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A.C.T. Press Release: "Blackbird"

Steven Culp Stars with Jessi Campbell in West Coast Premiere of Olivier Award-winning 'Blackbird'

(c) ACT-SF.org

March 26, 2007



SAN FRANCISCO, CA, March 26, 2007––American Conservatory Theater is proud to present the West Coast premiere of the play that beat out Tom Stoppard's "Rock 'n' Roll" and Peter Morgan's "Frost/Nixon" for best new play at the 2007 Olivier Awards: "Blackbird", written by David Harrower, and directed by Loretta Greco (A.C.T.'s production of Ruben Santiago-Hudson's "Lackawanna Blues"), April 27 through May 27. An intimate and unflinching portrait of two individuals destroyed by an illicit love, "Blackbird "officially opens Wednesday, May 2, at 8 p.m. The production is performed without an intermission. A.C.T.'s production of "Blackbird" is made possible by executive producer Carlie Wilmans; producers Chris and Leslie Johnson and Christine and Stan Mattison; and company sponsors Priscilla and Keith Geeslin; Burt and Deedee McMurtry; Jeff and Laurie Ubben; and ValueAct Capital.

Due to controversial and sensitive subject matter, A.C.T.'s production of "Blackbird" is recommended for audiences 16 and older.

A.C.T. will present a Koret Audience Exchange discussion following every performance of "Blackbird," with the exception of all of the production's preview performances and the matinee performances on Saturday, May 12, and Saturday, May 19. Additionally, A.C.T.'s popular "Theater on the Couch" program—featuring lively discussions with members of the San Francisco Foundation for Psychoanalysis on the psychological aspects of the play—will sponsor three postperformance discussions, following the evening presentations of "Blackbird" on May 4 and 12, and the matinee performance May 6. To order "Theater on the Couch" tickets, call the A.C.T. Box Office at 415.749.2228.

A no-holds-barred drama reminiscent of Nabokov's "Lolita" and the works of Harold Pinter, "Blackbird "takes place over the course of one evening in the back room of an industrial warehouse. Late one evening, as Ray goes about his job in a life he has newly rebuilt for himself, in barges Una, a young woman to whom he has not spoken since the end of their affair more than a dozen years earlier. As Una and Ray bitterly and violently clash over the nature of their earlier relationship, their all-consuming need to understand the events of their past leads to an overwhelming and at times shocking demonstration of how far they will go to find the truth. A compassionate portrait of a very human pair of souls locked in a relationship that blurs the lines between lust, love, and something far more sinister, "Blackbird" has been hailed as a work that "has the potency of a 21st century "Oleanna" ("Time Out London") and is "raw and passionate. . . (a play) that will burn deeply into your memory" ("The London Times").

"Some of us only get one life-defining moment—a major event that forms our outlook on life or how we reconcile with the events in our world," says Loretta Greco. "Ray and Una's earlier relationship is the event that defines their lives from that moment forward. Their confrontation—which begins from the moment the play opens—is a reconstruction of their history, and it becomes their mutual attempt to redefine themselves against what happened more than a dozen years ago. The play really raises the question of why we insist on piecing together the truth of the past in the first place, when we know it will be elusive and incomplete at best. Do we seek resolution? Comfort? Absolution? Release? "Blackbird" asks many brave and forthright questions of its audience and its interpreters, and I know that the answers will differ from night to night, audience to audience."

The cast of "Blackbird" features one actor making her A.C.T. debut and another making his long-awaited return to the company. Best known for portraying Rex Van De Camp in A.B.C.'s hit television series "Desperate Housewives," Steven Culp portrays Ray. A.C.T. audiences will remember Culp as Joe Pitt from the company's long-running production of Tony Kushner's "Angels in America" (a performance for which he won a "Drama-Logue" Award). Culp starred opposite Annette Bening in "Coastal Disturbances" on Broadway and appeared with Kevin Kline in "Richard III" in Central Park and in the West Coast premiere of Nicky Silver's "Raised in Captivity" at South Coast Repertory Theatre ("Drama-Logue "Award). His many television and film appearances include performances as a series regular on "The West Wing," "Star Trek: Enterprise," "JAG," and "C.S.I." and character turns in the films "Spartan," "Nurse Betty," "Fearless," and "Dead Again," among others. He has played Robert Kennedy twice—in the film "Thirteen Days" and in the made-for-television movie "Norma Jean & Marilyn".

