Sweet Bird of Youth
Tennessee Williams’ powerful drama Sweet Bird of Youth
will play Friday & Saturday, May 4, 5, 11, 12, 18 & 19 at 8PM
and Sundays, May 6 & 13 at 2:30 PM
at the Powerhouse Theatre, Waveny Park, New Canaan
“And the whole meaning of all my work is that there is no such thing as complete right and complete wrong, complete black, complete white. That we’re all in the same boatand really the boat is the world, you might even say it’s the universe.”
-- From a December 1961 WFMT radio interview with Studs Terkel—
A play of richness and depth, Tennessee Williams’ powerful drama Sweet Bird of Youth is the Town Players of New Canaan’s spring production. TPNC’s director Gary Battaglia of Wilton believes, “Williams is the quintessential American playwright and his play is about loss of youthful beauty and innocence and the effect this loss has on all the characters; as Williams says in the play, ‘that bird that sails away with your youth.’ Most people look back at innocence and everyone has sadness in their lives. He treats our vulnerabilities in ways that are more identifiable and brings his plays closer to real people. His characters are representative of life, not larger than life as are those of Eugene O’Neill. They are tremendous characters. The audience will see themselves in Sweet Bird of Youth. I don’t see how anybody will not relate to the show.”
Performances will take place the Powerhouse Theatre in Waveny Park, 677 South Avenue, New Canaan on Friday and Saturday, May 4, 5, 11, 12, 18 and 19 at 8PM with Sunday matinees on May 6 & 13 at 2:30 PM. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students and seniors (age 62). Call (203) 966-7371 for tickets.
When the lights come up, Chance Wayne, an actor whose career has hit the skids, has become a beach boy and been picked up in Palm Beach by fading movie star Alexandra Del Lago, who is travelling incognita as Princess Kosmonopolis. Now her gigolo/caregiver, Chance takes Princess to St. Cloud, his home town, so that he can reunite with the love of his life Heavenly, daughter of Boss Finley, and also boast to all that Princess is sponsoring his movie comeback.
Appearing in the roles created by Geraldine Page and Paul Newman in the 1959 Broadway production will be Lynne Bolton of New Canaan and Gabriel Morrow of Rowayton. Princess and Chance recognize in each other the tortured soul not respected and valued by society and are complex, fascinating characters. Lynne and Gabe possess on stage that elusive theatrical mystery, chemistry. They also share a kinship, each is originally from Louisville, Gabe says, “We understand the Southern genteel way of being and speaking, and underneath is a disturbing pathology.” Lynne adds, “You get the light, airy world of the South. They own their own oddities, quirks and circumstances and embrace themselves. The fun is watching them come alive and taking the journey with them. I have known people like this and smile in knowing these people are archetypes.”
Gabe loves the play, saying “TW writes in a dramatic way for the theatre and so many contemporary playwrights write as if writing for movies. Any play that engages an audience has to tell a story that the audience will buy in to. Chance is a tragic character: his speech at the end of the play, ‘recognize yourself in me,’ resonates.” Gabe was an actor at the Barter Theatre (Abingdon, VA) and a former resident company member of Stage One: Louisville’s Professional Theater for Young Audiences. Recent local theatre credits include The Laramie Project with Bridgeport Theatre Company and Seascape with Sharks and Dancer at the Ridgefield Theatre Barn. Gabe is a teacher at Darien High School and directed Darien’s fall production of Dracula.
To the role of Princess, who is falling off the cliff in her late 40s and needs to come to grips with her innate vs. her superficial value as an actress and woman, Lynne brings years of acting experience in Louisville, New York and Connecticut: most recently the title role of George Bernard Shaw’s Candida in the Theatre Workshop of Nantucket’s January 2012 production, which as co-artistic director of the White Heron Theatre Company she is taking to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August; Lady Alice in Man for All Seasons; and Sheila in Jake’s Women. Ms. Bolton directed most recently for the Town Players Amadeus and The Twenty Fifth Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
Describing Boss Finley as “an archetypical Southern political crook, who is wealthy, buys people off and doesn’t care who he steps on including his children” will be Michael Kopko, a musician, actor and director from Nantucket. He will play Reverend Morrell to Lynne Bolton’s Candida this summer in Scotland. Mike was in the class of 1976 at Staples High School where he was a member of the Staples Players. An ardent feminist, he likes material that deals with these issues and thinks that Tennessee Williams is brilliant at creating great roles for women. Mr. Kopko finds it exciting to be playing Boss Finley, saying, “He’s a very complex guy, completely selfish, opposite of what I like to think I am. As a father of a daughter, I think Boss is so repulsive, he is missing a guilt chip that most are born with.”
To be seen as Boss’s son, Tom, Jr., a chip off the old block, will be Bobby Pavia of Stamford who played the title role of Amadeus this fall. Bobby is currently a special ed and theatre teacher in the Stamford School system and is also pursuing a professional acting career. TPNC welcomes New Canaan actress Janet Rathert who will appear as Heavenly. “So much about life is all past for her,” says Janet. “She is trying not to get to a place of regret, her possibilities gone forever at age of 28. Her father is so selfish and sacrificed her happiness for his political ambition.” Janet has appeared with many Fairfield County community theatres and teaches English at UConn Stamford and Fairfield University.
Appearing in the poignant and brave role as Tom, Jr. and Heavenly’s Aunt Nonnie, also Chance’s champion, will be Kathleen Klatte of Yonkers, who is bringing her considerable skills as stage manager and supporting actress to Sweet Bird, as she did with Amadeus, dashing back and forth between the stage manager’s desk and onstage as Teresa Salieri.
In the role of Miss Lucy, Boss’s wise, fun loving and earthy mistress will be Susan Doran of New Canaan who has taken leading roles in TPNC productions of The Odd Couple, Ravenscroft, Love Changes Everything, An Inspector Calls, and Arcadia. Mrs. Doran is an English teacher and a class dean in the upper school at St. Luke’s School in New Canaan.
In the roles of Boss’s various henchmen, compromised in their lives by various indebtedness to Boss, are Tim Cronin of Stamford as Scudder, Ed Donahue of Bridgeport as Hatcher, and Kyle Runestad of Norwalk as Scotty. Tim has been active in local theatre for the past 15 years, designing sets, acting, directing and stage managing. He appeared as Cheatum in our Family Holiday Show Little Red Riding Hood. Ed is a valued TPNC construction and backstage crew member and most recently has appeared as Frank Oddie in Amy’s View and as Mortimer in The Fantasticks! Kyle has appeared at the Powerhouse in Arcadia and Dead Wrong, as well as numerous Christmas pantos. Michael Hodges of New Canaan, whose last TPNC performances were in Amadeus as one of the Venticelli and in Love, Sex and the I.R.S. as the subway justice of the peace, will appear as room service busboy Fly.
Tennessee Williams desired that the audience focus on the interaction between actors and their feelings and thoughts. Evocative of the Deep South, the impressionistic set and music will allow the audience to create space, time and place in their own minds. Neither will the lighting be realistic. From time to time, actors will step out of the scene into a brighter fore light and speak directly to the audience, sharing their thoughts and feelings.
Sweet Bird’s production team includes set design by Robert Doran, light design by Jeffrey Klein, sound design by Ray Stephens, costumes by Deborah Runestad, and hair and makeup by Cheryl Petrone.
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