Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit: A Writer Haunted by Past Love Creates Present Laughter

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Lisa Higgins • 610.282.WILL, ext. 4
Lisa.Higgins@pashakespeare.org

Center Valley, PA – A novelist is caught between his two wives in Noël Coward’s enduring and light-hearted comedy, Blithe Spirit, which will play in repertory with Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew on the Main Stage at Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival.

Directed by Anne Lewis, Blithe Spirit will preview on July 21 and 22, open July 23, and run through August 7. The production is sponsored by Breslin Ridyard Fadero Architects, and co-sponsored by Bazzini and Keenan Nagle Advertising, Inc.

“Coward wanted to write something silly and funny that everyone could laugh at during the hardships of World War II,” says director Anne Lewis. “And he did.” One critic suggested that “the forces of death are tamed in Blithe Spirit in a way that warmed the hearts of wartime theatergoers” – and the play set a new attendance record in its 1941 London premiere.
British novelist Charles Condomine, played by Ian Merrill Peakes, decides to host a dinner party and séance with his wife Ruth, played by Karen Peakes, to provide important details for the plot of Charles’ upcoming book. The séance is conducted by the psychic Madame Arcati, portrayed by award-winning actress Linda Thorson, who accidentally releases the spirit of Charles’ previous wife, Elvira, played by Eleanor Handley. Elvira, though, is only visible to Charles, thus setting off a series of farcical events as both women battle for Charles’ attention.

            Carl N. Wallnau returns to PSF in the role of Dr. Bradman, accompanied by Joyce Cohen as Mrs. Bradman, the dinner guests who are just as confused by Charles’ behavior as Ruth. Edith, the household maid, played by Ally Borgstrom, completes the cast.

            David P. Gordon is the set designer with a design team that includes Charlotte Palmer-Lane as the costume designer, Thom Weaver as lighting designer and Kristian Derek Ball as sound designer. Kate Ingram serves as the dialect coach. Alison Hassman serves as production stage manager with Carolyn Reich as the assistant stage manager.
To be performed on the Main Stage, Blithe Spirit previews July 21 and 22, opens July 23, and runs through August 7.

Performances are:
Thursday, July 21, preview: 8pm
Friday, July 22, preview: 8pm
Saturday, July 23, opens: 8pm
Sunday, July 24 and 31: 7:30pm
Tuesday, July 26: 7pm
Thursday, July 28: 8pm
Saturday, July 30: 8pm
Wednesday, August 3: 8pm
Friday, August 5: 8pm 
Saturday, August 6: 2pm [Audio Description]
Sunday, August 7: 2pm

Single tickets range from $25 to $75; youth and military prices are available.

Dinner with Dennis and Deb, a specialty dinner themed to the production, will feature behind-the-scenes insights of the production, and will take place on Sunday, July 24 at 5pm. The audience is invited to meet the cast for a talk back after the show on Thursday, July 28. There will be an audio described performance on Saturday, August 6 at 2pm.

The Festival’s 25th season also includes: The Little Mermaid (through August 6); Julius Caesar (through July 17); The Taming of the Shrew (July 13-Aug 7); Love’s Labor’s Lost (July 27-August 7) and Shakespeare for Kids (July 27-Aug 6), West Side Story ran (June 15-July 3).

Actor/tenor Mike Eldred, who performed as Jean Valjean in PSF’s Les Misérables last season, returns to PSF with pianist Jeff Steinberg for a one night performances Songs of Life and Love, amedley of Broadway’s best songs on Monday, August 1st at 7:30pm.

Kathleen Kund Nolan and Timothy E. Nolan are serving as season sponsors for the third time in the Festival’s 25-year history. Associate season sponsors are the Harry C. Trexler Trust, Linda Lapos and Paul Wirth, Dr. James and Penny Pantano and the Szarko Family. The season media sponsor is The Morning Call.

PSF is a constituent of the Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national organization for the American theatre, and a member of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, the Shakespeare Theatre Association, the Lehigh Valley Arts Council, and Discover Lehigh Valley.

