Written by Neil Simon
Directed by Gwen Morton
Performance dates: February 10 - March 3, 2012
Running time: TBA
In a comedy that is full of one liners and quick repartee, Simon tenderly tells the story of his second marriage after the loss of his first wife to cancer. In a courtship that is too quick and marriage that is too sudden, between a grounded and beautiful young woman, and a man who still loves and mourns his dead wife, the playwright tells the story of how the passionate and intelligent partners feel their way through the new relationship they have created. Moving and funny, Chapter Two blends humor and poignancy into a memorable evening of theatre.
About the Playwright
Neil Simon’s success as a playwright is unquestioned. He is the only author to have four Broadway productions running simultaneously, and no author can match the number of nominations for Tonys, Emmys and Academy Awards showered on him by the theater, television and movie industries. He won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1991 for Lost in Yonkers, a more serious, less sentimental play than much of his work.
Simon began his career as a television writer in the 1950s, displaying his sharp wit and comedic edge for Phil Silvers and for Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows, where he worked with such comic geniuses as Woody Allen, Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner. “I knew when I walked into Your Show of Shows that this was the most talented group of writers that up until that time had ever been assembled together,” Simon said.
In the 1960s, he began to concentrate on writing for Broadway and turned out a string of critical and commercial successes such as The Odd Couple, Barefoot in the Park, The Star-Spangled Girl, They’re Playing Our Song, and a trilogy -- Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues and Broadway Bound -- based loosely on the experiences of a young Neil Simon and his brother, Danny.
By 1973, with Simon firmly established as one of America’s top comic writers, he entered a low point in his life when his wife of 20 years died. He was introduced to actress Marsha Mason and began a tentative romance that culminated in marriage. Chapter Two, considered one of his finest plays, is reflective of that period in Simon’s life as he dealt with his grief and began to rebuild his life.
About the Director
Gwen Morton grew up wanting to be Liza Minelli. As she became older, she recognized many obstacles to this ambition. One, she grew up in a small town in Arkansas rather than New York. Two, she never took dance lessons. But when she went to college at Arkansas Tech University, she jumped into the voice and drama programs, finishing with a B.A. in Speech and Theater. She thought she was ready to fulfill her ambition at the University of Arkansas when she read a casting notice for Sally Bowles in Cabaret. Failing to get the part, she realized it was time for a new ambition. Gwen began directing while working on her M.A. in Drama at the U. of A. She has since alternated acting and directing, with an occasional credit as stage manager and a five-year stint as a board member of Juneau-Douglas Little Theater in Juneau, AK. Her acting credits include Mrs. Paroo in The Music Man; four seasons, including the world premiere production, of King Island Christmas at Perseverance Theater in Douglas, AK, and Mrs. Fezziwig in A Christmas Carol here at Colonial Players. In 1999, she was named best director for Steel Magnolias, which was named best production at the Alaska Association of Community Theatre Festival. She made her Colonial Players directing debut in 2008 with The Curious Savage. She is currently a student at the Community College of Baltimore County in the Sign Language Interpreter Preparation Program. While Gwen wouldn’t trade her husband Ernie, daughter Lyann, son Sam or dog Cadhla for Liza’s Tonys, her Emmy, her Oscar or any of her other awards, the next time she grows up she wants to be Stephanie J. Block.
I would like to request your patience. I know you’ve been promised a lot of laughs – and, don’t worry, they’ll be there. But right now, George Schneider and Jennie Malone are hurting. George’s wife of 12 years died recently, and he isn’t coping very well. Jenny’s six-year marriage (to a professional football player – yeah, those always work out well) just broke up. They need some time to heal. Fortunately, George’s brother Leo and Jennie’s best friend Faye are there to take up the comic slack until George and Jennie are ready to get on with their lives (and repartee).
By the 1970’s, Neil Simon had developed a reputation as the country’s best writer of lightweight comedy. But the death of his wife of 20 years led to a darker tone in his plays. And yet, a closer examination reveals that darker tone was always there – Felix Unger, after all, has a half-hearted attempt at suicide in The Odd Couple after his wife throws him out. And the part that didn’t change was the truth in Simon’s characters. His characters are never comic caricatures. They are real people who happen to think and talk fast and funny. George and Jennie are not Neil Simon and Marsha Mason. One of the reasons I chose to set this production in the present is to emphasize the universality of the characters. We encountered a few problems along the way. For example, in the original, Jennie and Faye are both actresses working in soap operas, and there are now NO soap operas filming in New York. But, just as actors and writers throughout history have adapted to changing times, so have Jennie, George, Faye and Leo. The pleasure of directing a play at Colonial Players is tied to the great people that are always there to provide assistance. Special thanks on this production must go to Heather Quinn, who filled in until we could find a producer; Beth Terranova, who stepped in as producer despite an already full schedule; Danny Brooks, who was my right hand throughout; Edd Miller, who is an extraordinary source of advice and ideas, and a fabulous team of designers and technicians. (Please take the time to look at their names, because I’m running out of room and can’t list them all here.) And to four special actors who made rehearsals a joy. Thank you all. ~Gwen
Laura Ivey (Faye) - Laura is thrilled to return to the Colonial Players stage, this time for her first full-length production. She recently appeared in the CP’s 2010 One Act Festival as Marisol in Clean. Other stage experience includes the role of Laura in a production of Laura at Tyler Civic Theatre in Tyler, TX. Laura is a Tennessee native who has now lived in Severna Park for 13 years. She spends her time being mom of her three young sons, Gavin, Nick and Keith. Many thanks to a wonderful cast and director for their support and much love to my husband, Kurt.
