Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Shakespeare Theatre Company to Present Noël Coward's Private Lives

From our friends at the Shakespeare Theatre Company...

Noël Coward’s fast-talking comedy of manners Private Lives will close the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s 2013-2014 Season. Directed by Maria Aitken (2009-2010 Season’s As You Like It), Private Lives enjoyed wild success at the Huntington Theatre Company in 2012, being deemed “a diamond-sharp production” (The Boston Globe) and will find a home at the Lansburgh Theatre from May 29 - July 13, 2014 (450 7th Street NW.)

STC Artistic Director Michael Kahn is pleased to welcome this “intimate comedy” to the Lansburgh and in the hands of a true Coward great: “Maria Aitken is the foremost interpreter as an actress of Noël Coward in our time. When I saw her production in Boston, it was a beautiful treat and is an excellent send up to Coward’s aesthetic.”

Beginning her career as an actress on the British stage, Aitken has played more Noël Coward heroines than any other actress. Her Coward credits include Elvira in the Harold Pinter directed Blithe Spirit, Gilda in Design for Living, Judith Bliss in Hay Fever, and two turns playing Amanda in Private Lives, once in 1980 on the West End and then in 1984, the latter of which she directed. “An actor’s challenge in Private Lives, is mastering that sense of improvisation,” she states. “The characters are spontaneous and they bounce off each other’s mood. It’s what I like most about the play; it breaks all the rules and is still triumphantly successful as a piece of playwriting.” Aitken’s directorial work has spanned the globe, from Broadway to the West End, and from Coward to Shakespeare.
Noël Coward’s quick-witted comedy opens in a blissful hotel in France where divorcées Elyot and Amanda are on honeymoon with their new spouses. One evening, the ex-couple discover each other on neighboring balconies and as they try to maintain a veneer of etiquette and respectability, old feelings make matters complicated. What follows is a boxing match of words, manners laced with subtext and glamour that rendered this play as the epitome of Noël Coward’s style and technique. Private Lives is a witty and irreverent play about the people we cannot live with or without.

Bianca Amato* and James Waterston* spar as the bewildered divorcées Amanda and Elyot. The two played doting lovers Jack and Gwendolen in the Sir Peter Hall directed The Importance of Being Earnest (Brooklyn Academy of Music) and were apt to take on an equally witty pair. Following in the wake of Gertrude Lawrence and Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith and Robert Stephens, and Aitken herself, Amato and Waterston were lauded for their perfect “sizzling chemistry” by The Boston Globe. The cast of Private Lives is rounded out by Autumn Hurlbert* as naïve newlywed Sybil, Jane Ridley* as Louise, and Jeremy Webb* as Victor who was last seen on the STC stage in the title role of Don Juan (2005-2006 Season.)

The production’s slick look is attributed to scenic Designer Allen Moyer who drew inspiration from the artist Raoul Dufy to create the effortless and bold world of Coward’s stylish comedy. The look is aided by Costume Designer Candice Donnelly, and returning Measure for Measure Lighting Designer Philip S. Rosenberg.The songs of Noël Coward come alive with the help of the Sound Design and Musical Arrangement duo Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen, who recently worked on such Broadway hits as No Man’s Land & Waiting for Godot and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Maria Aitken is assisted by choreographer Daniel Pelzig, who returns to STC after his electrifying work on Measure for Measure, Fight Choreographer Ted Hewlett, Head of Voice and Text Ellen O’Brien, and Music Director Barbara Irvine. The artistic team is rounded it out by Literary Associate Drew Lichtenberg, Assistant Director Gus Heagerty, Production Stage Manager Leslie Sears*, and Assistant Stage Manager Elizabeth Clewley*.

Private Lives is generously sponsored by the Artistic Leadership Fund with additional support by KPMG LLP. For tickets and more information, patrons can call 202.547.1122 or visit

* Members of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers. Artists and dates are subject to change.

Bianca Amato will play the tenacious divorcé Amanda. Her Broadway credits that include two Tom Stoppard originals:  Arcadia  and The Coast of Utopia. Her off-Broadway credits include The Broken Heart at the Theatre for a New Audience, Trumpery at the Atlantic Theater Company, and Mr. Fox: A Rumination at the Signature Theatre. Regionally, she has performed at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater in The Taming of the Shrew, Pittsburgh Public Theater in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and at the Guthrie Theatre in As You Like it, Pygmalion, Pride and Prejudice, and Top Girls. Her international credits include the South African productions of Proof, Greek, Kindertransport, A Doll’s House,  and Under Milk Wood. Her television credits include Blue Bloods, The Good Wife, Sex and the City, Isidingo: The Need, The Adventures of Sinbad, and Gegen den Wind. Amato has narrated more than forty audio books and has received six Audiofile Awards and two Audie Awards. She graduated from University of Cape Town.

