1951-1960

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Plays

The Astronaut’s Chair

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Rona Munro's The Astronaut's Chair is a play about the race to be the first woman in space. The second of a proposed trilogy of plays about space exploration, it followed her earlier play Little Eagles (2011), about the engineer behind the Soviet space programme.

The Astronaut's Chair was commissioned by and first performed at the Drum Theatre, Plymouth, on 20 September 2012.

The play's protagonist, Renee Coburg (loosely based on pioneer woman aviator Jacqueline Cochran), is a gritty, glamorous aviator, the fastest, highest, bravest woman in the world. A self-made pilot, she battled against a poor childhood to fly planes in World War II. As America and the USSR enter the space race, she becomes determined to be the first woman to go into orbit. However, it won’t all be plain sailing as she faces stiff competition from an ambitious new rival. Jo Green is a determined, brilliant and much younger pilot with her eye on all Renee’s records. They both want to be the first woman in space but there’s only one chair at the top of the rocket.

The Drum Theatre production was directed by Simon Stokes and designed by Bob Bailey. The cast included Ingrid Lacey (as Renee Coburg), Tom Hodgkins, Jack Sandle, Eleanor Wyld and Amanda Ryan.

audio The Autumn Garden

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

A Chekhovian comedy from Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lillian Hellman about the sad and funny frailties of human existence. As the summer of 1949 draws to a close, a group of middle-aged friends are gathering for their annual retreat at a genteel Southern resort. An acquaintance from the past thrusts himself into the yearly gathering, forcing them to re-examine their mundane yet seemingly idyllic existence, the opportunities they’ve lost, and the lives that have passed them by.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring: Glenne Headly as Rose Griggs Julie Harris as Mrs. Mary Ellis David Clennon as General Benjamin Griggs Eric Stoltz as Edward Crossman Scott Wolf as Frederick Ellis Roxanne Hart as Carrie Ellis Tracy Middendorf as Sophie Tuckerman Jeronimo Spinx as Leon Gates McFadden as Constance Tuckerman David Selby as Nicholas Denery Mary Steenburgen as Nina Denery Lynne Marta as Hilda

Featuring: David Clennon, Julie Harris, Roxanne Hart, Glenne Headly, Lynne Marta, Gates McFadden, Tracy Middendorf, David Selby, Jeronimo Spinx, Mary Steenburgen, Eric Stoltz, Scott Wolf

audio Becket, or The Honor of God

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Waiting to be punished for his part in Becket's murder, King Henry II re-lives his deeply felt relationship with the saint, once his dearest friend and partner in unbridled decadence. His catastrophic mistake? To appoint Becket Archbishop - for Becket finds his allegiance shifting from king and country to God and Church.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Asher Book, Kevin Daniels, Ken Danziger, Jean Gilpin, Alan Mandell, Charlie Matthes, Tim Monsion, Denis O' Hare, Jennifer Rau-Ramirez, Simon Templeman, John Vickery, Douglas Westen and Greg Woodell.

Featuring: Asher Book, Kevin Daniels, Ken Danziger, Jean Gilpin, Alan Mandell, Charlie Matthes, Tim Monsion, Denis O' Hare, Jennifer Rau-Ramirez, Simon Templeman, John Vickery, Douglas Westen, Greg Woodell

audio The Best Man

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

This darkly satirical drama by Gore Vidal finds two presidential contenders seeking the endorsement of an aging ex-president, and explores how personal agendas can change the course of a nation's destiny. The political intrigues rampant in Vidal's 1960 setting are strangely similar what is going on today. Includes an interview with actors Fred Thompson and Marsha Mason.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Terrence Currier, Johnny Holliday, Naomi Jacobson, Timmy Ray James, Michael Kramer, Marsha Mason, Paul Morella, Kevin Murray, Judy Simmons, Gary Sloan and Fred Thompson.

Featuring: Terrence Currier, Johnny Holliday, Naomi Jacobson, Timmy Ray James, Michael Kramer, Marsha Mason, Paul Morella, Kevin Murray, Judy Simmons, Gary Sloan, Senator Fred Thompson

The Business of Good Government

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The Business of Good Government was written for and first performed in 1960 in the village of Brent Knoll, Somerset. Telling the traditional story of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, it focuses less on the divine and miraculous, and more on the geopolitical forces at play in Herod's kingdom.

Under threat of Roman invasion from the west and Persian invasion from the East, Herod is disconcerted to receive a party of Persian delegates, wise men, whom he fears are spies for his neighbour. Realising the threat that might come from a child born which might match and ancient prophecy, he issues an edict to slaughter all males aged under two-years-old.

In spite of this heinous crime, The Business of Good Government presents a not altogether unsympathetic portrait of that infamous king, in whom we can perhaps see echoes of calculated government policy in modern times.

Still, it is the goodness of Joseph and Mary, who parent a newborn, then bear it to safety out of a hostile kingdom, which shines through. The Business of Good Government is a traditional, if human, version of the story of Jesus' birth, and was first performed in Brent Knoll's Church of St. Michael, in 1960.

audio Bus Stop

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Upon hitting Broadway in 1955 Bus Stop was an immediate commercial & critical success. During a winter storm a busload of weary travelers are forced to shack up at a roadside diner until morning. Inge was renowned for his in-depth character studies, Bus Stop is no exception and offers a warm play about the intersecting lives of eight ordinary people.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Megan Anderson, Terrence Currier, Rachel Miner, Anson Mount, Kyle Prue, Lynnie Raybuck, Jefferson A. Russell and Gary Sloan.

Featuring: Megan Anderson, Terrence Currier, Rachel Miner, Anson Mount, Kyle Prue, Lynnie Raybuck, Jefferson A. Russell, Gary Sloan

Chicken Soup with Barley

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

This landmark state-of-the-nation play is a panoramic drama portraying the age-old battle between realism and idealism.