Richard McGraw (George) - “Actors are fortunate people. All artists are fortunate people, but one speaks here specifically of those involved in the performing arts. Once a piece has been completed, they must let it go. It no longer belongs to them, if it ever did in the first place. One could easily claim that one of the themes of Chapter Two is learning the art of let-go. In the theater, the plays and projects, the frustration and satisfaction and the people all come and go. Yet there are those gems you come across and hold onto for as long as you can. It is for those gems, those people I've met in the theater that I consider true friends that I dedicate these performances. So as not to bore the reader with a list of roles performed, editing happened. All productions and characters are special and affectionately remembered. However, a few remain as personal favorites: Werner Heisenberg in Copenhagen at the Cedar Lane Stage in Bethesda, Gregory Mitchell in Love! Valour! Compassion! at the Fells Point Corner Theater in Baltimore and Dr. Miller/Dr.Gachet in Inventing van Gogh here at Colonial Players. There are somewhere in the neighborhood of a dozen other roles played on the CP stage. Training: The Stella Adler Conservatory of Acting in New York City and the National Shakespeare Academy. I now let this bio go...”
Jeff Sprague (Leo) - Chapter Two marks Jeff's return to CP after a two-year hiatus. Previous credits include Over My Dead Body, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Kiss Me, Kate, Kindertransport (2007 WATCH Award recipient), Jekyll and Hyde and I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change. Elsewhere locally, Jeff has performed with Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre and Dignity Players. Most recently, he played Edna Turnblad in ASGT's production of Hairspray. Other area credits include Sight Unseen, The Crucible, Blue/Orange and Thoroughly Modern Millie. Jeff directed Terrence McNally's Botticelli for CP's 2010 One-Act Festival, and he has been on the theater's Artistic Team for the past two years. By day, Jeff is an attorney with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He lives in Severna Park with his beautiful wife, Kathleen. He sends his thanks to the cast, crew and production team and dedicates his performance, as he does all performances, to the memory of his mom and dad.
Jo Sullivan (Jennie) - Jo is thrilled to be performing for the first time with Colonial Players. A transplant from New York City, Jo has most recently worked with Bowie Community Theatre in productions of The Cocktail Hour and Grace and Glorie. But no stranger to the stage, she has been working in community theater most of her life with most of her performances in and around New York City. For 12 years you could find Jo performing everything from Viola in Twelfth Night and other summer Shakespeare productions to Alice in You Can’t Take it With You. When she’s not looking for opportunities in theater, Jo serves as Interim Executive Director for UNHCR US, the UN agency supporting refugees globally. It’s a humbling experience and keeps her grounded in daily life knowing how millions of people struggle to exist every day. Prior to UNHCR, Jo was the Executive Vice President of External Affairs for the ASPCA headquartered in New York City. She has a passion and weak spot for animals and spent a decade helping to elevate the plight of homeless pets in the U.S. Currently she shares her home, sofa, bed, bathroom, meals and car … with two rescue critters: Marlena “the little black and brown dog” and Hank the hound. There is sometimes room for her patient and kind husband, but that’s usually after the dogs have settled and claimed their spot. A huge thank you to Gwen, this fantastic cast and especially Terry Averill, who gave her the courage to audition for a show with this amazing and talented theater group. In many ways Jennie is firmly a part of Jo, and she even lived three blocks from Jennie’s apartment in New York, which didn’t make the visualization out of Jennie’s window too difficult to imagine.
The Production Staff
Danny Brooks (Assistant Director, Stage Manager) - After 16 onstage performances here, Danny steps behind the scenes for the first time at CP. An attorney, his last show here was this past season's Lettice and Lovage, in which he was doubly typecast as the solicitor Bardolph and as Surly Man. Danny has appeared in more than 70 productions, primarily here and at his first theater home, Prince George's Little Theatre. His all-time favorite role was Atticus Finch in PGLT's To Kill a Mockingbird. Other favorite parts include Chater (Arcadia), Niels Bohr (Copenhagen) and Scrooge (A Christmas Carol), all at CP, and, at other venues, Einstein (Arsenic and Old Lace), Felix (The Odd Couple), Juror #3 (Twelve Angry Men), Saunders (Lend Me a Tenor) and the multiple roles of Judge, St. Matthew and Caiaphas in The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. Thanks to his family for their love and support.
Peter Branscomb (Properties Designer) - This is Peter's third production with The Colonial Players. Previously, he worked on the productions of Inventing van Gogh and Private Lives.
