Sal Romeo ETC and SST Productions will present Joe Besecker’s award-winning play, “Tennessee in the Summer,” based on the life of the famed playwright, Tennessee Williams, at Sidewalk Studio Theatre, 4150 Riverside Drive, Burbank, CA 91505 on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m., extended to June 10, 2012.
Under the direction of Sal Romeo (of Los Feliz), the cast will include Drama-Logue Award and LA Weekly Winner, Jack Heller (of Hollywood) (as Tennessee Williams); Daytime Emmy Award Winner and GLAAD Media Award Nominee, Tamara Braun (of Silverlake) (as Woman); Louise Davis (of Los Feliz) (as Edwina Williams, Rose Williams and Nurse – April 13, 14, 15, May 11, 12, 13, 18, 19 and 20); Robert Standley (of Studio City) (as Youngman, Frankie Merlo and Dakin Williams); and Lisa Thayer (of Century City) (as Edwina Williams, Rose Williams and Nurse – April 20, 21, 22, 27, 28, 29, May 4, 5 and 6). Cindy Marinangel (of Culver City) is the Understudy for Woman and will perform the role on April 27, 28 and 29.
The production is sponsored in part by the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, Safada Y Sano Productions and Mo’s Fine Food. Tickets are $20 each and can be purchased by calling 800-838-3006 or online at www.brownpapertickets.com. For more information, please call 818-558-5702 or visit online at www.sidewalkstudiotheatre.info.
The production team includes: Sal Romeo, Director; Janice Allen, Producer, Sal Romeo ETC; Jade Puga, Producer, Sal Romeo ETC; Marc Haupert, Co-Producer, SST Productions; Kurt Swanson, Co-Producer, SST Productions; Lacey Anzelc, Set Designer; Paige Selene Duke, Lighting Designer; Richard Montes, Sound Designer; Liezzett Jauregui, Costume Designer; Rayford Sewell and Mason Moore, Stage Managers and Steve Moyer Public Relations, Press Representative.
About The Creation of the Play from the Playwright, Joe Besecker:
“The play began with an image in my head. Tennessee Williams was sitting at his typewriter on a patio of a Southern hotel. It was morning. A tall, mysterious blonde woman was sipping a drink and fighting with him. The woman began flirting with a Youngman who was below by the swimming pool.
“It became clear when I attempted to write subsequent scenes that I needed to ground the play into more realistic details of Tennessee Williams’ life, so the Southern hotel became a New York City hotel room in 1972. I saturated myself in biographical information and the conflict of the male/female parts of Tennessee Williams. I concentrated on the emotions of the characters, and discovered the areas where my personal experiences merged with episodes of Williams’ life.”
“Time became fluid and people and places began melting into one another, and I saw that, perhaps, the real drama was the inner unconscious drama of the artist’s psyche. The play became about the need to balance opposites, about the need to forgive other people, and especially about the need for self-forgiveness.
“‘Tennessee in the Summer’ received its debut in the spring of 1985 in the Valencia Rose Cabaret Room in San Francisco, CA, which was originally a mortuary. They converted a small upstairs viewing room for theatre. It was in this same room that talents like Whoopi Goldberg and Robin Williams got their starts. In that first production, my lover of 42 years, Bill Stanton, had a clicker in his hand which he would snap to signal the lighting technician when it was time to change the lights in a scene. Of course, things have changed immeasurably since then.”
About The Actors, The Director, The Writer and The Producers:
Jack Heller (Tennessee Williams) (of Los Feliz) has appeared in Henry Jaglom’s “Queen of the Lot” as well as his long running play, “Just 45 Minutes from Broadway,” which will open in June/July 2012 as an independent film directed by Henry Jaglom. He was Artistic Director of the Laurelgrove Theatre Company, where his theatre received four Ovation Award Nominations for acting in the first three seasons in productions of “The Dead Boy,” “Tennessee in the Summer” and “Shadow Boxing.”
He has directed over 60 productions in the U.S. and Canada. He has directed several episodes of “Mary. Hartman, Mary Hartman,” and worked for two and one half years at Beit T’Shuvah, a halfway house for addicts using theatre techniques to aid in their recovery. As an actor he has guest starred in many television series and was in two long running shows in Los Angeles, ”Nuts” and “Tamara.”
His last theatre project, in which he acted and directed, “The Lost Plays of Tennessee Williams,” won him the LA Weekly Award for Best Actor and Best Ensemble. He won a Drama-Logue Award for a one-man show, “Dr. Galley.” His theatre productions as an actor/director have won many Critic’s Choices and Critic’s Picks.
