Pittsburgh Irish Troupe Unveils World Premiere, Henry, Inspired by Pirandello's Enrico IV Aug. 31

News   Pittsburgh Irish Troupe Unveils World Premiere, Henry, Inspired by Pirandello's Enrico IV Aug. 31
 
Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre presents the world premiere of Irish playwright Thomas Kilroy's new play, Henry, freely adapted from Italian master Luigi Pirandello's Enrico IV — "and dragging his mad king kicking and screaming into the 21st century."

Performances begin Aug. 31 after a delay following a casting change due to Equity rules involving guest artists from the U.K. Irish film and stage star Stephen Rea was originally to star in the work, a PICT commission. Opening is Sept. 3.

Award-winning Canadian actor Richard McMillan is now Henry, "a man of enormous wealth and privilege who believes he is the 11th century German King Henry IV," according to PICT. "A fortress is built and actors are hired to carry out his fantasy. But is he mad, or are we?"

The international collaboration is directed by PICT artistic director Andrew S. Paul. Henry features a scenic design by Frank Conway; costume design by Cletus Anderson; lighting design by Cindy Limauro; and video design and projection by Ciara Moore and Buzz Miller.

The play will have an extended four-week, 19-performance run Aug. 31-Sept. 24 in the Charity Randall Theatre of the Stephen Foster Memorial, Oakland, PA.

The Pittsburgh troupe includes Ben Hersey, Martin Giles, Patrick Jordan, Erin Krom, Larry John Meyers, Joel Ripka, Joe Schulz, Sam Tsoutsouvas and Robin Walsh. In a form of "privileged conversation" with the author, playwright Kilroy "has retained the central essence and theatricality of the original while infusing it with a thoroughly contemporary sensibility," according to PICT production notes.

Kilroy has written 13 stage plays, most of which have been performed at Dublin's Abbey Theatre, including The Death and Resurrection of Mr. Roche, Talbot's Box and The Secret Fall of Constance Wilde. The latter play was featured at the Barbican BITE Festival, London, and the Melbourne International Festival, Australia. His play The Seagull (after Chekhov) was performed at the Royal Court Theatre, London, and was produced by the Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre in its 2001 season. He has also been a director at the Field Day Theatre Company, founded by Brian Friel and Stephen Rea. He wrote two plays for Field Day: Double Cross and The Madame MacAdam Travelling Theatre. His adaptation of Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author was produced by Ireland's Abbey Theatre and will be published alongside Henry by Ireland's Gallery Press. Henry was commissioned by Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre.

Under Andrew S. Paul's leadership, PICT has produced 31 mainstage productions and completed two successful international tours; his production of Faith Healer played 13 venues in Ireland and Northern Ireland in 2002, and Major Barbara played 14 sold-out performances at the 2003 Galway Arts Festival.

Richard McMillan is a three-time winner of Toronto's Dora Mavor Moore Award as Best Actor, most recently in 2003 for the world premiere of Don Druick's Through the Eyes at the Factory Theatre. He has spent 13 seasons at the Stratford Festival and one at the Shaw Festival. He played Scar in the Toronto premiere of The Lion King (directed by Julie Taymor), and will appear next in the world premiere of The Lord of the Rings (directed by Matthew Warchus), opening in Toronto in early 2006.

For more information, visit www.picttheatre.org.

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Actors' Equity Association previously said Irish actor Stephen Rea could not appear in the world premiere, leaving PICT to scramble to make the show happen.

The production by the Small Professional Theatre (SPT) Equity company was to have started Aug. 25.

"We have run into an insurmountable snag with the union over Stephen Rea's proposed appearance in PICT's world premiere," Paul, who is directing the production, said in an email to Playbill.com. "Evidently, there is a clause prohibiting small professional theatres (actually all regional theatres) from hiring non-resident aliens… Stephen is a member of the American union and has worked here on stage and in film on many occasions, so I figured we would be okay."

Rea is the actor known for the film "The Crying Game" and Broadway's Someone Who'll Watch Over Me.

Paul said "Equity declared that they would support Stephen's involvement if and only if we produced the play (an experimental, noncommercial work) under a Broadway Production Contract. Needless to say, we can't afford this and it is out of the question."

American Equity's ruling would not prevent Stephen Rea from taking on the part in any proposed Irish engagement of the piece in 2006. A future in Ireland with a company Rea is associated with has been discussed.

"Our other Irish collaborators, playwright Thomas Kilroy and designers Frank Conway and Ciara Moore, remain on board for Pittsburgh," Paul said. "I am hoping that our problems with the Union and Immigration warn small-scale American producers and artists of significant obstacles to international collaborations of this kind and hope this case works in some way to effect change. What does it say for the future of American theatre if international stars cannot work in American regional theatres? The Union is saying you can perform in the U.S. only if you do Broadway... If American theatre is going to compete in world theatre, a protectionist policy can only prove detrimental."

With the casting of McMillan, apparently Canadian non-resident aliens are not prohibited due to a special agreement between American and Canadian Equity, "although the clause in the contract does not state this," Paul said.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that in an effort to find a middle ground between the SPT and (Broadway-level) Production Contract, Equity offered a special version of the SPT contract that Paul said might have cost PICT $50,000 more than planned, a staggering number for a small company given short notice.

Equity's Flora Stamatiades, the director of organizing and special projects who oversees nonresident aliens, told the Post-Gazette the ban on non-resident aliens is to protect U.S. workers.

The committee that supervises contracts believes this prohibition best secures the opportunities of our members," she told the paper. "It's very simple: They [PICT] have a contract and they went forward not in compliance with their contract. We offered concessions, an enhanced SPT — the staff was trying very hard to come up with an accommodation, subject to committee approval. We were really trying to be responsive…"

Rehearsals started Aug. 2 toward an Aug. 31 first preview.

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