I could not be more thrilled to bring John Lithgow’s extraordinary solo show to a Broadway stage for the first time ever. Stories By Heart originated about ten years ago as a series of storytelling events that John performed in repertory. Since then, John has toured the show around the country, growing and revising his performance along the way, and he has crafted a theatrical event that is just as hilarious as it is moving. As an original presentation of stories that are over 70 years old, Stories By Heart touches on all parts of Roundabout’s mission to both foster new works and revive timeless texts. I am so honored to have John bring his unique performance to our stage under the direction of beloved Tony Award® winner and frequent Roundabout collaborator Daniel Sullivan.
One of the most versatile performers of his time, John Lithgow brings two distinct short stories, over a dozen characters, and decades of his family history to life in a single night of theatre with nothing more than his own transformative abilities as an actor. In a Broadway house literally surrounded by gigantic movie theatre complexes, multistory billboards, and some of the most technologically involved stage performances the world has ever seen, it is important to remember that a single storyteller, equipped with little more than their own instrument, can be just as formidable a dramatic force as the latest big-budget blockbuster. John’s enactment of stories by Ring Lardner and PG Wodehouse is a reminder of the enduring ability of our earliest storytelling traditions to captivate us with their powerful simplicity, as they have throughout history.
John goes even one step further, though, demonstrating how stories, in captivating us, have the capacity to do so much more than entertain. Chronicling his relationship to the two stories he tells from his first memories of them to the very performance you’ll be watching this week, John explores the ways in which stories have accompanied himself and his family in some of their brightest moments together, as well as helped them through some of their darkest. In capturing our imaginations, stories can be agents of both mental and physical healing in ways we might never have thought possible. As Stories By Heart begins, then, I challenge you to embrace that sense of wonder and awe that you once felt at your childhood storybooks – which, as John so masterfully proves, is never lost to time.
I have wanted to collaborate with John since before I even worked in the theatre industry at all. As chance would have it, at the age of 16, my mother took me to the Opening of a Broadway play her friend had produced called The Changing Room on March 6, 1973. It was my first Broadway Opening, and I would not attend another one for fifteen years. All I remember from that night was that the play starred an extraordinary young actor whom I had never heard of named John Lithgow, and that he went on to win the Tony Award for his performance in the play. In the decades since, the stars never quite aligned to allow John to work on a full production here at Roundabout – until now, over 44 years after I first saw him onstage. Having admired John and his work from afar for such a long time, it brings me so much joy to see him now make our stage his own with this incredible evening of theatre.
I am so excited for you to experience John’s virtuosic solo show and the incredible work that Daniel and our design team have done on it. As always, I am eager to hear your reactions to the production, so please continue to email me at ArtisticOffice@roundabouttheatre.org with your thoughts. I can’t tell you how greatly I value your feedback.
I look forward to seeing you at the theatre!
2017-2018 Season, From Todd Haimes, John Lithgow: Stories by Heart