Our Town

By Thornton Wilder

Directed by Richard Corley

Madison Repertory Theatre opens The Playhouse in grand style with a play that has been called the greatest American play ever written. Thornton Wilder, a Madison native, authored this famous work, which offers us the chance to rediscover what it means to live in Madison, "our town," in this new century of exciting possibility. ?ichard Corley continues his exploration of great American drama with this classic, featuring Tony Award nominee AndrÈ De Shields, currently earning rave reviews in the New York production of Caligula, and a multi-cultural cast of both local and national actors. This play will mark the opening of The Playhouse, Madison Repertory Theatre's permanent home in the Overture Center for the Arts.

Produced by Madison Repertory Theatre at The Playhouse in the Overture Center for the Arts

Performances: February 17 - March 12, 2006 at Wednesdays through Sundays

Ticket Prices $36-$44

Call (608) 258-4141 for reservations or more information.

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Richard Corley, artistic director Elizabeth Fadell, managing director

January 11, 2006 (608) 256-0029 x13


Broadway's AndreL De Shields stars as Stage Manager in the premiere production in The Playhouse, part of Phase II of the Overture Center

To celebrate the opening of its new home, The Playhouse, in the Overture Center for the Arts, and the sesquicentennial of its hometown, Madison Repertory Theatre presents Our Town, the classic work penned by Madison native Thornton Wilder. This production, running February 17 through March 12, will bring back to Madison a beloved Broadway star, Andre De Shields, an alumnus of UW-Madison and a performer in the very first production in Madison Repertory Theatre history: The Fantasticks in 1969.

This production brings a deep sense of Madison history. Its author, Thornton Wilder was born in Madison. His father Amos Wilder was editor and part owner of the Wisconsin State Journal. The Wilder family lived several years on Gilman Street before settling in what would become Maple Bluff. The star of the production, AndreL De Shields, star of Broadwayfs The Full Monty, The Wiz and Ainft Misbehavinf, has strong ties to Madison. He attended UW-Madison in the 60s. He believes his role as El Gallo in Madison Repertory Theatrefs first production, The Fantasticks, was a pivotal one.

"It was a precedent-setting experience," De Shields recalls. "I was twenty-one when I was cast as El Gallo. It's a role that is ordinarily the sole domain of white actors, and it was a first in non-traditional casting." De Shields has returned to Madison several times to perform here, including helping Madison Repertory Theatre celebrate its thirtieth anniversary in 1998 with The Man Who Came to Dinner.

In the upcoming production of Our Town, De Shields will play the character of Stage Manager, the omniscient narrator who takes us through the days and lives of a community that represents all communities. gOur Town has gained its prominence because it grapples with all the universal themes of our lives, such as Love, Death and a sense of Purpose,h offers Madison Repertory Theatre Artistic Director Richard Corley, who will direct the play. gYet it doesnft offer any easy, ready-made answers. It is at once comforting and challenging. I am thrilled to take on the challenge of exploring this masterpiece with the aid of the great AndreL De Shields.h

Received with mixed reviews at its premiere in 1938, but awarded the Pulitzer Prize, Our Town has become one of the most popularly produced plays of the twentieth century. Taking as his material the life of a New Hampshire town, Grovers Corners, Wilder transformed the events of human life into a story that resonates with every community. As Madison celebrates its sesquicentennial and begins a new millennium, Our Town asks deep, relevant questions about our city and our sense of community and purpose.

Madison Repertory Theatrefs production will bring many innovative touches to Wilderfs 1937 play. For example, to better represent the multi-cultural aspects of Madisonfs present-day community, Our Town will feature a diverse cast. gThe play portrays a specific place and time,h adds Corley. gWithout changing the text of the play, wefre expanding on the concept of what forms any community. What do todayfs communities look like? How do they work? Our Town is a great play because it stands as a touchstone for each place, wherever and whenever it is produced.h

To further capture the multi-faceted face of Madison, Corley is also casting actors from the University and the community. gAs a professional theatre company, we primarily work with Equity actors. But we are expanding our mission with this production, working with performers from many areas of the community. This will be the largest cast in Madison Repertory Theatre history.h

Our Town will also be the first production in The Playhouse, the new home of Madison Repertory Theatre. The Playhouse is part of the Phase II development plan for The Overture Center for the Arts, developed through the generosity of Jerry Frautschi and Pleasant Rowland. Madison Repertory Theatre will unveil The Playhouse to the public through a number of special events in early February. gWe are delighted and deeply grateful for the gift of our permanent new home,h said Managing Director Elizabeth Fadell. gFinally, Madison Repertory Theatre has a comfortable, beautiful, state-of-the-art facility, in which to bring the art of theatre to our community.h

Our Town runs February 17 | March 12, 2006. Tickets (W, Th and Su performances - $36; F, Sa performances - $44) may be purchased in person at the Overture Center Ticket Office, or by phone at (608) 258-4141.

The Madison Repertory Theatre production of Our Town is part of the Norman Bassett Foundation Performance Series. It is also generously sponsored by Alliant Energy, Physicians Plus Insurance Corporation, Krupp General Contractors LLC, McGrath Associates, UW Madison Center For Humanities, and the UW Madison Department of Theatre and Drama.

Students who present a valid Student ID may take 50% off the cost of a full-priced ticket (regular performances only). A limited number of $12 tickets will be available for every performance. There are two special Preview performances (tickets are only $24) this year, with a free reception Wednesday and Thursday, February 15 and 16 (reception at 6:30, performance at 7:30) sponsored by Custer Financial Services, Restaino Bunbury & Associates and Isthmus Newspaper.

There are several FREE public events surrounding the opening of The Playhouse and this production of Our Town. On Sunday, February 19, in The Playhouse, Tappan Wilder (nephew of Thornton Wilder and Literary Executor of the Wilder Estate) and Christopher J. Wheatly (Professor of English and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies, Catholic University of America) will discuss the play Our Town, Thornton Wilder and Wilder's influence on the American theatre during a panel presentation moderated by Michael Vanden Heuvel (Director of Graduate Studies, Theater & Drama, University of Wisconsin-Madison). A reception will follow this event, which is presented by Madison Repertory Theatre and the UW-Madison Center for the Humanities.

There is also an engaging discussion on Monday, February 20, at 7:00 p.m. in The Playhouse as part of our First Monday Forum series. Entitled Is Madison Our Town?, this event is hosted by John Roach, video producer, writer and local raconteur. Presented by Madison Repertory Theatre in conjunction with the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, the program will use Thornton Wilder's extraordinary play and the Sesquicentennial celebration of Madison to springboard a dialogue with political, cultural, and social leaders of our city. We will also read selections from other plays by Thornton Wilder

Charter Night at Madison Repertory Theatre held at CafeL Montmartre, on Saturday Feb. 18 and LGBT Night at the Opus on Saturday, Feb. 25, are also free events open to the public. Both offer a reception beginning at 6:00 p.m. followed by two-for-one tickets to the performance. Meet the cast at post-show Audience Discussions on Sunday, Feb. 19 and Wednesday, Mar. 1. An Artistic Presentation about the production begins 45 minutes prior to the 7:30 p.m. performance on Thursday, Mar. 9.

For information on First Monday Forums, Charter Night at Madison Repertory Theatre, LGBT Evening or special group rates, call Madison Repertory Theatre at (608) 256-0029 x 23. For more information about this production of Our Town, visit Madison Repertory Theatrefs website at www.madisonrep.org.

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