A Local Son Goes to Gay Paree in Wanamaker's Pursuit, Starting March 31 at Philly's Arden

News   A Local Son Goes to Gay Paree in Wanamaker's Pursuit, Starting March 31 at Philly's Arden
Rogelio Martinez's Wanamaker's Pursuit, a new play with local color, gets a production by Arden Theatre in Philadelphia March 31-May 22.

Jürgen Hooper
Jürgen Hooper

Directed by the Arden's producing artistic director Terrence J. Nolen, Wanamaker's Pursuit was commissioned as part of the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts. It plays Arden's Arcadia space.

According to Arden notes, "Grounded in history, but a work of fiction, Wanamaker's Pursuit takes a prominent Philadelphian to Paris to discover himself. Young Nathan Wanamaker arrives in Paris in search of fashions for the family department store and instead finds Paul Poiret, the father of modern fashion, and the first truly fabulous party of the 20th century. Surrounded by Poiret's extravagances, Picasso's art and the allure of a woman, Nathan soon finds himself having to make the difficult choice of what he must bring back to Philadelphia and what he must leave behind."

Playwright Rogelio Martinez said in a statement, "History has given me so much to play with for the piece. I love locking a play into a specific time, because there is so much you can discover. During the research and writing process, I kept thinking 'you can't make this stuff up!' While this is Nathan's story, during the writing of this play each of the characters Nathan encounters in Paris — from Gertrude and Leo Stein, to Paul Poiret and Pablo Picasso — has made a case for themselves to have a more prominent role in the play."

The cast playing the fictional and historical characters includes Jürgen Hooper as Nathan Wanamaker and Wilbur Edwin Henry as Paul Poiret, both in their Arden debuts, plus Arden vets Geneviève Perrier as Denise Poiret, Catharine K. Slusar as Gertrude Stein, David Bardeen as Leo Stein and Shawn Fagan as Picasso/LaRue/Guard/ Franz Reichelt/Fencing Instructor.

The design team includes set designer James Kronzer, costume designer Richard St. Clair, lighting designer F. Mitchell Dana and sound designer Jorge Cousineau. Martinez previously collaborated with Nolen on the world premiere of When Tang Met Laika at the Denver Center Theatre. He holds an MFA in playwriting from Columbia University, is an alumnus of New Dramatists and has had work developed at the Public Theater and Mark Taper Forum, among others.

Opening night is 7 PM April 6. Arden is at 40 N. 2nd Street in Old City Philadelphia. For tickets and information, visit www.ardentheatre.org.

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