PHILADELPHIA – The Wilma Theater will continue its 2010 – 2011 Season with The Understudy, the latest comedy from Pulitzer Prize nominee Theresa Rebeck, directed by David Kennedy. This production will mark the first time a play written by Theresa Rebeck will be produced in Philadelphia. The Wilma Theater is pleased to be the first theater to bring a work by this acclaimed and prolific playwright to Philadelphia audiences. The Understudy begins previews on Wednesday, December 29, 2010; opens on Wednesday, January 5, 2011; and closes on Sunday, January 30, 2011.
When a smug Hollywood action star lands a prestigious role in Franz Kafka’s newly discovered play on Broadway, things couldn’t be better…until he meets his understudy. The charmingly ditzy stage manager must prevent a battle royale from developing between the two rival actors which begs the question – will the show go on? Spirited and laugh-out-loud funny, The Understudy places the backstage friction of a frenzied rehearsal center stage with vivacious satire and Kafkaesque theatrics.
A recent smash hit Off-Broadway, The Understudy premiered at the 2008 Williamstown Theatre Festival and continued with a successful run with the Roundabout Theatre Company at the Laura Pels Theater in New York. Now, Philadelphia audiences will be able to enjoy this poignant and satirical jab of the comic anxiety that occurs when Hollywood meets Broadway. The Wall Street Journal called The Understudy, “A masterpiece of comic clockwork, raucously funny!”
Wilma’s Artistic Director Blanka Zizka remarks, “Theresa Rebeck’s play is funny, smart, and politically relevant. Anybody who practices theater nowadays is weary of the constant pressure to produce when success is measured only by the box office income. As one of the characters in Rebeck’s play asserts, ‘the hand of the marketplace is actually steering things,’ and corporate culture has invaded the arts. It’s thoroughly refreshing to see this reality through Rebeck’s comic lens and to wholeheartedly celebrate with her moments of human connection and acts of creativity.
The Wilma Theater is pleased to welcome guest director David Kennedy, Associate Artistic Director at the Westport Country Playhouse, to direct The Understudy. This will be Kennedy’s first time directing a play by Theresa Rebeck as well as his first time directing in Philadelphia. Kennedy remarks, "I'm excited to work at the Wilma. Their care and attention to artists, their choice of plays, and their dedication to a genuinely immersive process are all very inspiring. And to make my debut with Rebeck's wonderfully subversive confection is a real treat. This is razor-sharp comedy with an intellectual bite."
About the Playwright
Theresa Rebeck has written over a dozen plays, and is one of the most produced female playwrights in America. Her productions include Mauritius, The Scene, The Water’s Edge, Loose Knit, The Family of Mann, Spike Heels, Bad Dates, The Butterfly Collection, Our House, and View of the Dome. Her work Omnium Gatherum (co-written) was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2003.
Rebeck’s publications include Free Fire Zone, a book of comedic essays about writing and show business. She has written for American Theatre magazine and has had excerpts of her plays published in the Harvard Review. Ms. Rebeck’s first novel, Three Girls and Their Brother, was published in April 2008. Her most recent novel, Twelve Rooms with a View, was published in May 2010.
In television, Rebeck has written for Dream On, Brooklyn Bridge, L.A. Law, American Dreamer, Maximum Bob, First Wave, and Third Watch. She has been a writer/producer for Canterbury’s Law, Smith, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, and NYPD Blue. Her produced feature films include Harriet the Spy and Gossip, as well as the independent features Sunday on the Rocks and Seducing Charlie Barker, an adaptation of her play The Scene. Rebeck is currently working on a Showtime pilot with Academy Award-winning director Stephen Spielberg.
Awards include the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award, the Writers Guild of America award for Episodic Drama, the Hispanic Images Imagen Award, and the Peabody, all for her work on NYPD Blue. She won the National Theatre Conference Award (for The Family of Mann), and the William Inge New Voices Playwriting Award in 2003 for The Bells. Mauritius was originally produced at Boston’s Huntington Theatre, where it received the 2007 IRNE Award for Best New Play as well as the Eliot Norton Award.
Rebeck is originally from Cincinnati and holds an MFA in Playwriting and a PhD in Victorian Melodrama, both from Brandeis University. She is a board member of the Dramatists Guild of America, a Contributing Editor of the Harvard Review, an Associate Artist of the Roundabout Theatre Company, and has taught at Brandeis University and Columbia University. In 2010, Rebeck was appointed as the Playwright in Residence at the University of Delaware, a residency granted through the university’s Interdisciplinary Humanities Research Center. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children.
Theresa Rebeck will join The Wilma Theater for an exclusive conversation about The Understudy on Sunday, January 16, after the matinee performance. Ticket holders and subscribers are invited to attend, and tickets for non-ticket holders are $10.
