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January 10, 2012

TT: Going to the show

Lucien_Aigner_Louis_Armstrong_as_Bottom_in_the_stage_musical_Swingin_the_Dream_a_jazz_version_of_Shakespeare_s_A_Midsummer_s_Night_Dream_1939.jpgShakespeare & Company of Lenox, Massachusetts, announced today that it will produce Satchmo at the Waldorf, my first play, in August. John Douglas Thompson, one of this country's top classical actors and a longtime member of Shakespeare & Company, has been cast in the dual role of Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong, the greatest jazz musician of the twentieth century, and Joe Glaser, Armstrong's mob-connected manager.

The director is Gordon Edelstein, the artistic director of New Haven's Long Wharf Theatre, who staged the Roundabout Theatre Company's production of Athol Fugard's The Road to Mecca, which opens on Broadway next week. The show will be performed on the company's main stage, the 413-seat Founders' Theatre.

"No summer drama festival in America is more consistently satisfying than Shakespeare & Company," I wrote in The Wall Street Journal in 2009. As for John, I agree wholeheartedly with Ben Brantley of the New York Times, who has called him "one of the most compelling classical stage actors of his generation," and Gordon's brilliantly original revivals of The Crucible, The Glass Menagerie, and Uncle Vanya all rank high on my short list of great nights at the theater.

OthelloAB.jpgI'm seeing shows in Florida and wasn't able to get up to Lenox for today's announcement, so Elizabeth Aspenlieder, Shakespeare & Company's publicist, asked me for a quote. Here's what I told her:

I'm still trying to get used to the idea that Shakespeare & Company is going to produce Satchmo at the Waldorf, much less that John is going to act in it and Gordon is going to stage it. I'm thrilled, honored, and astonished--all at once. I never dreamed that I'd have the chance to collaborate with such remarkable artists, or with a theater company whose work has meant so much to me for so long.

I'll let you know more about the production as it continues to take shape. For now, I invite you to rejoice with me. This is a great day.

UPDATE: The company's official season announcement is here.

Here's the Berkshire Eagle's story about the press conference at which the production was announced.

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The first photograph shows Louis Armstrong in costume as Bottom in Swingin' the Dream, a musical version of A Midsummer Night's Dream that ran briefly on Broadway in 1939. The second shows John Douglas Thompson and Juliet Rylance in Theater for a New Audience's 2009 production of Othello.

Posted January 10, 2012 10:30 AM

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