Ticket prices range from $25 - $75. For ticket information, contact PSF at 610-282-WILL [9455], ext. 1, or online at www.pashakespeare.org.

Media representatives: Please contact: Lisa Higgins, 610.282.WILL [9455] or Lisa.Higgins@pashakespeare.org

Principal Artist Bios
Anne Lewis (Director) is a member of the theatre faculty at DeSales University, and served as director of the DeSales Summer Theatre Institute. Anne’s latest directorial endeavor at PSF was Cinderella. Some of her directorial work at DeSales University includes, I Love a Piano and A View from the Bridge, which were both listed in The Morning Call’s top ten productions of the Lehigh Valley for 2012. Other productions that Anne directed are Once upon a Mattress, Little Women, and Lost in Yonkers.

David P. Gordon (Set Designer) designed Oklahoma! for PSF in 2013. He has designed almost 300 productions, worked extensively on and Off-Broadway and for opera companies and regional theatres here and abroad. Recent work includes designs for the Public Theater/NYSF, CSC, Theatre for a New Audience, Hartford Stage, Old Globe, Long Wharf, Huntington, McCarter, Goodspeed, Williamstown, Chicago Shakespeare, Arden, Wilma, Walnut St., Philadelphia Theatre Co., Kennedy Center, Westport Playhouse, Lincoln Center, L.A. Opera, Seattle Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Arizona, Berkshire and Sarasota Operas, and the State New Experimental Theatre in Volgograd, Russia. David has received five Barrymore Awards and the 2003 Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Scenic Design, and has been nominated for IRNE, Carbonel and CT Critics Circle awards. He is a professor of set design at Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts.

Charlotte Palmer-Lane (Costume Designer) For Half Moon Theatre, she designed last season’s Kander & Ebb revue, Round the World and It’s a Wonderful Life Radio Play. Originally from the UK, she worked for the BBC as a costume designer and assistant, where her credits include, The Chronicles of Narnia, Miss Marple, Dr. Who, and She’s Been Away, directed by Sir Peter Hall. Film: Guarding Tess and Quiz Show. Recent design credits: Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival: Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, King Lear, The Three Musketeers, The Liar, Othello, Winters Tale and An Iliad; Mint Theatre, Rutherford and Son. Penguin Rep, Drop Dead Perfect, My Name is Asher Lev and Playing the Assassin; Hudson Stage: Family Reunion, The God Game, Outside Mullingar and Other Desert Cities.

Thom Weaver (Lighting Designer) 8th season. Designs in the Philadelphia area have been seen at Wilma, Arden, 1812, Azuka, People’s Light, DTC, Headlong, Walnut, PTC, Theatre Exile, Curtis Opera, Kimmel Center, Lantern.  Other theatre credits include: Public Theatre/NYSF, Chicago Shakespeare, Primary Stages, Huntington, Teller’s Play Dead, Cal Shakes, Children’s Theatre Company, Milwaukee Rep, CenterStage, Folger Theater, Hangar, Cincinnati Playhouse, Syracuse Stage, Cleveland Playhouse, Roundhouse, Theatre J, Portland Center Stage, Berkshire Theatre Festival, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Signature Theater Company, Berkshire Opera, Lincoln Center Institute, Lincoln Center Festival, York Theatre, Summer Play Festival, 37 ARTS, Spoleto Festival USA, City Theatre, Pittsburgh Public Theatre, and Yale Rep.  Awards include 3 Barrymore Awards (21 nominations), 4 Helen Hayes nominations, and the 2 AUDELCO Awards.  He is a member of Wingspace Design Group.  Education: Carnegie Mellon and Yale.  

Kristian Derek Ball (Sound Design) designs sound and composes for theatre, film and multimedia companies both nationally and internationally, as well as records and produces music for artists and musicians worldwide. He is a professional member of the Theatrical Sound Designers and Composers Association (TSDCA.org) and has designed with the Metropolitan Theatre Ensemble (Kansas City), Children’s Theatre Company (Minneapolis) among many others.