He studied at New York University and with Harold Clurman and Robert Lewis of The Group Theatre. He has appeared on Broadway in “One by One” and “LUV,” as well as in the National Company of “LUV.” He toured Italy around Rome and Milano in “Tamara.” He has taught at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts and in Rome. He is a Lifetime Member of The Actors Studio in the Directing and Acting Units. Heller appeared as Tennessee Williams in two previous productions of Joe Besceker’s play, “Tennessee in the Summer,” at Theatre on Main in Ventura in 1999 and at Laurelgrove Theatre Company in Studio City in 2002.
Tamara Braun (Woman) (of Silverlake) won a Daytime Emmy Award as Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series for her performances as Ava Vitali in “Days of Our Lives” in 2009. In 2008 she won the Jury Prize for Best Actress of her performance as Marie-Louise LeBauve in “Little Chenier” at the Honolulu International Film Festival, and in 2007 she won the Copper Wing Award for Best Ensemble Acting for the same film at the Phoenix Film Festival. In 2005 she won the Soap Opera Digest Award for Outstanding Lead Actress for her performances as Carly Corinthos in “General Hospital,” a role for which she was also nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 2004. She has also appeared as Reese Williams in “All My Children,” opposite actress Eden Riegel who played the role of Bianca Montgomery, Daytime drama’s first main characters to be out lesbians. In 2008 the characters of Reese and Bianca in “All My Children” made television history appearing as Daytime drama’s groundbreaking first-ever lesbian couple with storylines featuring a same-sex marriage proposal and wedding, which took place on February 13, 2009. The couple of Reese and Bianca on “All My Children” also became the first onscreen same-sex parents in the history of American Daytime Television. “All My Children” received a nomination for the 21st Annual GLAAD Media Awards for the lesbian wedding storyline episode.
Robert Standley (Youngman, Frankie Merlo, Dakin Williams) (of Studio City) earned critical acclaim across North America in the National Tours of “The Rainmaker” (Starbuck), “Cotton Patch Gospel” (Jesus) and the one-man show, “According to Coyote” (Coyote). He recently appeared in Center Theatre Group’s “Post Office.” Favorite roles include Billy Bigelow in “Carousel,” Lancelot in “Camelot,” Stanley Kowalski in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” Stepan in “Barbarians” (Los Angeles Ovation Award: Best Supporting Actor), Hal in “Picnic” (Outer Critics’ Circle Award: Best Actor) and numerous others.
Standley has appeared in recurring and regular roles on ABC’s “Invasion,” Fox’s “Melrose Place,” ABC’s “All My Children” and TBN’s “Breaking Through.” He was awarded Best Actor at the Angel City Film Festival for his role in the film “Time Loves a Hero.” He was gunned down by Charles Durning in Charles Jarrott’s “Turn of Faith” and knocked out by Will Smith in Michael Mann’s “Ali.” He recently starred in the sci-fi/horror film, “Gatherers,” and the thriller, “Deep Descent,” which will both be playing in film festivals later this fall. Standley has appeared as Youngman, Frankie Merlo and Dakin Williams in two previous productions of Joe Besecker’s play, “Tennessee in the Summer,” at Theatre on Main in Ventura in 1999 and at Laurelgrove Theatre Company in Studio City in 2002, at which time he won an Entertainment Today Ticketholder Award as Best Supporting Actor.
Louise Davis (Edwina Williams, Rose Williams, Nurse – April 13, 14, 15, May 11, 12, 13, 18, 19 and 20) (of Los Feliz) was most recently seen in Los Angeles at Working Stages Theater in “Women in Shorts” with Joanna Miles. Among her many credits are “The Children’s Table” and “Speed Dating 101” by Jeffrey Davis and directed by Barry Primus; “Chairwoman” by Sage Allen with Joanna Miles; “The Little Gentleman” by Yale Yudoff and “Christmas Babies” by Nelsey Tinberg, for which she won a Best Actress Award from www.reviewplays.com.
Davis has also appeared in John Patrick Shanley’s “Beggars In The House of Plenty;” Gloria Goldsmith’s “Forgiving” with Lois Nettleton; “Hamlet” (Ophelia) at The Globe Theatre; “Tartuffe” at Theater Exchange; “Ring Round The Moon” at Actors Alley, as well as in productions of “Brigadoon” and “The Visit” at Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts in Santa Maria, CA. Davis won a Drama-Logue Award for her work in “Young Marrieds At Play” at Actors Alley. She was nominated for a Los Angeles Ovation Award for her dual roles as Rose Williams and Edwina Williams in the critically acclaimed 2002 production of Joe Besecker’s play, “Tennessee in the Summer” directed by Barbara Bain at Laurelgrove Theatre Company; she also appeared in another production of the play in the same roles at Theatre on Main in Ventura in 1999.
