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Tonight We Improvise

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A manipulative director tries to convince his actors to improvise a melodrama based on Pirandello’s Lenora, Addio! a short story about a passionate Sicilian family’s falling apart. The actors vigorously protest the director’s methods and at last remove him from the stage so that they may proceed uninterrupted.

Credits

Creative team

Based on a short story by

Luigi Pirandello

Adapted and directed by

Robert Brustein

Adapted and directed by

Robert Brustein

As founding director of the Yale Repertory and American Repertory Theaters, Robert Brustein has supervised well over two hundred productions, acting in eight and directing twelve.  He has written eleven adaptations for the American Repertory Theater and is the author of thirteen books on theater and society. His latest book, The Tainted Muse: Prejudices and Preconceptions in Shakespeare's Works and Times, was released earlier this year. Mr. Brustein also served for twenty years as director of the Loeb Drama Center, is a Senior Research Fellow at Harvard University and drama critic for The New Republic. He is a member of the American Theatre Hall of Fame, the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and is the recipient numerous awards including the George Polk Award in Journalism, the Commonweath (Massachusetts) Award for Organizational Leadership, and most recently the Eugene O'Neill Foundation's Tao House Award for serving the American theatre with distinction.

His Six Characters in Search of an Author won the Boston Theatre Award for Best Production of 1996. His play Demons, which was broadcast on WGBH radio in 1993, had its stage world premiere as part of the A.R.T. New Stages. His play Nobody Dies on Friday was given its world premiere in the same series and was presented at the Singapore Festival of Arts and the Pushkin Theatre in Moscow. His play Spring Forward, Fall Back was performed in 2006 at Theater J in Washington, D.C., and at the Vineyard Playhouse. His newest play, The English Channel, was produced in 2007 in Boston and at the Vineyard Playhouse. In the Fall of 2008, it played at the Abingdon Theatre in New York where it was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Brustein also wrote Shlemiel the First, based on the stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer and set to traditional klezmer music, which was directed and choreographed by David Gordon. After the original presentation in 1994 at ART and in Philadelphia at the American Music Theatre Festival, which co-produced the show, Shlemiel the First was revived several times in Cambridge and subsequently played at the Lincoln Center Serious Fun Festival, the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles, as well as touring theatres in Florida and in Stamford, Connecticut. The play has also been produced at Theater J in Washington, DC. Shlemiel the First comes to Peak Performances @ Montclair State University in Montclair, NJ, in January 2010.  His short plays Poker Face, Chekhov on Ice, Divestiture, AnchorBimbo, Noises, Terrorist Skit, Airport Hell, Beachman’s Last Poetry Reading, and Enter William Shakespeare were all presented by the Boston Playwrights' Theatre.  Brustein is also the author of Doctor Hippocrates is Out: Please Leave a Message, an anthology of theatrical and cinematic satire on medicine and physicians, commissioned by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement for its 2008 convention in Nashville.  He was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 2002.

Brustein is a former professor of English at Harvard University (now a Senior Research Fellow), Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Suffolk University in Boston, the drama critic for The New Republic, and former dean of the Yale School of Drama. In 2003 he served as a Senior Fellow with the National Arts Journalism Program at Columbia University, and in 2004 and 2005 was a senior fellow at the National Endowment for the Arts' Arts Journalism Institute in Theatre and Musical Theatre at the University of Southern California

He was the founding director of the Yale Repertory Theatre and the American Repertory Theater and served for twenty years as director of the Loeb Drama Center, where he founded the American Repertory Theater/Moscow Art Theater Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University. He retired from the artistic directorship of ART in 2002 and now serves as Founding Director and Creative Consultant. He is also a regular blogger for the Huffington Post and the Open University.

During his tenure at ART, Brustein wrote eleven adaptations, including Henrik Ibsen's The Wild Duck, The Master Builder, and When We Dead Awaken, the last directed by Robert Wilson; Three Farces and a Funeral, adapted from the works and life of Anton Chekhov; Luigi Pirandello's Enrico IV; and Brustein's final production at ART, Lysistrata by Aristophanes, directed by Andrei Serban.  He also directed numerous adaptations while at ART including a Pirandello trilogy: Six Characters in Search of an Author, which won the Boston Theatre Award for Best Production of 1996, Right You Are (If You Think You Are); Tonight We Improvise; Ibsen's Ghosts, Strindberg's The Father, and Thomas Middleton's The Changeling.

Over the course of his long career as director, playwright, and teacher, he has participated in the artistic development of such theater artists as Meryl Streep, Christopher Durang, Christopher Walken, Cherry Jones, Ted Talley, Michael Feingold, Sigourney Weaver, James Naughton, Mark Linn-Baker, Henry Winkler, James Lapine, Tony Shalhoub, Tommy Derrah, Rocco Landesman, Linda Lavin, Michael Yearga, William Ivey Long, Derek Maclane, Steve Zahn, Peter Sellars, Santo Loquasto, Tom Moore, Albert Innaurato, and many others.

