Musical Premiere of Saving Aimee Part of DC Signature's Ambitious New Season in New Home

News   Musical Premiere of Saving Aimee Part of DC Signature's Ambitious New Season in New Home
Artistic director Eric Schaeffer announced Signature Theatre's 2006-07 season, a mix of "reinvented classic musicals, world premieres and innovative plays," to play the troupe's new home in Shirlington, Virginia.
Carolee Carmello in a workshop of Saving Aimee.
Carolee Carmello in a workshop of Saving Aimee. Photo by Joan Marcus

Among works on the slate for the Helen Hayes Award-winning resident DC-area company is the world premiere musical by Kathie Lee Gifford, Saving Aimee, about the evangelist-celebrity Aimee Semple McPherson.

"I'm thrilled that Signature’s doing the world premiere of Saving Aimee — a musical I’ve been helping Kathie Lee Gifford develop," Schaeffer said in a statement. "We did a workshop production in New York last fall, and the story and music are enthralling."

Saving Aimee has book and lyrics by Kathie Lee Gifford, music by David Pomeranz and David Friedman. Here's how it's billed: "Long before Gloria Steinem there was a feminist who stood up against a male-dominated religious society. Long before O.J. Simpson there was a famous defendant in the trial of the century. Long before Madonna there was a free spirit who ignored the sexual mores of her day and married three times. And long before Marilyn Monroe there was a beloved American treasure who mysteriously died from an overdose of barbiturates. Based on the life of Aimee Semple McPherson, Saving Aimee is the story of one woman's life from her humble upbringing in a Salvation Army family to her ascension as charismatic founder of the Four Square Gospel Church. She changed the face of the pulpit. But was she a true woman of God or just one hell of a woman?"

The season opens with Into the Woods, and includes a revival of the 50-year-old classic, My Fair Lady.. Signature will host "The Female British Invasion" play festival, offering two "innovative new works from Britain's brightest young playwrights" — the emotionally-charged Crave by the late Sarah Kane and the world premiere of a Signature Theatre commission by Bathsheba Doran, Susanna Cox, based on the life of the first woman sentenced to death in Pennsylvania. Schaeffer directs the premiere.

According to Signature, "Susanna Cox, a Mennonite accused of infanticide in 1809, was the first woman to be hanged in the state of Pennsylvania. In this new play based on the events surrounding her hanging, 19th century America comes to life, and looks surprisingly familiar." Bathsheba Doran, a fellow student of Sarah Kane's in Britain, moved to New York on a Fulbright Scholarship and is currently a writer-in-residence at Juilliard. Also being presented during the 2006-07 season will be a four-part Cabaret series and two Special Events: Martin Moran's one-man show, The Tricky Part, based on his critically-acclaimed biography of the same title, about being sexually abused — and his attachment to his abuser; and as part of the city-wide Shakespeare Festival in 2007 a presentation of the internationally-acclaimed Cameri Theatre of Tel Aviv's production of Hamlet, a strikingly contemporary version performed in Hebrew with simultaneous English translation.

This summer Signature's Arlington staff moves into the new $12.5 million two-theatre complex in the Village at Shirlington, and in September the doors open to audiences.

The new building, with two flexible black box theatre spaces, gives Signature the ability to add unique presentations by artists that would normally not be seen in the DC area, such as The Tricky Part and Cameri Theatre's production of Hamlet, the theatre announced.

Signature is also able to move the Cabaret series, currently held in the lobby, into the new, even more intimate, 99-seat theatre so the shows can be experienced in true cabaret-style. "Cabaret table-seating, drinks, and food from Signatures expanded full-service bar will create a night-club atmosphere."

The Signature cabaret series will include Holi-Divas (Dec. 13-23); Singing Shakespeare (March 7-10, 2007), an evening of great songs from American musicals based on the writings of Shakespeare, such as West Side Story, Kiss Me Kate and The Boys from Syracuse, presented as part of the "Shakespeare in Washington Festival"; and two acts to be announced (Sept. 13-16, 2006, and Jan. 17-20, 2007).

In addition to the season announcement, Signature also unveiled the names of the two new theatre spaces: The 299-seat mainstage has been named The Max in honor of donors Maxine Isaacs and James A. Johnson, and the more intimate second stage space is The Ark in honor of donors Arlene R. and Robert P. Kogod.

"We're especially grateful to the lead donors to our $7.5 million capital campaign," said managing director Sam Sweet, "and we're honored that the two theatres in the new complex will bear their names in recognition of their generous support."

Into the Woods, directed by Schaeffer, plays The Max Sept. 5-Oct. 8; My Fair Lady plays The Max Nov. 7–Dec. 10; Saving Aimee plays The Max Jan. 23-Feb. 25, 2007; The Female British Invasion features Crave Oct. 3–Dec. 3 (in The Ark) and Susanna Cox April 3-29, 2007 (in The Max).

The American premiere of Cameri Theatre of Tel Aviv's Hamlet plays The Max March 6-11, 2007, as part of the "Shakespeare in Washington Festival." It will be performed in Hebrew with screened simultaneous English translation.

Hebrew adaptation is by T. Carmi. Direction is by Omri Nitzan.

According to Signature, "Hamlet, perhaps the greatest classical play of all time, is seldom produced in Israel — only once a decade on average. One of the leitmotifs of the play is the young man facing the world of adults. Young Hamlet rapidly matures in the course of the play learning the 'facts of life' as the plot develops. The production is presented in a unique configuration that enables the action to take place on various stages around and among the audience who are seated on revolving swivel chairs. The actors transform the monologues into a live dialogue with the audience, while maintaining their human, lyrical, Shakespearean depth."

The Washington, DC, premiere of The Tricky Part, written and performed by Martin Moran and directed by Seth Barrish, is "a true story of sexuality, spirituality, and the mystery of human experience." In it, we learn, "between the ages of 12 and 15, the author had a sexual relationship with an older man, a counselor he met at a Catholic boys camp. Now 42 and an established New York actor, he has transformed his story into a riveting, often funny, and always surprising journey through the complexities of Catholicism, desire, and human trespass."

The play received a 2004 Obie Award and two Drama Desk nominations, including Outstanding Play. It will run April 10–May 6, 2007, in The Ark.

Signature will also introduce "Symphonic Signature," a series of limited engagement concerts around the DC area.

For more information about Signature Theatre, visit

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