Norwalk's Theater Artists Workshop is ending its current season with a free staged reading of A.R. Gurney's "The Dining Room" on Friday and Saturday, June 15 and 16, at 8 p.m.
The TAW has frequently been compared with New York City's Actors Studio as a place where professional actors, directors and writers can work on projects away from the glare of commercial production and reviews.
Founded in 1983 by Keir Dullea and his late wife Katie Fuller, the workshop was an immediate hit with the large community of theater artists residing in Fairfield County. Over the years, members have included Anne Baxter, Theodore Bikel, Sandy Dennis, Shirley Knight, James Noble, Jane Powell, Lee Richardson, Laura San Giacomo and Brett Somers.
While most of the work at TAW is private, the group does occasional public events where those who do not work in the theater can get a glimpse of what goes on behind closed doors in the Norwalk facility. The Gurney play should prove to be a great illustration of the members' capabilities.
The 1981 hit remains one of Gurney's most frequently performed pieces because it invites the audience to observe the magic of the actor's art by having a small company of performers play a wide array of characters of different ages. All of the action takes place around the dining room table and the scenes are both comic and dramatic, charting the declining lifestyle of the upper-class WASPs who have populated most of Gurney's best-known plays.
"The Dining Room" debuted in the small studio theater at Playwrights Horizons in Manhattan, so it should be right at home in TAW's snug 90-seat theatre in Norwalk. The company will include Broadway veteran Barbara Rhodes and Chilton Ryan of Weston, Melody James of Westport, Richard Leonard of Greenwich and Jo Anne Parady of Norwalk.
The reading is being directed by Katie Sparer of Stratford and Mark Basile of Weston.
While the performances are free, no reservations are accepted, so early arrival is strongly suggested for the 8 p.m. shows.
The Westport Country Playhouse announced last week that its popular "Script in Hand" play-reading series will continue Monday, June 25, with the W. Somerset Maugham play "The Bread Winner." The 7 p.m. show is directed by Anne Keefe, who is the playhouse's artistic adviser and curator of the play-reading series. Tickets for the one-night-only event are $15.
"The Bread Winner" follows an affluent family in 1930s London where the husband "makes a shocking decision in this timely, comic satire about wealth and privilege," according to a press release. Casting has not yet been announced.
Keefe said, "Ever since Joanne Woodward introduced me and the playhouse to Maugham's `The Constant Wife,' and spurred a host of revivals all over the country, I've been drawn to `The Bread Winner,' which almost seems to be a companion piece, only this time talking about the husband's unconventional behavior, rather than the wife's. It's stunning that so many of Maugham's plays seem as fresh today as they were when written ... and as truly gaspingly funny."
Keefe served as artistic director of Westport Country Playhouse, with Woodward, in 2008 and as associate artistic director from 2000-2006, also with Woodward.
Call 203-227-4177 or visit www.westportplayhouse.org.
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