Piven Theatre Workshop presents the Midwest Premiere of MELANCHOLY PLAY: A CHAMBER MUSICAL by Sarah Ruhl


Rare musical offering at Piven to be performed April 30-June 7, 2015



(March 31, 2015) Evanston, IL – Piven Theatre Workshop proudly announces the Midwest Premiere of Melancholy Play: a chamber musical by Tony™-nominated playwright Sarah Ruhl, with new music by New York composer Todd Almond and direction by Polly Noonan. The production will run April 30 – June 7, 2015 at Piven Theatre Workshop, 927 Noyes Street in Evanston. The official press opening is Saturday, May 2 at 7:30 p.m.


Sarah Ruhl’s Melancholy Play had its world premiere in 2002 at Piven Theatre Workshop and starred Noonan in the lead role as Tilly. A decade later, Ruhl teamed up with Almond and developed Melancholy Play as a new chamber musical. It was workshopped in 2012 via 13p in Brooklyn, and will return to the Piven Theatre Workshop stage for its Midwest Premiere.


“We rarely present musicals but knew we had to jump at the chance to work with Sarah again and share this gem with Chicago audiences. She has taken this quirky, lovely story to a new and different level from when it was first staged here in ‘02. We’ve got Chicago’s rising musical theater talent performing to Todd’s gorgeous score, accompanied by a live chamber ensemble. This is going to be a special night out for Piven audiences to discover,” said Piven Theatre Workshop artistic director Jennifer Green.


In this lighthearted farce, bank teller Tilly’s (Stephanie Stockstill) melancholy is of an exquisite quality. She turns her melancholy into a sexy thing, and every stranger she meets falls in love with her. One day, inexplicably, Tilly becomes happy, and wreaks havoc on the lives of her paramours, while Frances, Tilly’s hairdresser, becomes so melancholy that she turns into an almond. It is up to Tilly to get her back. Other members of the Equity production include Chris Ballou (Frank, a tailor who deeply loves Tilly’s melancholia); Lauren Paris (Frances, her hairdresser); Emily Grayson (Joan, the helpless nurse who watches her girlfriend Frances devolve into a nut), and Ryan Lanning (Lorenzo, Tilly’s eccentric therapist from an undetermined European country).


Noonan, director of the highly acclaimed production of The Language Archive last year at Piven, returns to helm the show she once starred in over a decade ago.


“I love this play,” said Noonan. “If plays are blueprints, catalysts, then this play is a recipe for joy. When Sarah and Jessica (Thebus) invited me to play Tilly (in 2002) I had given up acting, so Melancholy Play brought me back to the theatre. There is so much humor in the play mixed in with the melancholy. I am thrilled that Piven is producing such an ambitious project—five actors and five musicians! It’s so wonderful to think of the Piven Theatre enlivened again with the sounds of Melancholy Play.”


The designers of Melancholy Play: a chamber musical are Jacob Watson (set), Rachel Levy (lighting), Alex Palma (sound), Stephanie Cluggish (costumes), and Austin Kopsa (properties). Musical Direction is by Aaron Benham.


About the Playwright:

Sarah Ruhl’s plays include In the Next Room, or the vibrator play (Pulitzer Prize finalist, Tony Award nominee for best new play), The Clean House (Pulitzer Prize Finalist, 2005; The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, 2004); Passion Play, a cycle (Pen American award, The Fourth Freedom Forum Playwriting Award from The Kennedy Center); Dead Man’s Cell Phone (Helen Hayes award); Melancholy Play; Eurydice; Orlando, Demeter in the City (NAACP nomination), Late: a cowboy song, Three Sisters, and most recently, Stage Kiss, The Oldest Boy, and Dear Elizabeth. Melancholy Play, Eurydice, Orlando, Three Sisters, and Late: a cowboy song have all been produced at Piven Theatre Workshop.


About the Composer:

Writer/performer Todd Almond’s work includes the World Premiere of IOWA, an original musical play with playwright Jenny Schwartz and director Ken Rus Schmoll, officially opening at Playwrights Horizons, April 13, 2015. Other theatrical credits include original music for Ruhl’s Stage Kiss, also at Playwrights Horizons; original music and lyrics for the Public Theater/Public Works’ The Tempest at the Delacorte, in which Almond also starred as Ariel; original book for Girlfriend (music and lyrics by Matthew Sweet) at Actors Theater and Berkeley Rep; original music and lyrics for On the Levee at LCT3; original music and lyrics for Yale Rep’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle; original music and lyrics for The Odyssey at the Old Globe in San Diego; and original music and lyrics for Kansas City Choir Boy, performed by Almond with rock icon Courtney Love as part of the Prototype Festival.

About Piven Theatre Workshop:

With Melancholy Play: a chamber musical, Piven Theatre Workshop continues its ongoing mission of premiering original works, and its history of celebrating the emerging voices of women. Piven Theatre Workshop has excelled as a leader in the arts community for 44 years, maintaining a distinguished legacy in the training of children and adults in the theatre arts. Annually, between onsite and off-site programming, the theatre trains over 1,000 students, provides approximately $30,000 in need-based scholarships, and maintains a professional theatre and numerous outreach programs throughout the Chicago area.


About the Production:

Title:                                        Melancholy Play: a chamber musical

Written by:                              Sarah Ruhl

Music by:                                 Todd Almond

Directed by:                            Polly Noonan

Musical Direction:                  Aaron Benham

Dates:                                      Previews:                    April 30 & May 1, 2015

Press opening:             Saturday, May 2 at 7:30 p.m.

Regular run:               May 2 – June 7, 2015

Schedule:                                 Thursday, Friday & Saturday:             7:30 p.m.

Sunday:                                                2:30 p.m.

Location:                                 Piven Theatre Workshop, 927 Noyes St., Evanston

Tickets:                                    Pay-what-you-can preview performances; $20-35 regular run performances

Box Office:                              Located at 927 Noyes St., Evanston; 847-866-8049 or online www.piventheatre.org.



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