In Vermont, Bennington’s Oldcastle Theatre will give the world premiere performance of The Consul, the Tramp & America’s Sweetheart, on Friday, September 2, at Bennington’s Oldcastle Theatre. The play runs through September 18.
Written by playwright John Morogiello, the author has had two earlier premieres presented by Oldcastle: Engaging Shaw and Play Date. The former has since been produced in numerous productions around the country and in Europe, the latter has been presented successfully in New York and Baltimore. His current play has won the Julie Harris Playwriting Award and the Dayton FutureFest. It is scheduled to be produced in California this fall. Morogiello is Playwright in Residence at the Maryland State Arts Council. He has several awards including the Kennedy Center Fellowship of the Americas and the Holland New Voices Playwright Award.
The Consul, the Tramp & America’s Sweetheart utilizes two familiar characters, silent screen legends Charles Chaplin and Mary Pickford. Miss Pickford, known as “America’s Sweetheart” was a silent screen star who became the head of United Artists, the film studio she founded with her husband, Douglas Fairbanks, legendary director, D.W. Griffith, and Chaplin. The Little Tramp as Chaplin’s movie character was known, became hid trademark during the silent film era of the twenties. As the play opens in 1937, he is about to begin shooting his first talking picture. That movie, The Great Dictator, caused a sensation as Chaplin satirized Adolf Hitler whose Nazi army was gobbling up one European country after another. Georg Gyssling, the German Consul, visits Ms. Pickford to convince her to prevent Chaplin from making the movie fearing it will make a mockery of Hitler. In the movie satire Chaplin plays both Adenoid Hynkel the leader of Tomainia and his look-alike, a barber.
The cast features Elizabeth Aspenlieder, a veteran of twenty seasons with Shakespeare & Company. She has been seen with the Lenox, Massachusetts company in comedies such as Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, dramas, Mother of the Maid, and The Beauty Queen of Leenane. She has also appeared in such Shakespeare classics as King Lear and A MIdsummer Night’s Dream. She won the Elliot Norton Award Best Solo Performance for her role in Bad Dates and last season made a memorable Oldcastle debut in The Lion in Winter. Ms. Aspenlieder is Assistant Director to Tina Packer for Shakespeare & Company’s current production of The Merchant of Venice.
David Joseph plays Charlie Chaplin. He is an eleven year veteran of Shakespeare & Company where he will be seen this fall in It’s a Wonderful Life. His varied career includes George in Word Play at Playwrights Horizons in New York, Henry V at Shakespeare & Company, Dracula at Boston’s Colonial Theatre
Oldcastle’s Producing Artistic Director, Eric Peterson directs. “The Consul, the Tramp & America’s Sweetheart is a comedic look at the fraught time in history as seen through the eyes of tinsel town luminaries. He has made Chaplin and Pickford living, breathing human beings not merely screen icons. The German Consul Georg Gyssling is also a historic figure who, in John’s perception, is a complicated and many layered bureaucrat who happens to be a Nazi. The play is comedic and thought provoking. You might call it a laugh-filled history lesson.” Choreographer, Ron Ray, is working with Peterson staging some of the moments reenacted from some of Chaplin’s legendary silent movies.
For tickets and information visit the company’s website at www.oldcastletheatre.org or call 802-447-0564.