Auditions are being held this week for Surviving Grace, a new comedy-drama being targeted for an Off-Broadway berth in the spring. According to a Back Stage casting notice, Trish Vradenburg's play, which follows a workaholic TV producer, her Alzheimers-threatened mom, straying dad and temperamental star, is being produced by George Vradenburg (the playwright's husband and executive vice president of AOL/Time Warner) and Nina Benton.
Surviving Grace starts rehearsals Jan. 2, begins previews Jan. 31 and opens in mid-February 2002 at the Union Square Theatre, recent home of the well-received but poor-selling Bat Boy. Jack Hofsiss directs Grace; Richard Frankel Productions is the general management firm handling the project, according to spokespersons at the Barlow-Hartman press office.
The play enjoyed a June 23-July 15 mounting at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theatre in Washington DC. Author Vradenburg, who's done TV scripts for "Designing Women" and "Family Ties," lost her once-vibrant and politically-active mother to Alzheimer's in 1991.
In an August 2001 USA Today interview, author Vradenburg said of the semi-autobiographical play, "Just like Grace [Griswald, the mother], my mom spiraled down quickly... I wanted to keep my mom alive, and this was my way of doing it." Members of Congress were invited to the Kennedy Center staging, in the hopes that the government would want to appropriate even more than the current $520 million being spent this year on Alzheimer's research.
Originally titled The Apple Doesn't Fall..., with the lead character called Selma rather than Grace, Surviving Grace was first staged at L.A.'s Tiffany Theatre in 1996 followed by a disastrous, one-night Broadway stint, directed by Leonard Nimoy at the Lyceum Theatre. Retitled Surviving Selma, the play was then mounted in Colorado Springs before the latest round of revisions. Author Vradenburg told Broadway.com the new version has “the skeleton" of the original but is "very much reworked... You can get bad reviews and still survive. I get a lot of letters from people saying that [the play] made a difference to them."
— By David Lefkowitz