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The Most Deserving

March 30 - May 4, 2014

by Catherine Trieschmann
directed by Shelley Butler

“Frisky new comedy! Veanne Cox is PRICELESSLY FUNNY!”  – The New York Times

“A BIG ACCOMPLISHED WRITER’S VOICE” – The New York Times

“Smart, HILARIOUS, RIVETING!” – The New Yorker

“INSIGHTFUL!” – Time Out, New York

“A HILARIOUS RIDE! ” – The Village Voice

“Sharp, Funny, & Witty! BRILLIANT!” – Curtain Up

“A DELIGHT! Check out this kooky, joyful play.” – New York Theatre Review

“DELICIOUS & RAUCOUS! A brilliant script, inventive direction and impeccable performances! A HIT!” – Theatre Reviews Limited

“Quick and lively, the laughs keep coming. HILARIOUS AND FUN!” – Theater Pizzazz

A Tart, Sharp Skewing of Small Town Cultural Wars.

 

Catherine-Trieschmann

Catherine Trieschmann

(Playwright) Her plays include The Bridegroom of Blowing Rock, Crooked, How the World Began, Hot Georgia Sunday and The Most Deserving. Her work has been produced Off-Broadway at Women’s Project Theater, the Bush Theatre (London), Out of Joint at the Arcola Theatre (London), South Coast Repertory, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, the Denver Theater Center, and Florida Stage, among others. She has received commissions from South Coast Repertory, Manhattan Theatre Club, and the Denver Theatre Center. She is the recipient of the Weissberger Award, the Otis Guernsey New Voices Playwriting Award from the Inge Theatre Festival, and the Edgerton New Play Award. Her work is published by Samuel French in the U.S. and Methuen in the U.K. She also wrote the screenplay for the film Angel’s Crest, released by Magnolia Pictures. Originally from Athens, Georgia, she now lives in a small town in western Kansas.

Shelley-Butler

Shelley Butler

(Director) Upcoming: the world premiere of Catherine Trieschmann’s The Most Deserving (Denver Center Theatre Company), Fox on the Fairway (Penobscot Theatre). Recent credits include This is Fiction by Megan Hart, starring Richard Masur at Cherry Lane (InViolet Rep), The Borrowers, (South Coast Repertory), No Way to Treat a Lady (The Colony Theater), world premieres of Christina Gorman’s Sacred Ground (Stella Adler), Ruth McKee’s The Nightshade Family (SPF), John Glore’s adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time (South Coast Repertory) and Eric Coble’s Straight On ‘Til Morning (Great Lakes Theater Festival).  Shelley spent two seasons as artistic associate in charge of new play development for Hartford Stage and three seasons as artistic associate for Great Lakes Theater Festival and is the current Features Editor for the SDC Journal. She is the recipient of Drama League Directing Fellowship, a 2005 Director’s Guild of America Trainee, a member of SDC, the Lincoln Center Directors’ Lab and is a WP Lab alum.

Cox, Veanne

Veanne Cox

(Jolene Atkinson) Recently appeared in The Old Friends at Signature and “Two Broke Girls,” “Smash,” “Louie,” and “Pan Am.” Broadway: A Free Man of Color, La Cage au Folles, Caroline, or Change, The Dinner Party, Company (Tony and Drama Desk Award Nominations), Smile. Off-Broadway: Obie Award for Sustained Excellence Damn Yankees (Encores!); Blind (Rattlestick); Paradise Park (Signature, Lucille Lortel Nomination); Spain(Lucille Lortel Nomination); Last Easter (Drama Desk Nomination); The Wooden Breeks (MCC); House and Garden, Labor Day (MTC); The Altruists, The Batting Cage, The Waiting Room, Flora, the Red Menace (Vineyard); Freedomland (Playwrights Horizons); A Question of Mercy (NYTW). Regional:The Beaux’ Stratagem (Helen Hayes Nomination); The Merry Wives of Windsor, Twelfth Night, The Way of the World (Shakespeare Theatre Co.); Private Lives (Guthrie).

