(WASHINGTON, DC) Whimsy, wit, and wordplay sparkle in Susanna Centlivre’s The Gaming Table, the second play of Folger Theatre’s 2011/12 season. With new material by playwright David Grimm, the play is adapted from the 1705 hit The Basset Table by Centlivre, one of 18th-century London's most popular playwrights. An independent-minded widow with a penchant for gambling holds a nightly card game, teeming with revelers and rakes. Four sets of lovers play reckless games of intrigue as well as cards, gambling with their chances, staking their pride, hazarding their hearts, and revealing their secret desires for the chance to win it all.
The Gaming Table is on stage January 24 – March 4, 2012 at Folger Theatre. Tickets are $39-$65—with lower-priced previews and discounts for groups of ten or more—and may be purchased at the Folger Theatre box office, 202.544.7077, or online at www.folger.edu/theatre.
Director Eleanor Holdridge leads an extraordinary all-female design team, including set designer Marion Williams, costume designer Jessica Ford, lighting designer Nancy Schertler, and sound designer Veronika Vorel.
Strong female characters are at the center of Susanna Centlivre’s The Gaming Table. Each is written to showcase individuality and depth. And they want it all: independence and love. From Lady Reveller’s joy in running her gaming house, to Lady Lucy’s politically-charged desire to reform, to the insouciant Mrs. Sago’s love of gambling, the women vie for what they want even when it’s against the wishes of their loved ones. And they are matched by a host of idiosyncratic men, who also must risk their hearts and pride and sense of self to capture the hearts and hands of their ladies.
“In Centlivre’s deft hands, each woman is differentiated from the others in a way that is completely unusual for the period,” said director Eleanor Holdridge. “The women have their own stakes, their own voices. From the scientist to the reformer to the gamer, each woman strives to get her goal and get her man. Centlivre walks a tightrope, I believe, in creating a romantic comedy, while ensuring that the women are not simply ciphers of the men they marry, but independent thinkers in their own right who find love without compromising other ambitions.”
“The Gaming Table is very much a play for today,” said Holdridge. “It’s about a tiny privileged class at the top spending scads of money on play and fun while the majority below can be ruined in their attempt to live the lifestyle of the rich and famous.” The issues of class and income equality make headlines today, but the problems have plagued the public throughout history.
Working with acclaimed playwright David Grimm (Measure for Pleasure, Kit Marlowe), Holdridge has adapted Centlivre’s The Basset Table into The Gaming Table. “We simply polished and refined Centlivre’s already witty prose,” said Holdridge. “David has created a new prologue and epilogue, updating the original play’s period in-jokes while keeping the intent and sense of verse. In our collaboration, we have ventured to add an additional layer of luster to an already shining work and forge a play for today with contemporary parallels.”
“In creating the world of the play, I wanted to get the sense of the modern day casino even while integrating it with the world of the Restoration—that sense of entering a world and never knowing what time of day it is, or how to get out,” said Holdridge. “Set designer Marion Williams and I looked at M.C. Escher prints, and a labyrinthine world of staircases and pattern began to emerge. Jessica Ford has created a period silhouette with contemporary embellishments, looking at the period costume along with what the über-rich of America are wearing today. Nancy Schiertler (lights) and Veronika Vorel (sound) have created a world in which the audience can imagine that a game is always going on in another room—where the gleam of gold and the sound of the game are always around the action—just out of reach.”
The Gaming Table is presented as part of Folger Shakespeare Library’s spring 2012 Celebration of 1,000 Years of Women Writers, which also includes readings by contemporary poets and authors, lectures, music by female composers, and the exhibit Shakespeare’s Sisters: Voices of English and European Women Writers, 1500-1700. For a complete schedule of events, please visit www.folger.edu/womenwriters.
On Sunday, February 5 at 2pm, Eleanor Holdridge joins Dr. Georgianna Ziegler, Folger Shakespeare Library’s head of reference and curator of its exhibition Shakespeare’s Sisters, in discussing Centlivre’s theatrical legacy. The talk, entitled Women On Stage: A Conversation about Susanna Centlivre, will be held at the National Museum of Women in the Arts (1250 New York Ave. NW, Washington, DC). The event is free, and tickets may be reserved by calling 202.783.5000 or e-mailing email@example.com. Museum admission is also free on the first Sunday of every month, and brunch is available in the Museum Café.
ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHTS:
A celebrity of the early 18th century with a hit on the London stage almost every year, Susanna Centlivre was the author of at least sixteen plays and numerous poems. Accounts of Centlivre’s early years are an intriguing array of rumors and hearsay, but once in London she became a well-known dramatist and respectable wife of a royal cook. She was born circa 1669.
