(LENOX, Mass.) – Satchmo at the Waldorf, a new one-man play starring OBIE Award-winner John Douglas Thompson and written by critically acclaimed author, jazz critic, and Louis Armstrong biographer Terry Teachout, receives its New England premiere beginning this week at Shakespeare & Company in a production directed by Gordon Edelstein, the award-winning artistic director of the Long Wharf Theatre.
The one-man show offers a no-holds-barred, historically authentic, behind-the-scenes portrayal of a shockingly blunt Armstrong and his longtime manager, Joe Glaser, both played by Thompson, as the famed jazz trumpeter and vocalist is backstage at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, preparing for what will be his last performance in 1971.
Satchmo at the Waldorf runs from Wednesday, August 22, 2012, through Sunday, September 16, 2012, in Shakespeare & Company’s newly renamed Tina Packer Playhouse.
“Between 1947 and his death in 1971, Armstrong taped hundred of after-hours conversations with his wife, friends, and colleagues in which he revealed a very different side of his personality,” says playwright Terry Teachout, also the author of Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong, a best-selling biography published in 2009. “Some of these tapes are startlingly intimate, and many of them contain very strong language that Armstrong never used on stage.
“Satchmo at the Waldorf is a work of fiction, but it is based on and informed by the facts of the lives of Armstrong and Glaser, and though and I made up most of the dialogue, it closely resembles the way they talked in private. Having my play produced by Shakespeare & Company, and seeing it done by such great artists as John and Gordon, is a dream come true — except that I would never have dared to dream of such good fortune.”
Actor John Douglas Thompson returns to the Shakespeare & Company stage, where he was last seen in the riveting and dynamic title role of Richard III in 2010. Thompson won an OBIE Award for his portrayal of Othello in a 2009 production at Theater for a New Audience, a role that he played to critical acclaim at Shakespeare & Company that same year. Thompson recently finished a successful run of The Iceman Cometh at the Goodman Theatre with Nathan Lane and Brian Dennehy. In 2009, Ben Brantley of the New York Times called Thompson “one of the most compelling classical stage actors of his generation.”
“Music is my greatest love,” says director Gordon Edelstein, “I earn a living making theatre but it is music that lives deepest in my soul. Louis Armstrong’s monumental gift as a jazz player, improviser, and singer has been an inspiration to me since I discovered his music when I was young. It is an honor to work with on this play about him and to work with two such distinguished fellow Armstrong fans: Terry Teachout and John Douglas Thompson.”