After taking the holiday weeks off, Mark Kemble's Names, the 2001 02 season opener for the Group at the Lee Strasberg Center, will rise again in the Marilyn Monroe Theatre at the Lee Strasberg Creative Center Jan. 4-27. Best Short Film Academy Award-winner Adam Davidson ("The Lunch Date") directs the piece, which played a successful run Nov. 23-Dec. 23.
Names is a play close to the heart of The Group. The historical drama, an examination of friendship in the Group Theatre while the House Un American Activities Committee wages its war against communism in the arts, features real-life personae Strasberg, Stella Adler, Harold Clurman, Elia Kazan and Clifford Odets.
In the early 1950's, Senator Joseph McCarthy's witch hunt for communists struck the film industry, resulting in the infamous "black list," which denied many actors, directors and writers work in the industry simply because of their former and current political associations. Names takes place in the Algonquin Hotel in April, 1952, the day before Kazan testified before the House committee. He would go on to name the names of many members of the Group Theatre as communists, but in Names, Kazan attempts to argue with Strasberg, Adler and others why he will do what he did.
One of National Public Radio's Top Ten Plays of 1995, Names received its world premiere July 13, 1995 at the Matrix. In 1997, Darryl Roth and Scott Allyn produced the drama at the American Jewish Theatre.
Names stars Karen Austin (Stella Adler), Richard Cox (Luther Adler), Barry Cutler (Lee Strasberg), Shaun Duke (Elia Kazan), Christopher Grove (Clifford Odets), David Kagen (Harold Clurman), Robert Mobley (John Garfield) and Jamieson Stern (Manny Damski). Tickets are $17-$19. The Marilyn Monroe Theatre at the Lee Strasberg Creative Center is located at 7936 Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood. For reservations, call (323) 650-7777.
Jan. 10, Paramount and MGM player Marsha Hunt will recall her life as a blacklisted actress during Hollywood's "Golden Era," following the performance of Names. Her film credits previous to the 1950's include "The Human Comedy," "Pride and Prejudice," "Panama Hattie" and "These Glamour Girls." Producer David Lee Stasberg will moderate the discussion, which is free of charge.
— By Christine Ehren