David Mamet's A Life in the Theatre Opens on Broadway
By Andrew Gans
The Broadway premiere of David Mamet's 1977 comedic drama A Life in the Theatre, which explores the lives of two acting colleagues — one at the beginning of his career and one near the end — opens at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre Oct. 12. Patrick Stewart and T.R. Knight co-star in the production, which began previews Sept. 21.
Neil Pepe, who directed the recent Broadway revival of Mamet's Speed-The-Plow, stages A Life, which will run through Jan. 2, 2011.
Knight, best known for his role on "Grey's Anatomy," portrays John opposite stage veteran Stewart (Macbeth) as Robert.
Speaking about playing an actor onstage, Stewart recently told Playbill.com, "I feel a responsibility to my profession and to my own part in that profession. The fact is that the role of Robert in this corresponds in so many ways to my own [experience]. I mean, just the fact that I'm the right age to play it. Robert has been an actor for 50 years; I've been an actor for more than 50 years. And, everything that accumulates over that time — the fun, the pain, the disappointments, the ambition, the successes — everything gets piled on top of one another, and Robert experiences it, too. And, perhaps his career has not quite taken off in the way that he would have hoped. Maybe that's what separates us a little bit."
"What is important to know about this play," Stewart added, "is that it is perhaps a little untypical of David Mamet's known work. It is very funny. Not that David's plays aren't funny — they always are — but funny, charming, poignant, melancholy at times and ultimately, a little bit sad. . . full of charm, full of good humor, and most importantly, full of profound affection for live theatre. It's where he grew up, and it's, in a way, his love letter to my profession and to the life backstage."
Here's how the producers bill the play: "A behind-the-scenes peek at the challenge of actors battling to share both a dressing room and the spotlight, A Life in the Theatre follows two actors in a repertory company: Robert, an older, experienced performer and John, a newcomer to the stage. John at first welcomes Robert’s guidance, but soon overshadows his mentor. From rehearsals to reprisals, from ego trips to acting tips, the play gives a glimpse into the complex relationship that develops as the torch is passed from one generation to the next - a passing that wavers from love and mutual respect to impatience and resentment."
The design team includes set designer Santo Loquasto, lighting designer Kenneth Posner and costume designer Laura Bauer.
A Life in the Theatre is produced on Broadway by Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel, Jam Theatricals, Debbie Bisno & Eva Price, Larry Magid, Kathleen K. Johnson, Herbert Goldsmith Productions, Roger Kass, Barry & Carole Kaye, Kelpie Arts, Black-Pereira, and Freedberg-Dale/Dombrowski-Manuel.
A Life in the Theatre made its world premiere at The Goodman Theatre in Chicago in February 1977 with Mike Nussbaum and Joe Mantegna, directed by Gregory Mosher. The play opened Off-Broadway on Oct. 20, 1977, at the Lucille Lortel Theatre and ran for 288 performances. That production was directed by Gerald Gutierrez and starred Peter Evans and Ellis Rabb.
Joshua Jackson and Stewart starred in a 2005 London production of the play.
Stewart is well-known for his work on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and in Broadway's The Ride Down Mt. Morgan, Macbeth and A Christmas Carol. He was Tony Award-nominated for Macbeth.
Best known for his SAG Award-winning and Emmy-nominated role as Dr. George O'Malley on the hit ABC drama "Grey's Anatomy," which he departed, Knight (who will play John in A Life in the Theatre) also appeared on television in the CBS sitcom "Charlie Lawrence," opposite Nathan Lane and Laurie Metcalf. A veteran of the stage, Knight has previously appeared on Broadway in the acclaimed 2001 revival of Noises Off!, and the 2003 Roundabout Theatre Company revival of Tartuffe. Off-Broadway, he received a Drama Desk nomination for his performance in the 2003 MCC production of Scattergood, starred in the 2004 production of Julia Jordan's Boy and This Lime Tree Bower, both at Primary Stages, the 1999 TFNA production of Macbeth at the American Place Theatre, and the Blue Lights Theatre Company production of The Hologram Theory, among many others. A native of Minneapolis, MN, he has appeared in numerous productions at the Guthrie Theater, including Amadeus and Ah, Wilderness! He also starred in the Los Angeles revival of the musical Parade, directed by Rob Ashford.
Mamet, the winner of the Pulitzer Prize and New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Glengarry Glen Ross, has also written Race, Sexual Perversity in Chicago, Lakeboat, The Water Engine, The Duck Variations, Reunion, The Blue Hour, The Shawl, Bobby Gould in Hell, Edmond, Romance, November, The Old Neighborhood and the recent adaptation of The Voysey Inheritance, among other plays.
For tickets phone (212) 239-6200, or visit Telecharge. The Schoenfeld Theatre is located at 236 West 45th Street.
T.R. Knight discusses the rehearsal process:
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