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A Red Orchid Theatre To Present Sam Shepard's "Simpatico" At McCarter

originally published: 08/10/2017

A Red Orchid Theatre To Present Sam Shepard's "Simpatico" At McCarter

(PRINCETON, NJ) -- Buried secrets, blackmail, and false identities race onto the stage in this hard-driving tragicomedy about the slippery netherworld of thoroughbred racing from Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatist Sam Shepard. When a simple phone call causes Carter and Vinnie’s shady past to resurface, fierce loyalties that were once hot-blooded begin to run astray. McCarter Theatre kicks off its 2017-2018 theatre season with a collaboration with the acclaimed Chicago ensemble A Red Orchid Theatre Simpatico to bring the riveting American drama, Simpatico, to Princeton. Featuring Oscar and Tony nominee Michael Shannon with members of A Red Orchid Theatre’s ensemble, performances are scheduled to run September 8 to October 15.

McCarter Theatre Center has a storied history of previous collaborations with other forward-thinking theatre companies across the country including Lookingglass Theatre, Steppenwolf, Fiasco, and Bedlam. In that tradition, A Red Orchid Theatre makes its debut at McCarter. 

Celebrating its 25th anniversary season, A Red Orchid Theatre is a critically-acclaimed collective of artists operating out of a 70-seat theatre space in Chicago’s Old Town. Known for gritty, visceral performances and production styles, A Red Orchid Theatre’s 2013 production of Simpatico “evokes an American society with a divided soul, one part ‘civilized,’ the other primitive and intuitive.” (The New York Times). 

In addition to Michael Shannon (Carter), the cast of Simpatico includes A Red Orchid Theatre co-founder (and full-time Chicago firefighter) Guy Van Swearingen (Vinnie), with A Red Orchid Theatre ensemble members Mierka Girten (Cecilia) and Jennifer Engstrom (Rosie). Kristen Ellis (Rosie) and John Judd (Sims), round out the cast. The design team features frequent A Red Orchid Theatre collaborators Grant Sabain (set design), Christine Pascual (costume design), Mike Durst (sound design) and Joe Court (sound design). Christa van Baale is the production stage manager. 

About the collaboration with A Red Orchid Theatre and Sam Shepard’s recent passing, McCarter Artistic Director Emily Mann said “Sam Shepard, of course, is one of America’s iconic playwrights, and it's no surprise to me that an ensemble like A Red Orchid Theatre would thrive off of his idiosyncratic dialogue, raw and multi-faceted characters, and fevered exploration of American nostalgia and identity. Sam Shepard shaped the American theater from the moment his plays appeared on our stages Simpatico, like all of Shepard's plays, is a true feast for an adventurous company and a wild ride for any audience. His passing is a stunning personal loss to all of us who knew him and a devastating loss for the theater community at large. We dedicate our opening play of the season to his memory.” 

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Photo: Guy Van Swearingen and Michael Shannon in Simpatico


Sam Shepard (1943 – 2017) was born in Fort Sheridan, Illinois. He moved to New York from California just as the off-Broadway theatre scene was emerging. He has written more than forty plays--of which eleven have won 'Obie' awards—besides collections of stories, prose writing and screenplays. His plays include Buried ChildThe Late Henry MossSimpaticoCurse of the Starving ClassTrue WestFool for LoveA Lie of the Mind, and States of Shock. His screenplay for Paris, Texas won the Golden Palm Award at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival and he directed his own screenplay, Far North, in 1988. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Shepard received the Gold Medal for Drama from the Academy in 1992, and in 1994 he was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame. In addition to his career as a playwright, Shepard enjoyed success as a director and actor for stage, screen, and television. 