Mr. Brustein is the recipient of many coveted awards, including:

  • Fulbright Fellowship to the University of Nottingham
  • John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship
  • Twice winner of the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism
  • George Polk Award for Journalism (Criticism)
  • The 2nd Elliot Norton Award For Professional Excellence in Boston Theatre (formerly the Norton Prize), presented by the Boston Theatre District Associatione
  • New England Theatre Conference's Major Award for outstanding creative achievement in the American theatre
  • American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts
  • Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters
  • Association for Theatre in Higher Education Career Achievement Award for Professional Theatre
  • The Commonwealth Award for Organizational Leadership
  • Inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame
  • United States Institute for Theatre Technology Lifetime Achievement Award
  • National Corporate Theatre Fund Chairman's Award for Achievement in Theatre
  • Gann Academy Award for Excellence in the Performing Arts
  • Eugene O'Neill Foundation's Tao House Award for serving the American theatre with distinction

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Lighting Design

Stephen Strawbridge

Video sequences directed by

Frederick Wiseman

Set and costume design by

Michael H. Yeargan

Set and costume design by

Michael H. Yeargan

Michael Yeargan designed sets for King Stag, Six Characters in Search of an Author, Long Day's Journey Into Night, The Threepenny Opera, The Juniper Tree, The Seven Deadly Sins, and Sganarelle at the A.R.T. He is resident designer for the Yale Repertory Theatre and Professor of Stage Design at Yale School of Drama. Mr. Yeargan has designed extensively in American resident theatres and on Broadway, and for opera companies throughout the U.S. and Europe, with designs for the Welsh National Opera, Scottish Opera, and Covent Garden, Frankfurt Opera and Australian Opera. His U.S. credits include the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Dallas Opera, and Houston Grand Opera.

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Cast

Rico Verri

Nestor Serrano

Rico Verri

Nestor Serrano

Pennywhistle

John Bottoms

Pennywhistle

John Bottoms

Signora Ignazia

Elizabeth Franz

Signora Ignazia

Elizabeth Franz

Mommina

Harriet Harris

Mommina

Harriet Harris

Totina

Lynn Torgove

Totina

Lynn Torgove

Dorina

Rima Miller

Dorina

Rima Miller

Nene

Pamela Gien

As both writer and performer of The Syringa Tree, Pamela Gien won the Obie for Best Play of 2001, the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Solo Performance, the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Solo Performance, a Drama League Honor, and nomination for the John Gassner Playwriting Award. Before its New York run, the play had its world premiere at ACT in Seattle, and Pamela has since performed it in London at the Royal National Theatre, and in Los Angeles. The production was filmed for Trio Arts Channel on television. She is completing the screenplay, and Random House has commissioned her to write it as a novel. Pamela has also written her second screenplay for an upcoming film, The Lily Field, to be produced by Matt Salinger. As a company member of the American Repertory Theater, she appeared in fourteen productions: as Sonya in the premiere of David Mamet's adaptation of Uncle Vanya with Christopher Walken, Anabella in 'Tis Pity She's A Whore with Derek Smith, Estrella in Life's A Dream with Cherry Jones, as Gabriella in Sweet Table at the Richelieu, Marianna in The Miser, and Angela in The King Stag with Thomas Derrah, all directed by Andrei Serban. She played Stella/Ann in The End of the World with Symposium to Follow, directed by Richard Foreman, and performed in two Pirandello productions directed by Robert Brustein, and appeared in Gillette and The Day Room, both directed by David Wheeler. Other theater credits include Lavinia in Titus Andronicus for the Public Theater's New York Shakespeare Festival, Alicia in Piano by Anna Deavere Smith, and Hannah Jelkes in The Night of the Iguana at the LATC, for which she won a Dramalogue Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Theatre. She has performed in the New Works Festival at the Mark Taper Forum, the Humana Festival at Actors Theatre of Louisville, and at South Coast Repertory. Her television appearances include guest-starring roles in Tales From the Crypt, Reasonable Doubts, Hunter, Secret Lives, and Into Thin Air. Her film credits include Men Seeking Women and The Last Supper.

