The Wilder Family and Samuel French present a conversation with Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Paula Vogel (Indecent), director Laurie McCants (Bloomsburg Theater Ensemble) and actress Linda Powell (NBC’s Chicago Fire) about the influence of Thornton Wilder’s one-acts on their work. The live streamed conversation will be moderated by journalist and theater critic Mark Blankenship, Director of Community and Content for Show-Score. The panel discussion will be held in the Samuel French Event Space on Monday, October 30 at 6:30 PM ET. Facebook will host the FREE live stream, watch here. 

They rarely get accolades or attention, but in the hands of a master, one-act plays can be revolutionary. Thornton Wilder practically perfected the form, writing over two-dozen short dramas over the course of three decades, from The Long Christmas Dinner, Pullman Car Hiawatha and The Happy Journey to Trenton and Camden written in 1931, to his Plays for Bleecker Street, which premiered at Circle in the Square Theatre, directed by Jose Quintero in 1962.  These plays not only pushed American playwriting forward in their time, but also continue to inspire artists around the world. Join us for a conversation about the massive power of these compact works, complete with insights from playwrights, directors, and actors who have been inspired by them.

“My uncle began and ended his life as a dramatist with the one act play,” said Tappan Wilder, Thornton Wilder’s nephew and executor of his uncle’s literary estate. “Thornton Wilder loved compression and experimenting with theatrical forms. In these mini-masterpieces, he squeezes the universe into twenty minutes and we encounter a first glimpse of Wilder’s Stage Manager, his use of pantomime, minimal scenery and farce, as well as his signature connection between the commonplace and the cosmic dimensions of the human experience. He later develops these dramatic forms in his celebrated full-length works, Our Town, The Matchmaker, The Skin of Our Teeth and The Alcestiad.”

The event, produced in partnership with The Thornton Wilder Society, is the second in a series of special conversations celebrating a year of notable Wilder anniversaries, productions and publications including— the 75th anniversary of Pulitzer Prize-winning The Skin of Our Teeth (1943), the 50th anniversary of The Eighth Day (National Book Award 1968), Theatre For A New Audience’s critically acclaimed production of The Skin of Our Teeth, the musical adaptation of his play The Matchmaker, Hello, Dolly! currently on Broadway, and the publications of the definitive acting edition of The Matchmaker by Samuel French and the first-ever single trade volume of The Matchmaker by HarperCollins. Previous conversation panelists include directors Abigail Adams, Arin Arbus, Mark Cuddy and Gregory Mosher.

 

Selected Biographies

Thornton Wilder (1897-1975) was a novelist and playwright whose works celebrate the connection between the commonplace and the cosmic dimensions of human experience.  He is the only writer to win Pulitzer Prizes for both drama and fiction: for his novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey, and two plays, Our Town and The Skin of Our Teeth.  His other nov­els include The Cabala, The Woman of Andros, Heaven’s My Destination, The Ides of March, The Eighth Day and Theophilus North. His other major dramas include The Matchmaker (adapted as the musical Hello, Dolly!) and The Alcestiad. The Happy Journey to Trenton and Camden, Pullman Car Hiawatha and The Long Christmas Dinner are among his well-known shorter plays. He enjoyed enormous success as a translator, adaptor, actor, librettist and lecturer/teacher and his screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt remains a classic psycho-thriller to this day. Wilder’s many honors include the Gold Medal for Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. More information on Thornton Wilder and his family is available in Penelope Niven’s definitive biography, Thornton Wilder: A Life (2013) as well as on the Wilder Family website, www.thorntonwilder.com

Mark Blankenship is the Director of Community and Content for Show-Score, an online hub for theater fans across the country. Previously, he was the Director of Online Content for Theatre Development Fund, where he created and edited the magazine TDF Stages and produced and directed the film series Meet the Theatre. He co-hosts the pop music podcast Mark and Sarah Talk About Songs and has written for Playbill, American Theatre, The New York Times, Variety, NPR, The Village Voice, Backstage, and many others. A tour guide in Ibsen’s house was quite startled that he’d read Emperor and Galilean. 

Laurie McCants co-founded the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble (BTE) in 1978, where she co-created Hard Coal, Our Shadows (with Egypt’s puppet theatre company Wamda), and Susquehanna:  Mighty, Muddy, Crooked River of the Long Reach. BTE was named the 2016 “Outstanding Theatre” by the National Theatre Conference.  In 2010, Laurie was named an “Actor of Distinguished Achievement” through a Fox Foundation Resident Actor Fellowship, funded by the William & Eva Fox Foundation and administered by Theatre Communications Group. She served as Co-President of the Board of the national Network of Ensemble Theaters. At BTE, she has performed numerous roles, ranging from Lady Macbeth to Winnie in Happy Days by Samuel Beckett. She recently directed her own adaptation of Chekhov’s Seagull and in January 2017 she directed the world premiere of Anthony Clarvoe’s play, Gunpowder Joe. Her essay, Collaborating Across the Centuries, detailing her experiences directing high school students in Thornton Wilder’s Pullman Car Hiawatha, will be published soon in a new volume about the playwright. Her solo show, Industrious Angels, premiered at the Ko Festival of Performance in Amherst, Massachusetts, and will be performed there again in August 2018.