KristinGriffith

Kristin Griffith

(Edie Kelch) Women’s Project Theater: Bethany, Irish Repertory Theatre: It’s A Wonderful Life, Ernest in Love, The Master Builder; The Mint Theater: Mary Broome, The Charity That Began at Home, Mr. Pim Passes By, The Truth About Blades. Broadway: A Texas Trilogy: The Oldest Living Graduate; LuAnne Laverty Oberlander. Off Broadway: Lucy Thurber’s Bottom of the World and Marriage, Jody’s Mother, (The Atlantic Theater); Stretch: A Fantasia (Ohio Theater, The Living Theater); The Countess (Greenwich Street Theater, The Beckett, The Lambs); The Holy Terror, written and directed by Simon Gray (Promenade Theater) and many Marathons at Ensemble Studio Theater, where she is a member. Regional: The Wild Duck (Bard Summerscape); Snow Falling on Cedars, An Enemy of the People, Three by Thornton Wilder (Baltimore Center Stage); Widower’s Houses, Great Catherine, Thark (The Shaw Festival, Ontario). Film: Woody Allen’s Interiors, Merchant/Ivory’s The Europeans, Steven Soderbergh’s King of the Hill, Rose Hill, with Jennifer Garner, The Long Way Home, with Jack Lemmon, and  upcoming films Drawing Home, Cold in July, and I Smile Back. TV: Guest Star on “Blue Bloods,” “New Amsterdam,” “Third Watch,” and all franchises of “Law & Order.”

AdamLeFevre

Adam LeFevre

(Dwayne Dean) Broadway: Devil’s Disciple; Our Country Good; Summer and Smoke; Footloose; Mamma Mia; Guys and Dolls; Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Off-Broadway: Old Friends (Signature Theatre); Him (Primary Stages); How the World Began (Women’s Project Theater); Doctor Dilemma, Cyrano, the Marriage of Bette and Boo, (Roundabout); Goose and Tomtom and Henry V (NYSF). Regional: Alley, Long Wharf, Hartford Stage, Huntington Stage, Actors Theater of Louisville, Capital Rep, La Jolla, Westport, Wiliamstown, Yale Rep- new plays and classics. Film: Featured in over 75 films, among them The Return of the Secaucus 7, Only You, The Ref, Fool’s Gold, She’s Out of My League, The Lucky One. TV: “Recount”, “Empire Falls”, HBO; “Storm of the Century”, ABC mini-series; “No Ordinary Baby”, Lifetime, and guest-starring roles in numerous episodics. Writer: Everything All At Once, Wesleyan University Press; Ghost Light, Finishing Line Press; A Swindler’s Grace, forthcoming in 2015 from New Issues Press.

Jennifer Lim 4

Jennifer Lim

(Liz Chang) Broadway: Chinglish (Theater World Award & Drama Desk Nom). NY: Cry, Trojans! (The Wooster Group), Golden Child (Signature), Vengeance Can Wait (P.S.122), Young Jean Lee’s Songs of The Dragons (HERE Arts, U.S./European tour), Yokastas Redux (La MaMa E.T.C.). Regional: Chinglish (Goodman Theater – Jeff & Chicago Theater Critics’ Beat Nom). Int’l: This Isn’t Romance (Soho Theatre, London), The Medea (Turkey), Hamlet (Shanghai Experimental Theatre Festival & Grotowski Int’l Theatre Festival, Wroclaw). Film/TV: The Savages, 27 Dresses, Person of Interest, The Good Wife, Elementary, Blue BloodsLaw & Order (all three)Royal Pains. Member of GF&Co. MFA from YSD. jenniferlimonline.com

DanielPearce

Daniel Pearce

(Ted Atkinson) Broadway: Machinal (Roundabout), The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Circle in the Square). Off-Broadway: Bill W and Dr Bob (Soho Playhouse), Falling (Minetta Lane), Passion Play (Epic), King Lear, Measure for Measure, Henry V, Henry VI (NYSF/Public), The Picture of Dorian Gray (Irish Repertory), A Mother, a Daughter, and a Gun (New World Stages), Love’s Fire (Public), Romeo and Juliet (New Victory). London: Love’s Fire (Barbican). Regional: La Jolla, Long Wharf, McCarter, Guthrie, Chautauqua, Geva, ATL, Shakespeare Theater DC among others. Film/TV: Salt, An Invisible Sign, Clowns, Godzilla, “Law and Order: All Flavors,” “Chapelle’s Show,” “Queens Supreme.” MFA from NYU.