Arriving in London in 1700, she began her illustrious career. In that year her first play, The Perjured Husband, was produced at Drury Lane. Over the next few years, she had three more plays produced, as well as several letters published. Her first popular success, The Gamester, was produced in 1705, as was The Basset Table (adapted here as The Gaming Table). In addition to writing several more plays, during the following year Centlivre acted with a troupe in a performance of her play at Windsor Court, where she met Joseph Centlivre, who had a minor position at court. After their marriage in 1707, she wrote three of her most favored plays—The Busy Body, The Wonder, and A Bold Stroke for a Wife. Along with The Gamester, these hit plays continued in popularity long after Centlivre’s death and were produced both in Europe and the United States well into the 19th century.
Playwright David Grimm updated the prologue and epilogue of Centlivre’s original play, replacing dated references with more current ones, while keeping the spirit of the original text. He also revised and adapted the rhyming couplets and quatrains that punctuate the end of each scene. He is the author of the plays Measure for Pleasure (Bug ’n Bub Award, GLAAD Award nomination); Kit Marlowe (GLAAD Award nomination); The Miracle at Naples (2009 IRNE Best New Play Award); The Learned Ladies of Park Avenue; Sheridan, or Schooled in Scandal; Chick; and Steve & Idi. His plays have been staged by Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Rorschach Theatre, the Public Theatre/NY Shakespeare Festival, Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, Hartford Stage, Huntington, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Theatreworks, and others.
ABOUT THE DIRECTOR:
Director Eleanor Holdridge makes her Folger Theatre debut with The Gaming Table. She is Head of the MFA Directing program at Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. Holdridge is the co-founder and former artistic director of Philadelphia’s Red Heel Theatre, which specialized in Restoration comedy, and has also served as a resident assistant director at Shakespeare Theatre Company and resident director at New Dramatists. Recently in the DC area, she directed Something You Did at Theater J, an all-female Much Ado About Nothing at Taffety Punk Theatre Company, and Pygmalion at Everyman Theatre. As a freelance director, she has directed numerous productions at Shakespeare & Company, Perseverance Theatre, Milwaukee Shakespeare, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis, Shakespeare on the Sound, Philadelphia Shakespeare Festival, and Portland Stage Company. Off-Broadway she directed David Grimm's Steve & Idi at Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre, Cycling Past the Matterhorn at Clurman Theatre, and The Imaginary Invalid and Mary Stuart at The Pearl Theatre Company. A Baltimore area native, she holds an MFA from Yale University School of Drama.
ABOUT THE CAST:
Julie Jesneck, making her Folger Theatre debut, leads the cast as Lady Reveller. She has appeared on Broadway in Rock ‘N Roll and Off-Broadway in Tricks the Devil Taught Me at Minetta Lane, Walls at Cherry Lane, Romania and Kiss Me! at The Play Company, and Abu Ghraib Triptych at The Ensemble Studio Theatre. She received a Henry Award for her work in The Trip to Bountiful at The Denver Center for the Performing Arts and was in the world premiere of IN at Pioneer Theatre Company.
Michael Milligan makes his Folger Theatre debut as Sir James Courtly after previously appearing at Shakespeare Theatre Company in The Taming of the Shrew, The Alchemist, Love’s Labor’s Lost, and Don Juan. He appeared on Broadway in La Bête, August Osage County, and Jerusalem, all at Music Box Theatre. He has also performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and in Love’s Labor’s Lost with Royal Shakespeare Company.
Michael Willis plays Sir Richard Plainman, the no-nonsense uncle of Lady Reveller. He has been a Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company member since 1985. He previously appeared at Folger Theatre in Melissa Arctic. A five-time Helen Hayes Award nominee, he received the award for Outstanding Lead Actor for his work in The Boys Next Door at Round House Theatre. He had a recurring role on television’s The Wire, and he appeared in four episodes of Law & Order.
Tonya Beckman Ross plays Mrs. Sago, the common woman who borrows heavily to gamble with the society crowd. She previously appeared at Folger Theatre in The Game of Love and Chance and As You Like It. She has also appeared at Shakespeare Theatre Company, The Studio Theatre, Round House Theatre, Olney Theatre Center, The Kennedy Center, Theater J, Ford’s Theatre, and Taffety Punk Theatre Company, where she is a company member. Darius Pierce plays Mr. Sago, the doting husband of Mrs. Sago. He previously appeared at Folger Theatrein last season’s production of The Comedy of Errors as Dromio of Ephesus. He received a Drammy Award for Lead Actor for his performance in The Beard of Avon at Portland Center Stage, where he also appeared in Misalliance, Twelfth Night, Frost/Nixon, and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, among others.
Emily Trask plays Valeria, a woman more wrapped up in her scientific experiments than in card games. She has performed in numerous shows at Utah Shakespeare Festival, as well as at Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Pioneer Theatre Company, Next Act Theatre Company, Montana Shakespeare in the Parks, and Yale Repertory Theatre. Robbie Gay plays Ensign Lovely, an infantry officer of the lowest rank who shares Valeria’s passion for science and hopes for a place in her heart. He performed in The 39 Steps, Barefoot in the Park, and Sylvia during Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy. He has also performed with The Lost Colony, Cape Fear Regional Theatre, Temple Theatre, and California Theatre Center, among others.
