‘Lear,’ ‘Tempest’ and John Douglas Thompson as Louis Armstrong Top Shakespeare & Company’s 2012 Summer Season

John Douglas Thompson will portray Louis Armstrong and Joe Glaser in 'Satchmo at the Waldorf' in summer 2012

(LENOX, Mass., January 10, 2012) – Olympia Dukakis will play Prospero in The Tempest; Dennis Krausnick will play the title role of King Lear; and Broadway star John Douglas Thompson will play both Louis Armstrong and his manager, Joe Glaser, in a new play about the jazz trumpeter called Satchmo at the Waldorf written by theater critic and jazz historian Terry Teachout and directed by Gordon Edelstein in Shakespeare & Company’s 35th anniversary season, which artistic director Tony Simotes declared the season of “revolution and rebellion” at a press conference this morning.

Tickets for the 2012-2013 Performance Season may be purchased on or after February 14 on-line at Shakespeare & Company or by calling the Box Office at 413.637.3353, or in person at the box office at 70 Kemble Street in Lenox. Full calendar, casting, and events listings will be available February 14.

Founders’ Theatre, the Company’s 413-seat Mainstage, hosts four shows for its 2012 summer season with The Tempest, directed by Tony Simotes and starring Academy Award-winning actress Olympia Dukakis as Prospero, who will be joined by her brother, Apollo Dukakis, who will play Gonzalo. Simotes called Dukakis one of his two female mentors, the other being founding artistic director Tina Packer. The cast of The Tempest also includes Rocco Sisto, who reinvents his Caliban (this three time OBIE Award-winner and Shakespeare & Company founding member played Caliban in a past production at Shakespeare & Company) and Kristin Wold, who will reprise her role as Ariel which she played here in 2001. This production of The Tempest will be set in the 1940s.

OBIE Award winner John Douglas Thompson returns to Shakespeare & Company after a one-year hiatus in a new one-man show titled Satchmo at the Waldorf – the Northeast premiere of famed drama critic and award-winning writer Terry Teachout’s fascinating, provocative and definitive play about musician Louis Armstrong, directed by Gordon Edelstein, artistic director of the esteemed Long Wharf Theatre.

Rebecca Holderness will direct 'King Lear'

King Lear, Shakespeare’s timeless familial drama about a misguided monarch and his descent into madness, is directed by Rebecca Holderness and stars Shakespeare & Company founding member and Director of Training Dennis Krausnick with Apollo Dukakis playing Gloucester and Kevin Coleman returns to reprise his critically acclaimed performance of the Fool – a role he portrayed in the company’s production in 2003. This is the second production of King Lear at Shakespeare & Company in the Company’s 35-year history ten, and one that will stand alongside the company’s other touted productions of Shakespeare’s classic tragedies. Krausnick directed Olympia Dukakis as Lear in Shakespeare & Company’s 1998 production of The Lear Project. This summer’s Lear will be set in the final days of Czarist Russia in 1906.

Rounding out Founders’ season is the enigmatic time warp Endurance, a collaborative effort between Shakespeare & Company and the Split Knuckle Theatre and its founder Michael F. Toomey. Endurance, starring Toomey, transcends time and space to make a larger statement about human desperation and the will to survive as it parallels Shakelton’s adventures with contemporary business world.

The Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre, the 197-seat theatre and part of the Bernstein Center for the Performing Arts, will play host to Red by John Logan and starring Elliot Norton award-winning actor Jonathan Epstein. The Allergist’s Wife features another Elliot Norton award-winning actress with Annette Miller in the lead role; and Norman Plotkin’s beautifully crafted one-woman play Cassandra Speaks stars Tod Randolph as she pays tribute to the late Dorothy Thompson, the controversial American journalist and radio broadcaster, who gave her voice to many major events of the 20th century.

Elizabeth Aspenlieder will star in 'Parasite Drag' in summer 2012

Following on its heels will be the East Coast premiere of Mark Roberts’s dark comedy Parasite Drag. Roberts’s hard hitting tragic-comedy about a family’s reconciliation in the wake of an untimely death, features Jason Asprey and yet another Elliot Norton award-winner, Elizabeth Aspenlieder. Parasite Drag had a staged reading in the Shakespeare & Company’s popular Studio Festival last September.