Alison Hassman (Production Stage Manager) PSF productions #9 and #10.  Off-Broadway: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, Phoenix (w. Julia Stiles), Los Monólogos de la Vagina, Catch the Butcher, The Brightness of Heaven.  Regional: Bristol Riverside, Two River, McCarter, Premiere Stages, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Trinity Rep.  New York: New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Cherry Lane, 595E59, the York, 24 Hour Play Company.  Upcoming: A New Brain at Theatre Horizon. 

Carolyn Reich (Assistant Stage Manager): Credits include: The Surgeon and Her Daughters (Cherry Lane Theatre); Would You Still Love Me If… (22Q Productions); The Bridges of Madison County (NETworks National Tour); Les Misérables, Henry V, The Foreigner (Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival); The Grapes of Wrath, A Christmas Carol, (Trinity Repertory Company); Into the Woods, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (McCarter Theatre Center). Carolyn is a graduate of the University of Michigan and a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association.

Ally Borgstrom (Edith, Blithe; Bianca, Shrew) joins PSF for a second season as a member of the Young Company. Last year, she was in the ensemble of Les Misérables and played the Daughter in Pericles. Act 1 credits include Little Women (Jo), Me and My Girl (Jacqueline), and Bus Stop (Cherie).

Joyce Cohen (Mrs. Bradman, Blithe, Pedant, Shrew) Broadway: Once A Catholic. Off-Broadway: Mint Theater, Playwrights Horizons, Westside Arts. Regional: Pioneer Theatre, Denver Center Theatre, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Salt Lake Acting Co., Peterborough Players, Utah Shakespeare Festival, Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse. Film/TV includes: Christmas Under Wraps, Granite Flats (recurring), SLC Punk, Independence Day, High School Musical, Read It and Weep, Touched by an Angel, Unabomber-The True Story. Sundance Institute Film & Theatre Labs, Cleveland Playhouse New Ground Theatre Festival, Colorado New Play Summit.

Eleanor Handley (Elvira, Blithe; Katherina, Shrew) PSF: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Maggie), Much Ado About Nothing (Beatrice), Lend Me a Tenor (Diana), Macbeth (Witch), Comedy of Errors (Adriana), The Two Noble Kinsman (Emilia). NYC: Jericho (NYT Critic's pick), Limonade tous les Jours (opposite Austin Pendleton), A Christmas Carol (with Dominic Chianese). Regional highlights: Troilus & Cressida (Cressida), King Lear (Regan), Lost in Yonkers (Bella) - Barrymore Nomination, Betrayal (Emma). TV: Royal Pains (USA), As the World Turns, Unforgettable (CBS). MFA: New School for Drama.

Ian Merrill Peakes (Charles, Blithe; Petruchio, Shrew) 10th PSF production (Much Ado, Othello, Henry IV, among others). Delighted to be back where he met his wife 20 years ago. Upcoming: Charles III at ACT in San Francisco, Seattle Rep and The Shakespeare Theatre in DC. Two Best of Denver Awards, and nominated for six Barrymores (won 3), four Helen Hayes Awards, and the winner of the 2003 F. Otto Haas Award for Emerging Artist.

Karen Peakes (Ruth, Blithe; Nathaniel/Tailor/Widow, Shrew) Karen is returning to PSF for the first time since 1997, when she was a member of the intern company! A graduate of DeSales (back when it was Allentown College), she has performed at many Philadelphia area theaters, including The Arden, The Walnut, Delaware Theatre Company, The Wilma, Act II Playhouse, People's Light, 1812 Productions, Interact, Bristol Riverside Theatre, and others. She has also frequently performed with The Peterborough Players (in New Hampshire), and The Folger (in D.C.). Karen also narrates audio books through Brilliance Audio and her books can be found on audible.com.