ThomasRay

Ray Anthony Thomas

(Everett Whiteside) is a member of the Atlantic Theatre Company, where he has appeared in Human Error, Distant Fires, and The Lights. He was last seen on Broadway in Raceby David Mamet, and he was in the original production of Water by the Spoonful, (2012 Pulitzer for Drama.) Favorite credits include: August Wilson Century Cycle for NPR (Fences and Jitney), Topdog/ Underdog, The Exonerated, and Volunteer Man (for which he received an OBIE for Performance.) Recent films include: Trouble with the Curve, Shutter Island, Pariah, and Sleepwalk with Me. And his TV credits include “Law and Order” (6 episodes), “The Sopranos,” “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” and “Oz”.

David Barber

(Set Design) NY credits include The Orphans’ Home Cycle (Signature), The Vandal (The Flea), Women Beware Women (Red Bull), TOKIO Confidential (Atlantic Stage 2), A Simple Heart (CSC) and set and/or costumes for HERE, The Ohio, Rattlestick, Actors’ Studio, Chashama, Gabrielle Lansner Dance and others.  Regional includes The Denver Center, Baltimore Centerstage, Hartford Stage, ART, Pittsburgh Public, Two River, Dorset Festival, Barrington Stage, Contemporary American Theater Festival, Idaho Shakespeare, Great Lakes Theater, others. Television includes art direction for “E! Network News”, “The TODAY Show” and “Football Night in America” and production design for Tyra Banks’ MTV pilot “Fashion Mega Warrior”.  Film includes production design for It’s All Relative, Hearts and Minds, Double Header.  Awards include Drama Desk, Henry Hewes Award, Innovative Theatre Award, Denver Ovation Awards, Westword’s “Best of Denver”, Connecticut Critics Circle Award and inclusion in the Prague Quadrennial (1999).  David is resident designer and an ensemble member of Conni’s Avant Garde Restaurant and currently serves as E! Network’s NY Art Director.

Traci Klainer Polimeni

(Lighting Design) NY theatre credits include: Sand (Women’s Project); The Asphalt Kiss (59E59, Drama Desk nomination); Broadway production of Prune Danish starring Jackie Mason (Royale Theatre); Four (MTC, Lucille Lortel nomination); One Ride (Queens Theatre in the Park); Now Circa Then, Core Values and 2 Girls For 5 Bucks (Ars Nova); The Irish Curse (Soho Playhouse); Based On A Totally True Story (MTC). Regional credits include: Hartford Stage, Virginia Stage Co., Two River Theatre Co., Asolo Repertory, Maltz Jupiter, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Capital Repertory, City Theatre.  Traci is the owner of the design firm Luce Group that specializes in museum, architectural, exhibit and event lighting design. Current Luce project includes:  Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Leon Rothenberg

(Sound Design) For Women’s Project Theater: Bethany. Broadway: The Nance (Tony Award), The Heiress, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (Tony Nomination), Impressionism. Select NY/Off-Broadway: Tectonic Theater Project, Manhattan Theater Club, Public Theater, LCT3, New York City Center. Select Regional: Two River Theater, Arena Stage, Seattle Repertory Theater, North Shore Music Theater, Theater By The Sea, New York Stage & Film, Long Wharf, McCarter, La Jolla Playhouse, Old Globe, Intiman. International: Cirque du Soleil’s Kooza and Wintuk, National Theater of Cyprus, Dijon Festival. more info: klaxson.net

  • THE MOST DESERVING Trailer

  • THE MOST DESERVING Interview Trailer

  • TMD 9

    Veanne Cox and Adam LeFevre in THE MOST DESERVING.
    Photo by Carol Rosegg.

  • TMD 8

    Ray Anthony Thomas and Jennifer Lim in THE MOST DESERVING.
    Photo by Carol Rosegg.

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    Kristin Griffih and Veanne Cox in THE MOST DESERVING.
    Photo by Carol Rosegg.

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    Jennifer Lim, Kristin Griffith, and Veanne Cox in THE MOST DESERVING.
    Photo by Carol Rosegg.

  • TMD 5

    Veanne Cox and Daniel Pearce in THE MOST DESERVING.
    Photo by Carol Rosegg.

  • TMD 4

    Ray Anthony Thomas and Jennifer Lim in THE MOST DESERVING.
    Photo by Carol Rosegg.

