Press Room


October 9, 2009

Heather Nowlin  801-581-7222
Kirsten Park 801-581-6270

“Is He Dead?” A “new” comedy by MARK TWAIN
Adapted by David Ives

Pioneer Theatre Company presents the Utah premiere of “Is He Dead?” by Mark Twain. Twain wrote the comedy in 1898, but it was never produced in his lifetime. “Is He Dead?” was discovered in his papers and adapted by playwright David Ives in 2003, and enjoyed a hit run on Broadway in 2007 at the Lyceum Theatre.

The plot, characters, and dialogue of “Is He Dead?” contain all of Twain’s trademark wit, slapstick humor, and keen ear for language. Jean-Francois Millet is a brilliant but unappreciated artist living outside Paris in 1846. When his friends persuade him that the secret to success lies in convincing the world that he’s dead, Millet hatches a scheme which could make him rich, famous, and able to marry the girl of his dreams – if only he didn’t have to be a corpse to do it!

Playing the starving artist turned widow is Equity actor Michael Keyloun. Keyloun returns to PTC after appearing as Leo Bloom in the 2008 production of The Producers. His other credits include such classic farces as Noises Off, Lend Me a Tenor, Born Yesterday and The Underpants with the Actors Theatre of Louisville.

Millet’s entourage of mischievous comrades consists of the characters Chicago, Dutchy, and Phelim O’Shaughnessy, portrayed in the production by Equity members Graham Rowat, Paul Kiernan, and David Graham Jones, respectively.

Rowat’s Broadway credits include Guys and Dolls, LoveMusik directed by Harold Prince, Dracula, and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Kiernan has appeared at theatres all over the Wasatch Front, including SLAC, Salt Lake Shakespeare, and here at PTC – most recently in Romeo & Juliet, Pride and Prejudice, Amadeus, and Ten Little Indians. David Graham Jones’ New York credits include A Free Man of Color with the Lincoln Center Theater, as well as roles in King Lear and The Merchant of Venice. He returns to PTC after appearing as Mercutio in last spring’s Romeo & Juliet.

The part of Cecile Leroux – in love with Chicago and suspicious of the mysterious Widow Tillou (Millet’s alter ego) – is played by Equity actress Jessie Austrian. Austrian appeared Off-Broadway in The Marriage of Bette and Boo at the Roundabout Theatre Company, and has appeared across the country regionally at such prestigious theatres as the Guthrie Theater, Virginia Stage Company, Actors Theatre of Louisville and Cleveland Playhouse. This marks her PTC debut.

Millet’s rival, the unscrupulous dealer Bastien Andre, is played by Equity actor Greg Thornton. Thornton appeared in the Off-Broadway production of John Ferguson at the Mint Theater and received the Best Actor Award for the role of David in The Conjugality Test at MITF in New York. He has been a resident actor with the McCarter Theatre, Geva Theatre, and Alabama Shakespeare Festival. He returns to PTC after appearing as Salieri in the 2005 production of Amadeus.

PTC favorites Anne Stewart Mark and Cheryl Gaysunas play, respectively, the widows Bathilde and Caron, starstruck followers of Millet even before his work becomes valuable.  Mark recently appeared in My Fair Lady and Noises Off at PTC. She has been seen at other theatres including The Peterborough Players, Salt Lake Acting Company, and the Utah Opera Company, as well as being an accomplished director. On Broadway, Gaysunas appeared in La Bete, The Moliere Comedies, and as Mabel in An Ideal Husband, directed by Sir Peter Hall. Gaysunas’ other PTC credits include last season’s Noises Off, as well as Communicating Doors, Pride and Prejudice, and The Ladies Man.

Making her PTC debut as Marie Leroux, the object of Millet’s affections, is local actress Carianne H. Jones. Jones, a graduate of Weber State, has appeared in such roles as Marion in The Music Man, Philia in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Sally in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and Felicity Buttondown in the Desert Star’s James Blonde.

Anderson Matthews plays her father, well past his prime and on the verge of bankruptcy – but still vital enough to woo the widows. Matthews was seen on Broadway in The Robber Bridegroom, Peter Ustinov’s Beethoven’s 10th and Arcadia at Lincoln Center. Off-Broadway credits include Ten by Tennessee directed by Michael Kahn, and 19 months as Boolie in Driving Miss Daisy. He has previously appeared at PTC in Noises Off, You Can’t Take It With You, Laughing Stock, and As You Like It.

