Mature Divas Helmond, Burke, Van Patten, Gillette and Glynn Star in Signature's The Oldest Profession

News   Mature Divas Helmond, Burke, Van Patten, Gillette and Glynn Star in Signature's The Oldest Profession The five prostitutes in Paula Vogel's The Oldest Profession will be played by five mature, indelible actresses in Signature Theatre Company's Off-Broadway production starting in late summer.

In the New York premiere of the play — about ladies faced with a "diminishing clientele, increased competition for their niche market, and aching joints" as Ronald Reagan enters the White House — expect Marylouise Burke, Anita Gillette, Carlin Glynn, Katherine Helmond and Joyce Van Patten. David Esbjornson directs.

The Oldest Profession has been seen around the world, in Mexico, Canada, Czechoslovakia and Poland — but not in a major New York production. It plays Signature's Peter Norton Space Aug. 17-Oct. 10, opening Sept. 9.

This production launches Signature's 2004-05 season of plays by Vogel, who won the Pulitzer Prize for How I Learned to Drive and whose The Mineola Twins and The Long Christmas Ride Home were seen in New York.

The ladies of the evening are all character actresses over the age of 50 (most over 60), with a wide range of theatre, film and TV experience. Gillette was a fresh-faced ingenue of '60s musicals, including All American and Mr. President, who starred in Broadway's Chapter Two in middle-age. Helmond gained wide fame as voluptuous and dim Jessica Tate on TV's "Soap." Glynn starred as Miss Mona in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas on Broadway and as Lily Dale in Horton Foote's The Man From Atlanta for Signature. Burke starred in Broadway's recent Into the Woods (as Jack's Mother) and in Manhattan Theatre Club's Kimberly Akimbo and Fuddy Meers. Van Patten is known for TV appearances and for Broadway's Rumors, Jake's Women, Brighton Beach Memoirs and more.

"With wit, compassion and humor, they struggle to find and learn new tricks as they fight to stay in the Life," according to the Signature casting announcement. Designers are Narelle Sissons (set), Elizabeth Hope Clancy (costumes), James Vermeulen (lights) and Darron L. West (sound).

Kate Loewald is gust artistic director for the 2004-05 Signature season while founding artistic director James Houghton takes a sabbatical. Vogel's The Baltimoe Waltz and the New York premiere of Hot 'n' Throbbing are also on the season's slate.

The Peter Norton Space is at 555 W. 42nd Street (between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues).  The performance schedule for The Oldest Profession is Tuesday-Saturday evenings at 8 PM, with matinees on Saturday and Sundays at 3 PM. For additional information, visit www.signaturetheatre.org or call (212) 244-PLAY.

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