World premiere of "A Final Toast" by Michele A Miller
stars Jana Robbins (Gypsy), Jolie Curtsinger (FBI), Diane J Findlay (Sister Act) and Sachi Parker (Star Trek: The Next Generation).
A Jewish mother with early dementia learns to accept her daughter's care.
Poignant comedy raises universal questions of identity, assimilation, family and tradition.

WHERE AND WHEN:
May 10 to 26, 2024
Chain Theatre, 312 West 36th Street, 3rd Floor New York, NY 10018
Presented by Renaissance Now Theatre and Film, Incorporated.
Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:00 PM, Sundays at 3:00 PM
Added show: Wed., May 22 at 3:00 PM
Tickets: $35 general admission, $20 students, seniors and groups.
Buy tickets: https://renaissancenow.com Info:  917-225-7643 
Running time: 2:10 with intermission. 
Critics are invited to all performances. Opens May 10.
Photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/JBftTgvav5iKUEhDA

NEW YORK, March 22 -- Jana Robbins, the well-known Broadway actress and producer, plays a powerful Jewish mother with memory problems in "A Final Toast" by Michele A Miller. The play explores the complex misunderstandings, secrets, and tensions in families when daughters must take charge of mothers who are entering dementia. Ms. Miller is known for plays and screenplays which disarm dark subjects with comedy. Renaissance Now Theatre & Film, a producer of new work, films and innovative interpretations of classics, will present the play's world premiere run May 10 to 26 at Chain Theatre, 312 West 36th Street, 3rd Floor. The four-character play also features Jolie Curtsinger, Diane J Findlay and Sachi Parker. Kathy Curtiss directs.

"A Final Toast" takes us into the complex, intertwined lives of two older women who are helped by their adult daughters to clear out their homes before moving to a Senior Living Center. Blanche (Jana Robbins), a vibrant, resilient and domineering secular Jewish woman is in an early stage of dementia. She must rely on her adult daughter, Ella (Jolie Curtsinger), to dispose of her house and estate. Ella is overmatched by her powerful mother, and must engage Alice (Sachi Parker), a professional home organizer of Irish heritage, to uncurl Blanche's powerful fingers from her household curios and other possessions. The wrinkle is that Alice's mother Carol (Diane J Findlay) is heading for the same senior living facility as Blanche. Once in their new home, with the pandemic raging, the two elderly women find themselves housed in proximity to each other. At the forceful initiative of Blanche, they become dear friends, only to uncover an inauspicious encounter they had years before--one with longstanding consequences for their future lives, their relationships, their families and ultimately each other. It's revealed that prejudice has infected both families, but it's realized that long-standing hurts, betrayals, and accusations can be neutralized with humor and deep, abiding love.

The characters are complex and raise universal questions of identity and assimilation, family and tradition, survival and resilience, cultural identity and belonging, role reversal and caregiving. The families confront unresolved issues from the past as they navigate the challenges of dementia, but Blanche and Ella grapple especially with the significance of family belongings within the context of their Jewish identity. Themes of responsibility and the duty to honor parents' legacy also emerge.

Earlier drafts of the play had public readings by The Dramatist Guild, New Perspectives Theatre, Round the Bend Theatre and Bedford Playhouse. It was a finalist in seven national playwrighting competitions.

Costume Designer is Peter Fogel. Projection and sound designer is Rychard Curtiss. Set designer is Maya Alschuler-Pierce. Lighting designer is Spenser Giles. Voice/Dialog Coach is Steven Rimke. Stage manager is Gabby Macallister.

Jana Robbins (Blanche) is an actor and Broadway producer. On Broadway, she has appeared in "Good News," "I Love My Wife," "Crimes of the Heart" and "Gypsy," in which she covered Tyne Daly as Rose while playing the "bump it with a trumpet" stripper Mazzeppa. In "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife," she covered both Linda Lavin and Michele Lee and starred opposite Valerie Harper in the National Tour. She was lead producer of the Yiddish "Fidddler on the Roof." On camera, she has appeared in TV's "Cheers," "Babylon 5," "The Good Wife," Law and Order SVU" and "Nurse Jackie" and in film, with Annette Benning and Meg Ryan in "The Women." Her New York producing credits include "Little Women" and Ragtime" and "The Shark is Broken" on Broadway and the Yiddish "Fiddler on the Roof" (lead producer) Off-Broadway. Her West End producing credits (through Pinnacle Productions Partners and producer Haley Swindal) include "Rose" at The Ambassadors Theatre, "Death Note" at London's Palladium and The Lyric Theater, and Your Lie in April" at the Royal Drury Lane. She has been honored with The Jewish National Fund's "Tree of Life" Award. (www.janarobbinsproductions.com)

Jolie Curtsinger (Ella) is founder and Artistic Director of InProximity Theatre Company and has produced many theater, film and TV productions. She can be seen as Special Agent Angela Cummings in "FBI" (CBS) and Lacey Stone in the TV series "East," of which she is also Executive Producer. Off-Broadway, she has apeared in "After" by Michael McKeever (59E59), "Across the Park" (ARACA Project), "Promising" (Theatre Row), "The Fall to Earth" (59E59) and "Navy Pier" (Theatre Row). Her films include "Nothing, Except Everything," "The perfect Fit" (Craft Award for Best Actress), "Bastion," "The Sisters Kardos" and "Shackled." She serves on the boards of directors of St. Ann's Warehouse and Mark Morris Dance Group. (www.joliecurtsinger.com)