Dado is a theater director/actor/visual artist from Chicago and an ensemble member from A Red Orchid Theatre. She is also this year's recipient of The Claire Rosen & Samuel Edes Foundation Prize for Emerging Artists from the University of Chicago. For A Red Orchid: The RoomThe MutilatedRed Handed OtterThe HothouseThe SeahorseThe Grey ZoneThe UnseenThe Fastest Clock in the Universe, as well as the world premiere of Brett Neveu's Megacosm. She has received a Jeff Citation, an After Dark Award, and is a Maggio Fellow of the Goodman Theatre. Education: MFA from the University of Chicago Department of Visual Art (DOVA). She has taught and directed at DePaul University, University of Illinois in Chicago, and AMDA (Los Angeles). She is collaborating this year with Facility Theatre to produce a sculptural installation of an experimental opera, David Lang's little match girl passion



Kristen E. Ellis (Kelly) from the original Chicago cast, is making her debut at McCarter. Recent: the Midwest premiere of Dominique Morisseau’s Paradise Blue (TimeLine Theatre). Other: What I Learned in Paris (Black Theatre Alliance Award nom. for Best Featured Actress, Congo Square Theatre), The Inside (Black Excellence Award nom. for Best Theatre Actress, MPAACT Theatre), Theatre Wit, Steppenwolf Garage Rep, Griffin Theatre, and Collaboraction Theatre. Kristin’s work in independent films has premiered vastly in Chicago film festivals. Kristin received her BFA degree in Acting from The Theatre School at DePaul. Currently, Kristin can be seen in the short film Side Effects airing on Amazon Prime and Xfinity: Streampix. Kristin is represented by Stewart Talent Chicago.

Jennifer Engstrom (Rosie) is a Chicago-based actor, last seen in HIR at Steppenwolf Theatre (U/S Amy Morton). Off-Broadway: Excuse My Dust, A Dorothy Parker Portfolio. Regional: Angels in America Part I and II (Kansas City Rep), MacBeth (Norte Dame Shakespeare), A Streetcar Named Desire(Williamstown Theatre Festival). Chicago: Death of A Streetcar Named Virginia WoolfA ParodyA Streetcar Named Desire (Writers Theatre); The North Plan, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (Steppenwolf Theatre); Sweet Bird of Youth (Goodman Theatre). Jennifer is a proud ensemble member of A Red Orchid Theatre, where she has appeared in The Mutilated, 3C, The Hothouse, Fatboy, and dozens more. Ms. Engstrom will be seen in the upcoming motion picture Slice and has appeared on Chicago Fire and The Onion Network. 

Mierka Girten (Cecilia) was last seen in The Room at A Red Orchid Theatre where she is a proud ensemble member. She was recently seen in Master Class at A Human Race Theatre as Diva Maria Callas. Off-Broadway: Mistakes Were Made with Michael Shannon (Barrow Street). A Red Orchid Theatre: Mud Blue SkyBecky ShawMistakes Were MadeWeapon of Mass ImpactThe MeekKimberly Akimbo, and The Treatment. Select Chicago credits: her one-woman show With or Without WingsThe Walls (Rivendell Theatre Co); A View from the Bridge (American Theatre Company); The Book of Liz (Roadworks); The DanubeEdmondMarat SadeA Blood Wedding (The Hypocrites); and many more. National tours: The Secret Garden. Film: The Manson FamilyThe Lake at EveningThe Drunk.

John Judd (Simms) returns to McCarter Theatre Center, last appearing there in Steppenwolf Theatre’s production of American Buffalo in 2010. A Chicago-based actor for over 30 years, he has appeared on most of the stages there as well as numerous regional and off-Broadway engagements. He last collaborated with A Red Orchid Theatre in the 2005 production of Gagarin Way, appearing alongside Mr. Van Swearengin and Mr. Shannon. He is most recently found on television recurring on EmpireChicago Fire, and Sense8.

Michael Shannon (Carter) is a founding father of A Red Orchid Theatre, where he has been seen in Pilgrim's ProgressSimpatico, Mistakes Were Made, Gagarin Way, Mr. Kolpert, BUG, among others. He made his directorial debut at A Red Orchid Theatre with Ionesco's Hunger and Thirst and looks forward to directing the world premiere of Traitor by fellow ensemble member Brett Neveu this winter. Mike currently lives in NYC and recently performed in Ionesco's The Killer (TFANA), made his Broadway debut in Grace, and played Astrov in Annie Baker's adaptation of Uncle Vanya (Soho Rep). Select film: Groundhog Day, Chicago Cab, Pearl Harbor, 8 Mile, Revolutionary Road, Take Shelter, Mud, Premium Rush, The Iceman, Man of Steel, 99 Homes, Elvis & Nixon, Loving, Nocturnal Animals. TV: Nelson Van Alden on HBO's Boardwalk Empire.

