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George Street Playhouse presents "The Pianist"

originally published: 09/20/2023

George Street Playhouse presents "The Pianist"

(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- George Street Playhouse presents The Pianist, a play with music, based on the memoir “The Pianist” by Wladyslaw Szpilman and directed and adapted for the stage by Emily Mann (Broadway: A Streetcar Named Desire, Having Our Say, Anna and the Tropics). The Pianist begins previews on September 26, with an official opening night set for September 29. The play runs through October 22.

Presented in association with producers Michael Wolk, Kumiko Yoshii and Robin de Levita, The Pianist is a new stage adaptation of Wladyslaw Szpilman's harrowing account of the annihilation of Jewish life in Warsaw during World War II and his remarkable survival through the transcendent power of music. Szpilman was the most acclaimed young musician of his time until his promising career was interrupted by the onset of World War II. He played the last live music heard over Polish radio airwaves before Nazi artillery hit. Though he escaped deportation, Szpilman was forced to live in the heart of the Warsaw ghetto. The play follows Szpilman's heroic and inspirational journey of survival with the unlikely help of a sympathetic German officer.

Szpilman’s memoir inspired the 2002 Oscar-winning film starring Adrien Brody.

The Pianist stars Ukrainian-Russian Jewish actor Daniel Donskoy (A Small Light; The Crown) as Wladyslaw Szpilman in his American stage debut and features Claire Beckman (The Torch-Bearers) as Mother, Austin Pendleton (Between Riverside and Crazy; The Minutes; The Little Foxes) as Father, Paul Spera (On The Basis of Sex) as Henryk, Arielle Goldman (The How and the Why) as Regina, Georgia Warner (Broadway: All My Sons) as Halina/Woman, Charlotte Ewing (Law and Order: SVU) as Magda/Boy, Tina Benko (Broadway: The Rose Tattoo) as Janina and others, Robert David Grant (Succession) as Majorek and others, and Jordan Lage (Broadway: Glengarry Glenross) as Jaworski.

Directed and adapted by Mann, the play features an original score by Iris Hond (headliner at the Royal Concert Hall in Amsterdam and New Church in The Hague). Terry Berliner (The Lion King resident director; The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife) serves as Choreographer and Associate Director. The Pianist has scenic design by Tony Award Winner Beowulf Boritt (New York, New York; Come From Away), lighting design by Japhy Weideman (Dear Evan Hansen; Shucked), costume design by Tony Award Winner Linda Cho (A Gentlemen’s Guide...; POTUS), co-sound design by Mark Bennett (The Coast of Utopia; Vanya and Sonia...) & Charles Coes (Sing Street; Golden Child), and video and projection design by S. Katy Tucker (Letters From Max; Elektra directed by Francesca Zambello).



 
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The Pianist began its development at The McCarter Theatre Center, where Emily Mann served as Artistic Director and Resident Playwright from 1990–2020, and which was honored by the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre during her tenure. The play was first presented in 2017 as a reading. It was decided to augment the innate power of the piece with an original score, and in 2018, Iris Hond was retained as composer. That same year, The Pianist received a music and sound design workshop, where the score was integrated with beginnings of the complex, layered sound effects that Emily calls “a key character in the drama.” In 2020, Tony-winner Santino Fontana portrayed Wladyslaw Szpilman in a Zoom reading, which demonstrated the impact of the material even in a virtual setting. In June 2022, The Pianist had an intensive workshop at Manhattan’s Open Jar Studios to polish the script, create a distinctive “movement language” for the piece, and enhance the integration of the score and sound design with cutting edge immersive surround-sound technology.

"The Pianist is the most important story I’ve been entrusted with as a theater maker,” said Emily Mann. “Not only is it a stunning story about the tenacity of the human spirit and the power of art, but it is also deeply personal. Since I was a child, I’ve been haunted by my mother’s family murdered in occupied Poland during The Holocaust. When I went to Warsaw to research The Pianist, I visited the Jewish Cemetery and placed a stone on my great grandmother’s grave. At that moment, I realized I, too, was a Warsaw Jew, and I had to tell this story. Seeing fascism on the rise again both in the United States and around the world gives even greater urgency to this play. We must bring to powerful life the call to action ‘never again’."

“We’re thrilled to welcome Emily Mann in her debut at George Street Playhouse,” said Artistic Director David Saint. “This powerful world premiere production will surely be a highlight of our 50th anniversary season."

Tickets for The Pianist at George Street Playhouse, priced for $25-$70, are available at www.GeorgeStreetPlayhouse.org.

