Lantern Theater Company is thrilled to launch its 2022/23 Mainstage Season with Tom Stoppard’s Tony Award-winning comic masterpiece, Travesties. Lantern Artistic Director Charles McMahon directs an ensemble cast of Philadelphia actors including David Bardeen, Leonard C. Haas, Morgan Charéce Hall, Gregory Isaac, Dave Johnson, Anthony Lawton, Lee Minora, and Campbell O’Hare. Travesties runs Thursday, September 8 through Sunday, October 9, 2022, at St. Stephen’s Theater, the Lantern’s resident venue; a complete schedule of performances and audience enrichment events is included in the fact sheet below. To ensure a safe and comfortable theater experience, everyone other than the actors on stage are required to wear properly fitted masks while attending Travesties.
Travesties marks the Lantern’s sixth production by legendary British playwright Tom Stoppard, including Hapgood (2018), Arcadia (2014), Heroes (2013), Rough Crossing (1998), and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1997). Travesties is a madcap comedy about art, memory, revolution, and the stories we tell to and about ourselves. Like the art and political movements with which it gleefully plays, Stoppard’s play takes a host of influences and turns them into something utterly new, set to the rhythms of the music hall and against the backdrop of the war that should have ended all wars.
Travesties finds legendary writer James Joyce, Romanian poet Tristan Tzara, and Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin all living in World War I-era Zürich in 1917. Joyce is working on his masterpiece Ulysses, Tzara is pioneering the Dadaist movement, and Lenin is planning the Bolshevik Revolution. Stoppard’s protagonist, Henry Carr, is an obscure British diplomat who has been asked by James Joyce to play the lead role of Algernon in a production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. Travesties’ plot is a delightful parallel to the story of Wilde’s timeless comedy. Carr and Tzara are both in love with Cecily and Gwendolyn, who are both in love with someone named Jack. Soon everyone in neutral Switzerland is at war over the question, “What does it mean to be an artist and a revolutionary?”
Stoppard’s play asks audiences to consider the purpose of art and the artist in society – especially in times of war and turmoil. Stoppard wrote: “In an age when the difference between prince and peasant was thought to be in the stars…art was naturally an affirmation for the one and a consolation to the other; but we live in an age when the social order is seen to be the work of material forces and we have been given an entirely new kind of responsibility, the responsibility of changing society…No, no, no, no, no…art doesn’t change society, it is merely changed by it.”
The original production of Travesties was produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company in London before transferring to Broadway and winning the 1976 Tony Award for Best Play. The 2018 Broadway revival was nominated for four Tony Awards, including a nomination for Best Play. Stoppard said of his play, “I speak on behalf of the world of the artist without hesitation! People don’t realize that the part of the playwright is finding something for people to talk about.”
“To work on a play by Tom Stoppard is to enter into his obsessions and share them for months at a time,” said Lantern Artistic Director Charles McMahon, who will direct the Lantern’s production of Travesties. “All of his works are radically different from one another in style, tone, and genre, but core themes emerge that tie them all together as the life’s work of a mind on a mission to tease some pattern out of a chaotic world.”
Lantern Theater Company will delve into the themes and history surrounding Travesties on its Lantern Searchlight blog, available online at lanterntheater.org/searchlight. Articles will be published throughout the production’s run, exploring the play’s historical figures, the effect of World War I on the arts, artists and revolutionaries in neutral Switzerland, and more.
Tickets for Travesties are $25 – $42 and are available online at www.lanterntheater.orgor by calling the Lantern Box Office at (215) 829-0395. Discounts are available for students, seniors 65 and up, U.S. military personnel, and groups of 10 or more. All performances of Travesties will take place at St. Stephen’s Theater, located at 923 Ludlow Street in Center City Philadelphia. During the 2022/23 season, the Lantern will announce updated health and safety guidelines 30 days prior to the start of each production. For Travesties, everyone other than the actors on stage must wear properly fitted masks at all times in all parts of the Lantern performance venue, including the lobby, performance space, restrooms, and stairwells. More detailed information is available at lanterntheater.org/health-and-safety.
About the Artists
Travesties director Charles McMahon co-founded Lantern Theater Company in 1994 and serves as artistic director in addition to directing, writing, and acting for the company. McMahon has directed all but one of the Lantern’s annual Shakespeare productions, including productions of Othello (shuttered after one preview performance in March 2020 due to Covid-19), Measure for Measure, The Tempest, and Coriolanus. Other Lantern directing credits include The Plague, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, As You Like It, The Taming of the Shrew, Henry V, New Jerusalem, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, La Ronde (also translator and adapter), Richard III, The Comedy of Errors, Much Ado About Nothing, King Lear, The House of Bernarda Alba, and A Doll’s House. Recent acting credits include reprising the role of Heisenberg in Copenhagen, and writing credits include Oscar Wilde: From the Depths and co-creating an original adaptation of Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales.
The ensemble cast of Travesties include David Bardeen as Bennett (Othello, Red Velvet, Coriolanus), Leonard C. Haas as Henry Carr (The Heir Apparent, Vigil), Morgan Charéce Hall as Gwendolen (A Man for All Seasons), Gregory Isaac (Fabulation, or The Re-Education of Undine; A Man for All Seasons; The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens & Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord), Dave Johnson as Tristan Tzara (The Tempest, The Heir Apparent, The Hound of the Baskervilles), Anthony Lawton as James Joyce (Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, A Man for All Seasons, The Plague, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui), Lee Minora as Nadya (The Last Match, The Heir Apparent, Don’t Dress for Dinner), and Campbell O’Hare as Cecily (Othello).
The creative team includes scenic designer Nick Embree (Molly Sweeney, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, Hapgood), costume designer Marla Jurglanis (Me and the Devil, Othello, The Heir Apparent), lighting designer Drew Billiau (Othello, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, Measure for Measure), and sound designer Christopher Colucci (Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol; A Man for All Seasons; The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens & Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord; The Plague; Molly Sweeney). Maria Carroll is assistant director and Rebecca Smith is the stage manager.