Eclectic Society, World-Premiere Tale of a Campus Club in Changing Times, Opens in Philly

News   Eclectic Society, World-Premiere Tale of a Campus Club in Changing Times, Opens in Philly
 
The Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia opens the world premiere of The Eclectic Society on Jan. 27. Eric Conger's 1960s-set play about a university club began previews Jan. 19 and continues through March 7 on the Mainstage.
The Eclectic Society's J. Alex Brinson
The Eclectic Society's J. Alex Brinson Photo by Mark Garvin

Directed by Ed Herendeen, the play is billed this way: "It is early November, 1963. On a University campus somewhere in New England, the members of The Eclectic Society are caught up in a whirlwind of social change. Sure, there are still Homecoming games to be won and pranks to be pulled on the incoming pledges, but things start to change with the arrival of Darrell Freeman (J. Alex Brinson). A scholarship winner from the ghettos of Cleveland, Darrell doesn't exactly fit the mold of membership. In other words: he comes from the wrong side of the tracks, and he's black. As the second African-American admitted to the Society (after three-sport athlete Floyd Wiggins, played by Carl Clemons-Hopkins), Darrell has his own hurdles to clear as he is welcomed by some with open arms…but not everyone."

It's described as "a complex and riveting story flowing from laughter and humor to gut-wrenching drama and back again."

In the end, "new friendships are formed and others destroyed as 125 years of 'traditional thinking' comes in direct conflict with a brave new world."

The cast of The Eclectic Society includes young actors new to the Walnut stage, most from the Philadelphia area. Featured are University of the Arts graduates Paul Felder (as Sean O'Dey), Ed Renninger (Seth Flugelman), Brian Cowden (Oliver Nash), Carl Clemons-Hopkins (Floyd Wiggins) and Jamie Branagh (Loren Bishop). Other local talent includes J. Alex Brinson (as Darrell Freeman), David Raphaely (Alberto Barzaga), James Stover (Robert Bates III), Noah Mazaika (Douglas Crockett) and Julianna Zinkel (Tina Merriweather). Rounding out the cast are Jeffrey de Picciotto (as Tony Caroli) and Dan Amboyer (Society President Tom Rockwell).

Author Eric Conger has translated works of Moliere and Feydeau; The Eclectic Society is his first original work. A graduate of Wesleyan University and the University of Paris, Conger appeared on the Walnut stage in 1985 as Oliver in As You Like It, and has appeared in dozens of productions nationwide. Herendeen is known for his leadership of the Contemporary American Theater Festival in West Virginia (which he founded in 1991), which has produced 23 world premieres and commissioned seven new plays.

The creative team for The Eclectic Society includes scenic designer Robert Klingelhoefer, lighting designer Paul Black, costume designer Colleen Grady and sound designer Christopher Colucci.

For tickets and more information, call (215) 574-3550 or (800) 982-2787. Tickets are also available online 24/7 by visiting www.WalnutStreetTheatre.org or Ticketmaster.com.

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Walnut Street Theatre has hosted famous world premieres in the past: A Streetcar Named Desire, The Diary of Anne Frank and A Raisin in the Sun.

Jamie Branagh and the cast of <i>The Eclectic Society</i>
Jamie Branagh and the cast of The Eclectic Society Photo by Mark Garvin
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