CT's River Rep Will Rise Again With July 26 Gala Opening of Foreigner

News   CT's River Rep Will Rise Again With July 26 Gala Opening of Foreigner The River Rep Theatre Company, the non-profit New York troupe that staged 19 seasons of Equity work in the Connecticut River region, returns in 2007 after a one-year hiatus to stage The Foreigner July 25-Aug. 12.

The Larry Shue comedy will play The Chester Meeting House in Chester, CT. River Rep left its longtime summer digs at the Ivoryton Playhouse in nearby Ivoryton after its 2005 season.

The July 26 performance of The Foreigner will serve as a gala fundraiser for the troupe, which plans to keep producing in the region in coming seasons. Discussions are ongoing between River Rep and the under-construction Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center in Old Saybrook, NY.

"We are looking forward to all our wonderful supporters and new fans who will be joining us in this vital effort to raise funds for our [next] season, which we hope will be at the new Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center in 2008," stated Joan Shepard, River Rep's managing director.

Katharine Houghton, star of stage and screen (and Hepburn's niece), is the honorary chair of the event. The Gala will follow the 7 PM performance. Tickets are $125 (including the performance) and may be ordered at (860) 767-2954 or online www.riverrep.com.

Organized by the Friends of River Rep, the evening will feature a champagne reception, raffles and prizes, including a chance to win a walk-on role in The Foreigner, and premium seats and backstage tours of some of Broadway's hottest shows, including Mary Poppins and Jersey Boys. River Rep Theatre Company was founded in 1987 when director Jane Stanton invited New Yorkers Joan Shepard and her husband, Evan Thompson, who had their own touring company, Fanfare Productions, to start a summer stock company in Ivoryton, CT. The pair were joined by their son, Owen, and daughter, Jenn, and Warren Kelley.

Stanton now serves as artistic director emeritus; Kelley was appointed artistic director in 2003. The troupers serve as actors, directors and administrators in the company.

River Rep produced more than 95 mainstage productions during the past 20 years. River Rep has been nominated for numerous awards by the Connecticut Critics Circle. In 2005 Owen Thompson won the Outstanding Director Award for The Mikado.

Katharine Houghton stated, "For almost two decades I have had the pleasure of being associated with the wonderful and unique family of River Rep. I don't know of another theatre family in America like this — where mother, father, daughter and son all work together and support each other in adventurous and commercially appealing theatrical endeavors. Their extended family of actors, technical artists and business associates are all terrific people. Sensitive to their audiences' tastes, they offer to the community at large the very best of productions and provide a most valuable resource — professional, live theatre."

Houghton performed in five River Rep productions, including Blithe Spirit and Lettice and Lovage.

The Chester Meeting House is located at 2 Liberty Street, Chester, off State Route #9. For more information on River Rep, visit www.riverrep.com.

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The Hepburn Center was expected to open in 2007, but delays in completing the project prevented River Rep from producing there this year. River Rep producers continue to work closely with First Selectman Michael Pace and the town of Old Saybrook, in anticipation of 2008, when the new Hepburn Center is scheduled to open.

The Town of Chester, meanwhile, was seeking programming for its historic 170-seat Meeting House. Chester Selectman Martin Heft and First Selectman Thomas Marsh offered River Rep a temporary theatre home.

The Meeting House is long noted for staging productions, including performances by the Meeting House Players and the Historical Society-sponsored Robbie Collomore concert series.

"While we wait for the new Arts Center to complete its renovation, we have a wonderful invitation to produce this summer at Chester Meeting House," Warren Kelley, River Rep's artistic director, wrote in a letter to subscribers. "This historic and charming theatre is the perfect, intimate space in which to reunite with our loyal audience. Logistics dictate that we can only do an extended run of a single production."

River Rep producing partners Joan Shepard, Evan Thompson and Owen Thompson will join Warren Kelley in the staging of The Foreigner, which will be directed by Jenn Thompson, also a producing partner. Todd Gearhart will also join the cast. Two other roles have yet to be announced.

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River Rep first staged The Foreigner in 1988, featuring Karen Ziemba, Warren Kelley, Evan Thompson and Owen Thompson. It has been one of the most-requested revival titles ever since. The planned run represents the first time that River Rep has ever repeated a title in 19 years.