Casting for the play was announced by Asolo artistic director Howard Millman Feb. 18. Performing with Holliday are John Krich, Bryant Mason and Bryan Barter. Eberle Thomas will direct.
Millman said in statement, "It's a homecoming of sorts for Polly Holliday and John Krich, who performed at the Asolo in the early years. We are proud and happy to also welcome back two fine actors who are graduates of the FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training, Bryant Mason and Bryan Barter. I am delighted to have this cast assembled for such an exciting and noble project."
Alabama-born Holliday enjoyed great success in the 1970s on TV as the gum-crackin', salty waitress , Flo, on the TV sitcom, "Alice." She even snagged her own spinoff, "Flo."
She was Tony-nominated for playing Big Mama to Kathleen Turner's Maggie the Cat in 1990's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. She was the lonely small-town schoolteacher in Picnic in Broadway in 1994.
At Asolo in Sarasota, FL, she appeared in Shaw's Candida and as Bananas in The House of Blue Leaves. As previously reported by Playbill On-Line, Free and Clear had a brief regional showing 21 years ago at Long Wharf Theatre, though the nature of that staging is not fully clear. Asolo has billed its new staging as the play's world premiere and characterized the Long Wharf staging as an "evaluation production" and a "tryout," terms not usually used in resident theatre.
Anderson, who is 86, is best known for his plays Tea and Sympathy, I Never Sang for My Father and You Know I Can't Hear You When the Water's Running.
Performances of Free and Clear will play May 7 30, at the Florida State University Center for the Performing Arts in the Jane B. Cook Theatre.
"We're honored to bring Free and Clear to the stage in full production for the first time," Millman said. "This is a very exciting project. We're presenting a new play created by one of the outstanding playwrights of our time..."
According to the Asolo announcement, "Free and Clear is the story of a family. Two brothers return home for their mother's birthday. Each has dreams and desires of his own which do not fall in line with his parents' plans. What obligations do children have to their parents? How much can a parent expect of their children? Join these characters on their journey as they search for answers."
The play's previous production was thought to be in a reading situation at the Long Wharf Theatre 21 years ago; the Asolo staff is investigating the nature of the play's presence at Long Wharf.
According to producer Richard G. Fallon, who has a long history with Asolo and Sarasota theatre, who is presenting the play with Millman's company, "Producing this play has been a consummate mission of mine for the past 10 years. I am fulfilling a promise I first made to Robert's agent, Audrey Wood, before she died and then to Robert Anderson, with whom I have become very close. Audrey deeply believed in Robert and his work. I promised to help get this play produced in a way that will truly do it justice. That's why now, at a time when Robert's health is failing, it is so very important to see my promise fulfilled soon. We have a responsibility to produce the play both for Robert and for the play's relevance as his last work. My belief is that, because of the course of events that brought it here, the play was destined for the Asolo stage."
Robert Anderson, a native New Yorker, is one of America's major playwrights to chronicle mid-century American life. Anderson received The Edward Albee Last Frontier Playwright Award (1997) and The William Inge Lifetime Achievement Award for a Playwright (1985), among other honors. Educated at Harvard University (magna cum laude), Anderson's work includes the play Silent Night, Lonely Night, as well as screenplays (including the transfers of "Tea and Sympathy" and "I Never Sang for My Father," radio plays, teleplays and two novels.
Fallon was given permission by Anderson and his family to bring Free and Clear to the stage. Fallon, who founded the Asolo State Theatre in 1965, the FSU/Asolo Conservatory of Professional Actor Training, the Department of Theatre at FSU and the development of the School of Theatre at FSU, first contacted Eberle Thomas, who in turn went to the Asolo with the idea.
"When Richard Fallon and Eberle Thomas approached us about doing Robert's play, we knew it was an excellent opportunity and it had to be done," explained Howard Millman, in a statement.
For information, call Asolo (941) 351-8000 or toll-free at (800) 361-8388, or visit www.asolo.org.