  • TMD 3

    Kristin Griffith, Ray Anthony Thomas, Daniel Pearce, and Adam LeFevre in THE MOST DESERVING.
    Photo by Carol Rosegg.

  • TMD 2

    Kristin Griffith, Jennnifer Lim, Veanne Cox, Daniel Pearce, and Adam LeFevre in THE MOST DESERVING.
    Photo by Carol Rosegg.

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    Kristin Griffith, Jennifer Lim, and Ray Anthony Thomas in THE MOST DESERVING.
    Photo by Carol Rosegg.

In Their Words: Meet the cast of THE MOST DESERVING.

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How do the themes in The Most Deserving resonate for you?

Veanne Cox: Well, for me personally, my whole life is driven by keeping the theater alive. And my character Jolene really wants to make art survive.  Life as we know it must have art to survive. It must be a part of our society, or we will perish.

Adam LeFevre: I love this play because it manages to do at least two things. It lampoons the way we relate, as a culture, to art, and that somehow art elevates us in a social way. At the same time it shows the real, emotional component to those who are driven to make art. Writers write, artists paint, singers sing, and those that have to do it for whatever reasons that are maybe inexplicable but have nothing to do with recompense of any kind, financial or public glorification… That’s an artist, you know.

Daniel Pearce: It’s about second chances.  There’s something about the age I am now, where I am in my life, and this character and these people in this play resonate. Ted has a line, where she (Jolene Atkinson) says, “Oh you know, you always wanted to be a rock journalist,” and he’s like, “Yeah… You know, imagine sitting down with Jerry Garcia, just a real heart-to-heart. I could still do that. It’s not too late”, and that’s what the play is about for me. “I could still do that; it’s not too late.”

Ray Anthony Thomas: The inanity of what the characters strive for, what’s important to them, versus the reality of the situation. It’s sort of an absurdist, maybe farcical take on it. I think Catherine has tried to write something that’s a little on the farcical side, not necessarily slapstick, a comedy of manners, I would say.

 

What do you think audiences will enjoy most about this play?

Kristin Griffith: It’s very warm and hysterically funny. It’s a truthful, joyous look at the kind of messed up way that we try to judge art, which you can’t do. You can’t put objective criteria on a very subjective thing. It’s hard to measure immeasurable stuff, but I think that’s a very human instinct, that we want to know why.

Adam LeFevre:  They’re going to laugh, laugh, laugh, but it is one of those fine comedies that finds its laughter in very fundamental truths about people.  To quote that famous esthetician, Homer Simpson, “It’s funny, because it’s true.” She’s [playwright Catherine Trieschmann] got this group of people together, each of whom wants something very badly and will stop at nothing to get it, and that’s great fun to watch people go about their schemes to achieving their ends, particularly in the kind of microcosm of this small town.  There’s great opportunity to make commentary about people and about art, how art functions and, sometimes, saves people. And, in other cases, it makes people mean and venal.

Jennifer Lim: Catherine’s written these incredible characters that are funny but also incredibly complex. They are all people who have very strong beliefs and are prepared to do anything to make sure the right thing is done, and I think that is something that’s very relatable.

 

How does your character fit into the comedy of The Most Deserving?

Veanne Cox: Jolene is a can-do person, but the obstacles that each person surrounding her gives her is something that anybody who’s ever run anything will be able to identify with, she desperately wants to succeed in something where you cannot measure success.

Kristin Griffith: You have a woman of a certain age on a journey of self-discovery on being able to do anything she wants without her husband. Although she loved her husband very much, but I don’t think she knew how tightly held she was until he died, until these things started loosening up for her!

Adam Lefevre: I love this guy! Dwayne is guileless, and particularly in the realm of art and talking about art that he has truly become impassioned. Irony escapes him; he is very literal in terms of the way he thinks, but he’s not stupid. There’s something very innocent about him, which is wonderful.

Jennifer Lim:  Liz is a fighter, and she’s not scared to be a little scrappy about it. She’s relatable. She’s a fish out of water, but she doesn’t let that stop her. She loves what she does, and she’s passionate about it, and she’s prepared to fight for what she believes in.

Daniel Pearce:  Ted’s British, so that’s just funny! I love anything eccentric, and Brits tend to be more eccentric than Americans. Brits have all these nooks and crannies, like an English muffin, that I love so much.  He’s a little slow on his feet and burnt out. He’s constantly getting befuddled, and that’s funny.