Lisa Thayer (Edwina Williams, Rose Williams, Nurse – April 20, 21, 22, 27, 28, 29, May 4, 5 and 6) (of Century City) was accepted into The Actors Studio as one of its youngest members at 22, chosen by Lee Strasberg on her first audition. She is a two-time Drama-Logue Award-winning stage actress. Thayer was directed by Sal Romeo in the acclaimed production of Lanford Wilson’s play, “Balm In Gilead,” in which she portrayed the role of the hardened prostitute Ann.
She appeared in the Russian farce “The Suicide” directed by Florinel Fatalescu in the role of Serafima, an 80-year-old cigarette smoking babushka. Thayer became of member of Actors Equity appearing as Platinum Sue and as a Back-Up Singer in the group, The Tanzettes, in a production of “Tanzi” presented at The Roxy starring E.G. Daly, and produced by John Wells. She has appeared Off-Broadway at The Ohio Theatre as a Bar Girl in “Noah’s Archives.” She has been seen in Los Angeles theatre productions at The Odyssey Theatre, The Hudson Theatre, The Matrix Theatre and the Taper Too, working with directors Bill Duke, Ron Sossi and Greg Antonacci. She appeared in the films, “Deep Cover” with Laurence Fishburne, and “Mob Queen.” Thayer is also a poet and photographer.
Sal Romeo (Director) (of Los Feliz) is living proof that politics can lead to something good. This award-winning director, esteemed acting coach, and former member of The Actors Studio started out an impassioned political science student in the early 60s. For Romeo, social activism soon merged with the art of theatre and by the time the 60s ended, acting and directing had completely taken over his life, for good.
He was hired to direct the West Coast premiere of “Viet Rock” in 1969. With an ensemble of 16 performers playing approximately 60 different roles, “Viet Rock” was an anti-war play that utilized the improvisational and confrontational techniques of experimental theatre. The stunning success of “Viet Rock” in Los Angeles, London, and at the World Drama Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland landed Romeo his next directing gig, another socially relevant play about prejudice, “Futz,” the story of a farmer, Cyrus Futz, who falls in love with his pig. Casting a live pig in a starring role brought more critical acclaim and attention to Romeo’s work; it also brought harassment from the city of Hermosa Beach and defense from the ACLU.
The success of “Futz” resulted in Romeo getting his first theatre, The Century City Playhouse. In 1974, Romeo and partner, Tom Bradac, gathered a troupe of performers and traveled to a Pocono resort in Pennsylvania to do summer stock theatre. After directing his first musical, “The Fantasticks,” Romeo was addicted to the genre’s ability to move an audience. His work was such a hit that the three-month theatre season turned into seven months, and his one season contract turned into five years of work. In time, Romeo would go on to direct over 25 musicals and cabaret shows on the 500-acre Woolworth estate.
Ready for a new challenge, Romeo returned to Los Angeles and was invited to teach at several colleges in Southern California. He was granted a professional teaching credential and spoke or taught at several colleges including UCLA and Chapman University for seven years. On the side, he gathered students in his living room and coached them in workshop format for $2/class.
Interest in Romeo’s classes grew rapidly and before long he was charging double so he could rent a space to teach classes several nights a week. In 1979, the same year he met the love of his life, Laurie Wendorf, he was asked to direct “The Taming of the Shrew” for the Shakespeare Festival in Garden Grove and won his first Critic’s Award in Los Angeles.
Romeo went on to direct dozens more shows, winning over 30 Critic’s Awards. By the late 1980s, the Stanislavski system became Romeo’s passion, as did teaching. In 1987 he introduced FATE, the Friends and Artists Theater Ensemble, on Vermont Avenue in a pre-trendy Los Feliz, CA. Fascinated by the challenge of the one-person format, he also made time to direct a number of critically acclaimed one-person shows including Eliza Schneider’s “Freedom of Speech” (which won best one-person show at the New York City Fringe Festival and is still being performed after 16 years); Sarah Stanley’s “All About Eggs” (sold to HBO); E.G. Daly’s “Listen Closely;” and Grant Sullivan’s biographical work, “Shadow Boxing” (nominated for an Ovation Award for best one-person show). Most recently he directed two critically acclaimed productions of Stacey Martino’s play, “The King of the Desert,” starring René Rivera. Romeo is a former member of The Actors Studio Directors Unit.
Currently Romeo can also be found coaching, teaching and directing students at the Sidewalk Studio Theatre in Burbank. Romeo takes great pride in and has a deep love for his students, some of whom have gone on to win Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Emmy Awards and Grammy Awards, including Tamara Braun, Sarah Brightman, Gregory Norman Cruz, Avital Dicker, Ricky Martin, Kelly McGillis, Dustin Nguyen and Euginio Zanetti.
