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Healey revitalization of Shaw’s On the Rocks now in previews at the Shaw Festival


“So much for the carrot. Here comes the stick.”

Media Release #19

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, June 15, 2011… Contemporary playwright Michael Healey’s reworking of Bernard Shaw’s political comedy On the Rocks, the first in the Festival’s new program that re-examines Shaw’s later, more complex plays, began previews yesterday at the Court House Theatre.

Rejuvenated by an enforced two-week retreat and ignited by some revolutionary reading, the once ineffective Prime Minister is spurred into action. His address proposing enlightened changes for the betterment of all causes opposing forces of his government, along with a contingent representing British society, to descend upon 10 Downing Street. What ensues is a passionate, hilarious and, at times, riotous discussion about government and governing with such subjects as the ineptness of democracy, revolution and the concept of liberty thrown in for good measure.

As reconceived by Michael Healey, Shaw’s political satire On the Rocks is not only as provocative and startling as the original 1933 work, retaining the sharp Shavian spirit for which he is celebrated, but also clearly embraces echoes of the present. Enthusiastically tackling the re-exploration of On the Rocks, Michael Healey relished the opportunity to continue questioning the nature of leadership so present in both his and Shaw’s work.

On the Rocks features Peter Krantz as Sir Arthur Chavender and Steven Sutcliffe as Sir Dexter. The cast also includes Guy Bannerman, Anthony Bekenn, Mary Haney, Marla McLean, Thom Marriott, Cherissa Richards and David Schurmann, with Maggie Blake, Norman Browning, Martin Happer, Claire Jullien, Catherine McGregor and Ben Sanders.

On the Rocks is directed by Joseph Ziegler, who returns after the success of last season’s Harvey, and is designed by Christina Poddubiuk, with lighting design by Louise Guinand, music composed by Paul Sportelli and sound design by Fred Gabrsek. The stage management team includes Stage Manager Diane Konkin and Assistant Stage Manager Amy Jewell.

Originally trained as an actor at Toronto’s Ryerson Theatre School, Michael Healey began writing for the stage ten years later. His first play, a solo one-act called Kicked, was produced at the Fringe of Toron­to Festival in 1996. He subsequently toured the play across Canada and internationally, and in 1998 it won the Dora Mavor Moore Award (Toronto’s annual theatre prize) for best new play. The Drawer Boy, his first full-length play, premiered in Toronto in 1999 and has been produced across North America and internationally, and has been translated into German, French, Hindi, Portuguese and Japanese. His other plays include The Road to Hell (co-authored with Kate Lynch), Plan B, Rune Arlidge, The Innocent Eye Test, Gen­erous and Courageous. He has adapted Chekhov and Mol­nár for Toronto’s Soulpepper Theatre. Michael’s plays have, in the last fifteen years, won the Governor General’s Award, the Chalmers Playwriting Award, five Dora Awards, as well as awards across Canada and internationally. He is a playwright-in-residence at Tarragon Theatre.

The first – and only – previous Canadian production of On the Rocks was at the Shaw Festival in 1986, directed by Christopher Newton at the Court House Theatre.

On the Rocks began preview performances Tuesday, June 14; opens Friday, July 8; and plays in repertory until Saturday, October 8. On the Rocks is sponsored by the Producers Circle

The Shaw Festival’s milestone season began April 7, 2011, runs until October 30, 2011 and also features productions of My Fair Lady, Candida, The Admirable Crichton, Drama at Inish – A Comedy, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The President, Maria Severa, Heartbreak House, Topdog/Underdog, When the Rain Stops Falling on the Festival’s four Niagara-on-the-Lake stages. The 2011 season also includes a special 50th season two-day event, The Speed of Ideas: A Theatrical Forum featuring award-winning playwrights Tony Kushner and Suzan-Lori Parks and author and renowned theatre critic Michael Billington. For more information on our 50th season celebrations, please visit www.shawfest.com/our-50th-season. For tickets and information, visit www.shawfest.com or call 1-800-511-7429 or 905-468-2172 (local). 

Visa Infinite is the official payment card of the Shaw Festival.

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In the spirit of Bernard Shaw, the Shaw Festival provokes the mind and stirs the soul through a theatre experience so compelling that, year after year, ever-broadening groups of artists, audiences and supporters are drawn to our work in Niagara-on-the-Lake and beyond.

Please visit our website at www.shawfest.com/news for other Shaw Festival media releases. For more information, or to download images from our image bank to accompany this release, members of the media may contact:

Odette Yazbeck 
Public Relations Director 
905-468-2153 or 1-800-657-1106 ext. 2222                   
odette@shawfest.com                                                      

Jenniffer Anand
Public Relations Coordinator
905-468-2153 or 1-800-657-1106 ext. 2224
janand@shawfest.com

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