hangar) and The Winter's Tale (Shakespeare on the Sound). Film: Return, A Bridge to Bourne. TV: Law & Order: SVU, All My Children.

Brennan Brown (Rufus Buckley) is pleased to be working at Arena Stage for the first time. His New York credits include The Persians (directed by Ethan McSweeny) and Right You Are, both at National Actors Theatre; Major Barbara (Roundabout); Harold Pinter's The Celebration and Ethan Cohen's Offices, both at Atlantic Theatre; The Second Man and Museum, both at Keen Company; and Asylum and Fair Fight, both at Naked Angels. His film and TV credits include the upcoming Detachment (w. Adrien Brody), I Love You Phillip Morris (w. Jim Carrey), State of Play, Turn the River, John Adams (HBO miniseries), Miss Marple (Masterpiece Theatre/BBC), Damages, Ugly Betty, Gossip Girl, Monday Night Mayhem (TNT), Kidnapped, Deadline, The Education of Max Bickford and all the Law & Orders.

Erin Davie (Carla Brigance). Broadway: most recently seen as Countess Charlotte Malcolm in A Little Night Music, Young Little Edie in Grey Gardens (Theatre World Award for Outstanding Broadway Debut), Niki Harris in Curtains. Off-Broadway: The Glorious Ones, LCT; Infertility; Encores! Applause (Eve Harrington). National tours: Swing!, The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber. Regional: Camelot (Guenevere), The Apple Tree (Eve), A Little Night Music (Anne), Carousel at Olney (Julie), Jekyll & Hyde (Emma), The Student Prince (Princess). TV: The Good Wife.

Trena Bolden Fields (Deputy) is very excited about her premiere at Arena Stage. Ms. Bolden Fields hails from Minneapolis and has appeared as Ruby in Seven Guitars at Penumbra Theatre, Blonde Buppie in No Distance Between Us at Illusion Theater and Ole Rit in Dreaming Harriet Tubman at Stages Theatre Company. Most recently, Ms. Bolden Fields crafted a series of monologues, Daring to Think, Move, and Speak, and performed this one-woman show at Dreamland Arts in St. Paul, Minnesota, and American Univ. in Washington.

Jonathan Lincoln Fried (W.T. Bass/Stump Simpson) was last seen at Arena in Born Yesterday. At Shakespeare Theatre he played Menelaus in JoAnne Akalaitis' The Trojan Women. NY credits: BAM's Bridge Project with London's Old Vic (The Tempest, dir. Sam Mendes), Signature Theatre Company (Landscape of the Body, dir. Michael Greif; Sleep Deprivation Chamber, dir. Michael Kahn), NYSF (Two Noble Kinsmen, Hamlet), TFNA (Hamlet, dir. David Esbjornson; Coriolanus), NYTW (Anne Bogart's 1951), MCC, Ohio Theater (No Plays No Poetry). Regional: Mark Taper (Slavs), Yale Rep (Richard II), Williamstown (Cherry Orchard, Three Sisters, Landscape of the Body), Old Globe (Orson in Orson's Shadow), Humana (Tales of the Lost Formicans) and many roles at ART, including Edmund in King Lear. Mr. Fried was a longtime company member at Trinity Rep (Tom in The Glass Menagerie, Treplev in Seagull). Film/TV: BAPS, Kate & Leopold, Paul Monette: The Brink of Summer's End and various Law & Orders. He recently completed an oral history of Alvin Epstein to be published in 2012.

Dion Graham (Carl Lee Hailey) has performed on Broadway, Off-Broadway, internationally, in films and in numerous hit television series. He has performed a wide variety of classical and contemporary roles. Mr. Graham has also originated many roles in world premieres of works by major playwrights including Tennesee Williams' Not About Nightingales (London's Royal Nat'l. Theatre/B'way), Kenneth Lonergan's Lobby Hero (Lucille Lortel Award nominee) and Marcus Gardley's On the Levee (Lincoln Center), among others. Film and TV credits include Malcolm X, Thirteen Conversations About One Thing, Asbury Park, The Good Wife, Gossip Girl, NYPD Blue, Hack, Homicide, the various Law & Orders and more. He's honored to have worked with a diverse group of directors ranging from Trevor Nunn to Spike Lee, from Avery Brooks to Mike Nichols. Mr. Graham played State's Attorney Rupert Bond on HBO's The Wire. He also narrates The First 48 on A&E.

