Sorkin Brings TV to Broadway in The Farnsworth Invention

News   Sorkin Brings TV to Broadway in The Farnsworth Invention
Aaron Sorkin's The Farnsworth Invention, which explores the battle for the patent for the invention of television, officially opens on Broadway Dec. 3 at the Music Box Theatre. Jimmi Simpson and Hank Azaria co-star.
Hank Azaria stars in The Farnsworth Invention.
Hank Azaria stars in The Farnsworth Invention. Photo by Joan Marcus

Des McAnuff directs Sorkin's latest stage work, which began previews Oct. 15 at the Music Box. Opening night was originally scheduled for Nov. 14 (four days after the start of the now-ended stagehands strike). The show resumed its run Nov. 29, and the new opening is an added Monday performance.

The Farnsworth Invention follows the battle for the patent for the invention of the television set. The race pitted Philo T. Farnsworth, a young genius who came up with the idea as a high school student, against David Sarnoff, the head of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA). Using direct address monologues and flashbacks, the two men narrate the retelling of each other's stories as the drama unfolds.

Azaria and Simpson — facing off as Sarnoff and Farnsworth, respectively — head a cast that also features Michael Mulheren, William Youmans and Steve Rosen.

The large ensemble also includes Nadia Bowers, Kyle Fabel, Maurice Godin, Bruce McKenzie, Spencer Moses, Jim Ortlieb, Michael Pemberton, Katharine Powell, James Sutorius, Alexandra Wilson, Adam Grupper, Christian McCarthy Johansen, Aaron Krohn, Kate MacCluggage, Malcolm Morano, Javier Picayo and Margot White.

Composer Andrew Lippa (The Wild Party) provides original music for the production. Lisa Shriver handles movement and protocol. Steve Rankin serves as fight director. Stephen Gabis is the dialect coach. The design team includes Klara Zieglerova (scenic), David C. Woolard (costume), Howell Binkley (lighting), Walter Trarbach (sound design) and Mark Adam Rampmeyer (hair and wig).

Azaria earned a Tony nomination for his work in Spamalot. He also appeared on the London stage in Sexual Perversity in Chicago. The actor — who provides his voice for "The Simpsons" — is perhaps best known for his film work in such films as "Along Came Polly," "Shattered Glass," "America's Sweethearts," "Cradle Will Rock," "Mystery Men," "The Birdcage" and "Quiz Show." Other credits include TV's "Huff," "Tuesdays with Morrie" (Emmy Award), "Fail Safe," "Friends" and "Mad About You."

A New Jersey native, Simpson previously played four seasons at the Williamstown Theatre Festival and worked with director McAnuff in Tartuffe at La Jolla. Simpson was also seen in the Broadway production of Tartuffe as well as in stagings of Camino Real, The Winter's Tale, The Blue Demon, Olive Nightingale Sings, Assassins and A Midsummer Night's Dream. His screen credits include "24," "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," "My Name Is Earl," "Carnivale," "Patriotville" and "Zodiac."

Marking his first return to stage work since A Few Good Men in 1989, Sorkin has been at work on such television series as "Sports Night," "The West Wing" and the recent "Studio 60 on Sunset Strip." The screenwriter of "Malice," "A Few Good Men" and "The American President" returns to the silver screen with his screenplay for the forthcoming film "Charlie Wilson's War" in which Mike Nichols directs Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Other plays include Removing All Doubt, Hidden in This Picture and Making Movies.

McAnuff, the former artistic director of the La Jolla Playhouse, shepherds the company's latest California-to-New York move — following his previous Broadway stagings of Tommy, Dracula, Jersey Boys and 700 Sundays.

The Farnsworth Invention played in a Page to Stage workshop production at the La Jolla Playhouse in February featuring Simpson with Stephen Lang as Sarnoff.

The play is produced on Broadway by Dodger Properties and Steven Spielberg in association with Fred Zollo/Jeff Sine, Dancap Productions and Latitude Link/The Pelican Group.

Tickets to The Farnsworth Invention at the Music Box, 239 West 45th Street, are available by calling (212) 239-6200. For more information, visit

Jimmi Simpson and Hank Azaria star in Aaron Sorkin's <i>The Farnsworth Invention</i>.
Jimmi Simpson and Hank Azaria star in Aaron Sorkin's The Farnsworth Invention. Photo by Joan Marcus
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