In A.R. GURNEY’S play, WHAT I DID LAST SUMMER, we find the fourteen year-old protagonist and star, Charlie (NOAH GALVIN of The Real O’Neals, Promised Land) jumping out of his skin and out of his bathing suit to moon the babysitters on shore while forced to stay in an upscale vacation colony with his mother and sister. His father is away at war as most of the men are. Charlie is so out of hand and opens such a mouth to his mother (CAROLYN McCORMICK of Equus, Private Lives, The Dinner Party) that she gives him a crack across the face. But nothing can force Charlie to be cooperative like his big sister Elsie (KATE McGONICLE who will be in Woody Allen’s Irrational Man). Elsie not only helps her mother with groceries and other chores, but collects money for Bundles for England. She’s reading War and Peace for her summer reading while Charlie is eating up all the butter rations and failing Latin with his summer tutor just as he had at school. There is an onstage battle for who is really the star of the play. Even Bonny (JULIET BRETT, off Broadway The Jacksonian), the fourteen year-old girl next door that both Charlie and his friend, Ted, woos, wonders if she’s the star.
Besides the war and how it impacts the family, social class is also a theme. Charlie’s family is well-to-do part of the tennis and sailing club set, while Ted (PICO ALEXANDER of Punk Rock, and A Most Violent Year) is a Canadian whose father is a keeper of the grounds in this vacation getaway for the wealthy of Buffalo. He remembers as a child being treated like all the other kids who summered there. But now that he’s seventeen, girls’ parents shoo him away. “A poor Canuck,” he calls himself. Anna Trumbell (KRISTINE NIELSEN of You Can’t Take it With You, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike) a wildly spiritual art teacher, half-Indian, and former mistress of a town doctor who kept her hidden in the country, used to be part of the upper crust, but lost her fortune along with the desire to live straight-jacketed by conformity. Poorest in the area, she is in some ways the richest for living as a free spirit without regard for what others say of her. And talk they do! Ted keeps remarking, “Is it true she doesn’t wear underpants?” Her character exists as a symbol of how isolated and broke someone will become if he or she wants to be an artist rather than taking a safer route, which, in this play is the death of art. And that’s the choice Charlie has to make when Anna tries to stretch his mind by teaching him art and introducing him to radical ideas about life.
What I Did Last Summer is directed by JIM SIMPSON. The design team includes Michael Yeargan (Scenic Design), Claudia Brown (Costume Design), Brian Aldous (Lighting Design), Janie Bullard (Sound Design), John Narun (Projection Design). Donald Fried is the Production Stage Manager. Casting by Telsey + Company, William Cantler, CSA. James Houghton is Signature’s founding Artistic Director; Erika Mallin the Executive Director.) Irene Diamond Stage at The Pershing Square Signature Center (480 W. 42nd St. Between 9th and 10th Aves. )
Supplemental programming has been set for What I Did Last Summer. There will be post-show talkbacks on 21, 26 and June 2. Talkbacks brought to you by American Express. These events are free and open to the public. No reservations required
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Tickets to the initial runs of all Signature productions at THE PERSHING SQUARE SIGNATURE THEATER (480 W. 42nd St. Between 9th and 10th Aves. ) in the IRENE DIAMOND STAGE are $25, part of the groundbreaking Signature Ticket Initiative: A Generation of Access, a program that guarantees affordable and accessible tickets to every Signature production through 2031. Serving as a model for theatres and performing arts organizations across the country, the Initiative was founded in 2005 and is made possible by lead partner The Pershing Square Foundation. Additional support provided by the Howard Gilman Foundation, Margot Adams and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.
About SIGNATURE THEATRE
Signature Theatre exists to honor and celebrate the playwright. Founded in 1991 by James Houghton, Signature makes an extended commitment to a playwright’s body of work, and during this journey, the writer is engaged in every aspect of the creative process. By championing in-depth explorations of a playwright’s body of work, Signature delivers an intimate and immersive journey into the playwright’s singular vision. In 2014 Signature became the first New York City theatre to receive the Regional Theatre Tony Award®.
Signature serves its mission through its permanent home at The Pershing Square Signature Center, a three-theatre facility on West 42nd Street designed by Frank Gehry Architects to host Signature’s three distinct playwrights’ residencies and foster a cultural community. At the Center, opened in January 2012, Signature continues its founding Playwright-in-Residence model as Residency One, a first-of-its-kind, intensive exploration of a single writer’s body of work. Residency Five, the only program of its kind, was launched at the Center to support multiple playwrights as they build bodies of work by guaranteeing each writer three productions over a five-year period. The Legacy Program, launched during Signature’s 10th Anniversary, invites writers from both residencies back for productions of premiere or earlier plays.
The Pershing Square Signature Center is a major contribution to New York City’s cultural landscape and provides a venue for cultural organizations that supports and encourages collaboration among artists throughout the space. In addition to its three intimate theatres, the Center features a studio theatre, rehearsal studio, and a public café, bar and bookstore. Through the Signature Ticket Initiative: A Generation of Access, Signature has also made an unprecedented commitment to making its productions accessible by underwriting the cost of initial run tickets, currently priced at $25, through 2031.
Signature has presented entire seasons of the work of Edward Albee, Lee Blessing, Horton Foote, Maria Irene Fornes, Athol Fugard, John Guare, David Henry Hwang, Bill Irwin, Adrienne Kennedy, Tony Kushner, Romulus Linney, Charles Mee, Arthur Miller, Sam Shepard, Paula Vogel, August Wilson, Lanford Wilson, and a season celebrating the historic Negro Ensemble Company. In addition to the Regional Theatre Tony Award®, Signature’s productions and its resident writers have been recognized with the Pulitzer Prize, Lucille Lortel Awards, Obie Awards, Drama Desk Awards, and AUDELCO Awards, among many other distinctions.
For more information, please visit www.signaturetheatre.org.