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West Coast premiere of ‘A Public Reading of an Unproduced
Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney’ by Lucas Hnath
Subversive comedy explodes ‘idea’ of Walt Disney
LOS ANGELES (February 22, 2022) — Magic. Joy. Happiness. Walt Disney’s creations have given us all of these feelings and more. Working Barn Productions presents the West Coast premiere of what The New York Times calls “a blackly comic inversion of the public Disney persona” — the ambitiously titled A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney by Lucas Hnath (Broadway’s A Doll’s House, Part 2; Hillary and Clinton; Dana H). Peter Richards directs a visiting production at the Odyssey Theatre, opening March 26 for a six-week run through May 1.
Meet Walt Disney. He’s got a screenplay that he wants you to hear. It’s about Walt (everything’s about Walt), and about how his family is all going to miss him when he’s dead. You’re going to miss him, too. Walt’s sure of it. This is a play about egos and empires and changing the world, whether it wants to be changed or not.
Richards first came across the script when it was submitted to the Venturous Theater Fund of the Tides Foundation, for which he acts as artistic consultant.
“The fund is set up to support plays that are strange in form or risky in some way,” he explains. “This play feels just like the ‘unproduced reading’ of the title… like the audience is watching a bunch of actors sitting around a table reading Walt’s screenplay in a rehearsal room. But as the play progresses, the theatricality grows, and the layers deepen.”
In the end, Hnath’s fiercely funny, highly meta screenplay-within-a-play turns the public persona of the self-made American folk hero, creator of “The Happiest Place on Earth,” completely on its head.
“Walt wants to live forever,” says Richards. “He wants to control his legacy. But, in the end, those aspirations remain out of reach, and his attempts at shaping his final narrative — writing his own story, if you will — are a little sad, and most definitely funny. I’m not interested in demonizing him; I’m fascinated by his obsessions, as well as by how those close to him — his brother, Roy; daughter, Diane; and son-in-law, Ronald Miller — navigate their relationships with him.”
In the play, the character of Walt fights with his brother, has problems with his daughter, and doesn’t like his son-in-law — human problems Hnath has both taken from biographies and invented. Richards notes that, “Hnath has taken a lot of liberties here. People should not assume that everything is true.”
According to Hnath, “I wanted to make Walt simultaneously a person and this concept. It’s not a bio play. What’s being dramatized is the idea of Walt Disney.”
A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney stars Kevin Ashworth as Walt; Thomas Piper as Roy; Brittney Bertier as Diane; and Cory Washington as Ron.
The creative team includes scenic designer David Offner; costume designer Kate Bergh; lighting designer Matt Richter; sound designer Jesse Mandapat; projection designer Nick Santiago; properties designer Jenine MacDonald; graphic designer Kiff Scholl, AFK Design; and casting directors Michael Donovan, CSA and Richie Ferris, CSA. The production stage manager is Chloe Willey, and Racquel Lehrman, Theatre Planners produces for Working Barn Productions.
A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney premiered at New York City’s Soho Playhouse in 2017, where Theater Mania called it “A blood-pumping and often hilarious evening of theater” and Time Out New York found it to be “Enjoyably weird and hermetic…Nothing that ever came out of the Magic Kingdom was this animated.”
Lucas Hnath is a resident playwright at New Dramatists and his plays have been produced or developed at Actors Theatre of Louisville, The Culture Project, Ontological-Hysteric Theater, Ensemble Studio Theatre and Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, among others. His play A Doll’s House, Part 2 premiered on Broadway in 2017 and received eight Tony nominations including “Best Play” and an Outer Critics Circle Award nomination for “Outstanding New Broadway Play.” Other plays include Hillary and Clinton, Dana H, The Christians, Red Speedo, Isaac’s Eye, Death Tax and The Courtship of Anna Nicole Smith.
Peter Richards recently directed Marilyn Campbell and Curt Columbus’s Jefferson Award-winning adaptation of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s famous novel Crime and Punishment at the Edgemar Center for the Arts in Santa Monica, and the West Coast premiere of Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally by Kevin Armento, the story of a forbidden teacher-student love affair as narrated by the student’s cell phone, also at the Odyssey. Other directing credits include site-specific productions of Chekhov’s The Seagull and Shakespeare’s The Tempest on a farm in Maine, a staging of Julius Caesar with a masked Greek chorus, and critically acclaimed productions of the Pulitzer-nominated drama Dying City by Christopher Shinn; the Obie-winning play The Aliens by Annie Baker; and Anna Christie by Eugene O’Neill at the Wild Project in NYC. Among his theatrical avant-garde projects are numerous shows with Conni’s Avant Garde Restaurant (an ensemble of which he is a founding member), presented in New York at the Ohio Theater and the Bushwick Starr. Richards also directs educational theater projects at Bates College in Maine. He holds an MFA degree in Acting from the Institute of Advanced Theater Training at Harvard and is a member of the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab.
Performances of A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney take place Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., March 26 through May 1. There will be one preview performance on Friday, March 25 at 8 p.m. All tickets are $30 (reserved seating) except the preview, which is $20. The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West Los Angeles, 90025. Parking is free in the onsite lot.
For reservations and information, go to www.Onstage411.com/Disney.
Details for Calendar Listings
‘A Public Reading of an Unproduced
Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney’
Magic. Joy. Happiness. Walt Disney’s creations have given us all of these feelings and more. Working Barn Productions presents the West Coast premiere of what The New York Times calls “a blackly comic inversion of the public Disney persona” — the ambitiously titled A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney by Lucas Hnath. In this fiercely funny, highly meta screenplay-within-a-play, the public persona of the self-made American folk hero, creator of “The Happiest Place on Earth,” is turned completely on its head.
• Written by Lucas Hnath
• Directed by Peter Richards
• Starring Kevin Ashworth, Brittney Bertier, Thomas Piper, Cory Washington
• Produced by Racquel Lehrman, Theatre Planners
• Presented by Working Barn Productions
Preview: March 25
Performances: March 26 – May 1:
• Fridays at 8 p.m.: March 25 (preview), April 1, April 8, April 15, April 22, April 29
• Saturdays at 8 p.m.: March 26 (Opening Night), April 2, April 9, April 16, April 23, April 30
• Sundays at 2 p.m.: March 27, April 3, April 10, April 17, April 24, May 1
A Visiting Production at the
2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd.
Los Angeles CA 90025
Free in the on-site lot
• All performances $30
• Preview: $20
For reservations and information, go to www.Onstage411.com/Disney.