This development has meant that the next scheduled production at the Arts, A Conversation with Edith Head, is switching venues and will launch the new downstairs Studio Space at the re-launched Leicester Square Theatre (formerly The Venue). The play, based on the life of the legendary Hollywood costume designer who worked on 1,131 motion pictures in a career spanning six decades (which saw her winning eight Oscars out of 35 she was nominated for), will begin performances there on July 29, prior to an official opening on July 31, for a run to Aug. 31.
The play is co-written by Paddy Calistro and Susan Claassen, who plays the title role. Calistro and Head co-authored the book, "Edith Head's Hollywood," which is the source material for the play.
According to press materials, Head's story "is as fascinating as the history of the film industry itself. It's a story filled with humour, frustration and above all glamour. This diva of design helped to define glamour in the most glamorous place in the world - Hollywood!" Head spent 44 years of her six-decade career at Paramount Studios, where she worked with the most famous actors of the time, from Mae West and Clara Bow to Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn and Bette Davis. When Paramount failed to renew her contract in 1967, Alfred Hitchcock stepped in and Ms. Head was invited to join Universal Studios. At Universal she costumed Robert Redford and Paul Newman in "The Sting," for which she won her eighth Oscar – previous wins included her work on "The Heiress," "Samson & Delilah," "All About Eve," "A Place in the Sun," "Roman Holiday," "Sabrina" and "The Facts of Life." She died in October 1981, still under contract to Universal Studios, having just completed working on the Steve Martin film, "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid."
Claassen was inspired to co-write and star in A Conversation with Edith Head while watching a TV biography of Ms. Head. As she says in press materials, "Not only do I bear a striking resemblance to Edith, but we share the same love for clothes and fashion." Much of the dialogue in A Conversation with Edith Head comes directly from the designer. When asked to write the authorized posthumous autobiography, "Edith Head's Hollywood," Paddy Calistro acquired more than 13 hours of recollections recorded by Edith Head - "Edithisms" as Ms. Head referred to her own sayings. There are also contributions from costume designer Bob Mackie, who once worked as Ms. Head's sketch artist; her dear friend Edie Wasserman, wife of the late Universal Studio head Lew Wasserman; and Art Linkletter, award-winning host of "House Party," the daytime U.S. TV show of the 1950s that brought Edith Head into the homes of America.
Claassen is celebrating her 34th anniversary with the Invisible Theatre of Tucson, Arizona, as managing artistic director, and has produced more than 335 productions and directed more than 50. As an actress, her most memorable roles have been Bella in Lost in Yonkers, Alice B. Toklas in Gertrude Stein and a Companion, Hannah in Crossing Delancey, the title role in Shirley Valentine and Trudy in The Search For Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. She is the recipient of the 1985 Governor's Award for Women Who Create, the 1993 Humanitarian Torch Award for her efforts on behalf of people living with AIDS and a 1996 Distinguished Service Award from the State Federation for Exceptional Children for her commitment to arts education for special populations. Claassen was the 1999 City of Hope "Spirit of Life" recipient, and performs as a clown in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. She was recently selected as one of Tucson Lifestyle's 10 Most Admired Women. For tickets contact the box office at 0844 847 2475 or visit www.ticketweb.com.