Gunderson's Emilie, the Tale of Voltaire's Lady, Opens April 24 at South Coast Rep

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24 Apr 2009

Natacha Roi as <I>Emilie</I>
Natacha Roi as Emilie
Henry DiRocco
Natacha Roi and Don Reilly play the historical roles of Emilie Du Châtelet and Enlightenment writer Voltaire in the South Coast Repertory's world premiere of Lauren Gunderson's Emilie – La Marquise Du Châtelet Defends Her Life at the Petit Théâtre at Cirey Tonight, opening in California April 24 after previews from April 19.

The play, commissioned by SCR and directed by producing artistic director David Emmes, continues to May 10 on the Julianne Argyros Stage.

Here's how SCR bills the play: "Passionate. Independent. A great beauty. A prodigious scientific intellect. These are the qualities that inspired this true story of 18th century Parisian noblewoman Emilie du Châtelet and her lifelong affair with the Enlightenment superstar Voltaire. In this highly theatrical rediscovery of one of history's most intriguing women, Emilie must defend her life by tallying her achievements in love and philosophy — and search for a formula that will convince the world of her worth."

Playwright Gunderson told Playbill.com, "I came across Emilie's story in Judith Zinsser's incredible book, 'Emilie Du Châtelet: Daring Genius of the Enlightenment.' I knew right away that I could write a story that would encompass all of my interests — science, feminism, history, bold theatrical storytelling — and do so in a way that I'd never seen before.

"I often write about historical subjects (Newton, DaVinci, and others), but Emilie's story was so unique and her spirit was so prismatic that I had to find a structure for her story that was likewise vibrant. Thus, my play is set as Emilie's opportunity to discover the meaning of her life and the power of her legacy — Emilie is both audience and actor, both experimenter and experiment.



"She is sexy, brilliant, creative and a wildly honest and adventurous soul. That's the kind of true story that dramatists dream of!"

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The cast also features Susan Denaker (Madam), Matthew Humphreys (Gentleman) and Rebecca Mozo (Soubrette).

Roi (Emilie) was last seen at SCR in Vesuvius and The Real Thing. On Broadway she has appeared in Sixteen Wounded, Closer and Wait Until Dark.

Reilly (Voltaire) previously appeared at SCR in Terra Nova and Amy's View. His Broadway credits include The Heiress and Arcadia.

The creative team includes Cameron Anderson (set design), Nephelie Andonyadis (costume design), Lonnie Rafael Alcaraz (lighting design), Vincent Olivieri (sound design), Gabriela Estrada (movement consultant), Kelly Miller (dramaturg) and Jennifer Ellen Butler (stage manager).

Gunderson is a playwright, screenwriter and short story author. She is currently finishing her M.F.A. in Dramatic Writing at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and is a Reynolds Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship. Her work has received awards including the Berrilla Kerr Award for American Theatre, Young Playwright's Award, Eric Bentley New Play Award, Essential Theatre Prize, Virtual Theatre Prizes and many others.

Tickets to Emilie may be purchased online at www.scr.org, by phone at (714) 708-5555 or in person at the SCR box office in Costa Mesa, CA.

South Coast Repertory is located at 655 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa, at the Bristol Street/Avenue of the Arts exit off the San Diego (405) Freeway in the Folino Theater Center, part of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

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Tony Award-winning South Coast Repertory, under the artistic direction of David Emmes and Martin Benson, was founded in 1964 and "is committed to theater that illuminates the compelling personal and social issues of our time, not only on its stages but through its education and outreach programs."