Press Releases

11.12 Curse of the Starving Class

February, 2012
Contact: Johnny Van Heest, Public Relations Manager
215.893.9456 x102


Richard Hamburger returns to direct The Wilma Theater’s production ofCurse of the Starving Class, a modern classic by Academy Award nominee Sam Shepard 
Wednesday, March 7 to Sunday, April 8, 2012

PHILADELPHIA – The Wilma Theater is pleased to announce its third production of the 2011/2012 Season, Curse of the Starving Class by Pulitzer Prize winning and Academy Award nominated playwright and actor Sam Shepard, directed by Richard Hamburger, who directed last season’s immensely popular My Wonderful Day which received eight Barrymore nominations, including Best Director for Richard Hamburger. While Curse of the Starving Class was first produced 34 years ago, this will be the first time The Wilma Theater has produced a play by Sam Shepard and Richard Hamburger’s first time directing a work by this acclaimed playwright. Curse of the Starving Class begins previews on Wednesday, March 7, 2012; opens on Wednesday, March 14, 2012; and closes on Sunday, April 8, 2012.

Critics and members of the press are invited to attend Press Night on Wednesday, March 14, 2012 at 7:30pm. To make ticket arrangements, please contact Johnny Van Heest at or 215.893.9456 x102.

Meet the wildly unpredictable Tate family as they attempt to ride the changing tides of pre-suburban Southern California. Financially ruined, their farm is in chaos and the debt collectors are getting increasingly ruthless. The story whirlwinds with dark comedy and captivating twists as each family member goes to fantastic extremes grappling with a “curse” that continues to resonate today.

Curse of the Starving Class received its World Premiere at the Royal Court in London in 1977 and its US Premiere at the New York Shakespeare Festival on March 2, 1978. It has received critical acclaim from audiences and critics alike for over thirty years. The New York Times raves, “A scabrously funny play,” while the Los Angeles Times declares Compelling, explosive theater!”

“Even though it was written  over thirty years ago, Curse of the Starving Class is particularly resonant today with the mortgage crisis having led to so many people losing their farms, houses and land,” Director Richard Hamburger says. “Despite the play’s tragic dimensions, it also has an irresistibly droll, surrealistic sense of humor. Shepard is a wizard at revealing American patterns and proclivities in unpredictable and intriguing ways.”  

About the Playwright

Sam Shepard, born Samuel Shepard Rogers IV in Fort Sheridan, Illinois in 1943, was first produced in New York in 1964 at Theatre Genesis and many times at La MaMa and Café Cino. Eleven of Mr. Shepard’s plays have won Obie Awards including The Tooth of Crime (1972) and Curse of the Starving Class (1977), which, in an unprecedented event, was awarded the Obie on the basis of its published version alone, weeks after its premiere at London’s Royal Court. The play received its US premiere at the New York Shakespeare Festival the following year, directed by Robert Woodruff. Mr. Shepard was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his play Buried Child (1979). A critically acclaimed production of True West (1980), starring Jon Malkovich and Gary Sinise opened Off-Broadway in 1982. Fool for Love (1983), starring Ed Harris, received Obie Awards for Best Play and for Mr. Shepard’s direction.  A Lie of the Mind (1985) won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award, the Drama Desk Award and the Outer Critic’s Circle Award for Outstanding New Play. For a long time, Mr. Shepard was the Playwright-in-Residence at San Francisco’s Magic Theatre, where many of his plays, including Tongues and Savage/Love, co-written with Joe Chaikin, received premieres.  Simpatico opened at The Royal Court after its New York premiere at The Public Theater in 1995 and was made into a film by Matthew Warchus starring Nick Nolte and Sharon Stone.  A revised Buried Child under the direction of Gary Sinise opened on Broadway in 1996 and was nominated for a Tony Award. Several new plays opened over the next decade in the United States and in London, most notably The Late Henry Moss and The God of Hell. The Late Henry Moss was also staged at the Magic Theatre in 2000, starring Nick Nolte, Sean Penn, Woody Harrelson and Cheech Marin. The production’s three-month run, held as a benefit for the theatre, sold-out. Mr. Shepard’s most recent plays, Kicking a Dead Horse and Ages of the Moon, both premiered at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, starring longtime collaborator Stephen Rea, before moving to The Public Theater and The Atlantic Theater, respectively, in New York. As an actor, Mr. Shepard is perhaps best known for his roles in Days of Heaven, The Right Stuff (as Chuck Yeager, for which he received an Academy Award nomination), and Frances, among over forty others. His screenplay for Paris, Texas won the Golden Palm at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival. Mr. Shepard is also a noted writer of prose and poetry. His memoir, Motel Chronicles, was published in 1982. His most recent collection is 2010’s Day Out of Days. An accomplished musician, Mr. Shepard was the drummer of the late 1960s rock band The Holy Modal Rounders; he has also collaborated with Patti Smith and Bob Dylan. In 1986, Mr. Shepard was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters and named a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  In 1992, he received the Academy of Arts and Letters’ Gold Medal for Drama and in 1994 he was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame.

About the Director

Richard Hamburger spent fifteen years as Artistic Director at the Dallas Theater Center, five years as Artistic Director of Portland Stage Company, and directed a wide range of classic and contemporary plays including new work by Octavio Solis, Lynn Siefert, Erik Ehn, Eric Overmyer, Chay Yew, Tony Kushner, and Nilo Cruz. He has directed at Pittsburgh Public Theater, Arizona Theatre Company, Portland Center Stage, The Acting Company, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Yale Repertory Theatre, Baltimore CenterStage, California Shakespeare Festival, American Place Theatre, Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, and Great Lakes Theater Festival, where he served as Associate Director. Richard Hamburger was awarded the Rockefeller Grant in playwriting and served on the faculty of Juilliard and Circle (cont.)

in the Square. He has served on numerous panels for the National Endowment for the Arts and is currently on the Executive Board of the Society for Stage Directors and Choreographers. He recently directed the critically acclaimed version of The Sound of Music for The Salzburg Marionette Theater and My Wonderful Day at the Wilma last season.

About the Cast

Curse of the Starving Class will feature a cast of acclaimed New York and Philadelphia-based actors including David Blatt, Keith Conallen, Lorri Holt, Sam Henderson, Keira Keeley, Bruce McKenzie, Nate Miller, Peter Schmitz, and Ed Swidey. Curse of the Starving Class also includes a live lamb on stage that will be tended by The Wilma Theater’s staff throughout the entire run of the production.


Special Events

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.

Onstage Conversation

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Stay after the performance to discuss the play with a member of the Wilma's artistic staff.


Onstage Conversation ­

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Stay after the performance to discuss the play with the cast.


Young Friends Evening

Friday, March 30, 2012

Complimentary pre-show reception for audience members age 35 and under.


Onstage Conversation

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

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, April 6, 2012

Join us for a complimentary, pre-show wine tasting in our lobby from 7 8pm sponsored by Tria.



Tickets range from $39 to $66, and are available at the Wilma’s Box Office by calling 215.546.7824, visiting, 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. Information on discounts is available at

The Balcony Restaurant at the Doubletree Hotel and The Sporting Club at The Bellevue are the Season Sponsors for The Wilma Theater’s 2011 – 2012 Season.