Premiere of Joanna Glass' Trying, With Fritz Weaver, Replaces Julie Harris Vehicle at Chicago's VGT

By Kenneth Jones
17 Nov 2003

Fritz Weaver (top) and Joanna Glass
Fritz Weaver (top) and Joanna Glass

Julie Harris will be unable to appear in the spring 2004 world premiere of Claudia Allen's Hanging Fire at Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago, so the Tony Award honored regional theatre has replaced the play with another premiere.

In spring 2001, theatrical legend and Tony-winner Harris (The Belle of Amherst, The Member of the Wedding) suffered a stroke while working at Victory Gardens on another Allen play. Due to her doctor's concerns about her strength and stamina she will not be able to perform Claudia Allen's latest, March 19-May 2, 2004, the theatre's management announced. Hanging Fire has been postponed until fall 2004, as part of the 2004-2005 season.

"While we have no assurances that Ms. Harris will be strong enough to perform next year, everyone at Victory Gardens is certainly hopeful of such an outcome," said Marcelle McVay, managing director of Victory Gardens.

Replacing Hanging Fire, Victory Gardens will present the world premiere of Trying by Joanna McClelland Glass, starring Tony Award-winning actor Fritz Weaver in his Chicago stage debut. Trying "depicts the last year in the life of Francis Biddle, Attorney General under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and is inspired by the author's own experience as Biddle's personal secretary from 1967 to 1968," according to the production announcement.

Trying will be directed by Victory Gardens associate artistic director Sandy Shinner.



"Trying came to our attention earlier this year, and Victory Gardens is thrilled to have the opportunity to premiere this new work by Joanna Glass, an accomplished contributor to the American theatre," said Victory Gardens artistic director Dennis Zacek.

Victory Gardens' world premiere of Trying will be the first Chicago production for Joanna Glass, who recently relocated to Naperville, IL. Her other works include her first Broadway play, To Grandmother's House We Go, which starred Eva LeGallienne, the Tony Award-nominated Play Memory, directed by Harold Prince, and If We Are Women, which starred Joan Plowright in its London production.

Fritz Weaver may be best known for his Emmy-nominated performance as the doomed patriarch of a Berlin Jewish family in the NBC miniseries, "Holocaust."

He won a Tony Award for his portrayal as the headmaster of a Catholic school in Child's Play, and has appeared on Broadway in The Crucible, Ring Round the Moon, The Price and Absurd Person Singular, among others. His career has encompassed regional and Off-Broadway theatre, films including "Marathon Man," "The Day of the Dolphin," "Fail Safe," "Power," "Creepshow" and "The Thomas Crown Affair" and more.

Weaver has never before appeared in a Chicago stage production, but did earn his B.A. from the University of Chicago, and recalls many happy hours on the stage there.

In Trying, Weaver will originate the role of Francis Biddle, a "Philadelphia Biddle," and former Attorney General of the United States under Franklin Roosevelt, who hires Sarah, a direct, plain-spoken newlywed from the Canadian prairie, to be his personal secretary.

According to production notes, "Ill and irascible, the 81 year-old Biddle functions, as he says, 'somewhere between lucidity and senility,' and announces he only has one year left to live. Sarah is sensitive and vulnerable, but determined to last out that year. Together they 'try' to communicate across significant barriers of age and class."

Previews play March 19-28, 2004. Opening is March 29. performances play to May 2.

Victory Gardens is located at 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood. For tickets, call (773) 871-3000, or purchase tickets online at http://www.Ticketweb.com. Visit victorygardens.org.