Emily Mann (Playwright and Director) Emily Mann has previously brought two impactful and influential documentary dramas to Broadway – Execution of Justice, and Having Our Say (Tony-nominated Best Play and Best Director). Also on Broadway, Emily directed A Streetcar Named Desire and Anna in the Tropics. Plays written by Mann include: Still Life; Annulla: An Autobiography; Greensboro (A Requiem); and Mrs. Packard. In 2020, her play Gloria: A Life was presented by Great Performances on PBS. From 1990-2020, Emily was the Artistic Director and Resident Playwright of McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, New Jersey, which was honored with the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theater under her leadership. The new biography by Alexis Greene, Emily Mann: Rebel Artist of the American Theater, celebrates her many contributions and innovations, highlighting her groundbreaking work in “the theater of testimony:” constructing a play based on the verbatim speech surrounding real life events. Awards include: Tony, Drama Desk, 8 Obies, Peabody, Hull Warriner, NAACP, Guggenheim, two Tony nominations, Outer Critics Circle nominations; a Princeton University Honorary Doctorate of Arts, a Helen Merrill Distinguished Playwrights' Award, Margo Jones Award, TCG Visionary Leadership Award, Lilly Lifetime Achievement Award, and The Gordon Davidson Award. In 2019, Mann was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame, and this fall, she will be inducted into The American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Daniel Donskoy (Wladyslaw Szpilman) - Daniel made his theatrical debut in London's Camden Fringe Festival in 2014, and since then has performed at The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation Theatre, the Arcola Theatre, the Arts Theatre in the West End, the Garrick Theatre and the St James Theatre. He played the role of Jim O'Connor in The Glass Menagerie at the Nottingham Playhouse, and he also worked in London as a theater director, theater producer, and playwright. He played leading and guest roles in the British series “Detectorists, “Casualty,” and “Victoria.” From 2018 to 2020, Donskoy played the petty criminal and reluctant priest Maik Schäfer in the RTL series “Sankt Maik,” for which he was nominated for the Bavarian Television Award for Best Actor. In 2019, he played Israeli gangster Danny Dahan in the HBO series “Strike Back,” and in 2020, he played Princess Diana's lover James Hewitt in the Netflix series “The Crown.” He released his first single "Cry By the River" and his debut EP "Didn't I Say So," in 2019, and played his first club tour through Germany. He is the host and moderator of the talk show “Freitagnacht Jews” (Friday Night Jews) which was awarded the German Television Prize 2021 and The Grimme Prize 2022. In 2021, he was the moderator of the German Film Prize. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, he tried to counter Russian war propaganda with the Russian song Net Vojne (“No to War”). He was the winner of season 7 of “The Masked Singer” in Germany and was the first Jewish entertainer to host the German Film Awards. The Pianist marks his American stage debut.

Wladyslaw Szpilman (original source material)Wladyslaw Szpilman was a Polish pianist and classical composer of Jewish descent. Szpilman is widely known as the central figure in the 2002 Academy Award-winning film The Pianist, which was based on Szpilman's autobiographical account of how he survived the German occupation of Warsaw and the Holocaust. Szpilman studied piano at music academies in Berlin and Warsaw. He became a popular performer on Polish radio and in concert. Confined within the Warsaw Ghetto after the German invasion of Poland, Szpilman spent two years in hiding. Towards the end of his concealment, he was helped by Wilm Hosenfeld, a German officer who detested Nazi policies. After World War II, Szpilman resumed his career on Polish radio. Szpilman was also a prolific composer; his work included hundreds of songs and many orchestral pieces.



 
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Under the leadership of Artistic Director David Saint since 1997, George Street Playhouse produces groundbreaking new works, inspiring productions of the classics, and hit Broadway plays and musicals that speak to the heart and mind, with an unwavering commitment to producing new work.  As New Brunswick’s first producing theatre, George Street Playhouse became the cornerstone of the revitalization of the City’s arts and cultural landscape.  With its 47-year history of producing nationally renowned theatre, the Playhouse continues to fill a unique theatre and arts education role in the city, state and greater metropolitan region.

Beginning with the 2019-20 Season, George Street Playhouse moved to the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center in downtown New Brunswick.  Featuring two state-of-the-art theatres -- The Arthur Laurents Theater with 253 seats and The Elizabeth Ross Johnson Theater which seats 465-- and myriad amenities, the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center marks a new era in the esteemed history of George Street Playhouse.

Founded by Eric Krebs, George Street Playhouse, originally located in an abandoned supermarket on the corner of George and Albany Streets, was the first professional theatre in New Brunswick. In 1984, the Playhouse moved to a renovated YMCA on Livingston Avenue, and in 2017 took temporary residence in the former Agricultural Museum at Rutgers University during construction of its new home.

The Playhouse has been well represented by numerous productions both on and off-Broadway. In 2018, George Street Playhouse was represented on Broadway with Gettin’ the Band Back Together which premiered on the Playhouse mainstage in 2013.  American Son, produced by George Street Playhouse in 2017, opened on Broadway in 2018 starring Kerry Washington and Stephen Pasquale, and appeared on Netflix in 2019.  Other productions include the Outer Critics’ Circle Best Musical Award-winner The Toxic Avenger.  In 2015, It Shoulda Been You opened on Broadway and Joe DiPietro’s Clever Little Lies opened off-Broadway.  Both shows received their premieres at the Playhouse. Others include the Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk and Drama League nominated production of The Spitfire Grill; and the Broadway hit and Tony and Pulitzer Prize winning play Proof by David Auburn, which was developed at the Playhouse during the 1999 Next Stage Series of new plays.

George Street Playhouse programming is made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts.  Grant funding has been provided by the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Commissioners through a grant award from the Middlesex County Cultural and Arts Trust Fund.


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