Marcus Kyd plays Lord Worthy, a suitor for Lady Reveller. He has appeared at Folger Theatre in 1 Henry IV and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He is a member of Taffety Punk Theatre Company and has also been seen on stage at Round House Theatre, Arena Stage, Theater J, and The Kennedy Center,
Ashley Ivey and Emily Townley play Buckle and Alpiew, servants to Lady Reveller and her uncle. Mr. Ivey has appeared in numerous shows at Constellation Theatre Company and Actors Theatre of Washington and in Mad Forest at Forum Theatre and 1984 and The Trial at Catalyst Theater Company. He also appeared in Wilder, The Late Henry Moss, and Thief River at the Contemporary American Theater Festival. Ms. Townley previously appeared in Folger Theatre’s 2000 production of The Tempest. She is a member of the resident acting company at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company where she has appeared in Bright New Boise, House of Gold, Maria/Stuart, Spain, Fuddy Meers, Wonder of the World, and Watbanaland. She has also been seen at The Studio Theatre, Everyman Theatre, Rep Stage, Round House Theatre, MetroStage, and The Kennedy Center.
Michael Glenn plays Captain Hearty, a sea captain who finds all of the inhabitants of Lady Reveller’s world rather curious. He appeared at Folger Theatre in Henry VIII, Hamlet, Arcadia, Twelfth Night, and Elizabeth the Queen. He has also been seen at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Theater J, The Kennedy Center Theater for Young Audiences, Constellation Theatre Company, Signature Theatre, Washington Stage Guild, and African Continuum Theatre.
Katie deBuys plays Lady Lucy, who is opposed to gambling and loose morals. She appeared locally in In the Next Room or the vibrator play at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company and in Aladdin’s Luck at Imagination Stage.
ABOUT THE CREATIVE TEAM:
Marion Williams, recipient of a 2004 Princess Grace Award for Design, has designed a beautiful M.C. Escher-inspired set filled with upside-down and right-side-up staircases, hinting at the maze-like quality of Las Vegas casinos. Locally, her work has been seen at Round House Theatre in ReEntry and 26 Miles. She has also designed sets for Centerstage, Cincinnati Ballet, The Juilliard School, The Old Globe, Sacramento Theatre Company, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, Two River Theater Company, Mint Theater Company, and Women’s Project Theatre.
Costume designer Jessica Ford returns to Folger Theatre where she previously designed costumes for Orestes, A Tragic Romp. She recently designed costumes for Arena Stage’s production of The Fantastics. Her work has also been seen at Centerstage, Long Wharf Theatre, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Yale Repertory Theatre, Portland Center Stage, Shakespeare & Company, Two River Theater Company, and Actors Theatre of Louisville, among others.
Lighting designer Nancy Schertler previously worked at Folger Theatre on productions of Twelfth Night and The Clandestine Marriage. For Arena Stage, she designed lights for At Home at the Zoo, The Fantasticks, A View from the Bridge, Frankie and Johnny at the Clare de Lune, and She Loves Me. Her work has also been seen in Theater J’s The Chosen, The Kennedy Center’s Barrio Grrl, and Ford’s Theatre’s State of the Union. Her work has also been seen at American Conservatory Theatre, McCarter Theatre, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Philadelphia Theatre Company, and Portland Center Stage, and Off-Broadway at Classic Stage Company and Signature Theatre Company.
Three-time Helen Hayes Award nominee Veronika Vorel previously designed sound at Folger Theatre for Cyrano, Arcadia, and 1 Henry IV. Her work has also been heard locally at Shakespeare Theatre Company, Ford’s Theatre, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Signature Theatre, Theater J, and Round House Theatre.
Michele Osherow is the resident dramaturg, and Che Wernsman is the production stage manager. Janet Alexander Griffin is Folger Theatre’s Artistic Producer and Director of Public Programs at the Folger Shakespeare Library.
TIMES: Tuesdays-Thursdays at 7:30pm; Fridays at 8pm; Saturdays at 2pm & 8pm; and Sundays at 2pm & 7pm.
LOCATION: Folger Theatre at Folger Shakespeare Library, 201 East Capitol Street, SE, Washington, DC 20003
• Pay What You Can – Tuesday, January 24 at 7:30pm; tickets on sale at the Folger box office one hour prior to performance, cash only
• College Night – Friday, February 3 at 8pm; $10 tickets with valid student ID, subject to availability
• Pre-Show Talk – Wednesday, February 8 at 6:30pm ($15, includes light fare reception); An insightful discussion about the play with Folger Director Michael Witmore
• Post-Show Talk with Cast – Thursday, February 16 following 7:30pm performance
• Open-Captioned Performance – Sunday, February 26 at 2pm, call the box office at 202.544.7077 for more info