Desperate Family in EgoPo’s CURSE OF THE STARVING CLASS

March 25 – April 12, 2020

Sacrificial lambs, apocalyptic explosions, and the smell of bacon create the bizarre and unexpected world of EgoPo Classic Theater’s production of Sam Shepard’s Curse of the Starving Class. Referred to by Shepard himself as the most autobiographical play of his career, Curse explores the fragility of the American Dream through a family crumbling in the dry landscape of Southern California.

Curse of the Starving Class features a powerful roster of Philadelphia and EgoPo veteran actors.  Steven Rishard (The Public, La Mama, Lincoln Center, Wilma Hothouse) makes his EgoPo debut in the simmering role of the father alongside EgoPo veteran Melanie Julian (The Seagull, Jesse James, Lydie Breeze). The children are played by Tyler Elliot (Arden, Lantern, People’s Light) also making his EgoPo debut, and EgoPo regular Kylie Westerbeck (Lydie Breeze, The Women, Company) as Emma. Featured roles include EgoPo and Wilma veteran Ross Beschler (Hell, Machinal), along with EgoPo newcomers Scott Rodrigue, Katherine Perry, Cameron Del Grosso, and Brandon Castillo. Mackenzie Trush will join the cast as an understudy.

The play also features a special appearance from a wooly guest star (and its understudy) making its EgoPo stage debut from the amazing Little Hooves Farm across the bridge in Moorestown, NJ.  Interviews and a translator available upon request.

This eruptive play will be directed by EgoPo’s Founding Artistic Director, Lane Savadove:

Curse of the Starving Class is the pinnacle of Shepard’s family quintet of plays that dissect the idealism we paint around the American family and unearth the tender and desperate core beneath the surface.  In Curse, I am particularly interested in how violence and rage are passed down through the generations like a…well, curse.  I want audiences to experience this play viscerally…in their bones. How does a family’s unfulfilled need for tenderness, turn into desperation and then fear, and then transforms into violence inflicted on the most innocent. It’s a dark expressionist journey into the experience of a family in tumult.  I look forward to sharing my vision with you as we conclude our journey into the world of Sam Shepard.”

Curse of the Starving Class, winner of the Obie Award for Best New American Play, is the final play of EgoPo’s 2019-2020 three-play Shepard Country Season, celebrating the works of the late, great Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Sam Shepard.  Curse of the Starving Class begins previews March 25th and 26th and opens Friday, March 27th. The show runs three weeks, closing on Sunday, April 12th. Tickets start at $32. Performances are at the Latvian Society Theater on 7th and Spring Garden.

Curse of the Starving Class: Plot
The Tates are on the brink of emotional and financial ruin as each family member plans a desperate escape. Ella plots with a smarmy real estate agent, while husband Weston holes up at the local bar, and son Wesley tries desperately to hold the house together. Meanwhile, 13-year-old Emma dreams of a life of crime, and the family’s lamb takes the brunt of it all.  Winner of the 1977 Obie Award for Best New American Play, Curse of the Starving Class takes the American Dream and explodes it into gruesome fragments.

Production History

Originally commissioned by Joseph Papp, Curse of the Starving Class was first produced at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 1977, directed by Nancy Meckler. The play went on to win the 1976-77 Obie Award for Best New American Play. The following year, Curse made its Off-Broadway debut at the New York Shakespeare Festival, presented by Joseph Papp, starring James Gammon, and directed by Robert Woodruff. The play returned Off-Broadway at the Promenade Theatre in 1985 starring Bradley Whitford and Kathy Bates, with direction by Robin Lynn Smith. Kathy Bates reprised her role as the matriarch in the 1994 film alongside James Woods. In 2000, the play was produced at Yale Repertory Theatre, New Haven, Connecticut, directed by Joe Simpson. Last year, Curse of the Starving Class was produced at the Signature Theatre in New York, directed by Terry Kinney.

The artistic team for EgoPo’s Curse of the Starving Class includes Philadelphia designers Dirk Durossette (Set), Andrew Cowles (Lights), Ariel Wang (Costumes), Chris Sannino (Sound), Matt Basen (Props), and Flannel & Hammer (Technical Director/Scene Shop).

Previews begin March 25th, with Press Opening on Friday, March 27th; the show will run three weeks, closing on Sunday, April 12th at The Latvian Society Theater, 531 North 7th Street, Philadelphia.

Tickets*: Wed-Thurs: $32, Fri-Sun: $36, Champagne Opening: $39, Student/Industry: $12, ACCESS Philly**: $2. To purchase tickets, go online at or call 267-273-1414.

*Ticketing fees apply to all orders, excluding ACCESS.

**Call 267-273-1414 to reserve ACCESS tickets. ACCESS card and photo ID required. ACCESS Cardholders may use their card at EgoPo for just $2, thanks to ACCESS Philly, a city-wide initiative led by Art-Reach. For more information, visit


The Latvian Society Theater

531 N. 7th Street


Previews: March 25-26

Press Opening: March 27

Runs: March 27-April 12

Wednesday, March 25 at 7pm, Thursdays-Fridays at 7pm, Saturdays at 8pm, Saturdays February April 4th and 11th at 3pm, Sundays at 3pm.


Steven Rishard*

Melanie Julian*

Tyler Elliot

Kylie Westerbeck

Ross Beschler*

Scott Rodrigue

Cameron Del Grosso

Brandon Castillo

Katherine Perry

Mackenzie Trush (understudy)

*Appearing Courtesy of Actor’s Equity Association

Production Team

Director: Lane Savadove

Set Designer: Dirk Durossette

Lighting Designer: Andrew Cowles

Costume Designer: Ariel Wang

Sound Designer: Chris Sannino

Prop Designer: Matt Basen

Stage Manager: Melody Wong

Technical Direction: Flannel & Hammer

Associate Sound Designer: Edward Smith

Assistant Stage Managers: Cameron Del Grosso & Brandon Castillo

Associate Producer: Dane Eissler

Managing Director: Katrina Foy

Artistic Director: Lane Savadove

About EgoPo Classic Theater

EgoPo Classic Theater is a Philadelphia-based, non-profit theater company committed to revitalizing the great classics of theater and literature. Founded in 1991 by Artistic Director, Lane Savadove, EgoPo strives for virtuosity in vocal and physical performance in order to create innovative and provocative theatrical events.

EgoPo’s uniqueness is found in its season structure, which curates year-long festivals that focus on a playwright or theatrical genre and are designed as a journey guiding audience members through mainstage productions and special events all themed to the season. The result is a deep immersion into a richer and more visceral experience for our community of audience members.

Winner of 2017 Barrymore Awards for Best Evolving Theater and Best Production for Chekhov’s The Seagull, EgoPo has staged productions nationally in New York, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Chicago, and San Francisco; internationally in Indonesia and Croatia; and on National Public Radio.



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