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Pomarici

Thomas Derrah

Pomarici

Thomas Derrah

A.R.T.: 119 productions, including R. Buckminster Fuller: THE HISTORY (and Myster) OF THE UNIVERSE (R. Buckminster Fuller), Cabaret (Fraulein Schneider), Endgame (Clov), The Seagull (Dorn), Oliver Twist (also at Theatre for a New Audience and Berkeley Repertory Theatre), The Birthday Party (Stanley), Highway Ulysses (Ulysses), Uncle Vanya (Vanya), Marat/Sade (Marquis de Sade), Richard II (Richard). Broadway: Jackie: An American Life (23 roles). Off-Broadway: Johan Padan (Johan), Big Time (Ted).  Tours with the Company across the U.S., with residencies in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles, and throughout Europe, Canada, Israel, Taiwan, Japan and Moscow, and has recently been performing Julius Caesar in France. Other: I Am My Own Wife, Boston TheatreWorks; Approaching Moomtaj, New Repertory Theatre; Twelfth Night and The Tempest, Commonwealth Shakespeare Co.; London’s Battersea Arts Center; five productions at Houston’s Alley Theatre, including Our Town (Dr. Gibbs, directed by José Quintero); and many theatres throughout the U.S. Awards: 1994 Elliot Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence, 2000 and 2004 IRNE Awards for Best Actor, 1997 Los Angeles DramaLogue Award (for title role of Shlemiel the First). Television: Julie Taymor’s film Fool’s Fire (PBS American Playhouse), "Unsolved Mysteries," "Del and Alex" (Alex, A&E Network). Film: Mystic River (directed by Clint Eastwood), The Pink Panther II. He is on the faculty of the A.R.T. Institute, teaches acting at Harvard University and Emerson College, and is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama.

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Sarelli

Benjamin Evett

Sarelli

Benjamin Evett

Benjamin Evett has appeared at the American Repertory Theater in La Dispute, as Ilya Ilych Telegin in Uncle Vanya, Kinesias in Lysistrata, Jacques Roux in Marat/Sade, Peter in Absolution, Cassio in Othello, Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk/Sir Stephen Scroope in Richard II, Burris in Animals and Plants, the General in Mother Courage, the Messenger in Antigone, Time in The Winter's Tale, Lvov in Ivanov, the Policeman in Charlie in the House of Rue, Babbybobby in The Cripple of Inishmaan, Hyppolytus in Phaedra, Clèante in The Imaginary Invalid, Tranio in The Taming of the Shrew, Pentheus in The Bacchae, Zalman Tippish/Chaim Rascal/Dopey Petzel in Shlemiel the First, the Dreamer in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Leandro in The King Stag, the Son in Six Characters in Search of an Author, Punch 2/Judy Bell/Taxi Judy in Punch and Judy Get Divorced, Bouggerslas in Ubu Rock, Vince in Buried Child, Ariel in The Tempest, Charles Filch/Walt Dreary/Beggar Joe in The Threepenny Opera, Bardolph/Montjoy in Henry V, Lucky in Waiting for Godot, Herald/Chorus/Pylades/Hermes in The Oresteia, Epihodov in The Cherry Orchard, Nicholas Beckett in What the Butler Saw, Pistol in Henry IV, Part 2, and as Sir Richard Vernon in Part 1, in 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, and in Platonov. He has also performed at the Missouri Repertory Theatre, where he played the title roles in Billy Bishop Goes to War and Amadeus, and at the Great Lakes Theatre Festival, where he played Swiss Cheese in Mother Courage. He is a graduate of Harvard University and the American Repertory Theater/Moscow Art Theater Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University. Mr. Evett currently serves as artistic director of the Actors' Shakespeare Company in Boston.

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Nardi

Dean Norris

Nardi

Dean Norris

Mangini

James Andreassi

Mangini

James Andreassi

Pometti

Samuel Safton

Pometti

Samuel Safton

Torch Singer

Isabell Monk

Torch Singer

Isabell Monk

First Customer

Harry S. Murphy

First Customer

Harry S. Murphy

Harry S. Murphy, who returns to play Christopher Sly in The Taming of the Shrew and Collie Couch in In the Jungle of Cities, spent many seasons at the American Repertory Theater and appeared in over a dozen productions here, including The King Stag, Angel City, Platonov, 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, As You Like It, The School for Scandal, Alcestis, The Balcony, Sganarelle, Six Characters in Search of an Author, and The Marriage of Figaro. His Broadway credits include Macbeth, Othello, Big Time, and The Good Times are Killing Me. He also appeared in such musicals as The Boys from Syracuse and Happy End (at the A.R.T ), as well as Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well . . . and Good Sport. Other resident credits include Room Service, Henry V, Hedda Gabler, Phaedre, Romeo and Juliet, and Twelfth Night. Mr. Murphy appeared in the feature films Calendar Girl, Eddie Macon's Run, and The Return, and his television credits include Cosby, Law and Order, Spenser for Hire, True Blue, and New York Undercover.

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Second Customer

Richard Grusin

Second Customer

Richard Grusin

Twins

Robin Eldridge

Twins

Robin Eldridge