Anthony Ray Thomas:  Everett’s eccentricity, his quirkiness, the way he deals with people…he’s an outsider artist, who doesn’t see things normally.  He’s got a big heart.  Things inspire him, and he doesn’t know why.

 

This is your second play with Women’s Project Theater.  What do you enjoy about working with us?

Kristin Griffith:  I love the women! I love the freedom, and I think Women’s Project Theater takes a lot of chances in the plays they produce,  they are willing to push a bit into the audience, to challenge the audience.

Adam LeFevre: The work that gets done here is fantastic, and as an actor looking for good roles, it’s a great place to come.   The people who work here are so committed to doing good work and are so personable. That part of it is great fun, the senses of humor and empathy that any artist would die to have as part of…coming into that kind of an embrace.

Meet the creative duo: Q&A with THE MOST DESERVING playwright Catherine Trieschmann & director Shelley Butler

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Where did the idea for The Most Deserving spring from?

Catherine:  All my plays come from two places: a desire to explore a certain emotional terrain and a desire to try a new form. I wanted to write an out-and-out comedy, in the style of a wonderful artist like Alan Arkin. I’ve lived in Kansas for seven years, and I’ve always been tickled by people getting excited or angry about minor issues like library renovation. I thought it would be fun to take the sort of comedy and dynamics of small town politics and marry that to aesthetic questions that are faced by an arts council, who are tasked with the job of giving a living wage grant of the remarkable, vast sum of $20,000 to a local artist.

As the director, what’s your vision for the play?

Shelley: I wanted to create a really voyeuristic experience that takes you right inside the council, inside the private lives and bedrooms of the members. It’s a comedy that comes out of truth, and we’ve created a set and clothes and sound that is grounded and authentic, and the humor just bubbles forth from that situation.

What are the questions or themes The Most Deserving asks the audience to consider?

Catherine: The central question of the play is, “Who is qualified to determine what artists are most deserving of funding?” It’s a very tricky question. It’s not only a question of taste, like, “What makes great art?” This play focuses on who gets to determine what artists are funded. What makes an artist more deserving than another one when it comes to these decisions?

Shelley:  In addition to all the shenanigans that the characters get up to, pursuing what they want or vying for their candidate, there are also real human exchanges in this. It’s about intimacy; connection, passion, the arts, all of those things we connect to. Vying for what you believe in and vying for the arts is very important. There’s something about having a passion for what you believe in that audiences will connect with in a real way.

What do you think excites audiences the most about this show?

Catherine:  Well, first of all it’s fun, and it’s surprising. I think what I always long for the most when I go the theater is to be surprised. And with this play, there’s a surprise in every single scene. The humor is rooted in true human psychology. The characters are striving after things that we all can relate to, so humor grounded in truth.

Shelley: My favorite kind of comedy comes from defying expectations, and this play does that again and again. It’s chock full of surprises. Audiences are going to love watching how far these characters will go to get what they want. It all comes down to a vote and, like any great democracy, there are conflicting opinions, conflicting desires, and none of these characters are afraid to vy for what they want.

We’ve seen it with congress; people are willing to charm and coerce and sling mud and seduce to get what they want, and our characters are willing to do the same things.   This world, which irises in on a small town, but is not unlike congress or Richard III, or House of Cards, where the characters are willing to really go after what they want with everything that they have. The play is full of quirky, unique, surprising characters.

The Most Deserving sheds light on the politics of arts funding and the role of minorities and race. Do you think it’s easier to discuss these issues through humor?

Catherine: Humor is the great neutralizer, right? So it’s the ultimate coping mechanism; it’s what we have when faced with the dark and terrible things that happen to us. So certainly, it’s much easier to talk about race through humor, to talk about the politics of arts funding through humor… It opens up a space for audiences to see the more difficult, intricate issues.

What do you enjoy most about working with Women’s Project Theater?

Catherine: This is my third play with WP and my favorite thing about working at Women’s Project Theater is that the staff, across the board, is completely dedicated to creating the best theater possible. They’re attracted to risky projects; that are provocative, that aren’t safe.

Shelley: As a WP Lab alum, I know WP is committed to nurturing dynamic artists and supporting artists to deliver really important and delightful work. WP is making work that I want to go see, so to be able to be a part of that and make work for the WP is thrilling.