FOR THE NEW CITY'S DREAM UP FESTIVAL PRESENTS NEW YORK PREMIERE OF "ELEANORA
DUSE DIES IN PITTSBURGH" BY DON NIGRO
NEW YORK, August 7 -- "Eleanora Duse Dies in Pittsburgh" is a short dark comedy, written by Don Nigro about the terror and holiness of theater. Famous Italian actress Eleanora Duse finds herself regretful of her past actions and attempts to find some sort of relief only to be pestered by the comedic interactions of other famous characters around her, leaving her more uncertain of her eventual fate. Theater for the New City's Dream Up Festival will present the play's New York premiere August 27 to September 12. Aan Steele directs and heads the cast of eight as Duse.
Eleanora Duse was born in 1858 in Italy into a family of strolling players descended from Luigi Duse, the first actor in Commedia Dell' Arte to remove his mask and use his face in performing the character of Giacometto. Eleanora suffered from the miseries of touring from the age of four, but was awakened to the art of acting at age fourteen when she played Juliet in Verona. Later in life, she was inspired by Sarah Bernhardt’s performance in "The Lady of The Camellias" and worked diligently on her own craft, soon becoming known to the point that when she played in Russia, she helped inspire Stanislavski to create his system for organic stage acting.
The play is a tongue in cheek interpretation of hallucinations that Eleanora Duse could have experienced from her history before her passing. We find Ms. Duse in the last night of her life in a room of a hotel in Pittsburgh. As she attempts to prepare for one final performance -- which she quickly learns from her caretaker, Desiree, has been canceled -- she is interrupted first by her ex-lover, the insufferable but charming Italian playwright Gabriele D’Annunzio who appears from the behind the cupboard. Other spirits appear in rapid succession: her great rival Sarah Bernhardt pops out of a trunk, Henrick Ibsen slides out from under the bed, Benito Mussolini flies through the window and Duse's angry, confused and neglected daughter Enrichetta walks in the door. The actress would like to mend affairs with her daughter, whom she abandoned for a career upon the stage. But the chaos of the unwelcome intruders frightens and confuses Enrichetta, prompting her to leave her mother once again. Just as all looks lost and unresolved, Desiree introduces Duse to an aspiring actress named Eva (based on Eva Le Gallienne), who is terrified and nervous about "telling lies" and desecrating the holiness of the theatre. Duse realizes then the reason why she has -- and continues to -- act. Despite being unworthy of the holy theatre stage, it is all she truly has. And that is the paradoxical nature of life and death, light and dark, truth and farce.
Playwright Don Nigro has won a Playwriting Fellowship Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, placed twice a finalist for the National Repertory Theatre Foundation's National Play Award, twice been a James Thurber Writer in Residence at the Thurber House in Columbus and won grants from both the Mary Roberts Reinhart Foundation and the Ohio Arts Council. His plays have been produced all over the world. Samuel French has published 187 of his plays in 54 volumes. For more information about Nigro and his work please visit (http://www.samuelfrench.com/author/2375/don-nigro).
The actors are Aan Steele (Eleanora Duse), Sally Dymek (Desiree), Seamus Patrick McDonagh (Gabriele D'Annunzio), Fran McGee (Sarah Bernhardt), Robin L. Dimension (Enrichetta), Michael Berardi (Henrik Ibsen) - except on September 8 when the role will be played by Joshua Youngerman, Tommy Bayiokos (Benito Mussolini) and Aida Sinusaite (Eva). Production design is by Aan Steele. Ted Mornel is Associate Director. Fran Mcgee is Associate Producer and Associate Designer. Alice Rothman-Hicks is Music Director and Choreographer. Michael Berardi is Stage Manager.
The eighth annual Dream Up Festival (www.dreamupfestival.org) is being presented by Theater for the New City from August 27 to September 17. An ultimate new work festival, it is dedicated to the joy of discovering new authors and edgy, innovative performances. Audiences savor the excitement, awe, passion, challenge and intrigue of new plays from around the country and around the world.
The festival does not seek out traditional scripts that are presented in a traditional way. It selects works that push new ideas to the forefront, challenge audience expectations and make us question our understanding of how art illuminates the world around us.
A unique and varied selection of productions will again be offered that draw upon a variety of performance specialties including singing, clowning, poetry, street music, magic and movement. The Festival's founders, Crystal Field and Michael Scott-Price, feel this is especially needed in our present time of declining donations to the arts, grants not being awarded due to market conditions, and arts funding cuts on almost every level across the country and abroad.
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