The 35th Anniversary Gala will take place on June 30. Guest artists this season include voice teacher Kristen Linklater, choreographer Susan Dibble, and fight director B.H. Barry, for an engaging and insightful lecture series, as they look back at the early days of the company and how they helped shape their current, thriving theatre careers. This season will also feature several veteran Shakespeare & Company actors, designers and directors, including actors Elizabeth Aspenlieder, Jason Asprey, Kevin G. Coleman, Jonathan Croy, Jonathan Epstein, Malcolm Ingram, Annette Miller, and Tod Randolph. Costume Designers Arthur Oliver, Govane Lohbauer and sound designers and composers Scott Killian and Bill Barclay, as well as set designers Patrick Brennan and Sandra Goldmark and many other Shakespeare & Company favorites will be on hand to celebrate the 35th anniversary.

Shakespeare & Company artistic director Tony Simotes

“I am beyond thrilled to see Shakespeare & Company into its 35th Season,” said Simotes, “From the perspective of someone who witnessed first hand the beginnings of our Company, it is astonishing to look back at what we’ve achieved. I am proud to say that we are at the forefront of actor training and education programs in terms of objective and scope, and paired with our unparallel productions we’ve developed a recipe over 35 years that will sustain us for the next 35 — and the next 35 after that. It is a tremendous privilege to be Shakespeare & Company’s Artistic Director during this exciting time, and I feel that we’ve compiled a riveting and daring list of productions this season that not only reflect the best of what Shakespeare & Company has to offer, but will take us to the next level.”

“To have Academy award winning actress, friend and mentor Olympia Dukakis on hand for our 35th is personally thrilling, and I know that sentiment will be shared by our patrons. Beyond her obvious talent, Olympia is a fearless artist that brings so much to a production. Her magnetism heightens our work as directors and actors; her influence in the rehearsal room makes every actor’s work richer and deeper. She has an unmatched ability to turn 16th Century verse on its head and makes its relevance vividly apparent. I’m also very excited Olympia’s brother Apollo will be joining our repertoire along with many other talented and long time Company actors – I can’t wait to see what happens as begin rehearsals. It’s assured to be an exciting ride.”

Simotes also noted that this summer’s play schedule will resemble that of other Berkshire summer theaters, in that its plays will not be running in repertory all summer long, but rather will have specific runs with openings and closings, based on the limited availability of marquee performers such as Olympia Dukakis and John Douglas Thompson.


2012 Summer Season At A Glance

Founders’ Theatre:

King Lear
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Rebecca Holderness
Featuring: Dennis Krausnick as King Lear, Kevin Coleman as the Fool, Apollo Dukakis as Gloucester, others TBA.

Founders’ Theatre: Mid-June through Mid-August. Specific dates TBA February 14th.

For the first time in almost ten years, Shakespeare & Company will be bringing King Lear to the Mainstage, this time with Director of Training and Founding Member Dennis Krausnick as the misguided monarch. Holderness sets Lear in Russia, 1906 on the verge of the revolution where ancient monarchy, in fact the last monarchy, was about to crumble. Lear tells the story of a king who foolishly attempts to divide his land between his daughters based on how eloquently (in actuality, disingenuously) they express their love for him. When his youngest and most beloved daughter refuses to partake in the charade, she is disinherited. The play unfolds as Lear regresses into sickness and strife over his mistake, ultimately severing the unity he intended to uphold. To this day, King Lear remains one of the most profound tales of regret and the indelible connection of family in the English language.

Tony Simotes, founding artistic director Tina Packer, and John Douglas Thompson enjoy a light moment

“Setting Lear in Russia at this time puts the family struggle into a political context,” says Holderness. “It’s a contemporary time setting but has the same ritual deepness of an ancient culture. Dennis is very familiar with this period in history with his body of Wharton adaptations and is steeped in the political, philosophical and intellectual climate of that time. The piece has a lot of musicality to it as well as a physically which will create the chaos of a country moving towards war. The use of music & sound supports the interior landscape of Lear’s journey – the wonderful Bill Barclay will do the music which will be underscored by the talented Tanglewood Music composers as they embrace the eastern European sound – this was a brilliant period for composers of that time. Part of my inspiration was an exhibition from the Hermitage in Amsterdam – the costumes embrace civil and military uniforms with a rich palate to work from. Lear is a precisely crafted and beautiful story– this will be a Lear of some elegance and really fits all the actors that are in it – I build the show for the actors I want in it, not the other way around. I am interested in the relationships in the Company, their relationship to the work and each other and I am honored to be here this season and in such great company.”


By Split Knuckle Theatre
Adapted and created by: Jason Bohon, Andrew Grusetskie, Michael Toomey, and Greg Webster, with writer Nick Ryan
Founders’ Theatre: End of June through Mid-July. Specific dates TBA February 14th.
Featuring: Jason Bohon, Andrew Grusetskie, Michael Toomey, and Greg Webster.

