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Quintessence Theatre Group, Philadelphia’s professional classic theatre, continues Season XIII: Celebrating the Extraordinary with Clifford Odets’ American classic Waiting For Lefty. Directed by Kyle Haden, Waiting For Lefty remains an incendiary and revolutionary play about the growing pains of labor in capitalist America, and starts previews January 18, with an Opening Night Saturday, January 21 at 7:30 p.m. Visit www.QTGrep.org or call 215.987.4450 to purchase tickets.
Grab your picket sign and get ready to march! Later banned in Boston and New Haven, the first performance of Waiting for Lefty by the Group Theatre started a riot and made Odets America’s most popular playwright. Based on the New York 1934 strike of unionized taxi drivers, the mysterious disappearance of Lefty, the head of the strike committee, during a union meeting prompts a series of flashbacks that reveal the intensely personal reasons behind a group of taxi workers’ rallying call to action. With the fight for living wages and safe, equitable workplaces continuing to cause political debates, Clifford Odets’ iconic collage of the American working class illustrates the power of individual protest and the right to reform.
“Last summer I was randomly reading an article in the New York Times about working conditions in an Amazon warehouse in Long Island City – and the first thing that popped into my head was Clifford Odets and Waiting For Lefty,” said Haden, the play’s director. “My first introduction to Odets was a scene study class during my junior year in college and I’ve been fascinated with his work since then. I’ve always felt that he hasn’t gotten the recognition he deserved. It’s always exciting to me when a play written so long ago speaks directly to the times we’re living in, and that’s why I felt like I had to bring it to Alex and suggest it for Quintessence, a place that I know embraces classical work for contemporary audiences.”
Director Kyle Haden is an Artistic Associate and the former artistic director of the Ashland New Plays Festival in Oregon. Kyle is also a Senior Coordinating Producer with Black Lives, Black Words International Project, as well as a member of the 2021 cohort of artEquity’s BIPOC Leadership Circle. Kyle is currently an Assistant Professor of Acting at Carnegie Mellon University, where he also serves as the Senior Associate Head of the School of Drama.
“Our thirteenth season is a celebration of the “extraordinary” in theatre. When Odets’ Waiting For Lefty opened in New York it detonated upon the American Theatre, making many Americans reconsider the need for labor unions and the ideals of socialism. Theaters across America started to perform the passionate one act play as America continued to struggle to rebuild its economy following the great depression,” says Quintessence Artistic Director Alexander Burns. “As major corporations like Amazon and Starbucks fight off workers’ attempts to unionize, and the government battles inflation, we return to reflect on one of the great revolutionary plays of the American stage.”
Buzz Roddy* as Fatt (Awake and Sing!) returns to Quintessence. He is joined by Quintessence regulars Lee Cortopassi as Irv (King Lear, The Winter’s Tale, Mary Poppins), Michael Liebhauser as Dr. Benjamin (King Lear, The Cure at Troy), Rachel Brodeur as Fayette (Hamlet, She Stoops to Conquer, Diary of a Madman) and the return of Kimie Myroya as Miller (Julius Caesar, The Wild Duck). Quintessence welcomes Doug Harris* as Joe, Angelica Santiago* as Edna, Katherine Perry as Florrie, and Monroe Barrick as Dr. Barnes/Agate, all making their Quintessence debuts.
The production will include scenic design by Lindsay Furori, lighting design by Elizabeth Stewart, costume design by Zhang Yu, sound design by Chris Lane and props design by J. Bean Schwab.
Philadelphia native Clifford Odets was the signature playwright of the Group Theatre, and widely seen as the potential successor to Nobel Prize -winning playwright Eugene O’Neill. His works inspired the next several generations of American playwrights, and his 1935 “masterpiece” Awake and Sing! was the blockbuster success of Quintessence’s 9th season.
As we continue to live with COVID-19, Quintessence Theatre suggests that masks be worn inside the theater.
Founded in 2009, the award-winning Quintessence Theatre Group uses the classics to explore the fundamental question of what it is to be human in today’s world. Through intimate, visceral, and innovative productions of epic theatre, Quintessence pursues its vision to become the Delaware Valley’s center for progressive humanism and an engine for radical empathy through the classics.
General Admission tickets are $35 – $49.
Youth tickets (21 and under) are $20.
Tickets for active military service are $25.
Seniors (65 and over) receive $5 off the ticket price.
Upgrade to premium seats for an additional $10 per ticket.
STUDENT MATINEES: Weekday student matinees are available at a discounted student rate. To book your classroom’s visit, contact Educational Programs Manager Daniel Ciba at 215.987.4450, ext. 106, or Daniel@QTGrep.org.
GROUP SALES: Special rates are available for groups of over ten. For information on group sales, please contact the Box Office at 215.987.4450, ext. 1, or BoxOffice@QTGrep.org.
THEATRE FOR CHANGE! 7pm-9pm TUESDAYS JANUARY 24- FEBRUARY 14
Starting January 24, on Tuesday evenings, join our playreading class focused on the power of political theatre that will culminate in a discussion about Quintessence’s production of Waiting for Lefty. Playwright and theatre theorist Bertolt Brecht wrote, “Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.” Artist-activists have long used drama to educate, build community, and effect meaningful change. Reading and viewing a variety of 20th- and 21st-century texts including Clifford Odets’ Waiting for Lefty, a living newspaper, and a docudrama, we will explore theatre as a powerful tool for change. REGISTER AT: https://www.quintessencetheatre.org/adult-classes
POST-SHOW CONVERSATION SUNDAY JANUARY 29
Join Dr. Meghan Brodie, Associate Professor of Theater at Ursinus College, and Daniel Ciba, Director of Education, after the matinee to participate in a conversation about Clifford Odets, the New York Taxi Strike of 1934, and political theatre.
Meghan Brodie is Associate Professor of Theater, chair of the Department of Theater and Dance, and a faculty member in the Gender, Women’s, & Sexuality Studies program at Ursinus College. Meghan teaches dramatic literature, theatre history, and dramaturgy and also works as a director, dramaturg, and playwright. Meghan directed the English-language world premiere of In the Underworld, a darkly comic operetta written by Germaine Tillion while in the Ravensbrück concentration camp during WWII. Other directing credits include work by dramatists such as Sarah Ruhl, Charlotte Jones, Diana Son, Emma Donoghue, Angela Carter, Holly Hughes, and Paula Vogel. Meghan has previously written about queer casting and feminist directing, co-edited two anthologies of performance pieces written by LGBTQ youth and allies, and partnered with the Remember the Women Institute on several projects about women, theatre, and the Holocaust. She is currently writing a play, Claude & Marcel, about queer surrealist artists and Resistance fighters Lucy Schwob and Suzanne Malherbe. Meghan holds a Ph.D. from Cornell University.