ROUNDABOUT BLOG

From Todd Haimes

From the Artistic Director, John Lithgow: Stories By Heart

Posted on: December 14th, 2017 by Roundabout

 

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!

Sincerely,

Todd Haimes
Artistic Director/CEO


Related Categories:
2017-2018 Season, From Todd Haimes, John Lithgow: Stories by Heart


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From the Artistic Director: The Last Match

Posted on: September 21st, 2017 by Todd Haimes

 

This New York premiere marks Roundabout’s first collaboration with Anna, though I have long admired her body of work. From her play Photograph 51, which played on the West End in 2015 and follows the story of renowned physicist Rosalind Franklin’s fight for scientific recognition, to A Delicate Ship, which ran at The Playwrights Realm in 2015 and explores the existential underpinnings of young love and lust, Anna’s work proves her willingness to confront all the complexities and contradictions within her characters. There are no easy answers in her plays; she faces the beauty and ugliness of her stories head-on, relentlessly mining the scenarios she renders for their deepest layers. Her plays investigate new perspectives in a way that always surprises and thrills me, and, like all great theatre, her work never fails to enrich and complicate my familiarity with subjects I thought I already understood.

And The Last Match is no exception. Set during the semifinals of the US Open, Anna’s electric play follows two professional tennis players who have put everything on the line for their game. Inspired by the real-life career paths of some of the sport’s biggest icons, The Last Match delves into the pressures and stresses placed on players who, due to the short-lived nature of a profession that demands retirement at an early age, must race against time to achieve their dreams. For sure, in every game there is a great deal of money, reputation, and glory at stake, but Anna’s play hones in more specifically on what her characters, after sacrificing so much in the name of perfecting their craft, owe to their families and to themselves. With so much riding on every serve and every return, tennis -- one of the most solitary of sports -- can become an internal maelstrom of doubt, euphoria, and nostalgia. By tracing the inner tribulations of her characters, Anna meticulously unpacks how a tennis match can spiral into an all-out war.

By expertly unpacking the truth and humanity from within this fictional tennis match, Anna exposes so much about the nature of ambition and competition regardless of profession or field. American workaday culture is infamous for its glorification of stress, workaholism, and burnout; it’s not only athletes who risk the health of their family, their friendships, and themselves in the name of success. Anna’s play deftly explores what happens when the pressures of an incredibly driven lifestyle clash with the demands of familial relationships and personal care. With a play that is both characteristically nuanced and propulsively acrobatic, Anna asks us all to examine the reality behind our cultural obsession with competition, recognition, and victory.

I am thrilled for you to experience Anna’s wonderful play, mounted by this exceptionally talented creative team. This is such a captivating story, and I couldn’t be more excited to share with you Gaye Taylor Upchurch’s remarkable work in bringing it to a New York stage for the first time. As always, I am eager to hear your reactions to the show, 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!

Sincerely,

Todd Haimes
Artistic Director/CEO


Related Categories:
2017-2018 Season, From Todd Haimes, The Last Match


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This will be the first-ever Broadway revival of Priestley’s masterful play, 80 years after its original Broadway production in 1937. Over the decades, Priestley has secured his rightful place in the theatrical canon with such international hits as his 1945 thriller An Inspector Calls, the 1992 production of which in London earned the title of longest-running revival of all time. Time and the Conways, though just as revolutionary in structure and gripping in story, hasn't been met with quite the same amount of attention as some of Priestley’s other works. Yet the act of “rediscovering” lesser-known but deserving classics by masters such as Priestley and bringing them back to Broadway stages is, I believe, a core component of Roundabout’s mission. I am thrilled to present Priestley’s story to an entirely new generation of audiences with this incredibly talented cast, director, and design team.

Priestley became famous during the 1930s and 1940s for the inspiration he drew from alternative theories of time, perhaps most famously the hypotheses of British engineer and philosopher John William Dunne. Dunne conjectured that a person’s dreams open their consciousness to higher dimensions of observation and thereby provide them glimpses of future events. From this philosophy Priestley developed his concept for Time and the Conways, which soon became known as one of his famous “Time Plays,” the ranks of which also included An Inspector Calls and his less famous dramas Dangerous Corner and I Have Been Here Before. While the validity of Dunne’s theory of time has since been largely discounted by the scientific community, the possibilities that it unlocked in the imaginations of a generation of readers and artists are monumental in scope.

In Time and the Conways, Priestley employs Dunne’s theory as a lens into the lives of one upper middle class family in post-World War I Britain. With trademark nuance and depth, Priestley delves into the Conways’ most personal aspirations, shortcomings, and fears, and as their story unravels, he examines those life-altering moments that put dreams at odds with destiny. What begins as a theatrical exploration into a theory of perception and the subconscious becomes a piercing look at the consequences of greed and the worship of status. At a time when issues of economic disparity and upward mobility in our country are wrenchingly urgent, Priestley’s drama is a more prescient piece of writing than ever.

I am so excited for you to experience this revitalized classic, presented by such a superb creative team. This is such a meaningful and vital play, and I am thrilled by the work of Rebecca and her fantastic cast in bringing it back to a Broadway stage. As always, I am eager to hear your reactions to the show, 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!

Sincerely,
Todd Haimes
Artistic Director/CEO


Related Categories:
2017-2018 Season, From Todd Haimes, Time and the Conways


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