Joe Besecker (Playwright) (of San Francisco) has had over 30 productions produced of more than 20 of his full-length plays. His play, “Tennessee in the Summer” was the winner of the Jane Chambers International Playwriting Contest, and has played at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, where it was voted one of the five Best Productions by the B.B.C. The play has had dozens of productions around the country, including local productions at International City Theatre in Long Beach (1987); Los Altos Conservatory Theatre in Los Altos (1990); Egyptian Arena Theatre in Hollywood (1998); Theatre on Main in Ventura (1999) and Laurelgrove Theatre Company in Studio City (2002 – two Los Angeles Ovation Award Nominations).
Besecker’s other plays include: “The Annual St. Valentine’s Day Zin Tasting,” “The Last of the Nuns,” “Boats,” “Margaritas,” “Fools Rush In,” “Bee-Eye,” “Just Like Me,” “Dead Heads,” “Sandy Dennis and the Maisonettes” and “Mary in the Hydrangea Bush,” to name a few. Four of his plays have been nominated for a San Francisco Cable Car Award for Achievement in Theatre. “Bee-Eye” (his play based on Edward Albee) was nominated for three Bay Area Critics Circle Awards, including Best Production. He won a Los Angeles Drama-Logue Award for Achievement in Writing for his play, “Mary in the Hydrangea Bush.”
His play, “The Way Light Strikes Filled Mason Jars,” (about Joan Didion, Sylvia Plath and Carson McCullers) played at the San Francisco Fringe Festival in 2002 and won The Best of the Fringe. The play was taken to the Edinburgh Festival in 2007 and played to rave reviews. “Crime and Variations,” his play about Stephen Sondheim, received rave reviews at the 2003 San Francisco Fringe Festival. “Paper Dolls,” his play concerning how a segment of gay men in San Francisco dealt with the AIDS crisis in the 80’s played at the San Francisco Fringe in 2005 and won a Best of the Fringe Award.
His play “Zinnia Rosenblatt” was presented at the San Francisco Fringe in September 2010. Eight of Besecker’s plays have been published by Dialogus Publishing. He recently completed his screenplay, “Cezanne’s Apples,” as well as the play “The Dance Atop the Glorious Red Fez,” about John Cage, Merce Cunningham and Jasper Johns. His play, “The Execution of Nancy Drew in Waco Texas” played at the Fringe Festival in September 2011. He has just completed his latest play, “Skipper The Talking Cat By David Foster Wallace” which is about David Foster Wallace, Jonathan Franzen, and Thomas Pynchon.
Sal Romeo ETC was founded in April 2011 by Artistic Director, Sal Romeo (who serves as Director of this production of “Tennessee in the Summer”) and Managing Director, Janice Allen (who serves as a Producer of this production). Their mission is to provide a cost-effective venue for live performances, to keep ticket prices affordable for audiences and to bring classical, contemporary and unpublished works to the stage.
Sal Romeo ETC has produced several evenings of one-acts and workshops of original plays currently in development. The company’s first production was their Winterfest challenge…to produce a full-length play from start to finish within three days. The play they chose was “Zastrozzi: Master of Discipline” by George F. Walker. They started on a Friday at 9:00 a.m. and the full production, complete with period costuming, set design, sound design, lighting design and sword-fighting choreography went up Sunday at 7:00 p.m. in the 33-seat Sidewalk Studio Theatre. “Tennessee in the Summer” by Joe Besecker is the company’s first production produced with a full six week run. Sal Romeo ETC, is a non-profit corporation in California and is currently applying for tax-exempt status from the IRS. To learn more, please visit the website, www.salromeoetc.com.
SST Productions is governed by Board of Directors led by Marc Haupert, President (who serves as a Co-Producer of this production of “Tennessee in the Summer”) and Kurt Swanson, Managing Artistic Director (who serves as a Co-Producer of this production). SST Productions is a producing organization without a standing ensemble, which assembles appropriate teams for each performing arts endeavor; utilizing artists who may or may not be part of other companies or ensembles. The company has ties to and from the United Kingdom and Europe, and as such, includes international performers among their featured artists. Productions the company has produced include: the World Premieres of “Pop!’ by Anthony Mora,” “Tsuris” by Mark Troy, “Paging Dr. Chutzpah” by Mark Troy, “Modern Love” by Anthony Mora, “The Bitter Herbs” by Mark Troy and “Catwalk Confidential” by Robyn Peterson, presented at the International Edinburgh, to name a few. To learn more, please visit the website, www.sstproductions.org.
“Tennessee in the Summer”
Based on the life of TENNESEE WILLIAMS
Written by JOE BESECKER
Directed by SAL ROMEO
JACK HELLER, TAMARA BRAUN
LOUISE DAVIS, ROBERT STANDLEY & LISA THAYER
Fri/Sat 8pm & Sun 3pm
EXTENDED TO JUNE 10
Sidewalk Studio Theatre
4150 Riverside Drive
Burbank, CA 91505
More Info: 818-558-5702
Sponsors include: Los Angeles County Arts Commission & Safada Y Sano Productions