February 3, 2014 at 7:00pm
Directed by Larry Paulsen and Richard Ziman
In the Bullitt Cabaret

Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes (including one intermission)

ESP is celebrating both its third anniversary - having produced monthly readings of great underserved plays since 2011 - and its first reading at ACT! This special reading of The Madwoman of Chaillot is directed by Larry Paulsen and Richard Ziman and features Kimberly King, R. Hamilton Wright, Todd Jefferson Moore, and G. Valmont Thomas among the cast presenting this classic work of world theatre. First produced in 1945, The Madwoman is an enchanting mixture of social satire, whimsical comedy, and Parisian romance, and quite unlike anything you've seen lately...

There will be a post-show chat with refreshments immediately following the performance.

Part of the series: Endangered Species Project

Endangered Species Project is an organization of distinguished Seattle theatre artists dedicated to presenting plays that seldom get full productions. While it is an essential duty of theatres to read and develop new work, there’s a parallel need to bring older neglected plays back to the stage. Through our simply staged readings, we lend live voices to plays that are now silent on our bookshelves.  

Founded in February of 2011, Endangered Species Project has consistently mounted monthly readings. Expanding from our core group of eleven, dozens of Seattle’s best and bravest actors have been instrumental in bringing new life to these plays. We strive to do nothing that gets between the audience and the play. We want to give full scope to those two most powerful forces in the theatre: a playwright’s ideas and the audience’s imagination.

Learn more at www.endangeredspeciesproject.org.

There are some plays that are sui generis - neither part of an existing genre, nor giving rise to another. What they achieve is a kind of irreproducible miracle. Jean Giraudoux's The Madwoman of Chaillot is a whimsical fable. It is also a black comedy, and a satire of modern life — scarcely aged after more than sixty years. It's a touching romance; there are several songs; and there's a farcical café scene, a rip-roaring mock trial, and what amounts to a pageant. Katherine Hepburn, who starred in a 1969 movie based on it (a movie, alas, only good in parts), claimed that she agreed to do it only to understand the play. One suspects that she was being disingenuous - it's not hard to understand The Madwoman of Chaillot. But without slighting one aspect or overemphasizing another, it is nearly impossible to describe.

Jean Giraudoux (1882-1944) was a diplomat before the Great War, and was twice wounded when war broke out; he subsequently received the Legion of Honour. Like another of ESP's recent authors, J. B. Priestley, he began as a novelist and essayist, and only by adapting one of his novels for the stage did he become enamored of playwriting. Some of his many other plays include Ondine, The Enchanted, and the hugely charming Greek-gods-behaving-badly comedy Amphitryon 38. Madwoman was not produced until after Giraudoux's death, and its yearning for human kindness is particularly poignant when we remember that Giraudoux wrote it during the Nazi occupation, and indeed, he did not live to see the liberation of France.

Maurice Valency's English translation had its Broadway premiere in 1948, with Martita Hunt (most famous today as the memorable Miss Havisham in David Lean's film of Great Expectations) as the Countess Aurelia, and with John Carradine featured as the nearly Shavian Ragpicker. Hunt later toured the world with the play. In 1969, in addition to the Katherine Hepburn film, there was a musical adaptation for the stage, titled Dear World, starring Angela Lansbury and with a score by Jerry Herman (Hello, Dolly! and Mame), but the delicacy of the original somehow couldn't endure the expansion into a big-time Broadway songfest, and it closed in less than three months. The musical does have its defenders, and you can still obtain the cast recording. In 1985, the year she won the Oscar for The Trip to Bountiful, the late Geraldine Page starred in a well-received revival in New York.

So here we are, several paragraphs in, and we're still having conniptions attempting a synopsis. Here it is, after much agonized thought:

OLD LADY SAVES WORLD

There. That's all you're going to get. After you see our reading of this magnificent play, we dare you to describe it — to reduce it to its components — without somehow wrecking its idealistic charm and peculiar beauty.

in alphabetical order

Eric Ray Anderson......The Sewer Man

Allan Armstrong......The Sergeant

Christine Marie Brown......Irma

Susan Corzatte......Mme Gabrielle

Trick Danneker......Pierre

Kimberly King......The Countess Aurelia

Laura Kenny......Mme Josephine

Dan Kremer......Dr. Jadin

Leslie Law......Mme Constance

Joseph P. McCarthy......The Policeman

Terry Edward Moore......The Baron

Todd Jefferson Moore......The Ragpicker

Dawson Nichols......The Waiter

Rebecca Olson......Therese

G. Valmont Thomas......The President

Lisa Viertel......The Broker

Cynthia White......The Little Woman

R. Hamilton Wright......The Prospector

Also featuring special guest artists Luz Gaxiola and Molly Shannon, aka Duo Finelli