Guy Van Swearingen (Vinnie) is the founding Artistic Director and Ensemble member of A Red Orchid Theatre where he has appeared in over a dozen productions, most recently The NetherRed Handed OtterSimpatico (Jeff nom.), The Sea Horse (Jeff nom.), and The Opponent (also produced at 59E59 in NYC). Regional: The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window (The Goodman)Taking CareThe Time of Your Life (Steppenwolf); Eleven Rooms of Proust (Lookingglass, About Face, Goodman co-production). Other Chicago theaters he has appeared at include Defiant, Plasticene, Famous Door, and Mary Arrchie. Film: Captive State (2018 release), The DilemmaThe Merry GentlemanTake ShelterPublic EnemiesThe WeathermanAliJanie JonesThe Unborn. TV: Chicago FireBossSirensDetroit 1-8-7Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson StoryThe BeastTurksEarly Edition.

Grant Sabin (Set Design) A native of rural Illinois, Grant blends his rural roots with urban art. He’s a recipient of the 2015 Michael Maggio Emerging Designer Award. He is known for his keen eye in capturing atmospheric detail and his ability to design “impressively executed sets” on a storefront-theater budget. His designs have been seen at Northlight, Victory Garden, Steppenwolf, Next, The Royal George, Overture Center, Theatre Witt, Gallagher Bluedorn, ATC, The House, The Hypocrites, and A Red Orchid. He was nominated for a Jeff Award for Yankee Tavern (American Blue Theatre), The Sea Horse (A Red Orchid Theatre), and Mr. Marmalade (Dog & Pony). He was recently named one of the Top 50 Players in Chicago Theatre by New City Magazine. Grant is currently a part-time faculty member at Columbia College.

Christine Pascual (Costume Design) is delighted to be designing at McCarter for the first time. Recent designs: Put Your House In Order (The Roustabouts), Paradise Blue (Timeline), Wit (The Hypocrites), East Texas Hot Links (Writers Theatre). For A Red Orchid Theatre: TrevorSimpaticoMegacosm. Additional Chicago designs at American Theater Company, Timeline, Theater Wit, Teatro Vista, The Goodman, Next Theatre, Steppenwolf, Drury Lane, Victory Gardens. Regional: The Island (APT), Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (Centerstage), Fences (Virginia Stage). Off-Broadway: The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity (Second Stage – Henry Hewes Award nom. for best production design). Awards: Black Theater Alliance Award for Best Costume for Seven Guitars and Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (Congo Square), Jeff Citation for The Skriker (Defiant Theatre). Member of United Scenic Artists Local 829.

Mike Durst (Lighting Design) Mike is a Chicago based lighting designer and ensemble member with A Red Orchid Theatre. Off-Broadway: Primary Stages, 59E59, Cherry Lane. Regional: The Huntington, Lookingglass, The Court Theatre, Olney Theatre Center, The Hypocrites, Cardinal Stage, A Red Orchid Theatre, Timeline Theatre. National tour: Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s The Nightman Cometh. Mike is a lecturer of Lighting Design at The University of Chicago and a consultant on theatrical renovations including the Gray Center at The University of Chicago and The Circle Theater in Los Angeles. He is a recipient of Chicago’s Jeff award, L.A.’s Ovation award, and San Diego’s Craig Noel award. Mike is a member of IATSE Local 2 and United Scenic Artists 829. 

Joe Court (Sound Design) is excited to work with McCarter Theatre Center for the first time. For the last 10 years Joe was a freelance artist based in Chicago. His work has been heard in Chicago (Mary-Archie, A Red Orchid Theatre, The Hypocrites, Emerald City, and many more), New York (59E59, off-Broadway), Los Angeles (REDCAT at The Disney Concert Hall), The Clarence Brown Theatre (Knoxville), Great Lakes Theatre (Cleveland), Virginia Stage Company (Norfolk), and the Idaho, Lake Tahoe, and Illinois Shakespeare Festivals. He has taught at Ball State University (Muncie, IN) and the University of Chicago and is currently on faculty at Virginia Tech. Joe has received two Jeff Award nominations and a nomination for his work. Member of USA 829.