Recently seen in the world premiere of "Victoria Martin: Math Team Queen" at Manhattan's Women's Project (a production directed by Loretta Greco), Jessi Campbell plays Una. Campbell has appeared in recent productions of "Inky," "Eikon," "Twelfth Night," "Marisol," and "Don Juan Comes Back from the War," and she has appeared in the television shows "Knights of Prosperity," "Rescue Me," and "Law and Order: S.V.U." She can be seen in the upcoming Sarah Jessica Parker film "Spinning Into Butter".

Playwright David Harrower began developing "Blackbird" after reading ofa well-documented, real-life drama. In 2003, former United States marine Toby Studabaker met a 12-year-old girl from Manchester, England, in an internet chat room. After meeting in person, the couple fled to Europe. Though she allegedly never revealed her true age, Studabaker claimed he thought the girl was 19. He was eventually arrested by her side in Germany. In April 2004, Studebaker was sentenced to a four-year prison sentence to be served in the UK.

"I don't believe it is (a play about pedophilia)," commented Harrower in an interview for the publications team of London's Albery Theatre (where the play premiered last year). "Yes, it discusses an illegal, underage relationship and, in most people's minds, the man would be termed a pedophile. But I wanted to look at the grey areas in between. I don't condone their relationship but in their past, it happened—and it has happened (to people) in real life. What interested me is how people then go on to deal with the consequences of their actions and desires, how they justify or explain to themselves the reasons for what they did."

The American premiere production of "Blackbird "is currently playing through April at Manhattan Theatre Club in Manhattan, New York. The production features Jeff Daniels and Allison Pill and is directed by Joe Mantello.

The design team for A.C.T.'s production of "Blackbird" includes Robert Brill (sets), Russell H. Champa (lights), David F. Draper (costumes), and Jake Rodriguez (sound).

Loretta Greco recently directed the world premiere of "Victoria Martin: Math Team Queen "for Manhattan's Women's Project. Her previous directing credits for the Women's Project include Rinne Groff's "Inky," Toni Press Coffman's "Touch," Karen Hartman's "Gum," and Amparo Garcia's "Under a Western Sky" (with INTAR). Greco directed the world premiere of Ruben Santiago-Hudson's "Lackawanna Blues" at The Public Theater and its West Coast premiere at A.C.T. Her New York and regional credits include productions at the New York Theatre Workshop, the Vineyard Theatre, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, South Coast Repertory, the La Jolla Playhouse, and the McCarter Theatre Center. Greco's international credits include "Having Our Say" in its U.S. national tour and at the Market Theatre in South Africa. Greco is the recipient of two Drama League fellowships and the Princess Grace Award.

Playwright David Harrower was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1966. His first play, "Knives in Hens"," was first produced at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, in 1995. He is also the author of the plays "Kill the Old Torture Their Young" and "The Chrysalids," adapted from John Wyndham's novel, for the National Theatre's Connections project." Presence," his third original play, was first performed at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs in April 2001. He has adapted versions of Pirandello's "Six Characters in Search of an Author," entitled "Six Characters Looking for an Author," and "first staged at the Young Vic in 2000; Chekhov's "Ivanov," performed at the National Theatre in 2002; and Büchner's "Woyzeck," performed at the Edinburgh Lyceum in 2002. He has also translated "The Girl on the Sofa," a new play by Jon Fosse, presented in a joint production by the Edinburgh International Festival and the Schaubuhne, Berlin. His play, "Dark Earth" premiered at the Traverse in August 2003. He has also recently written a new version of Odon von Horvath's "Tales from the Vienna Woods" for the National Theatre, London, which opened in October 2003. He lives in Glasgow, Scotland.



"Blackbird"
by David Harrower
directed by Loretta Greco

Cast: Jessi Campbell (Una), Steven Culp (Ray)
Designers: Robert Brill (sets), David F. Draper (costumes), Russell H. Champa (lights), Jake Rodriguez (sound)
Previews: April 27-May 1
Press Night: May 2
Last Performance: May 27
Tickets $13.50-$56.50 previews; $17.50-$73.50 Tue.-Thu., Sun. eves. $26.50-$81.50 Fri., Sat. eves. and weekend matinees. Tickets are available through A.C.T. Ticket Services, 405 Geary Street at Mason, 415.749.2228, and online at www.act-sf.org.
Performance Times: Tue.-Sat. @ 8 p.m. (except May 8 at 7 p.m.), Wed., Sat. & Sun. @ 2 p.m. (except no matinees on April 29 or May 2). Additional performance Sun., May 6 @ 7 p.m.

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