PLAY WITH “CHEEKY” TITLE RETURNS FOR ITS WORLD PREMIERE
The originally scheduled production of the play penned by playwright Ellen Simon was postponed in March 2020 due to the pandemic and will finally get its world premiere on PTC’s stage this month.
SALT LAKE CITY, UT— The world premiere of Ass, a comedy by successful playwright and screenwriter ELLEN SIMON, will finally open at PIONEER THEATRE COMPANY (PTC) on OCTOBER 22 and will run through NOVEMBER 6, 2021. Its original 2020 world premiere was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tickets for this production can be purchased by calling 801-581-6961 or by visiting pioneertheatre.org.
Ass, which began its life at PTC as a Play-by-Play reading in 2018, tells the story of a brilliant sculptor of world renown who is confronted by his son and his ninth wife as he deals with his own mortality. It is a witty and engaging look at a family who can’t help but behave badly.
“Our audiences enjoyed the development of the script for Ass during its Play-by-Play reading. It was gratifying to watch this production come full circle with Ellen, which is also why it was so devastating to watch it get shut down before opening night in March 2020,” said PTC Artistic Director KAREN AZENBERG who is also set to direct this production. “We’re thrilled to finally see this play take the stage and to witness our lifelong relationship, growing up together backstage in New York, coming around full circle as well.”
Playwright ELLEN SIMON wrote the screenplays for One Fine Day and “Moonlight and Valentino, and worked on the script for the successful box-office movie How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days. Her plays have been performed as part of the Duke Broadway Preview series, at Stages Repertory Theatre, and at Pasadena Playhouse. She also wrote for the TV series “thirtysomething.”
“It’s destined that Karen and I would end up in theatre,” said Simon. “We had a front row seat to our fathers’ (Broadway producer MANNY AZENBERG and playwright NEIL SIMON) friendship and to their professional collaboration, influencing our careers in theatre. We’re excited to continue this partnership as second-generation collaborators.”
The actors who were originally cast for the 2020 production are returning, as well as most of the design team. A major set piece for Ass, a warehouse portal designed by scenic designer JO WINIARSKI, has been sitting on the stage for the past 560 days since production shut down, and was even incorporated into PTC’s 2021 season opener Ain’t Misbehavin’.
Azenberg explained, “It was my desire to share with our audience what our theatre looked like over the 19 months they were not with us, that beautiful industrial portal was there waiting for our return, and so keeping it as part of the design was a gentle nod to the journey we all made.”
T. RYDER SMITH stars as Jule Waterman, the contentious father whose genius has inflated his ego to massive proportions. Smith has appeared on Broadway in Oslo, War Horse, and Equus. He has also appeared on screens in The Report, “Hunters,” “Instinct,” “The Blacklist,” “White Collar,” the PBS series “The Abolitionists,” and Brainscan, as well as voice acted for “The Venture Bros.” (Baron Underbheit) and the “Bioshock” video games (Sander Cohen).
BEN CHERRY returns from PTC’s The Lifespan of a Fact and Oslo as Will Waterman, the underachieving son who will always be compared to one of the greatest artists of the century, his father. On Broadway, Cherry performed in Indecent, Fiddler on the Roof, and in the national tour of Mary Poppins. His television appearances include “The Following,” “Smash,” and “I Love You…But I Lied.”
Returning from PTC’s 2018 Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, LAURA J. HALL plays Jule’s ninth wife, Tory. She performed on Broadway in Wonderland and toured with Diane Paulus’ revival of Pippin. Her television credits include “The Blacklist,” “Shades of Blue,” and “The Today Show.” She also performed in PTC’s Something’s Afoot and A Christmas Carol: The Musical.
ELIZABETH RAMOS and VINCE MCGILL round out the cast, as Will’s sunny wife, Ana, and Jule’s kind dialysis nurse, Ray. Ramos returns to PTC after the 2018 production of Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley. She’s performed Off-Broadway in Then They Forget About the Rest, The Idea of Me, and A Month in the Country, and on television in “Law and Order: SVU.” McGill returns after 2019’s Sweat, and has had award-winning performances as Paul in Six Degrees of Separation, Floyd in Seven Guitars, Walter Lee in A Raisin in the Sun, and Capt. Richard Davenport in A Soldier’s Play.
KAREN AZENBERG directs this production, and is in her tenth season as Artistic Director of PTC. This is her third world premiere at Pioneer Theatre Company (Alabama Story in 2015 and /i/ in 2018, both of which originated as Play-by-Play selections). Among others, she has directed the Utah premiere of The Play That Goes Wrong, as well as the regional premieres of Oslo and Sting’s The Last Ship.
JO WINIARSKI produced the scenic designs for this season’s opener, Ain’t Misbehavin’. She previously worked on PTC’s 2019 The Lifespan of a Fact. Her credits include being art director for “Late Night With Seth Meyers” for the first five seasons, as well as receiving an Emmy nomination for art direction for “A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!”
Resident costume designer PHILLIP R. LOWE designs for this production. He was the Kennedy Center’s 2002 recipient of the National Barbizon Award for his costume design in PTC’s 2019 The Lion in Winter. He was the Costume Director for Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre and has designed for Plan-B Theatre Company, Salt Lake Acting Company, and others.
PAUL MILLER is lighting designer. He returns to PTC this season after our 2019 production of Cagney, and has designed on Broadway for Amazing Grace, The Illusionists, Macbeth, Legally Blonde, and Company. He also designed Mamma Mia!, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Curious Incident…, I Hate Hamlet, A Few Good Men, Much Ado About Nothing, and In The Heights at Pioneer Theatre Company.
WILL VAN DYKE composes original music for Ass. Previously he created original music for /i/, and is currently the music arranger for the Off-Broadway production of The Little Shop of Horrors. He was previously the music supervisor for Pretty Woman: The Musical on Broadway, and also served as the music director of Kinky Boots.
Resident designers MICAH LAMBERT MAXSON AND SAMANTHA M. WOOTTEN join the team for sound and hair and makeup, respectively.
PIONEER THEATRE COMPANY (PTC): Now celebrating its 60th season, the award-winning PTC is Utah’s Premiere Professional Theatre and a leading arts organization of the West. Led by Artistic Director Karen Azenberg and Interim Managing Director Diane L. Parisi, PTC promotes community-building and education through presenting world-class productions; developing new socially resonant and universal work; hosting talks, lectures, and workshops that engage a versatile and inclusive demographic, while celebrating diversity in culture and society; and serving as the connecting bridge between art and scholarship as an affiliate of the University of Utah.
MEDIA PHOTOS AVAILABLE TO DOWNLOAD: High-resolution color photos of this production will be available for media use on the PTC website beginning Wednesday, October 13, 2021 after noon.
Go directly to http://www.pioneertheatre.org/press-room/media-photos/ to view.
INTERVIEWS: Interviews with the cast and artistic staff are available. Call 801-581-7222 to arrange.
BEN CHERRY*………………………..Will Waterman
* Member of Actors’ Equity Association (AEA)