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Stirring American classic Awake and Sing! directed by Boston favorite Melia Bensussen starts performances November 7th at the Huntington Theatre Company

(BOSTON) – Obie Award winner Melia Bensussen (Luck of the Irish, Circle Mirror Transformation) returns to the Huntington Theatre Company to direct Awake and Sing!, Clifford Odets' stirring American classic about a working-class Jewish family striving for a better future. Performances at the Avenue of the Arts / BU Theatre begin Friday, November 7 and continue through Sunday, December 7, 2014.

"Since her gorgeous, moving production of Luck of the Irish in 2011, I've wanted to bring director Melia Bensussen back to the Huntington to mount a classic," says Huntington Artistic Director Peter DuBois. "She has a great passion for Clifford Odets' work — Awake and Sing! evokes stirring memories of her relatives, she once told me. Her talent for telling intimate family stories that play out on a broad social canvas makes now the perfect opportunity for her return."

"We don't want life printed on dollar bills," the passionate Ralph Berger proclaims to his mother Bessie. In Awake and Sing!, three generations of an immigrant Jewish family are crammed into a Bronx apartment where they dream of a brighter future. Matriarch Bessie's fierce determination keeps her family afloat whatever the cost as she faces opposition from those with vastly different definitions of success. Gritty, passionate, funny, and heartbreaking, Odets' 1935 masterpiece beautifully captures both the hopes and the struggles of an unforgettable American family fighting for security and prosperity as they emerge from the Great Depression.

"Awake and Sing! portrays the emotional battlefields that ensue when economic pressures overwhelm," says Bensussen. "How can we love purely and generously when we are in constant danger of losing our homes, our savings. Odets captures the complexities of intimacy and tension in a close-knit family. To find a balance between love, support, and self-interest in any nuclear family is the stuff of great plays."

Chicago Sun-Times calls Awake and Sing!, "so timely it might have been written yesterday."

Awake & Sing! is sponsored by Grand Patron Boston University; Season Sponsors J. David Wimberly and Carol G. Deane; and Production Sponsors Gerry and Sherry Cohen.

ABOUT THE ARTISTS

The cast includes Lori Wilner (The Assembled Parties and A Catered Affair on Broadway) as matriarch Bessie Berger; David Wohl (Golden Boy and Dinner at Eight on Broadway) as her husband Myron; Annie Purcell (The Coast of Utopia and Dividing the Estate on Broadway) as headstrong daughter Hennie; and Michael Goldsmith (Now or Later at the Huntington and Tales from Red Vienna at Manhattan Theatre Club) as ardent, romantic Ralph who is inspired by his grandfather's ideals, the left-leaning Jacob, played by Boston favorite Will LeBow (Act One on Broadway, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom at the Huntington). Stephen Schnetzer (The Goat or, Who is Sylvia? on Broadway and at The Lyric Stage Company of Boston) plays successful American businessman Uncle Morty; Eric T. Miller (The In-Between and Wink Off Broadway) plays Moe Axelrod, a border in the Berger's home; Nael Nacer (The Seagull and Our Town at the Huntington) plays Sam Feinschreiber; and Kevin Fennessy (Our Town at the Huntington) appears as Schlosser, the janitor.

Clifford Odets (Playwright) is the author of Waiting for Lefty, Awake and Sing!, Paradise Lost, Golden Boy, Rocket to the Moon Clash by Night, The Big Knife, The Country Girl, and The Flowering Peach among others. In 1931, he began his career as an actor with The Group Theater, a New York company of which he was a founding member. He soon turned to writing, and his first play for the Group, Waiting for Lefty (1935), almost immediately launched him as the most celebrated American playwright of the 1930s. It and four other major Broadway productions in that decade introduced theatre audiences to subject matter and language that had never before been heard on the American stage. Odets' work spanned the three decades preceding his death in 1963 and deeply influenced generations of American playwrights to follow. Screenplay credits include The General Died at Dawn, None but the Lonely Heart, Humoresque, Sweet Smell of Success, and Story on Page One. Film directing credits include None but the Lonely Heart and Story on Page One. Odets also directed the New York premieres of The Country Girl (1950) and The Flowering Peach (1954).