The kettle boils in 1936 as the fascists are marching. Tea is brewed in 1946, with disillusion in the air at the end of the war. In 1956, as rumours spread of Hungarian revolution, the cup is empty. Sarah Khan, an East End Jewish mother, is a feisty political fighter and a staunch communist. Battling against the State and her shirking husband, she desperately tries to keep her family together. Chicken Soup with Barley captures the collapse of an ideology alongside the disintegration of a family.

The play, the first in a trilogy with Roots and I'm Talking about Jerusalem, was first performed at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry in 1958.

Clybourne Park

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Bruce Norris's Clybourne Park is an acerbic satire tracing the fault line between race and property through the changing ownership of a property in Clybourne Street, central Chicago. It is also a witty riff on Lorraine Hansberry’s seminal 1959 drama A Raisin in the Sun, the first play by a black female playwright to run on Broadway.

Clybourne Park was first performed at Playwrights Horizons, New York City, on 21 February 2010.

The play is set in the interior of 'a modest three-bedroom bungalow, 406 Clybourne Street, in the near north-west of central Chicago'. In the opening act, set in 1959, Russ and Bev are moving out after a family tragedy. Their son committed suicide in the house, after going off the rails during the Korean War, and they are desperate to get out. They are selling the place for a knock-down price, which means that a black family will be moving in, much to the disquiet of neighbourhood resident Karl, who pops round to tell Bev and Russ – in front of the black maid Francine – that they are undermining property values. In the second act, set in 2009, the same property is being bought by Lindsey and Steve, a young white couple who want to build a new house on the same plot, but face hostility from the all-black residents' committee who are concerned that white newcomers will erase the cultural significance of the area.

Part of the power of Clybourne Park derives from how the events in the play intersect with those in Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. In the earlier play, the black Youngers plan to move into a white neighborhood when a character named Karl Lindner, a representative of the community association, offers to buy them out. In the first act of Clybourne Park, the same Karl Lindner tries to persuade the house’s white owners not to sell to a black family – the Youngers, it is assumed – out of fear of what that would do to the property values and the culture of the neighbourhood.

The Playwrights Horizons production was directed by Pam MacKinnon. It was performed by Frank Wood, Christina Kirk, Crystal A. Dickinson, Brendan Griffin, Damon Gupton, Jeremy Shamos and Annie Parisse. The production transferred to Broadway the following year.

The play received its European premiere at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, London, on 2 September 2010 (previews from 26 August), directed by Dominic Cooke and designed by Robert Innes Hopkins. It was performed by Steffan Rhodri, Sophie Thompson, Lorna Brown, Sam Spruell, Lucian Msamati, Martin Freeman, Sarah Goldberg and Michael Goldsmith.

This production received its West End premiere at the Wyndham’s Theatre, London, on 8 February 2011 (previews from 28 January), with some changes to the cast.

The play received numerous awards, including the London Evening Standard Award for Best Play, the Critics Circle Award for Best New Play, the Olivier Award for Best New Play, the Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

audio The Crucible

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Richard Dreyfuss and Stacy Keach star in this full-cast performance of Arthur Miller’s classic The Crucible, a central work in the canon of American drama.

In the rigid theocracy of Salem, Massachusetts, rumors that women are practicing witchcraft galvanize the town. In a searing portrait of a community engulfed by panic - with ruthless prosecutors, and neighbors eager to testify against neighbor - The Crucible famously mirrors the anti-Communist hysteria that held the United States in its grip in the 1950’s. A Tony Award Winner for Best Play. An L.A. Theatre Works full cast performance featuring: Richard Dreyfuss as Reverend John Hale Stacy Keach as John Proctor Ed Begley Jr. as Thomas Putnam Michael York as Reverend Parris Hector Elizondo as Giles Corey Irene Aranga as Mercy Lewis Rene Auberjonois as Deputy Governor Danforth Georgia Brown as Rebecca Nurse Jack Coleman as Marshal Herrick Bud Cort as Ezekiel Cheever Judyann Elder as Tituba Fionnula Flanagan as Elizabeth Proctor Ann Hearne as Susanna Walcott Carol Kane as Mary Warren Anna Sophie Loewenberg as Betty Parris Marian Mercer as Mrs. Ann Putnam Franklyn Seales as Judge Hathorne Madolyn Smith as Abigail Williams Joe Spano as Francis Nurse Directed by Martin Jenkins.

Featuring: Irene Aranga, Rene Auberjonois, Ed Begley Jr., Georgia Brown, Jack Coleman, Bud Cort, Richard Dreyfuss, Judyann Elder, Hector Elizondo, Fionnula Flanagan, Ann Hearne, Carol Kane, Stacy Keach, Anna Sophie Loewenberg, Marian Mercer, Franklyn Seales, Madolyn Smith, Joe Spano, Michael York,

The Cryptogram

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

One night in 1959, a boy, John, is preparing to go on a camping trip with his father. Getting his things ready, he listens to the conversations of his mother, Donny, and a family friend, Del. What unfolds is a mysterious drama of half-spoken sentences and semi-remembered moments all circling around an opaque instance of childhood grief.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Charles Spenser wrote that 'The Cryptogram powerfully pins down that moment when childish innocence gives way to adult knowledge, the moment when we recognise that the world can be a terryfying place. And as the meaning of Mamet's crypttogram sinks in, with its heart-rending depiction of our fall from grace, you find yourself assailtd by grief – both the author's and your own.'

The Cryptogram received its world premiere at the Ambassadors Theatre, London, on 29 June 1994. Its US premiere followed at the American Repertory Theatre, Massachusetts, on 2 February 1995.