Trapped in Antarctica with no hope of rescue, the great British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton kept 27 men alive for two years in the most inhospitable climate on earth. Ninety-five years later, in the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression, Hartford insurance man Walter Spivey, played by Company fight choreographer, master clown teacher and over all funny man Michael Toomey, struggling to justify his recent promotion and save his employees’ jobs, relives Shackleton’s story. Can one of the greatest leaders in human history inspire him to conquer the corporate world? Endurance was huge hit at the Company’s Studio Festival of Plays last summer and it continues to perform around the country and Europe.


The Tempest
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Tony Simotes
Featuring: Olympia Dukakis as Prospero, Apollo Dukakis as Gonzalo. Others TBA.
Founders’ Theatre: Mid-July through Mid-August. Specific dates TBA February 14

“Now my charms are all o’erthrown, And what strength I have’s mine own” – Epilogue

Shakespeare & Company is thrilled to bring The Tempest back to the Mainstage with a fresh, funny, cutting-edge and very bawdy production set in circa 1940. Artistic Director Tony Simotes and Academy Award-winning actress Olympia Dukakis team up to re-envision one of Shakespeare’s most coveted romances. Dukakis plays Prospero, a Duke that is less interested in ruling than he is with practicing magic. After being exiled from his kingdom by his brother, Prospero and his baby daughter Miranda are cast on the shores of a desert island. There, Prospero harnesses his magical prowess, creating Caliban and Ariel, a half human creature and a spirit. Twelve years later, Prospero contrives the shipwreck that will quickly change the fate of him and his daughter. The Tempest is Shakespeare’s penultimate statement on the illusion of justice.

“I am delighted to be a part of Shakespeare & Company’s 35th Anniversary Season,” says Academy Award-winning actress Olympia Dukakis. “Working with Tony on The Tempest is something I’ve wanted to do for the past couple of years. I am thrilled to finally get it off the ground and see where it lands. I’ve known Tony, Dennis Krausnick, Kevin Coleman, and Tina Packer for over three decades—from our times at NYU where Dennis, Tony, and Kevin were my students, during their incredible work creating Shakespeare & Company, to their continued commitment to that work, the craft of storytelling, and speaking the truth. The quality of the productions reflects the very core of their esthetics – which is steeped in passion, curiosity, irreverence, and even rebellious work at times – but it’s always joyful. I am also looking forward to working with other great talents including Rocco Sisto, also a former student of mine, my brother Apollo, and all the other wonderful and talented Shakespeare & Company actors. Tony is all about creating extraordinary experiences, whether on stage as an actor or as a director. That will never change, and it my pleasure to work with him this season, not only as an artist, but also as a dear friend. Shakespeare & Company is a place to come and celebrate all that is good in our world—and to be inspired to change what isn’t. To ‘hold, as t’were, a mirror up to nature’.”
Director/Choreographer Susan Dibble
Featuring: Susan Dibble and over a dozen S&Co. artists and special guests.
Founders’ Theatre: Two weekends in early July.  Specific dates TBA February 14th.

Shakespeare & Company is elated to welcome back Founding Member Susan Dibble for her signature theatrical dance event Dibbledance for two special performances on the Founders’ Theatre stage in July. Dibble who has choreographed countless productions and special events over the past 3 decades will be joined onstage by several long time dancers with her company and a handful of S&Co. artists for this unique celebration of movement and theatricality.


Satchmo at the Waldorf
By Terry Teachout
Directed by Gordon Edelstein
Featuring: John Douglas Thompson
Founders’ Theatre: Mid-August through Labor Day. Specific dates TBA February 14th.

This is the New England premiere of critically-acclaimed writer and drama critic of the Wall Street Journal, Terry Teachout’s new play. The time is May of 1971. Louis Armstrong is backstage at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel’s Empire Room, preparing himself for what will be his last performance. As we sit with him, we learn about his impoverished upbringing, his life on the road, his professional and personal relationships—the details that make Louis Armstrong a legend that has transcended every era that followed him. Shakespeare & Company is pleased to stage the Northeast Premiere of Terry Teachout’s thrilling one man play, with OBIE-winning actor John Douglas Thompson as the legendary jazz musician.