Melia Bensussen (Director) previously directed the world premiere of Kirsten Greenidge's Luck of the Irish (2013 IRNE Award winner for Best New Play) and Annie Baker's Circle Mirror Transformation at the Huntington. Her directing credits include work with Merrimack Repertory Theatre, Actors' Shakespeare Project, La Jolla Playhouse, Baltimore's Center Stage, Hartford Stage, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, New York Shakespeare Festival, MCC Theater, Primary Stages, Long Wharf Theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville, and People's Light and Theatre Company, where she received a Barrymore Award nomination for Best Direction and many others. Her production of Twelfth Night at Actors' Shakespeare Project, received the 2012 Elliot Norton Award for Best Production. Her edition of the Langston Hughes translation of Garcia Lorca's Blood Wedding is published by Theatre Communications Group, and she is currently working with Melinda Lopez on a new adaptation of Lorca's Yerma. She recently co-authored and directed a workshop of The War Department, a new musical with Jim and Ruth Bauer at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre. Her play Bluebeard, co-authored with playwright Masha Obolensky, was a part of the Huntington Playwriting Fellowship workshops this past July. She is the recipient of an Obie Award for Outstanding Direction. Ms. Bensussen is chair of the performing arts department at Emerson College.

The Huntington's production of Awake and Sing! will feature scenic design by James Noone (Luck of the Irish, The Corn is Green, She Loves Me, and others at the Huntington), costume design by Michael Krass (Before I Leave You, Butley, Dead End, and others at the Huntington), lighting design by Brian J. Lilienthal (Off Broadway at Cherry Lane and La MaMa), and sound design by Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen (Good People and Private Lives at the Huntington). Casting is by Alaine Aldaffer. Production stage manager is Emily McMullen. Assistant stage manager is Jeremiah Mullane.

ABOUT THE HUNTINGTON THEATRE COMPANY

Recipient of the 2013 Regional Theatre Tony Award and named Best of Boston 2013 and 2014 by Boston magazine, the Huntington Theatre Company has developed into Boston's leading professional theatre and one of the region's premiere cultural assets since its founding in 1982. Bringing together superb local and national talent, the Huntington produces a mix of groundbreaking new works and classics made current to create award-winning productions, runs nationally renowned programs in education and new play development, and serves the local theatre community through its operation of the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA. Under the direction of Artistic Director Peter DuBois and Managing Director Michael Maso and in residence at Boston University, the Huntington cultivates, celebrates, and champions theatre as an art form. For more information, visit huntingtontheatre.org.

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PHOTO DOWNLOAD INSTRUCTIONS

To download high-resolution (or smaller) photos of the artists involved with Awake and Sing!:
1. Visit huntingtontheatre.org/news/photo-library/2014-2015/awake-and-sing/.
2. Click on the thumbnail and let the image load in your browser on the Flickr site.
3. Click the " ↓ " button in the lower right-hand corner of the window and select View All Sizes.
4. Select the size you wish to download from the choices listed across the top of the image.
5. Click the "Download the ___ size of this photo..." link at the top. The image will download to your computer.

PRODUCTION INFORMATION & CALENDAR

WHEN
November 7 – December 7, 2014
Select Evenings: Tues. – Thurs. at 7:30pm; Fri. – Sat. at 8pm; select Sun. at 7pm
Matinees: Select Wed., Sat., and Sun. at 2pm
Days and times vary; see complete schedule below.
Press Opening: Wednesday, November 12, 7pm. RSVP online.

WHERE
Avenue of the Arts / BU Theatre, 264 Huntington Avenue, Boston

TICKETS
Single tickets starting at $25 and FlexPasses are on sale:
• online at huntingtontheatre.org;
• by phone at 617 266 0800; or
• in person at the BU Theatre Box Office, 264 Huntington Ave. and the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA Box Office, 527 Tremont St. in Boston's South End.

Select discounts apply:
• $5 off: seniors
• $10 off: subscribers and BU community (faculty/staff/alumni)
• $25 "35 Below" tickets for patrons 35 years old and younger (valid ID required)
• $15 student and military tickets (valid ID required)

AWAKE AND SING!, the stirring American classic by Clifford Odets about an unforgettable American family, directed by Melia Bensussen. Nov. 7 — Dec. 7 2014 at the Avenue of the Arts / BU Theatre.

Post-Show Audience Conversations: Led by members of the Huntington staff. After most Tuesday - Friday, Saturday matinee, and Sunday matinee performances throughout the season. Free with a ticket to the performance.

Audio Described Performance: A live narration of the visual aspects of the production for those who are blind or visually impaired.

Actors Forum: Participating cast members answer questions from the audience.

Humanities Forum: A conversation with Professor Stuart Hecht (Tufts University) about the historic or literary context of the production.

Student Matinee: For students in grades 9 – 12. Tickets: $15. Includes pre-show in-school visit, curriculum guide, post-show Actors Forum, and Dramatic Returns card for each student. Call 617 273 1558 for more information.

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