Neuwirth Set to Star in Season Opener A Small Fire with
Sarna Lapine Directing
Philadelphia Theatre Company kicks off the 2019-2020 season with a bang. For the company’s 45th season, Producing Artistic Director Paige Price and Managing Director Emily Zeck are excited to welcome two-time Tony and Emmy Award winner Bebe Neuwirth to star in their season opener, the Philadelphia premiere of Adam Bock’s raucous, funny and unexpectedly touching A Small Fire. The play is set to run October 18-November 10, with Opening Night on October 23. The company also announced that Sarna Lapine will make her local directing debut. Subscriptions are on sale and start at $48. Single tickets will go on sale August 1. Subscriptions are available at the box office, online at philatheatreco.org or by phone at 215-985-0420.
“I am beyond excited to finally have an opportunity to produce this play and to find a project for Bebe and I to work on together. I think audiences are in for a major treat,” said Price.
Adam Bock’s meticulously crafted A Small Fire follows Emily Bridges, a woman used to running everything – from her construction business to her family – until she suddenly and mysteriously starts losing her senses. As each is slowly stripped away, her relationships shift in poignant and revelatory ways. A Small Fire was featured in PTC’s first See and Be Scene season preview event in 2017.
Two-time Tony Award winner Bebe Neuwirth starred on Broadway in A Chorus Line, Sweet Charity, Chicago, Dancin’, Little Me, Fosse and The Addams Family, and off-Broadway in Here Lies Jenny and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Notable among her many screen roles is her performance as Lilith Crane on Cheers and Frasier, for which she won two Emmys. She recently completed shooting on the film Modern Persuasion, and has appeared in the series The Good Wife and HBO’s Bored to Death. She also appeared for several seasons as a cast member of Madam Secretary and Blue Bloods, both on CBS.
Price met Neuwirth years ago when she was first producing concerts with the Broadway League. She was one of the first performers Price worked with as a producer. In a twist of fate, a friend of Price’s who was Neuwirth’s tour manager for her symphony tour show featuring the songs of Kurt Weill and Kander and Ebb had to leave the tour and Price took over for two years.
“I can say that I have never worked with a more rigorous and passionate professional than Bebe. Her work ethic is unparalleled and she demands more from herself than anyone in the room. Her standards are unbelievably high and she inspires everyone to do their very best work,” said Price. “The role of Emily is massively complex – she is a strong woman, who owns and operates her own construction company, and for better or worse wears the pants in the family. The role requires enormous bravery and intelligence and empathy. Bebe is absolutely perfect for this part and is rightly both attracted to it and understands the incredible excavation she’s about to undergo.”
Price has wanted to do this play since she saw the World Premiere at Playwrights Horizons. “I have dreamed of producing it ever since, and was just waiting for the right time and place and now, the right star. I love how Adam Bock always threads elements of mystery into his plays. What is this thing that is happening to Emily and why? It’s like an episode of House, but we don’t focus on the doctor, we focus on the patient and her family. In fact, as we learn of each development in the central character Emily’s mysterious condition, the information is delivered almost matter of factly. We focus, then, on how she responds to her new reality, and on how her family dynamics shift in dramatic jags,” she said.
She adds, “Emily becomes more dependent on her husband and daughter, and her vulnerabilities are exposed. What I also love about the play is that it seems like a small slice of the life of one family, but the story is truly universal. What happens when someone you love is suddenly dealing with a starkly new “normal?” Perhaps it’s a very Baby Boomer scenario, but discovering how equipped are we to become caretakers and what happens when we need to parent our parents is also a theme that this play explores. Emily’s daughter is newly engaged, and we sense the bittersweet undertones that seep into her wedding planning. Finally, I love the humor that infuses this play – Emily is one badass patient and while she is undergoing a most terrifying experience, she relies on her sense of humor to maintain her dignity.”
Sarna Lapine directed Other Desert Cities for Price at Theatre Aspen. Lapine has been Assistant Director to some of the top directors on Broadway including Bartlett Sher (Awake and Sing, The Light in the Piazza). She directed the revival of Sunday in the Park with George with Jake Gyllenhaal. She is currently directing Little Women at Primary Stages in New York.
“When I worked with her in Aspen, I learned so much about her through the casting process. She was meticulously prepared, extremely generous, kind to the actors, and could speak intelligently and clearly about the material. For me, this made her the absolute ideal choice to work with Bebe. She also directed the amazing revival of Sunday in the Park with George, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, giving me great confidence in her ability to work with a star. That takes a special sensitivity and strength.”
The rest of PTC’s 45th Anniversary season includes the Philadelphia Premiere of Chelsea Marcantel’s Everything is Wonderful running February 14-March 8, 2020. Marcantel is a new member of the Kilroys and the play was an honorable mention Kilroys List pick two years in a row. This new work plumbs the rich subject of forgiveness. When an Amish couple’s two sons perish in a terrible accident, the family struggles to maintain their faith and cling to their way of life. The event brings home their eldest daughter, Miri, who was excommunicated five years earlier. When the driver of the car that killed the boys appears, the community must seek to heal the deep wounds of the past, urging everyone into a new kind of reckoning. PTC brought director Noah Himmelstein on board to direct this production, following his well-reviewed production at the Everyman Theatre in Baltimore.
The season concludes with Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves. A pick from the 2015 Kilroys List, this Philadelphia Premiere is set to run April 10 – May 3, 2020. Directed by Philadelphian Nell Bang-Jensen, this Pultizer Prize finalist debut play introduces audiences to the members of a girls’ indoor soccer team. From the safety of their suburban stretch circle, the team navigates big questions and wages tiny battles with all the vim and vigor of a pack of adolescent warriors. A portrait of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for nine American girls who just want to score some goals, but after an unexpected loss the team experiences, winning will never be the same. This work earned Lortel and Outer Critics Circle nominations for Best Play/Emerging Playwright. Kilroys@PTC is PTC’s commitment to produce one work from the list each season. PTC’s first Kilroys pick was How To Catch Creation by Christina Anderson in the 2018-19 season.
Subscriptions are on sale and start at $48. Single tickets will be on sale August 1. Subscriptions are available at the box office, online at philatheatreco.org or by phone at 215-985-0420.
PTC’s 2019-2020 season is sponsored by Comcast NBCUniversal, Independence Blue Cross, Center City Film & Video, and PNC Arts Alive.
ABOUT PHILADELPHIA THEATRE COMPANY
Philadelphia Theatre Company (PTC) is a leading regional theater company that produces, develops, and presents entertaining and imaginative contemporary theater focused on the American experience. PTC balances its Philadelphia roots with a national point of view that combines a taste for adventure with a dedication to new American plays and musicals.
Founded in 1974, PTC has presented 143 world and Philadelphia premieres. More than 50 percent of PTC’s world premieres have moved on to New York and other major cities, helping to earn Philadelphia a national reputation as a hub for new play development. PTC has received more than 180 nominations and 53 awards from the Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre. In 2007, PTC was instrumental in expanding Philadelphia’s thriving cultural corridor by opening the Suzanne Roberts Theatre on the Avenue of the Arts.
Photo Credit: Christopher Calkins