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Sensuous ‘Picnic’ next up at Antaeus, opening June 25
NORTH HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (May 20, 2015) – Take a step back in time when director Cameron Watson (Top Girls) returns to Antaeus at the helm of a fully partner-cast revival of Picnic. The 1953 Pulitzer Prize and New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award-winning play by William Inge runs June 25 through Aug. 16 (with previews beginning June 18), presented by the Antaeus Theatre Company in NoHo.
Powerful, moving and ripe for revival, Inge’s drama is not simply a breezy summer romance. Set in small town Kansas, this is a sexy world, dangerous and cruel, where residents keep each other in their place while longing to break free. At once sensual, passionate and delightfully funny, Picnic probes the sometimes tenuous line between restraint and desire.
It’s a balmy Labor Day in the American Heartland, and a group of women are preparing for a picnic. When a handsome young drifter named Hal arrives, his combination of uncouth manners and titillating charm sends the women reeling, especially the beautiful Madge. When Hal is forced out of town, Madge must decide whether their fleeting encounter is worth changing the course of her life.
“Inge has tremendous respect for these characters,” says Watson. “There are no bad people. It’s bigger than that. Even though it is Kansas in 1952, the longings and desires and fears these people are experiencing on this particular Labor Day are no different from what we all experience today. It’s all about trying to find a way to exist in a place where everybody knows everybody and you can lose everything.”
In the Antaeus tradition best known as “partner casting,” two actors share every role, working together throughout the rehearsal process to enrich the creative experience for both cast and audience. Sharing roles in Picnic are Sarah Halford and Jordan Monaghan as the beautiful dreamer, Madge Owens; Connor Kelly-Eiding and Jackie Preciado as her smart-but-plain younger sister, Millie; Rhonda Aldrich and Eve Gordon as their mother, Flo; Janellen Steininger and Kitty Swink as neighbor Helen Potts; Matthew Gallenstein and Ross Philips as Madge’s wealthy boyfriend, Alan Seymour; Daniel Bess and Jason Dechert as sexy drifter Hal Carter; Gigi Bermingham and Shannon Holt as spinster schoolteacher Rosemary Sydney; and Josh Clark and John DeMita as Rosemary’s suitor, Howard Bevans. Rounding out the ensemble are Dylan Jones and Tamara Krinsky as Irma Kronkite and Maureen Lee Lenker and Jill Maglione as Christine Schoenwalder, both schoolteacher friends of Rosemary’s, and Jake Borelli and Ben Horwitz as the neighborhood kid known as “Bomber.”
William Inge was one of the three most important playwrights in the American theater of the 1950s, along with Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller. Nobody wrote more profoundly about the frustrations and longings of small-town Midwesterners. Considered his masterpiece, Picnic challenged the prevailing attitudes of the American Dream. People yearned for the normalcy of love, marriage and security after life-changing upheavals of World War II, but deep currents of discontent and desire for individuality were shaking the foundations of the small-town environment. Picnic premiered at the Music Box Theatre in February 1953 with Ralph Meeker, Eileen Heckart, Arthur O’Connell, Janice Rule, Reta Shaw, Paul Newman (in his Broadway debut) and Kim Stanley.
Kim Stanley later wrote, “Let me tell you something about Bill Inge… He forces you to remember what physical attraction and physical love can and should do to you, and what the lack of this same chemical magic can and will do to you. We cannot go through this world alone, and the dreams and the fantasies will grow old and, like our prescriptions for drugs and alcohol, will have to be continually and dangerously raised in order for them to have any effect. We need other people – one wonderful other person – to make ourselves whole. That was his belief. That was his dream. That was what he never achieved. I cannot believe that this theme does not resonate within everyone… Admit it: You lack the love or you lost the love or you destroyed the love. That’s hard to do, but that’s what you are confessing when you submit to the plays of Bill Inge.”
Picnic was adapted into a motion picture in 1955, starring William Holden and Kim Novak. It was revived on Broadway in 1994, and again in 2013.
Inge was born in 1913 in Independence, Kansas, where his childhood life would influence many of his future works. In 1943, he became the St. Louis-Times’ theater critic, where he met Tennessee Williams. After joining Williams at a performance of The Glass Menagerie in Chicago, Inge was inspired to become a playwright himself. Within three months he had completed Farther Off from Heaven. While teaching at Washington University in St. Louis, he began work on what would become Come Back, Little Sheba, the play that earned him the title of “most promising playwright of the 1950 Broadway season.” Following Picnic (1953), which was the recipient of the Donaldson Award and Theatre Club Award in addition to the aforementioned Pulitzer and NYDCC Awards, Inge’s Broadway success continued with Bus Stop (1955) and The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (1957), until a short string of failures prompted him to leave playwriting in the mid-1960s. His first screenplay, Splendor in the Grass (1960), earned him the Academy Award for Best Screenplay. He returned to teaching in 1968 but increasing depression led him to quit after only two years. He managed to write two novels, “Good Luck, Miss Wycoff” (1970) and “My Son is a Splendid Driver” (1971), before committing suicide in 1973. He was buried in his hometown, where his headstone simply reads “Playwright.”