James Waterston will play fellow divorcé Elyot. Waterston was previously seen at the Huntington in Private LivesAh, Wilderness!  and Gross Indecency.  He has appeared on Broadway in An Enemy of the People  at the Manhattan Theatre Club and off-Broadway in Parents’ Evening  at the The Flea Theater and Buffalo Gal  at Primary Stages. Favorite Classical roles include the Sir Peter Hall directed The Importance of Being Earnest at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and As You Like It  at the NY Shakespeare Festival. Regional and international favorites include Chinglish at the Goodman Theatre, Othello  at the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, and Julius Caesar  at American Repertory Theater with subsequent tours in Bogotá, Colombia and throughout France. His film and television credits include CertaintyVisitingDead Poets Society, Little Sweetheart, Treme, The Good Wife, a recurring role on Six Feet Under.

The cast of Private Lives also includes Autumn Hurlbert as Sybil, Paula Plum as Louise and Jeremy Webb as Victor.

Maria Aitken  has credits that include the Olivier and Tony Award-winning production of Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps which she directed at the Huntington Theatre Company as its American premiere before its Broadway run. Ms. Aitken also directed The Cocktail Hour, Betrayal, Private, and Educating Rita at the Huntington. Her other credits include the Tony Award-nominated Man and Boy  on the West End and Broadway, Sherlock's Last CaseThe Gift, Quartermaine’s Terms  at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, Japes  at the Bay Street Theatre, Noël Coward’s Easy Virtue  at the Chichester Festival Theatre, Lady Bracknell’s Confinement  at the Vineyard Theatre, As You Like It at Regent’s Park, and many others. As an actress in London at the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre, and in the West End, her leading roles have included Hay Fever, Blithe Spirit, Bedroom Farce, Travesties, Waste, Private Lives,  and The Vortex,  among others. Her film credits include A Fish Called Wanda  and others. Ms.Aitken is a visiting teacher at the British American Drama Academy, The Juilliard School, Yale School of Drama, New York University, The Actors Center in New York, and the Academy for Classical Acting. She is the author of two books, A Girdle Round the Earth and Style: Acting in High Comedy.  In 2012 she became a trustee of the Noël Coward Foundation.

Recipient of the 2012 Regional Theatre Tony Award®, the Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) has become one of the nation’s leading theatre companies. Today, STC is synonymous with artistic excellence and making classical theatre more accessible.

Under the leadership of Artistic Director Michael Kahn and Managing Director Chris Jennings, STC’s innovative approach to Shakespeare and other classic playwrights has earned it the reputation as the nation’s premier classical theatre company. By focusing on works with profound themes, complex characters and poetic language written by Shakespeare, his contemporaries and the playwrights he influenced, the Company’s artistic mission is unique among theatre companies: to present theatre of scope and size in an imaginative, skillful and accessible American style that honors the playwrights’ language and intentions while viewing their work through a 21st century lens.

A leader in arts education, STC has a stable of initiatives that teach and excite learners of all ages, from school programs and acting classes to discussion series as well as accessible programs like the annual Free For All, one of STC’s most beloved annual traditions, allowing audiences to experience Shakespeare at no charge.

Located in our nation’s capital, STC performs in two theatres, the Lansburgh Theatre and Sidney Harman Hall in downtown Washington, D.C., creating a dynamic, cultural hub of activity that showcases STC as well as outstanding local performing arts groups and nationally renowned organizations. STC moved into the 451-seat Lansburgh Theatre in March 1992, after six years in residency in the Folger Library’s Elizabethan theatre. At that time the Penn Quarter neighborhood was not considered desirable by many; since then, STC has helped drive its revitalization. The 774-seat Sidney Harman Hall opened in October 2007.

DATES:  May 29—July 13, 2014

LOCATION:  Lansburgh Theatre, 450 7th Street

TIMES:  Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays at 7:30 p.m., Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m., Wednesday, July 2, 2014, at 12 p.m.

TICKETS:  $40 - $100. Premium seating is available for weekend performances. Special discounts are available for military, students, seniors and patrons aged 35 and under. Contact the box office at 202.547.1122 or visit for more information.

YOUNG PROSE:  Every Tuesday at 12 p.m., STC releases an allotment of $18 tickets to patrons ages 35 and younger. $18 tickets are limited to performances through the following Sunday and are available in person at the Box Office and via phone at 202.547.1122. Advance tickets are available for $25. There is a limit of four tickets per person. ID is always required to pick up Young Prose tickets.

ACCESSIBILITY:  The Lansburgh Theatre is accessible to otherly-abled patrons, offering wheelchair-accessible seating and restrooms, audio enhancement, and Braille and large print programs.

•  An audio-described performance of Private Lives will be on June 28th, 2014 at 2:00 p.m.
•  A sign-interpreted performance of Private Lives will be on July 1st, 2014 at 7:30 p.m.
•  Seating in the sign-interpreted and audio description section can be reserved by calling the Box Office.

PARKING:  Paid parking is available at the PMI parking garage on D Street, between Eighth and Ninth streets, and the Colonial Parking Garage in the Lansburgh building (at 450 7th Street NW between D and E streets).

METRO:  Archives-Navy Mem’l-Penn Quarter station (Yellow and Green Lines) is one and one-half blocks south of the Lansburgh Theatre. Gallery Pl-Chinatown station (Red, Yellow and Green Lines) is one block north of the Lansburgh Theatre at the Verizon Center. For further information, call Metro at 202.637.7000.