Philadelphia Theatre Company’s 45th Anniversary Season kicks off with the Philadelphia premiere of Obie Award Recipient Adam Bock’s meticulously crafted drama A Small Fire, starring two-time Tony and Emmy Award winner Bebe Neuwirth. The play will be directed by Joanie Schultz, former Artistic Director of the WaterTower Theatre in Texas, and also known for her work in Chicago at The Goodman, Victory Gardens and Steppenwolf Theatres. Producing Artistic Director Paige Price and Managing Director Emily Zeck are excited to welcome Neuwirth and a cast of nationally and locally renowned actors to star in the season opener. Previews begin October 18th, Opening Night is Wednesday, October 23rd, and the show runs through November 10th. Single tickets range from $25-$74 and 3-play subscriptions start as low as $48, available now at the box office, online at philatheatreco.org or by phone at 215-985-0420.
Adam Bock’s finely-tuned A Small Fire follows Emily and John Bridges, a long-married couple whose happy, middle-class lives are upended as they plan for their daughter’s wedding. Neuwirth plays Emily, a woman used to running all the things – from her construction business to her family – until she suddenly and mysteriously starts losing her physical senses. As her world changes, 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.
“I have been wanting to produce A Small Fire since I saw the world premiere,” said PTC Producing Artistic Director Price. “It’s personal and intimate. The play is a metaphor for the shifting ground beneath us, and how we react and respond to the unknown. It’s a secret gem of a play that I’m thrilled to bring to Philadelphia. I’m excited to work with Bebe again, and Emily is an ideal role for her. She has the perfect combination of intellect, humor, vulnerability and strength to really take us through Emily’s experiences. When Bebe also fell in love with this play, we knew it had to open the season. She’s been doing only television and movies for the past seven years, so we’re absolutely jumping up and down that she’s back on the boards at PTC.”
Bebe Neuwirth, a Two-time Tony Award winner, 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. She has had an illustrious film and television career, but may be most beloved for her indelible performance as “Lilith Crane” on Cheers and Frasier, which earned her 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.
Emily’s husband, John, will be played by Broadway and TV veteran John Dossett. Dossett appeared in several Broadway and Off-Broadway shows including playing Herbie in the Gypsy revival starring Bernadette Peters, for which he received a Tony Award Nomination. He was the original Joseph Pulitzer in Broadway’s Newsies and he has played Billy Flynn in Broadway’s Chicago, and starred with Patti Lupone and Christine Ebersole in the musical War Paint. Local audiences saw him this past season in People’s Light’s well-received production of A Number. He last appeared at PTC in 1998 in How I Learned to Drive. Dossett’s television credits include multiple episodes of Law and Order, Madam Secretary, The Americans, Gossip Girl and Suits. He also played Benjamin Rush in HBO’s critically acclaimed John Adams mini series. Dossett’s wife, Michele Pawk, played Emily Bridges in the world premiere production of A Small Fire at Playwright’s Horizons.
“When looking for an actor who would play the role of John, we knew we didn’t want a pushover. This man compassionately navigates the relationship between his wife and his daughter. As someone once said to me, “Don’t mistake nice for weak.” John Dossett has a wonderfully gentle quality, even while being a guy’s guy, and is instantly sympathetic. We are thrilled to welcome John back to PTC,” said Price.
Their daughter, Jenny, will be played by Sarah Gliko, who returns to PTC after playing Francesca in The Bridges of Madison County this past season. A member of the Wilma Theater’s Hothouse company, she last appeared in Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play followed by a turn in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime at Walnut Street Theatre. Gliko has just finished a run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with Untitled Project 213.
Oge Agulué is cast as Billy. Agulué, a regional theatre veteran, is currently playing Pawnee Bill in Annie Get Your Gun at the Bay Street Theatre, after a stint as “The General” on the National Tour of The Book of Mormon. Last season Off-Broadway, he starred in Love’s Labor’s Lost, which garnered a Drama Desk Nomination for Best Ensemble. Television appearances include The Code on CBS and Little American on Apple TV.
At the helm of the production is Joanie Schultz. Schultz is an arts leader and director of theatre and opera. In 2017- 2018, Shultz was Artistic Director of WaterTower Theatre in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where she oversaw two years of diverse, exciting, and award-winning work. From 2014-16, she was Associate Artistic Producer at Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theater, as part of the Leadership U One-on-One Fellowship funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by TCG. Her work includes directing for The Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, Victory Gardens Theater, The Cleveland Play House, Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Studio Theatre in Washington DC, and at least 30 other theatre and opera companies throughout Chicago and the country.
“A Small Fire is a moving and intimate play, one that reminds us of the core of our humanity, and inspires us to love our people with our whole selves. This cast comprises a quartet of compelling and honest actors who I am honored to work with to bring this delicate play to the Philadelphia Theatre Company stage. Each carries with them a vulnerability and a strength that will certainly bring out the best of these complex characters in Adam Bock’s play,” said Schultz.
Schultz is someone Price has wanted to work with for some time. “She is a well-known director in Chicago. She is also a teacher, and I’ve always been attracted to her courage. During her short tenure at WaterTower, she brought a great deal of thoughtful programming to their community. Joanie has said, ‘much of my work as a director focuses on the forgotten: not only the outcasts of society and people who go through life mostly invisible, but also the part of a person’s psyche or heart that has been cast aside, the consequences of an action that might not be apparent.’ I think that is a really nuanced and exciting focus to bring to this production,” said Price.
The design team includes two colleagues of Shultz’s and two local notables. Chelsea M. Warren, a multidisciplinary theatre artist with a focus on scenic and puppet design, is the set designer. Rachael Cady is the lighting designer. Both women have worked with Schultz before. Philadelphia-based costume designer Mark Mariani returns to PTC after designing costumes for The Bridges of Madison County. Local sound designer and composer Christopher Colucci, who designed last season’s Sweat at PTC, returns for this season opener.
Subscriptions are on sale and start at $48. Single tickets are $25-$74. Tickets and subscriptions are available at the box office, online at philatheatreco.org or by phone at 215-985-0420.
The season continues in 2020 with Chelsea Marcantel’s Everything is Wonderful, which made the Kilroy’s list Honorable Mention two years in a row. This incredible story of forgiveness, set in the heart of Amish Country, runs February 14-March 8. The season concludes with Sarah DeLappe’s 2017 Pulitzer Prize Finalist and 2015 Kilroys List play, The Wolves. This boisterously energetic play about life, love, and loss on and off the field for a high school girls soccer team runs April 10-May 3.
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.
Founded in 1974, PTC has presented 153 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.