Rebecca Feibel (Costume Coordinator) - Rebecca enjoys a double life as a stay-at-home mom for two young boys and a performer, teacher, director and more in the performing arts. She was stage manager for Cindrella Waltz, CP’s January production. Recent roles include Matron Wick in The Christmas Doll, Ensemble in She Loves Me, Fred's Wife/Ensemble in A Christmas Carol (all at Colonial Players) and Sonia in Godspell at Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre. “Costume design is a process of working with the actors and the director to fulfill the visual image they hold for the character. It has been a balancing act, and I hope the director's vision for the characters is communicated, in part, through the costumes chosen. Thank you for patronizing Colonial Players and love to my three roommates: Joe, Joey, and Charlie.”
Frank A. Florentine (Lighting Designer) - Frank’s background stretches across a wide array of lighting projects from ballet to museums to special events to show caves. He retired as the lighting designer of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum on December 31, 2009, after 25 years in that position. His responsibilities included the lighting design for all exhibitions within the museum on The Mall in Washington, DC, and the Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles Airport. Frank has also designed the lighting for three show caves over the past ten years: Kartchner Caverns State Park, Benson, AZ; Alabaster Caverns, Freedom, OK; and Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park, Whitehall, MT. Frank resides in the Annapolis area and has designed lighting for a sail boat in the Eastport Yacht Club's annual Christmas Parade of Lights for the past 20 years. Most recently, he designed the lighting for the 9/11 Memorial of Anne Arundel County. Additionally, Frank has designed lighting for numerous museums throughout the United States, including the Lafayette Science Museum in Lafayette, LA, the Putnam Museum of Natural History in Des Moines, IA, and the Bisbee Museum in Bisbee, AZ. Frank worked in professional theater as a production manager, stage manager and associate lighting designer. He traveled nationally and internationally with several ballet companies, including a 65,000-mile tour with the late Rudolf Nureyev. Suffice it to say that Frank has received numerous awards for his lighting designs and has published numerous papers and articles about lighting design. He is a Fellow of the Illuminating Engineering Society and Lighting Certified by the National Council of Qualified Lighting Professionals.
Edd Miller (Set Designer) - Edd has worked with Colonial Players since 1964 in any capacity they would have him: actor, director, crew, sweeper, usher, whatever. This time it is set design that is the assignment, and he gets to apply some of the things he learned as an interior designer. Some of you might remember his design work for CP. He has done sets more recently for The Diviners, The Philadelphia Story, Moon Over Buffalo, The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife and, to go back a ways, I Never Sang for My Father, On Golden Pond and Blythe Spirit, among others. Edd is also the play consultant for Chapter Two.
Shirley Panek (Lighting Designer) - Shirley has appeared many times onstage at Colonial Players, but Chapter Two marks the first time she is venturing into the tech booth. Most recently, CP audiences have seen her in Little Women: The Musical (Mrs. Kirk), The Unexpected Guest (Laura Warwick), Lettice and Lovage (Ms. Framer), Private Lives (Sybl Chase) and Dog Logic (Kaye). Shirley would like to thank Gwen for giving her the opportunity to take on this important role, and Frank for sharing his valuable experience and skills and mentoring this production newbie. Love to Drew and Emma.
Andy Serb (Sound Designer) - Andy showed up at Colonial Players back in May, 2009, and the following day found himself operating the sound system for Over My Dead Body. He went on to run sound and lights for Wonder of the World and Little Women and to design sound for The Curious Savage. Andy began by running sound systems for numerous churches and bands, which sparked his interest and led him to broaden his horizons into more technical venues. During his four years attending the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT., Andy first managed sound for the academy's praise band, and then stepped up as the lead sound tech and lighting coordinator for Anything Goes, Fiddler on the Roof, Me and My Girl and Oliver.
Beth Terranova (Producer) - With Chapter Two, Beth once again puts on the producer hat for Colonial Players. She previously produced two One Act Festivals. In addition, Beth has shared her talents in many other positions in support of Colonial Players productions. Most recently, she received critical acclaim for designing the quirky fairy tale costumes for Colonial Players’ Cinderella Waltz. Her costume designs have also been seen on the Players’ stage in Lettice and Lovage, The Diviners, A Lion In Winter, She Loves Me, Hauptmann, The Philadelphia Story and Moon Over Buffalo. Other work “behind the scenes” at CP includes stage manager, set designer, play consultant, production consultant, sound board operator and stage crew. For CP, Beth directed She Loves Me, Fin and Euba and the WATCH Award-winning Hauptmann (Outstanding Director, Outstanding Play). She is an award-nominated actor (Two Rooms), and was most recently seen onstage as Aunt March in Little Women. She has just rejoined the Colonial Players Board of Directors as production director – her fourth position and sixth year on the board. In addition, she produces the News and Cues newsletter and serves as a CP costume consultant/wardrobe curator, Bylaws Committee member and CP WATCH judge. Beth has also worked with three other area theaters in roles on and off stage. Amazingly, she still manages to keep her day job as a program analyst for the Navy’s Enterprise Resource Planning Program here in Annapolis.
The Chapter Two technical design team hard at work using our new "portable" tech booth equipment.
From left: Frank Florentine, Shirley Panek, Brittany Rankin, and Andy Serb.