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2007/08 Press Releases
Arden Theatre Company presents the WORLD PREMIERE of Wittenberg
By David Davalos Directed by J.R. Sullivan On the Arcadia Stage January 17 - March 16, 2008
Media Photos

December 13, 2007

Philadelphia, PA - Arden Theatre Company presents the world premiere of Wittenberg from January 17 through March 16. Wittenberg, the third mainstage production of the Arden's 20th Anniversary Season, is proudly sponsored by Fox Chase Bank. The entire 2007/08 season is sponsored by PNC Bank. Arden Theatre Company invites the public to share their stories as we celebrate 20 years in the Philadelphia region as a premiere venue for both experiencing and sharing meaningful narratives by visiting us online at www.ardentheatre.org.

Wittenberg tells the fictional story – based on actual historical events – of the advent of the Protestant Reformation. Set during late October of 1517 in what is now Germany, this smart, sprightly and audacious battle of wits features Wittenberg University professors Dr. John Faustus (a man of appetites), Dr. Martin Luther (a man of faith) and their student Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (a youth struggling not only with his beliefs but also with his tennis game). Playwright David Davalos brings us the story behind the stories in a witty, charming and accessible exploration of reason versus faith starring Philadelphia actors Scott Greer as Faustus and Greg Wood as Luther.

Wittenberg marks the 28th world premiere at the Arden and the 13th play under the auspices of The Independence New Play Showcase. Launched in 1999, the New Play Showcase generates support for the creation and development of new works of American theatre. Through this program, the Arden seeks to stage at least one world premiere production each season and to conduct a series of workshops of new work that culminates in free public readings. The following are examples of past productions that have been developed through the Showcase: Dex and Julie Sittin' in a Tree (by Bruce Graham); The Dinosaur Musical (by Robert and Willie Reale); Opus (by Michael Hollinger), and Baby Case (by Michael Ogborn).

Wittenberg is also a recipient of the Edgerton Foundation New American Plays Award, established this year, providing funding for theatres with a track record of producing new work. Grants allow theatres to add rehearsal time for new plays with the full creative and production team. The foundation's hope is that more development time in rehearsal will contribute to stronger first productions. The Arden is one of 22 theatres honored with a grant this year and allowed the addition of one extra week of rehearsal, an incredible benefit in producing a world premiere.

Playwright David Davalos commented, "I was always intrigued by imaginary meetings between historical figures. There was a PBS show called Meeting of the Minds hosted by Steve Allen that I loved as a kid. The format was a chat show featuring actors impersonating famous people from history, all meeting together and talking. The inspiration for Wittenberg came from observing that Shakespeare cited Hamlet studying at Wittenberg University; playwright Christopher Marlowe placed Doctor Faustus on staff; and history had Martin Luther preaching and launching the Protestant Reformation there. As I considered the implications of those connections, I became fascinated with the idea of those three personalities joining at Wittenberg at the same time – a man of God, a man rebelling against God, and a young man searching for moral guidance – and how they might interact and clash in the period leading up to the stories that we already know of them."

Davalos continued, "I saw in this idea an opportunity both to have fun in telling this untold backstory and to explore the central conflict of reason versus faith as it related to these characters and as it continues to relate to us today. In many ways, this conflict is one of the most compelling dilemmas our current age faces. It is my hope that my play can raise questions about reason and faith for the audience in a thoughtful, entertaining way."

The Arden was drawn to Wittenberg for its audacious depiction of these familiar figures as well as for its dazzling use of language and rhythm – a significant portion of the text is in iambic pentameter. This production is the prequel to many famous events, both historical and literary. Said Davalos, "This is where, in my mind at least, Hamlet becomes the Prince of Denmark; where Faustus eschews human connection and where Luther finally gets his 95 Theses, hammer and nails ready to roll."

