The Larry Shue comedy, The Foreigner, a popular title from the company's past, will play through Aug. 12 at the Chester Meeting House in Chester, CT — a new space for the players. River Rep left its longtime summer digs at the Ivoryton Playhouse in nearby Ivoryton after its 2005 season.
The July 26 performance of The Foreigner will serve as a gala fundraiser for River Rep, which plans to keep producing in the region in coming seasons. Discussions are ongoing between River Rep and the under-construction Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center in Old Saybrook, NY.
Jenn Thompson directs The Foreigner, which features artistic director Warren Kelley in the title role. Kelley is joined by other River Rep partners Evan Thompson and Owen Thompson (who also appeared in the original RR production in 1988) and Joan Shepard. Todd Gearhart, Tara Falk and Trip Langley complete the cast.
The stage is new, but the play is a revival — the first time River Reppers have ever repeated a title. "The Foreigner was our opening production in 1988. It was a smashing success," stated River Rep artistic director Kelley, who plays Charlie, the shy Brit who pretends to not speak English to avoid the people at a lodge in rural Georgia. "This is the play our audiences most asked us to revive and it is just as fresh and funny as it was decades ago, and one of great appeal to all ages."
Katharine Houghton, star of stage and screen and one of River Rep's past leading ladies, will host the July 26 gala, which takes place after the evening performance. For more information call (860) 767-2954 or visit www.riverrep.com.
Organized by the Friends of River Rep, the gala evening ($125 per ticket includes show and gala) will feature a champagne reception, raffles and prizes, including a chance to win a walk-on role in The Foreigner, and premium seats and backstage tours of some of Broadway's hottest shows, including Mary Poppins and Jersey Boys.
River Rep Theatre Company was founded in 1987 when director Jane Stanton invited New Yorkers Joan Shepard and her husband, Evan Thompson, who had their own touring company, Fanfare Productions, to start a summer stock company in Ivoryton, CT. The pair were joined by their son, Owen, and daughter, Jenn, and Warren Kelley.
Stanton now serves as artistic director emeritus; Kelley was appointed artistic director in 2003. The troupers serve as actors, directors and administrators in the company.
River Rep produced more than 95 mainstage productions during the past 20 years. River Rep has been nominated for numerous awards by the Connecticut Critics Circle. In 2005 Owen Thompson won the Outstanding Director Award for The Mikado.
Katharine Houghton stated, "For almost two decades I have had the pleasure of being associated with the wonderful and unique family of River Rep. I don't know of another theatre family in America like this — where mother, father, daughter and son all work together and support each other in adventurous and commercially appealing theatrical endeavors. Their extended family of actors, technical artists and business associates are all terrific people. Sensitive to their audiences' tastes, they offer to the community at large the very best of productions and provide a most valuable resource — professional, live theatre."
Houghton performed in five River Rep productions, including Blithe Spirit and Lettice and Lovage. She is Katharine Hepburn's niece and widely known for playing the daughter in the film, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner."
The Chester Meeting House is located at 2 Liberty Street, Chester, off State Route #9.
The 170-seat Meeting House is noted for staging productions, including performances by the Meeting House Players and the Historical Society-sponsored Robbie Collomore concert series.