Antaeus is a cooperative theater ensemble founded to empower the actor and to bring classical theater to Los Angeles. The company exists to create a family of artists and audiences and is dedicated to exploring stories with enduring themes. Taking their company name from the Titan who gained strength by touching the Earth, Antaeus members — many of whom are familiar to film and television audiences — regain their creative strength by returning to the wellspring of their craft: live theater. Members of the company span a wide range of age, ethnicity and experience; they have performed on Broadway, at major regional theaters across the country, in film, television and on local stages, and are the recipients of numerous accolades including Tony, Los Angeles and New York Drama Critics’ Circle, Ovation, LA Weekly, and Back Stage Garland nominations and awards. Audiences, who never see an understudy due to Antaeus’ trademark “partner casting,” frequently return to see the same play in the hands of an equally excellent but very different set of actors.
Scenic design for Picnic is by Robert Selander; lighting design is by Jared A. Sayeg; costume design is by Terry A. Lewis; sound design is by Jeff Gardner; props design is by Adam Meyer; and the production stage manager is Kristin Weber.
Performances of Picnic take place June 25 through Aug. 16 on Thursdays and Fridays at 8 pm; Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 2 p.m. (no matinee performance on Saturday, June 27; dark July 4). Talk back Thursdays begin on July 2: stay after the performance and discuss the play with the cast. Tickets are $30 on Thursdays and Fridays (except June 25 and June 26 which are $34 and include a reception with the actors), and $34 on Saturdays and Sundays. The Antaeus Theatre Company is located at 5112 Lankershim Blvd in North Hollywood, CA 91601. Parking is available for $8 in the lot at 5125 Lankershim Blvd. (west side of the street), just south of Magnolia. The theater is air-conditioned and wheelchair accessible. For reservations and information, call 818-506-1983 or go to www.antaeus.org.
Details for Calendar Listings
Picnic – Antaeus, L.A.’s classical theater ensemble, presents a fully partner-cast production of William Inge’s sensual, passionate and delightfully funny American classic about the tenuous line between restraint and desire. It’s a balmy Labor Day in the American Heartland, and a group of women are preparing for a picnic… but they’ll have to lay a lot on the line before they can lay out the checkered cloths. When a handsome young drifter named Hal arrives, his combination of uncouth manners and titillating charm sends the women reeling, especially the beautiful Madge. When Hal is forced out of town, Madge must decide whether their fleeting encounter is worth changing the course of her life. Winner of the 1953 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award.
• Written by William Inge
• Directed by Cameron Watson
• Starring Rhonda Aldrich, Gigi Bermingham, Josh Clark, Daniel Bess, Jake Borelli, Jason Dechert, John DeMita, Matthew Gallenstein, Eve Gordon, Connor Kelly-Eiding, Sarah Halford, Shannon Holt, Ben Horwitz, Dylan Jones, Tamara Krinsky, Maureen Lee Lenker, Jill Maglione, Jordan Monaghan, Ross Philips, Matthew Gallenstein, Ross Philips, Jackie Preciado, Janellen Steininger, Kitty Swink
• Presented by The Antaeus Company
Previews: June 18-24
Performances: June 25-Aug. 16:
• Tuesday at 8 p.m.: June 23 ONLY (preview)
• Wednesday at 8 p.m.: June 24 ONLY (preview)
• Thursdays* at 8 p.m.: June 18 (preview), 25 (opening); July 2, 9, 16, 23, 30; Aug. 6, 13
• Fridays at 8 p.m.: June 19 (preview), 26 (opening); July 3, 10, 17, 24, 31; Aug. 7, 14
• Saturdays at 2 p.m.: July 11, 18, 25; Aug. 1, 8, 15 (no matinees on June 20, June 27, July 4)
• Saturdays at 8 p.m.: June 20 (preview), 27; July 11, 18, 25; Aug. 1, 8, 15 (dark July 4)
• Sundays at 2 p.m.: June 21 (preview), 28; July 5, 12, 19, 26; Aug. 2, 9, 16
*Talk back Thursdays begin July 2: stay after the performance and discuss the play with the cast.
ANTAEUS THEATRE COMPANY
5112 Lankershim Blvd.
North Hollywood CA, 91601
(1½ bocks south of Magnolia)
$8 in the lot at 5125 Lankershim Blvd. (west side of the street), just south of Magnolia.
• Opening Night performances on June 25 & June 26: $34 (includes reception with the actors)
• Thursdays and Fridays: $30 (except June 25 & June 26)
• Saturdays and Sundays: $34
• Previews: $15