Deborah Hazlett's (Cora Cobb/Drew Tyndale/Felicia Albright) Washington appearances: Hamlet (Hayes nom, Best Play) and A Midsummer Night's Dream at Folger; Crave and Blue Room at Signature; eight productions including Macbeth (with Stacy Keach), Taming of the Shrew and Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 at Shakespeare; the U.S. premiere of Bug at Woolly Mammoth; Something You Did at Theatre J and Rabbit Hole at Olney (Hayes nom, Best Ensemble). She has also performed regionally at Syracuse Stage (Bug), PlayMakers Rep (Frozen), Florida Stage (The Count, Mezzulah 1946), Totem Pole (Proof, Sylvia, Crimes of the Heart), and more than 20 productions at Everyman Theatre, including Hedda Gabler, Candida, Much Ado About Nothing, Side Man, Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune, Uncle Vanya, Cherry Orchard, All My Sons, Rabbit Hole, Betrayal, Proof, A Delicate Balance and Road to Mecca. TV: Homicide, Law & Order and Young Americans. Ms. Hazlett narrates books for BBC America and Harper Collins.

Joe Isenberg (Pete Willard) is extremely excited for his acting debut at Arena Stage, after serving as fight director for every tongue confess and At Home at the Zoo. Regional: The Lieutenant of Inishmore, Crave (Signature Theatre); Macbeth (Folger Theatre/Two River Theatre Co.); Ambition Facing West (Theatre Alliance); Scenes from the Big Picture (Solas Nua); Twelfth Night (Manteo Festival). He has understudied at Shakespeare Theatre Co. and Studio Theatre. Besides Arena Stage, he has worked as a fight director at the Metropolitan Opera (assistant), 2011 Humana Festival, Florida Stage, InterAct Theatre Co., Studio Theatre, Folger Theatre (assistant) and Alabama Shakespeare Festival (assistant). He was given the 2010 Society of American Fight Directors Swashbuckler Award and was named the Kennedy Center/Kenan Fund for the Arts fight choreographer in residence in 2010.

Chike Johnson (Sheriff Ozzie Walls) recently appeared in Steppenwolf for Young Adults' production of Huck Finn. Other shows include "Master Harold" ... and the boys (Next Act Theatre), Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Cedarcreek Rep), Smoldering Fires (First Stage Children's Theatre) and Take Me Out (Milwaukee Chamber Theatre). In 2000, Mr. Johnson graduated from Univ. of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Professional Theater Training Program and moved to Spain, where he lived for three years. For the past couple of summers he has been a part of bringing theater to children by teaching at First Stage Children's Theater Academy in Milwaukee, where he was the contemporary scene study teacher.

Michael Marcan (Deputy) is delighted to be making his Arena Stage debut. His recent Washington appearances include Lee in True West and Doc Gibbs in Our Town, both at Theatre Lab. Regionally he performed in the Atlantic tour of Poe, the Pit and the Pendulum as Prospero. Recently he made his film debut as Greg in the short film Mission Critical. Michael is also a regular performer at several of Washington's comedy clubs, including Station 9 and The Improv.

Hugh Nees (Mr. Pate) last appeared at Arena Stage in Oklahoma! Other Arena shows include Awake and Sing!, Born Yesterday, Shakespeare in Hollywood, Polk County, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, You Can't Take It with You and Christmas Carol 1941. Twice nominated for a Helen Hayes Award, Mr. Nees has performed on various stages in the Washington area for more than 20 years, including last season's Dirty Blonde at Signature, Shakespeare Theater's King Lear, The Heavens are Hung in Black at Ford's, and Alice and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest at Round House.

Evan Thompson (Judge Omar Noose) returns to Washington, where he appeared in La Cage aux Folles at the Warner, 1984 at Rooftop and Conrack at Ford's. On Broadway he was in Ivanov and An American Daughter at Lincoln Center, City of Angels, 1776 and Jimmy, and Off-Broadway in Everybody's Ruby for N.Y. Shakespeare Festival, Arthur Miller's The American Clock and the U.S. premiere of the Brecht/Weill opera Mahagonny. Mr. Thompson's 67 roles in 19 seasons at River Rep in Ivoryton, Conn., include the Chairman in Rupert Holmes' The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Joe Keller in All My Sons and the title role of The Mikado. He has performed at 21 regional theaters, including Portland (Maine) Stage Company, Portland (Ore.) Center Stage, and Center Stage Baltimore. Mr. Thompson can be seen (if you don't sneeze) in Mildred Pierce on HBO and in August at Dorset (Vt.) Playhouse in Noises Off under his daughter Jenn Thompson's direction.

John C. Vennema (Lucien Wilbanks) originated the role of Tomin the Broadway production of Arthur Miller's The Ride Down Mt. Morgan. Since then he has played Brutus in Julius Caesar at the Guthrie and Sir Robert Chiltern in An Ideal Husband at Baltimore's Center Stage. Originally from Houston, Mr. Vennema graduated from Princeton and attended the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. He has also been seen on Broadway in The Royal Family, Otherwise Engaged, The Elephant Man and Racing Demon (dir. Richard Eyre). Off-Broadway: The Criple of Inishmaan (Drama Desk Award), House and Garden, The Illusion and Later Life. Film: Love Comes Lately, Marci X, The Producers, City Hall, Subway Stories, Sabrina, Die Hard with a Vengeance, Kiss of Death, Basketball Diaries and Separate but Equal.