Playing the roles of Basil Thorpe, Claude Riviere, Charlie, and The King of France is AEA actor Kevin Orton. Orton’s New York credits include Sir Peter Hall’s Broadway revival of Amadeus, Public/NYSF’s Merry Wives of Windsor, Moni Yakim’s The Workroom, and Peter Dinklage’s Uncle Vanya at the Fisher Center.  He is also the leader of the alternative group The Maledictions, whose new digital release is due out this year. He returns to PTC after last appearing in Cyrano de Bergerac.

PTC Artistic Director Charles Morey directs the production. Morey has directed more than seventy productions for Pioneer Theatre Company, including My Fair Lady, Noises Off, Paint Your Wagon, The Ladies Man, and Les Misérables. Regionally he has directed for the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Asolo Theatre Company, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Meadow Brook Theatre, American Stage Festival, PCPA Theaterfest and the Utah Shakespearean Festival. Morey is also a successful playwright whose works have gone on to successful productions in theatres across the country, and a fellow of the MacDowell Colony.

Scenic design is by guest artist James Wolk. Wolk’s New York designs include The President and Her Mistress, Summer of the Swans at TheatreworksUSA, Pagans at the Abingdon Theatre, Boys’ Life at Lincoln Center and Three Sisters, both directed by William H. Macy. He has been nominated for the Helen Hayes, Barrymore, and American Theatre Wing Awards. His recent PTC design credits include The Yellow Leaf, The Heiress, and Lost in Yonkers.

Costumes are designed by resident costume designer Carol Wells-Day. Wells-Day is one of PTC’s resident costume designers and the costume shop supervisor. Her recent designs for PTC include Dial ‘M’ for Murder, The Light in the Piazza, The Heiress, and Doubt, among dozens of others. She was assistant designer for Inherit the Wind at the Ford Theatre in Washington D.C., and worked for the Utah Shakespearean Festival for 13 years as a costume shop supervisor and designer.

Lighting design is by Dennis Parichy. Parichy’s Broadway design credits include Talley’s Folly, Burn This, The Water Engine and others.  He was Resident Lighting Designer for Circle Repertory Company for twenty-five years and is currently an Associate Artist at People’s Light & Theatre Company. Past PTC credits include The Light in the Piazza and The Heiress.

Sound design is by PTC resident sound designer Joe Payne. In his ninth season as Resident Sound Designer for Pioneer Theatre Company, he has designed sound and/or composed music for more than 100 productions in theatres throughout the country.

Hair and make-up designer Amanda French, PTC resident designer, has worked for theatres all over the West. She is a contributing writer in the ninth edition of Stage Makeup by Richard Corson and James Glavan and is a featured artist in The Costume Technician’s Handbook by Rosemary Ingham and Liz Covey.

Pioneer Theatre Company, Utah’s premier resident professional theatre, performs at Roy W. and Elizabeth E. Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre, located on the University of Utah campus at 300 South and 1400 East in Salt Lake City, easily accessible by TRAX light rail. Free parking is also available and the theatre is equipped with an elevator, handicap parking, hearing assistance devices and other easy-access features.

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There will be a media photo shoot on Tuesday, October 20, 2009, at Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre, 300 S. 1400 E., SLC. Please RSVP by calling 801-581-6270; a time will be announced upon RSVP.

High-resolution color photos of this production will be available for media use on the PTC website beginning Wednesday, October 21, 2009 after 3:00 p.m. Go directly to http://www.pioneertheatre.org/press-room

Filming a short segment of the production during Preview or Opening Night for press use can be arranged. Call 801-581-6270.

Interviews with the cast and artistic staff are available. Call 801-581-6270

Tours of the set for the press are available. Call 801-581-6270.

Pioneer Theatre Company

“Is He Dead?” by Mark Twain; adapted by David Ives.

October 30 – November 14, 2009

Mondays – Thursdays, 7:30 p.m.

Fridays and Saturdays, 8:00 p.m.
Saturday matinees: October 31st and November 7th begin at 1:30 p.m.; November 14th begins at 2:00 p.m.

Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre
300 South 1400 East, Salt Lake City

$22 – $40; Children in grades K – 12 are half price on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Box Office (801) 581-6961.
The Box Office is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday – Friday, and Saturdays when there are performances.

Jessie Austrian*–Cecile Leroux
Cheryl Gaysunas*–Madame Caron
Carianne H. Jones–Marie Leroux
David Graham Jones*–Phelim O’Shaughnessy
Michael Keyloun*–Jean-Francois Millet
Paul Kiernan*–Dutchy
Anne Stewart Mark*–Madame Bathilde
Anderson Matthews*–Papa Leroux
Kevin Orton*–Basil Thorpe, et. al
Graham Rowat*–Chicago
Greg Thornton*–Bastien Andre