David Davalos, writer, director, actor and corporate communications consultant, lives outside Denver, Colorado with his wife Elaine and their 18-month old daughter, Delphi. Davalos is a graduate of the University of Texas and Ohio University. Some of his other plays include Daedalus: A Fantasia of Leonardo Da Vinci (which premiered at the Arden during the 2002/03 season); New Yorick, New Yorick (a conflation of Hamlet with Death of a Salesman); Johnnius Caerson (a verse account of the Late Night TV Wars); and Darkfall (a modern sequel to Paradise Lost).

J.R. Sullivan, a nationally renown theatre director, helms the production of Wittenberg, his first-ever appearance at the Arden. Sullivan has directed for numerous prestigious theaters throughout the country including the Northlight Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, American Players Theatre, The Studio Theatre in Washington D.C. and The Pearl Theatre in New York City. Sullivan has been working with the Utah Shakespearean Festival as the Associate Artistic Director since 2002. Additionally, he is credited with the founding of the New American Theater in Rockford, Illinois, where he served as the producing director until 1994.

Elizabeth Covey rounds out the Wittenberg team as costume designer and brings much lauded national experience to the production. Covey is the author of The Costume Technician's Handbook, the quintessential costuming textbook used extensively in professional theatre training programs across the country.

The final dress rehearsal of Wittenberg is scheduled for Wednesday, January 16 at 8pm and is open to the public as a Pay-What-You-Can performance, with all proceeds donated to the Philadelphia branch of The English Speaking Union of the United States, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that promotes scholarship and the advancement of knowledge through the effective use of English in an expanding global community.

Wittenberg previews run Thursday, January 17 through Tuesday, January 22. Opening night is Wednesday, January 23 at 7pm. Wittenberg then plays through Sunday, March 16, 2008.

The Arden is wheelchair accessible and provides assisted listening devices and large-print programs at every performance. Reservations are required for accessible seating and may be made by calling the Arden Box Office at 215.922.1122. Captioned and audio-described performances are scheduled for Saturday, March 8 at 8pm and Sunday, March 9 at 2pm.

Tickets are $27-$45 depending on the performance chosen, with group discounts available for 10 or more people. Call the Arden Box Office at 215.922.1122, visit www.ardentheatre.org or stop by our box office at 40 N. 2nd Street in Philadelphia. Three-show mainstage subscriptions are also still available and offer the greatest discount on tickets, parking and restaurant partner discounts, and easy and convenient ticket exchanges.

WHAT:
Wittenberg   WORLD PREMIERE
By David Davalos
Directed by J.R. Sullivan

SUMMARY:
A smart, sprightly and audacious examination of reason versus faith between Dr. Martin Luther and Dr. John Faustus at the University of Wittenberg in 1517 culminating in the advent of the Protestant Reformation.

WHERE:
Arden Theatre Company
Arcadia Stage
40 N. 2nd Street, Old City Philadelphia

WHEN:
January 17 - March 16, 2008
Pay What You Can final dress rehearsal January 16
Preview performances: January 17 – January 22
Opening night: 7pm Wednesday, January 23*

TICKETS:
$27-$45 for adults depending on the performance chosen. Group discounts available for 10+. Student Rush tickets at the door only five minutes before curtain for $5 cash, pending availability (must present valid student ID). Call the Box Office at 215.922.1122 or visit www.ardentheatre.org.

*PRESS:
Reviewing members of the press are invited to attend the opening night performance on Wednesday, January 23 at 7pm. Please schedule tickets through Beth Yeagle, at 215.922.8900 x22 or byeagle@ardentheatre.org

CAST:
Shawn Fagan (resident of New York, NY) as Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
Scott Greer (resident of Philadelphia, PA) as Dr. John Faustus
Kate Udall (resident of New York, NY) as The Eternal Feminine
Greg Wood (resident of Philadelphia, PA) as Dr. Martin Luther

CREW:
J.R. Sullivan - Director
Michael Philippi - Set and Lighting Design
Elizabeth Covey - Costume Design
Jorge Cousineau - Sound Design
Patricia G. Sabato - Production Stage Manager

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©2009 Arden Theatre Company, 40 N. 2nd St., Philadelphia, PA 19106. For tickets, call 215.922.1122.
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