“I’m still trying to get used to the idea that Shakespeare & Company is going to produce Satchmo at the Waldorf, much less that John is going to act in it, Gordon is going to stage it, and Arthur Oliver will be designing the costumes,” said Teachout, “I’m thrilled, honored, and astonished—all at once. I never dreamed that I’d have the chance to collaborate with such remarkable artists, or with a theater company whose work has meant so much to me for so long.”

Terry Teachout, playwright of Satchmo at the Waldorf is the drama critic of the Wall Street Journal. His books include Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong, All in the Dances: A Brief Life of George Balanchine, and The Skeptic: A Life of H.L. Mencken. He is currently at work on a biography of Duke Ellington. He wrote the libretti for two operas by Paul Moravec, The Letter (premiered by the Santa Fe Opera in 2009) and Danse Russe (premiered by Philadelphia’s Center City Opera Theater in 2011). Satchmo at the Waldorf is his first play.


Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre:

By John Logan
Director: Kevin Coleman
Bernstein Theatre: Memorial Day through Labor Day. Specific dates TBA February 14
Featuring: Jonathan Epstein, others TBA. “There is only one thing I fear in life, my friend… One day the black will swallow the red.” Mark Rothko

Set in New York city in the late 1950’s, this exciting and intense award winning 2 person plays follows Russian born abstract painter Mark Rothko, played by long time and award winning Company actor Jonathan Epstein, as he directs and works with his new young assistant, Ken. As Mark mixes the paints and creates his art he teaches Ken about the relationship between an artist and his work. Ken is a quick study and unabashedly begins to question Rothko’s ethics and theories along with his decision to take his current commercial project – to paint a set of murals for very posh and newly built Four Seasons restaurant. This moving, enthralling and at times very funny new play about what it means to be an artist and the act of creating art won the 2010 Drama League Award for Distinguished Production of a Play and Alfred Molina, who played the role of Rothko in the recent Broadway production. It premiered in London in 2009 and won the Distinguished Performance Award. The play was nominated for a total of seven Tony Awards, and won six.


Cassandra Speaks
By Norman Plotkin
Director: TBA
Featuring: Tod Randolph
Bernstein Theater: June through August. Specific dates TBA February 14th.

For three decades, amid the sweeping events of the first half of the twentieth century, no journalist was more controversial, more opinionated, more irreverent, or more quoted than Dorothy Thompson. At the pinnacle of her career, Thompson’s thrice-weekly news column, “On the Record” – one of the longest running columns ever – reached millions of people around the globe. She was heard by millions more in her regular radio broadcasts. She was satirized by Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy in Woman of the Year, and in 1939, in a Time magazine cover story, was called the most influential woman in America next to Eleanor Roosevelt… Thompson… became the first American woman to head a foreign news bureau; the first correspondent to be expelled from Nazi Germany on the personal order of Adolf Hitler; a powerful force in the antifascist movement; and the trusted advisor of presidents and prime ministers.

Parasite Drag
By Mark Roberts
Director Steve Rothman
Bernstein Theater: June through August. Specific dates TBA February 14th.

Parasite Drag is a hard hitting tragic-comedy that looks at family in both surprising and funny ways allowing audience members to relate to their own life experiences as they view the play’s journey. Deeply estranged brothers Gene and Ronnie are forced together to make arrangements for their sister, a homeless drug addict dying of AIDS. At first glance the two men appear to be polar opposites. But as their sister’s tragedy forces open old wounds, we see that they are very much alike, united forever by a dark, tragic past.

Parasite Drag is written by multi talented playwright, actor, stand-up comic, and television producer Mark Roberts. In addition to having three plays published by Dramatists Play Service, Roberts served for 6 seasons as an Executive Producer for the CBS hit sit-com Two and a Half Men. He left that position last year to serve as Creator and Executive Producer of the past TV season’s biggest new sit-com hit Mike and Molly. Like Mike and Molly, Parasite Drag captures the true dialogue and nuances of life in the Mid-West in particular the Illinois area where Mark first began his career.

Director Steve Rothman, a long time associate of Shakespeare & Company’s Artistic Director Tony Simotes, brought the play to the Company’s attention last season and cast the reading for its 2011 Studio Festival of Plays, where it received over the top accolades. Simotes notes, “Steve brought us a terrific new play with Mark Roberts script — a writer of amazing insight and intelligence. While Roberts is one of the hottest sit-com writers around he is always going home from the studio at night and crafting other incredible theatre works that challenge an audience with laughter and tears.”


Annette Miller performs in 'The Allergist's Wife'

The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife
By Charles Busch
Directed by Jon Croy
Bernstein Theatre: July and August. Specific dates TBA February 14th.
Featuring: Annette Miller, others TBA.