Linda Powell received her degree in English literature with a theater minor from the College of William and Mary before studying acting at the Circle in the Square Theater School.  She is well known to New York audiences for her performances in Lucas Hnath’s The Christians, August Wilson’s Jitney, Cheryl West’s Jar the Floor, J.T. Rogers The Overwhelming and the Tony-nominated revival of On Golden Pond in which she starred with James Earl Jones and Leslie Uggams.  Ms. Powell’s work has been seen at numerous regional theaters around the country including the Long Wharf Theater, Mark Taper Forum, Arena Stage, Cleveland Playhouse, Pittsburgh Playhouse, and Baltimore’s Center Stage.   For ten years, she was active both as actor and producer with the critically acclaimed Willow Cabin Theater Company.  Her numerous television credits include recurring roles as social worker Lauren White on Law and Order, SVU and Ingrid Mills in NBC’s Chicago Fire.  Her joyous Thornton Wilder credits include The Long Christmas Dinner, Pullman Car Hiawatha, Lucrece, Infancy, Youth, Our Town and most recently his adaptation of A Doll’s House at Theater for a New Audience.

Paula Vogel’s most recent project is Indecent, a play commissioned by Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s American Revolutions and Yale Repertory Theatre.  Indecent was developed at the Sundance Theatre Lab in 2013. It has been produced at Yale Repertory Theatre and La Jolla Playhouse in Fall 2015. It was produced at the Vineyard Theatre in May 2016 and ran on Broadway at the Cort Theatre in 2017. Don Juan Comes Home From Iraq, her previous play, was written for the Wilma Company in Philadelphia. With director Blanka Zizka and company members, Paula Vogel conducted interviews with veterans of the Iraq/Afghanistan wars, and received funding from the Pew Charitable Trust and Independence Foundation to conduct a year-long workshop with veterans in Philadelphia. Her play How I Learned to Drive received the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the Lortel Prize, Drama Desk, Outer Critics and New York Drama Critics Award for Best Play, as well as winning her second Obie. Most recently it was produced in Mandarin in Beijing. Other plays include the Long Christmas Ride Home, The Mineola Twins, The Baltimore Waltz, Hot’n’throbbing, Desdemona, And Baby Makes Seven, The Oldest Profession, and A Civil War Christmas. In 2004-5 she was playwright in residence at The Signature Theatre. Theatre Communications Group has published four books of her work. In addition, Paula Vogel continues her “bootcamps,” playwriting intensives, with community organizations, theatre companies, subscribers and writers across the globe. Her most recent teaching was at Sewanee, Shanghai Theatre Academy and Nanjing University, University of Texas in Austin, the Playwrights Center in Minneapolis and workshops for The Vineyard Theatre in New York. Most recent awards include the American Theatre Hall of Fame, New York Drama Critics Lifetime Achievement, Obies Lifetime Achievement, the Lily’s, and the 2015 Thornton Wilder Award. She is honored to have 3 awards dedicated to emerging playwrights in her name: The American College Theatre Festival, the Paula Vogel Award given annually by the Vineyard Theatre, and the recent Paula Vogel mentor’s award by Young Playwrights of Philadelphia. From 1984 to 2008, Paula Vogel founded and ran the playwriting program at Brown University; during that time she started a theatre workshop for women in Maximum Security at the Adults Correction Institute in Cranston, Rhode Island. It continues to this day, sponsored by the Pembroke Center for Women at Brown University. From 2008-2012 she was the O’Neill Chair at Yale School of Drama. She now writes and lives in Wellfleet, Massachusetts.

Amos Tappan Wilder (known as Tappan) is Thornton Wilder’s nephew and has served as his uncle’s literary executor since 1995.  In this role, he manages Wilder’s intellectual property, promotes interest in the literary and dramatic subsidiary rights of the works, and speaks widely about his uncle’s life and artistic legacy. In recent years he is proud to have overseen the re-issue of all of his uncle’s novels and major plays (to which he contributed the Afterwords), the key volume of Wilder’s selected letters, The Library of America’s three Wilder volumes, and the definitive biography of Wilder by Penelope Niven. He has also fostered new plays, operas, and even one modern dance based on his uncle’s works. Tappan is a graduate of Yale College and holds advanced degrees in history from the University of Wisconsin and American Studies from Yale. He is a member of P.E.N. (American Center), a former Trustee of the Yale Library Associates, a member of the National Council of Graywolf Press, and is Honorary Chair of The Thornton Wilder Society.  He lives in Northern California.

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