The Creative Team of A Time to Kill includes Playwright Rupert Holmes, Director Ethan McSweeny, Set Designer James Noone, Costume Designer Karen Perry, Lighting Designer York Kennedy, Sound Designer Lindsay Jones, Projection Designer Jeff Sugg, Fight Director David Leong, Dialect Consultant Lynn Watson, Wig Designer Anne Nesmith, Interim Literary Manager Amrita Mangus, Script Wrangler Aaron Malkin, Associate Director Sarah Rasmussen, Associate Sound Designer Will Pickens, Stage Manager Susan R. White, Assistant Stage Manager Amber Dickerson, Production Assistant Marne Anderson, Stage Management Fellow Kristen Harris, Producing/Directing Fellow Pablo Halpern and NY Casting by Tara Rubin Casting.

Full bios and images available upon request. Please e-mail

Major production support provided by Hubert (Hank) & Charlotte Schlosberg, Pepco Holdings, Inc., and Andrew R. Ammerman and the Family of H. Max & Josephine F. Ammerman.

The Washington Post, WJLA and WTOP are the official media partners for A Time to Kill.

A Time to Kill Special Events, Ticket Information and Performance Calendar
The A Time to Kill Salon-Monday, June 13, 2011 at 8:00 p.m.
In the spirit of artistic and literary salons of the past, the Arena Stage Salon offers a place for our audiences to engage and discuss the material presented on stage. Each salon features a panel of exciting and knowledgeable individuals-from academics and community leaders to our talented casts and artistic teams. These panels address a topic pertinent to the content of the current production and offer a space for lively, in-depth conversation. The A Time to Kill Salon will take place at 8:00 p.m. and is open to the public. Reservations and more information can be obtained through the Arena Stage Sales Office at 202-488-3300.

Southwest Night-Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 7:30 p.m.
An invitation is extended to our Southwest D.C. neighbors to buy $25 tickets, plus applicable fees, for one designated performance of each production. Proof of Southwest D.C. residency-or continued employment-for each audience member of each party must be presented at the time of purchase. Tickets are limited to four per person and are based on availability. To purchase tickets, call 202-488-3300 or stop by the Arena Stage Sales Office. Plays and dates are subject to change.

TICKETS: Tickets for A Time to Kill start at $55 plus applicable fees, subject to change, based on availability. Discount tickets are available for patrons purchasing tickets for multiple shows, students and groups of 10 or more. A limited number of $15 tickets for patrons age 30 and under go on sale each Monday for performances that week. (All patrons must present valid ID.) HOTTIX, a limited number of half-price, day-of-performance tickets, are available 30 minutes before every performance. With Metro Mondays, patrons who present a SmarTrip or Metro card can purchase half-price tickets for the week's performances after noon on Mondays while supplies last. Tickets may be purchased online at, by phone at 202-488-3300 or at the Sales Office at 1101 Sixth St., SW, D.C.

Sales Office/Subscriptions: 202-488-3300
Group Sales Hotline for 10+ Tickets: 202-488-4380
TTY for deaf patrons: 202-484-0247
Info for patrons with disabilities: 202-488-3300

Tuesday, Wednesday & Sunday at 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Friday & Saturday at 8:00 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday matinees at 2:00 p.m.
Weekday matinees at noon on 5/24, 5/25 & 6/1.

terpreted performance: Thursday, 6/9 at 8:00 p.m.
Post-show discussions: 5/24, 5/25 & 6/1 following the noon matinee; 6/7 & 6/16 following the evening performance.

METRO: Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater is only one block from the Waterfront-SEU Metro station (Green Line). When exiting the station, walk west on M Street toward Sixth Street, and the main entrance to the Mead Center is on the right.

PARKING: Discounted parking in the Mead Center garage is available by reservation to full-season subscribers for $18 per show. The entrance for the Mead Center garage is on Maine Ave., SW. Limited handicapped parking is available by reservation up to 24 hours prior to a performance. Remaining spaces are $20 for nonsubscribers. Patrons can also park at either of Central Parking's garages on Fourth Street between I and M streets for $10.

Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater is a national center dedicated to the production, presentation, development and study of American theater. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Molly Smith and Managing Director Edgar Dobie, Arena Stage is the largest company in the country dedicated to American plays and playwrights. Arena Stage produces huge plays of all that is passionate, exuberant, profound, deep and dangerous in the American spirit, and presents diverse and ground-breaking work from some of the best artists around the country. Arena Stage is committed to commissioning and developing new plays through the American Voices New Play Institute. Now in its sixth decade, Arena Stage serves a diverse annual audience of more than 300,000.



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