New York Celebrity Satire Who Killed Woody Allen? Heads for Hollywood, Sept. 22

News   New York Celebrity Satire Who Killed Woody Allen? Heads for Hollywood, Sept. 22
The Empty Stage Theater Company staging of Who Killed Woody Allen? which has played two runs in New York City, will head to Hollywood.

The Los Angeles run will begin Sept. 22 and play through Oct. 3 at the Improv Olympic West Theater. The original New York cast will reprise their performances of celebrities such as Alan Alda, Billy Crystal, Conan O'Brien, Dianne Wiest, Christopher Walken, Spike Lee, Leonard DiCaprio and more.

Who Killed Woody Allen? actually has nothing to do with the famed, New York based director. The work, set in a upper-East-side funeral home at his memorial service, focuses on the mystery behind Allen's death — which is revealed at the onset of the play to not be "natural causes." Allen's contemporaries Diane Keaton, Dianne Wiest, Alan Alda and Christopher Walken and other New York celebrities, such as Conan O'Brien, Spike Lee and Ed Burns all become suspect.

The comedy was not the Allen work the little company originally had in mind. But, when rights to Woody Allen's one-act Death were denied, they made there own play.

"We applied for the rights through Samuel French, then our dates changed and we reapplied," explained the show's co-author and director Tom Dunn (Jan. 2003) about the failed attempt at production. "The third time [we applied] — when our dates became finalized and we hired the cast and booked the theatre—that's when the word came back from Woody's camp that the rights had been denied."

In response, Dunn and his long-time "writing buddies" Dan Callahan, Brendan Connor decided to collaborate on their own Allen-inspired work. (Dunn told Playbill On-Line "we liken ourselves to Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Except we're not handsome and there's three of us.") When the producers sent Allen an invite to the show's previous run, in November of 2002, thinking the director would get a kick out of the homage from his fans, they received a letter declining the invite followed by a legal postscript from Allen's lawyer, Irwin Tenenbaum. Dunn revealed, "Nothing was out of line on their part. Basically, he responded to my invitation. His attorney sent a response back that said 'He appreciates your invitation, he's going to decline.'"

The letter (which is posted on the show's website) then follows: "Since I have not read the play," Tenenbaum wrote, "I trust that you have adhered to and stayed within the parameters of applicable law with regard to the use of my client's name and character. I reserve all of my client's rights with regard to this project, should events prove otherwise."

Tenenbaum told Playbill On-Line he had no comment on the subject but confirmed that his office sent a letter.

"In essence, the whole piece is a satire of celebrity culture, but, at the same time lampooning awards shows. It's a memorial service that runs like an awards show; people are promoting their projects, they're reading off a teleprompter," Dunn stated.

The filmmaker, comic and occasional playwright Allen has made a return to the theatre himself, directing Writer's Block at Off-Broadway's Atlantic Theatre Company — where he will also stage his upcoming A Second-Hand Memory.

Who Killed Woody Allen? will play at the Improv Olympic West Theater, 6636 Hollywood Blvd. in Hollywood, CA. Tickets are available by calling (323) 960-4412. For more information, visit

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