Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Looking for a Playwright? Lend Me a Lawyer.

Posted by Bruce Miller
This Friday, September 9, marks the opening of the first show of Barksdale's 2011-12 Signature Season--Ken Ludwig's classic farce, Lend Me a Tenor. Interestingly, when Ludwig began his career, he never imagined he'd be a professional playwright. He was a lawyer ... and we all know what Shakespeare said about lawyers.

Today, Ludwig is an internationally acclaimed playwright whose several hits on Broadway, in London’s West End and throughout the world have made his name synonymous with modern comedy. He has won the Laurence Olivier Award, England’s highest theatre honor, as well as three Tony Award nominations and two Helen Hayes Awards. His work has been commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and performed in at least thirty countries in over twenty languages.

His major plays and musicals include Crazy For You, Lend Me A Tenor, Moon Over Buffalo, Twentieth Century, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Shakespeare in Hollywood, Leading Ladies, Be My Baby, An American in Paris, A Fox on the Fairway, The Game’s Afoot (or Holmes for the Holidays), and adaptations of The Beaux’ Stratagem, Treasure Island, and The Three Musketeers.

Crazy for You ran for four years at the Shubert Theater on Broadway, won the Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, Los Angeles Critics Circle and Helen Hayes Awards as Best Musical of the Year, as well as the Olivier Award for Best Musical in London, and was broadcast nationwide on the PBS television series Great Performances.

Lend Me a Tenor was originally produced on Broadway by Andrew Lloyd Webber, revived in 2010 starring Tony Shalhoub and Justin Bartha, and has proved to be one of the world's most popular comedies of the past three decades. In London it was nominated for the Olivier Award as Comedy of the Year. On Broadway it was nominated for nine Tony Awards, including Best Play and Best Revival, and won two Tonys, four Drama Desk Awards and three Outer Critics Circle Awards. It has been translated into at least twenty languages and produced in over thirty countries around the world.

Moon Over Buffalo was nominated for two Tony Awards and marked Carol Burnett’s triumphant return to Broadway after 30 years, where she starred opposite Philip Bosco. Subsequent Broadway casts included Lynn Redgrave and Robert Goulet. In London it played at the legendary Old Vic starring Joan Collins and Frank Langella.

Twentieth Century, his adaptation of the Hecht-MacArthur comedy, was premiered at Virginia's Signature Theatre in Arlington (Ludwig lives in the D. C. metro area), and played to sold-out audiences on Broadway in 2004, where it was produced by the Roundabout Theatre Company starring Alec Baldwin and Anne Heche.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer appeared on Broadway during the 2001-02 season. A one-hour children’s version had a triumphant run at the Kennedy Center, and subsequently toured the country for two years.

Shakespeare in Hollywood was commissioned by The Royal Shakespeare Company. It premiered at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. and won the Helen Hayes Award as Best Play of the Year. Leading Ladies premiered at the Alley Theatre in Houston in the fall of 2004 under the author’s direction and is now being performed in theatres throughout the country.

Be My Baby opened the 2005-2006 season at the Alley Theatre starring Hal Holbrook and Dixie Carter. Ludwig was honored to be asked by the Estate of Thornton Wilder to complete Wilder’s adaptation of The Beaux’ Stratagem, a new version of the Restoration comedy by George Farquhar. The play received its world premiere production at the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C. under the direction of Michael Kahn and will be published by TCG.

Ludwig's adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island premiered in 2007 at The Alley Theatre. It later opened at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket in London's West End in fall of 2008. Treasure Island won the 2009 AATE Distinguished Play Award for Best Adaptation.

Ludwig was commissioned by The Bristol Old Vic in London to write an adaptation of The Three Musketeers for an 8-week run during the theatre’s 2006 Christmas season. Ludwig’s stage version of An American in Paris with the music of George and Ira Gershwin—in the tradition of their collaboration on Crazy for You—premiered at the Alley Theatre in spring of 2008. The Fox on the Fairway, Ludwig’s new comedy set in the world of golf, premiered in the fall of 2010 at Signature Theatre in Arlington, starring Barksdale's Jeff McCarthy.

Sherlock! (or Holmes for the Holidays) is Ludwig’s newest play, a comedy-mystery about the great actor William Gillette who originated the role of Sherlock Holmes. Other plays include Sullivan & Gilbert (a co-production of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the National Arts Centre of Canada, voted Best Play of 1988 by the Ottawa critics); a new adaptation of Where’s Charley? for the Kennedy Center; the Off-Broadway hit Divine Fire; and a mystery, Postmortem. For television, he co-wrote the 1990 Kennedy Center Honors for CBS (Emmy Award nomination), and a television pilot for Carol Channing. For film he wrote Lend Me a Tenor for Columbia Pictures and All Shook Up for Touchstone Pictures and director Frank Oz.

Ludwig is a founding member of the Board of Trustees of the Shakespeare Theatre of Washington and an Honorary Trustee of the Shakespeare Guild. He has served on the New Play Committees of the National Endowment for the Arts and the American College Theater Festival, where he annually chooses and presents the Mark Twain Award for outstanding comic performance. He has lectured on drama at various universities around the country, and recently established the Ken Ludwig Scholarship in playwriting.

He graduated from Haverford College (B.A.), Harvard Law School (J.D.) and Cambridge University (LL.B.). He studied music at Harvard with Leonard Bernstein and theatre history at Cambridge. He practiced law for several years with the firm of Steptoe & Johnson, where he remains Of Counsel. He received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from York College of Pennsylvania. He is married and has two children.

We hope you'll join us for our first production by this important American playwright.

--Bruce Miller

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