Diane J Findlay (Carol) has appeared on Broadway in "Fish in The Dark," "Hello Dolly" and "Concert of Tales of The City"; in "70 Girls 70" and "Follies" for Encores; Off-Broadway in  "Minnie's Boys," "Flamingo Court" and "Gay Divorce; and in numerous national tours, regional theaters and pilots. On film, she appeared in  "Ball and Vase" starring with Austin Pendleton, "Dead Ringers" (co-staring with Rachael Weitz), "The Producers" and "Inside Llewyn Davis."  She received the Las Vegas Female Performer of The Year Award for "Hallelujah Hollywood" and was nominated for the San Francisco Bay Theatrical Award for "Tales Of The City" and the LA Critics Circle Award for "Sister Act."(https://www.dianejfindlay.com)

Sachi Parker (Alice) is daughter of Shirley MacLaine and the late producer Steve Parker. She made her film debut in l985 in "Stick," directed by Burt Reynolds, and appeared in "Back to the Future," "About Last Night," "Peggy Sue Got Married," "Riders to the Sea," "Welcome Home Roxy Carmichael," "Bad Influence" and "Scrooged." She recently completed "All Me, All the Time," with Keir Dullea. On TV, she has guest-starred in "Star Trek: The Next Generation," "Equal Justice," "Eerie, Indiana," "Alien Nation," "Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre," "Santa Barbara," "Capitol" and "Scarecrow and Mrs. King." Her stage resume includes "The Lulu Plays," "Ladies in Waiting," and "Pastorale." She has flexed her Chekhovian muscles regionally in "The Cherry Orchard," "The Seagull" and "The Three Sisters." She lived with her father in Japan for much of her childhood; now she is a daytime anchor for a Japanese language news program out of NYC and has starred in daytime Japanese TV. She earned the prestigious Kurosawa Award in 1990 and in 2008, appeared in the acclaimed Japanese film "The Witch of the West is Dead," playing the leading role of a 75-year-old grandmother and winning the Best Actress Award.

Kathy Curtiss (Director) is Producer and Artistic Director of Renaissance Now Theatre & Film. Her resume directing original scripts includes "Beloved" at Theatre Row, "We are the People" and "Ancestors" for Scandinavian American Theatre Company, "A Final Toast" for New Perspectives Theatre Company and "Samaritans" for Oberon Theatre. Her work in directing experimental works in NYC includes a physical theater play, "Wing to the Rooky Wood," for the New York International Fringe Festival, an edgy "A Lie of the Mind" for The Michael Chekhov Theatre Company's Sam Shepard festival, Renaissance Now's production of "Romeo & Juliet" at the New York Bohemian Hall and "Diaries of Romeo and Juliet" at New Perspectives Theatre. Her classics also include "MacBeth Redux" on Theatre Row and numerous comedies for Shakespeare in the Parking Lot. She has been an instructor in Acting and Film Directing at ten university BFA programs in New York and nationwide. She has helmed three short features and her film documentaries have aired on National PBS stations and the Global Education Network. Her feature length documentary "Renaissance Now" focuses on how Shakespeare contributes significantly to saving the culture and quality of language expression. 

Michele A Miller (Playwright) is a writer of plays and screenplays whose work often disarms dark subjects with comedy. Her play, "Real Estate," was a semi-finalist in the American Theatre Coop Playwriting Contest and her one-act, "Products of Conception," was produced in the Estrogenius and Strawberry Festivals. The New Perspectives Theatre produced her full-length comedy, "Mother of God!," a Princess Grace Awards finalist (published by Next Stage Press) and her one-act, "Power Girls Support Group." Her short film, "Change of Plans," was developed for Theatre Resources Unlimited's TRUSpeak and screened at many international film festivals including the Chelsea Film Festival, New Hampshire Film Festival, and Diversity in Cannes Film Festival. Her short play "Gone Fishing Gone" was produced at the Sharon Playhouse (and published by YouthPlays). A monologue from her full-length "Jane Doe" was published in WE/US: Monologues for the Gender Minority (Smith & Kraus). "A Final Toast" was semifinalist of the Garry Marshall New Works Festival, CA and finalist at the Ashland New Plays Festival, NC, TRU-Voices Festival, NY, Renaissance Theatre Emerging Artist Program, OH, B-Street Theatre New Comedies Festival, CA, Ephiphanies/Wild Imaginings Festival, TX and SE Texas Festival of New Plays. Blanche's monologue from this play will be published in The Best Women's Stage Monologues 2024 (Smith & Kraus). Miller is a member of Dramatists Guild, League of Professional Theatre Women and founding member of the Women's Work Lab at New Perspectives Theatre Company. She moonlights writing grants and other documents for nonprofits. (https://www.micheleamillerwriter.com)

Renaissance Now Theatre & Film (Producer) produces new works and reimagines classical works that illuminate the human condition through a contemporary lens. Its productions have included classics and experimental works at the New York International Fringe Festival and the Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival, guest artists at The New Perspectives Theatre Company ("The Diaries of Romeo & Juliet"), productions on Theatre Row and at Chain Theatre, and a 20 year history of production at the Castle Shakespeare Festival in Utah. The company sponsors new writing and short, feature length and documentary films. (https://renaissancenow.com)


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Critics are invited to all performances. Opens May 10.
Photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/JBftTgvav5iKUEhDA