American Poetry Theater Presents "Gun Love"
(LONG BRANCH, NJ) -- The American Poetry Theater presents Gun Love from October 5-7.  The play, written by cast and community members, runs about one hour and is a collection of monologues and a skit dealing with gun violence in America.  
Seuls en Scene 2018 Runs This Week At Lewis Center For The Arts
(PRINCETON, NJ) -- Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts, Department of French and Italian, and L’Avant-Scène will present the seventh annual Seuls en ScèneFrench Theater Festival, which will take place from September 21 to 29 at venues across the University’s campus. Most performances will be in French with English subtitles; all are free and open to the public.
Smugbug Productions presents The Eleventh Hour! at The Raritan River Festival
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- The Eleventh Hour!'s Chris Pasi with composer David Seamon for a night of acoustic renditions of songs from the rock musical comedy at the Raritan River Festival at Boyd Park in New Brunswick, NJ on Sunday, September 30 at 1:00pm. 
Lewis Center for the Arts presents a Conversation about the History of Casting
(PRINCETON, NJ) -- Associate Professor of Theater at Princeton University and performance historian Brian Herrera will lead a conversation about the history of casting in U.S. popular performance on Monday, September 24 at 4:30pm in the Wallace Theater in the Lewis Arts complex on the Princeton campus. The event is free and open to the public.
"Nightmare Alley: An Introduction" to debut during West End Festival of the Arts
(LONG BRANCH, NJ) -- The West End Festival of the Arts presents the World Premiere of Nightmare Alley: An Introduction - a new musical based on the 1946 novel by William Lindsay Gresham and the 1947 noir film that starred Tyrone Power. The musical stars Cole Burden, Kevyn Morrow and Lauren Zakrin and can be seen for one night only as part of the West End Festival of the Arts on Friday, September 21 at 8:00pm presented at 132 West End Avenue in Long Branch.

The Jersey Devil on stage: An interview with playwright Brandon Monokian
Up-and-coming New Jersey native Brandon Monokian has worked as an actor, writer, director, producer, and popcorn sample distributor. He wrote and starred in the film Happy Yummy Chicken and co-founded the production company Love Drunk Life with Katie Frazer. Together they have produced plays, films, books, and, to support their creative work financially, a product line: Monokian received national attention through Revolutionary Readings (his TEDx talk at Princeton Library), which was used to fight the banning of the book Revolutionary Voices from two New Jersey libraries. 
An Interview With Nicole Pandolfo
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Ritz Opens Season With "Incorruptible"
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"By The Water" at The Waterfront South Theatre
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Event calendar
Thursday, Sep 20, 2018


ELI YOUNG BAND WITH CODY BRYAN @ The Stone Pony, Asbury Park - 7:00pm

CELTIC THUNDER X @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm

Lost 80's Live @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 8:00pm

Citizen Cope @ The Newton Theatre, Newton - 8:00pm

ICON 2018: ELIMINATION ROUND 2 @ Hamilton Stage @ Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC), Rahway - 8:00pm

Linda Eder @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

Doug Deming & The Jewel Tones @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm


Souvenir @ Surflight Theatre, Beach Haven - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

East Lynne Theater Company presents SILENT SKY @ First Presbyterian Church (Cape May), Cape May - 8:00pm

The Shuck @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 7:30pm

Auditions for Seussical at CDC Theatre @ CDC Theatre, Cranford - 7:00pm

Playhouse 22's Third-Thursday Play Reading Series @ Playhouse 22, East Brunswick - 7:30pm

West End Festival of the Arts- Opening Reception @ West End Arts Center, Long Branch - 6:00pm

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 8:00pm

Brick City @ Premiere Stages at Kean University, Union - 8:00pm


New Jersey Film Festival @ Ruth Adams Building #001, New Brunswick - 6:00pm


Crybaby Matinee: The Triplets of Belleville @ Hopewell Theater, Hopewell - 11:00am

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