Linda Thorson (Mdme. Arcati, Blithe; Baptista Minola, Shrew) Broadway: Noises Off (Drama Desk Award), Steaming (Theatre World Award), City of Angels, Zoya’s Apartment, ‘Getting Married and Exit/Entrance, August: Osage County and Other Desert Cities. National tours: Shirley Valentine and The Sisters Rosensweig. Guthrie: Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest and Amy’s View. London’s West End: original cast of No Sex Please, We’re British, Somerset Maugham’s The Constant Wife and Titania in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the New Shakespeare Company. TV: Tara King in the now-cult British series The Avengers. BBC: The Caucasian Chalk Circle, The Oresteia and Prime Suspect. Marblehead Manor (NBC), Emily of New Moon, One Life to Live and Emmerdale. Star Trek, Law and Order, Flashpoint, Rookie Blue. Film: The Other Sister for Garry Marshall, Half Past Dead starring with Steven Seagal, The Man on the Train as Donald Sutherland’s sister, Sweet Liberty as the wife of Michael Caine and Valentino with Rudolph Nureyev. Upcoming: The Second Times Around; The Greatest Christmas Party Ever (Hallmark), the series Transporter, and Two Wrongs and Committed (Lifetime). Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. BAFTA award: The Avengers. France: Le Prix Triumph for The Avengers and the Ange D’or.

Carl N. Wallnau (Dr. Bradman, Blithe; Gremio, Shrew) is pleased to return to PSF as part of its 25th anniversary season. Favorite past roles here include Froggy in last season’s The Foreigner, Saunders in Lend Me A Tenor, Malvolio in Twelfth Night, Andrew Wyke in Sleuth, Senex in …Forum and Sir Francis in Charlie’s Aunt.  Recent credits include the title role in the world premiere of Funnyman by Bruce Graham at the Arden Theatre in Philadelphia directed by Matt Pfeiffer. He has worked at numerous regional theatres including Paper Mill Playhouse, Hartford Stage, Second Stage in NYC, People’s Light, York Musical Theatre, 1812 Productions, The Lark Theatre, Bristol Riverside, Forum Theatre, Premiere Stages, as well as the First National Tour of Titanic. He is currently Artistic Director at CSC, an Equity theatre located on the campus of Centenary College in Hackettstown, NJ, where he is also Professor of Theatre Arts and Chairman of the Fine Arts Department. He received his MFA from Rutgers University Mason Gross School of the Arts.

Patrick Mulcahy (Producing Artistic Director, PSF). Since assuming leadership in 2003, Mulcahy has led PSF’s return to artistic excellence and financial stability, built the professional company of artists, oversaw the quadrupling of the endowment, and achieved increasing national recognition for the Festival. Further accomplishments include PSF’s first-ever awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and attracting a company of artists including winners and nominees of the Tony, Obie, Emmy, Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk, Jefferson, and Barrymore awards to the Festival, growth in all income areas, a 75% increase in annual attendance, and the expansion of the number of Actors’ Equity contracts per season. As a professional director, actor and fight director, credits include Broadway, Off-Broadway, regional theatre, television, and radio. Mulcahy has acted with Angela Bassett, Peter MacNicol, Hal Holbrook, Joan Cusack, Don Cheadle, Anne Meara, Milo O’Shea, Cynthia Nixon, Tony Shaloub, Bradley Whitford, and others at the New York Shakespeare Festival, Hartford Stage, Roundabout Theatre Company, Great Lakes Theatre Festival, Syracuse Stage, and the Walnut Street Theatre. He served as a fight director for Tom Hulse and Timothy Busfield in A Few Good Men on Broadway and for Off-Broadway productions starring John Savage, John Mahoney, Marcia Gay Harden, and Patrick Dempsey. He directed Oscar nominee Vera Farmiga in The Real Thing, and, for PSF, directed Macbeth (2014), Hamlet (2011), Antony and Cleopatra (2009), The Winter’s Tale (2007), Henry IV, Part I (2005), The Tempest (1999), and acted in and served as fight director for The Taming of the Shrew (1998) and Julius Caesar (1997). Also head of acting at DeSales, Patrick holds an MFA from Syracuse University. 

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