Elliot Norton award winner Annette Miller plays the irrepressible Marjorie Taub who’s on a mission to expand her mind. As a resident of the Upper West Side, she’s surrounded by some of the greatest cultural offerings the world has to offer, but despite her constant search for knowledge she still feels inadequate. It doesn’t help that her mother is constantly berating her efforts, or that her husband is a seemingly picturesque citizen; professionally successful and philanthropic in his spare time. It isn’t until her flamboyant childhood friend Lee comes to visit that Marjorie begins to question the validity of her depression… and just about everything else in her life. This hilarious tale helmed by funny man Jonathan Croy (The Ladies Man, Hound of the Baskervilles and director of The Real Inspector Hound) will also feature several other audience favorites who will support Miller on-stage.


The Rose and Bankside Festival:

Tartuffe the Imposter
By Molière
Directed by Gina Kaufman
Rose Footprint Theatre: Late June through August. Specific dates TBA February 14th.
Featuring: An energetic ensemble of S&Co. artists and interns.

Renowned for his razor sharp wit and outrageous comedies, French playwright Molière joins the Company roster once again with his hilarious farce Tartuffe. A huge sense of fun abounds throughout this bawdy romp written in 1664, the five act play, Le Tartuffe ou l’Imposeur, or Tartuffe was banned by King Louis XIV – at least the last two acts, until 1669 when permission to have a full public performance was finally granted. The first three acts were actually given many performances at court, but Molière could not get permission for a public performance of the entire play. During these years the church closed his theatre, tore down his posters and called him “a demon in human flesh.” Intrigued? Gina Kaufman’s playful take on Molière’s classic comedy sharply satirizes blind hypocrisy, religious piety, and deceit in irreverent rhymed verse.  With a cast of Shakespeare & Company artists and interns Kaufman uncovers the plots and machinations of the deceitful Tartuffe who hypocritically claims to be a very pious and religious man, but who really is out for himself. Tartuffe ingratiates himself with Orgon and his mother, and is taken into their home with the promise of Orgon’s daughter’s hand in marriage — at the same time he secretly attempts to seduce Orgon’s wife, Elmire). Everyone else in the family sees through Tartuffe’s disguise, and his machinations and hypocrisies are eventually exposed, but is it too late to save the family from eviction and to keep Orgon from being thrown in prison?


Monday, July 4, 3pm
Bankside Meadow. Free

Celebrate a revolutionary weekend! Our free, ever-popular reading of the Declaration of Independence features some of the most stirring words of political rhetoric ever written, spoken out loud by S&Co. actors and special guests from the community. Filled with music, barbeque, sweets and treats, this jubilant summer event is always a huge hit, and drew nearly 1,000 patrons last year.


Shakespeare & Young Company
Rose Footprint Theatre: Third week in August, two performances only

No writer has captured the powerful emotions of adolescence better than Shakespeare. In his words, youth spring eternal. Join our Young Company actors as they perform Shakespeare’s works with a fierce and fiery temperament, exploring their passion for friendship, love, justice, and hope.


Riotous Youth
Rose Footprint Theatre: Alternating Fridays in July in August

Now in its 13th year, Riotous Youth is a two-week program for multiple age groups, designed to introduce young actors to Shakespeare through a series of fun and creative workshops, including exercises involving voice, movement, and acting. Participants play theatre games, create craft projects, and explore Shakespeare’s words through scenes and monologues, either at Shakespeare & Company’s campus in Lenox, MA or down the road in Lenox Memorial High School’s state-of-the-art theatre. At the end of each two-week session, Riotous Youth participants create a performance piece based on scenes from a play, which they share with family, friends and S&Co. members at the outdoor, tented Rose Footprint Theatre.


Special events and more:

Weekly Play  Reading Series
Founders’ Theatre: July and August

In the spirit of Shakespeare & Company’s commitment to expose new and unique voices, this summer will feature a special series of weekly staged readings. The influence of the Company’s hugely popular Studio Festival will live all summer long with the new Play Reading Series, where Company actors and directors will share cutting edge works in an informal setting. Many of these plays will be under consideration for future seasons; past plays from the Shakespeare & Company readings that have gone on to celebrate full productions include The Memory of Water, Mengelberg and Mahler, Golda’s Balcony, Martha Mitchell Calling, and A Tanglewood Tale, to name a few.


35th Anniversary Lecture Series: TBA
Featuring award-winning writers, artists and scholars




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.