About the Director
David Kennedy is the Associate Artistic Director of the Westport Country Playhouse, where he most recently directed Donald Margulies’s Dinner with Friends. Next year he will direct Suddenly Last Summer by Tennessee Williams. Until recently, Mr. Kennedy was the Associate Artistic director of the Dallas Theater Center, where he directed David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross, Moliere's The Misanthrope, and Richard Greenberg’s The Violet Hour, among others.
In 2003 he co-founded the Toronto ensemble The Lunar Society for whom he wrote and directed Brighter than the Light of the Sun, a co-production with Nova Scotia’s Ship’s Company Theatre. He has also directed at Clarence Brown Theatre Company, The Summer Cabaret in New Haven (where he served as artistic director), Hangar Theatre, Kitchen Dog Theater, The Old Globe Theatre’s Graduate Conservatory, Prospect Theater Company, Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, and 78th Street Theatre Lab.
A graduate of the Yale School of Drama, he also has taught at Georgia College and State University, The University of Rochester, and Towson University. Kennedy is a former Phil Killian Fellow at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and a Drama League Directing Fellow. Kennedy hails from Halifax, Nova Scotia and currently resides in Stamford, Connecticut.
The Wilma’s Artistic Director Blanka Zizka remarks, “I’m very pleased to introduce to Philadelphia audiences director David Kennedy. Together with his terrific collaborators and cast, David, who perfectly understands all demands of comedy, will - I believe - create a dizzyingly funny and provocative production.”
About the Cast
The Understudy’s three-person cast includes Brad Coolidge as Jake, Jenn Harris as Roxanne, and Cody Nickell as Harry. Brad Coolidge (Jake) has appeared on screen in Kisses, Chloe; Genesis; At First Sight; and in a film adaptation of Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit. He has appeared on stage in The Drilling Company’s productions of Much Ado about Nothing, Romeo and Juliet, and The Tempest, as well as Manhattan Transfer and Awesome 80s Prom. Jenn Harris (Roxanne) has appeared on both stage and screen, including guest appearances on 30 Rock, Bored to Death, and Law and Order. Harris starred in the 2009 short Gayby and the 2009 feature film Confessions of a Shopaholic. On stage, Harris has performed as Britney Spears in the Off-Broadway performance of Girls Day, or Britney and Tara Stare Into the Void and the Void Stares Back, New Jerusalem, and Modern Orthodox. Harris has also appeared as Clarice Starling in Silence! The Musical, and was featured in the world premiere of the Pageant Play in 2008. Cody Nickell (Harry), who is returning to the Wilma stage, recently appeared with the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra and has starred in a number of roles on television and film, including Dorian Blues, which has won numerous awards including the Audience Award at the Philadelphia International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. Nickell’s stage credits include In the Next Room, or the vibrator play; Clybourne Park; Arcadia; Romeo and Juliet; and the U.S. Premiere of How To Disappear…, among others. Nickell was last seen at The Wilma Theater in 2005 as Stephen in Outrage.
A number of special, behind-the-scenes Onstage Conversations will accompany the production and provide audiences with the opportunity to engage with the artistic staff of the Wilma.
Thursday, January 6, 2011 – 9pm
Stay after the performance to discuss the play with a member of the Wilma's artistic staff.
Thursday, January 13, 2011 – 9pm
Stay after the performance to discuss the play with the cast.
Young Friends Evening
Friday, January 14, 2011 – 7pm
Complimentary pre-show reception for audience members age 35 and under.
Onstage Conversation – EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW!
Sunday, January 16, 2011 – (approximately) 3:30pm
Join us for an exclusive conversation with The Understudy playwright and Pulitzer Prize nominee Theresa Rebeck. RSVP suggested; for tickets, call 215.546.7824
Wednesday, January 26, 2011 – (approximately) 3:30pm
Stay after the matinee performance to discuss the play with a member of the Wilma's artistic staff in the lobby with complimentary coffee.
Tria Pre-Show Wine Tasting
Friday, January 28, 2011 – 7pm
Join us for a complimentary, pre-show wine tasting in our lobby from 7 – 8pm sponsored by Tria.
Tickets range from $36 to $65, and are available at the Wilma's Box Office by calling 215.546.7824, visiting wilmatheater.org, or coming to the theater, located at 265 South Broad Street in Philadelphia. Discounted ticket options are available for students, groups, or anyone in their 20s, and reduced-price, 3-play subscriptions are still available for the 2010 – 2011 Season. Information on discounts and subscriptions is available at wilmatheater.org.
In 2010, The Wilma Theater was the proud recipient of five Barrymore Awards, including Outstanding Overall Production of a Play, Outstanding Direction of a Play (Anne Kauffman), Outstanding Leading Actor in a Play (Jeremy Bobb as Max Garrett), Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Play (Brooke Bloom as Becky Shaw), and Outstanding Ensemble in a Play, all for its comedic production of Becky Shaw.
The Doubletree Hotel, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, and The Sporting Club at The Bellevue are the Season Sponsors for The Wilma Theater’s 2010 – 2011 Season.