||World Premiere Drama
Based on Novel by Jim Lehrer, Featuring Veteran Actor
|| Walking through the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, a retired
Methodist Bishop locks eyes with
a man he is certain was the Japanese POW Commandant who tortured him and killed
of prisoners fifty years ago during World War II.
This is the premise that introduces a new play, The Special Prisoner, a
drama of justice and forgiveness, written and directed by James Glossman
— an adaptation from the novel of the same name by Jim Lehrer, reknowned
executive editor and anchor of PBS's The News Hour with Jim Lehrer. The
Special Prisoner receives its world premiere production at Playwrights
Theatre of New Jersey, 33 Green Village Road in Madison, February 7 - 24.
Featured in the central role is veteran actor William Schallert who has
appeared in over 80 theatrical films, 650 television episodes, 50 stage
plays, and several thousand voice-over commercials. Perhaps best
remembered for his roles as Patty Duke's TV father, Dobie Gillis' teacher
Mr. Pomfritt, and Admiral Hargrade in Get Smart, Schallert's theatrical
career spans five decades. "We are pleased to have him here in our
theatre to help us bring to life this exciting and engaging new
play," says John Pietrowski, Playwrights Theatre Artistic Director.
The story of The Special Prisoner moves back and forth through time —
from the violence and atrocities of war to the unexpected rekindling of
This is the second collaboration between playwright/director James
Glossman and Jim Lehrer. Glossman adapted Lehrer's coming-of-age novel
Kick the Can, produced in the spring of 1996 at Luna Stage. Lehrer
says that he was drawn to the material as he thought back to the young
Americans who flew the B-29 bombing missions over Japan in World War II.
"Then," Lehrer explains, "came a natural interest in
what it must have been like for the Japanese civilians on the ground. I
tried to understand the competing emotions of forgiveness and revenge from
each side fifty years later."
Glossman, who is an Artistic Associate on the staff at Playwrights
Theatre, has a history of stage adaptations. This began with his
work as a student at Northwestern University under the tutelage of Frank
Gallati and Robert Breen and then at Yale Drama School where he adapted
James Joyce's story "The Boarding House," which he also
directed. So began an overlapping career of writing and directing.
He has directed his own adaptations of works by Faulkner, Mark
Twain, Cheever and others, with works produced on stage, screen, and
radio. In addition to directing Playwrights Theatre's Rose City Project
presentations and touring show Hot Air (for the Liberty Science Center),
he is currently preparing an original film script.
The cast, with Schallert playing the central role of Bishop John Quincy
Watson, includes three actors playing a number of characters. Actors
Paul Murphy and Jim Yue, who originated their roles at the concert reading
of this play last season at Playwrights Theatre, are returning in roles
that include — Murphy as the Bishop's longtime buddy who survived the
camps with him and remains a friend, and Yue as Tashimoto, who may or may
not be the Japanese Commandant. Actress Sonnie Brown serves as
narrator and plays a number of other roles.
The production incorporates elements from the stylized Japanese Noh Drama
as well as original music composed by Juilliard's Justine F. Chen, who
will also play her score on traditional Japanese instruments. Chen
is the first graduate in Juilliard's history to earn a double masters
degree in violin and composition. The setting is designed by Richard
Turick, lighting by Richard Currie, and costumes by Bettina Bierly.
Performances of The Special Prisoner are Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays
at 8 p.m., Sundays at 3 p.m., with additional matinees on Saturdays,
February 16 and 23 at 2 p.m. To purchase tickets, check the
Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey website, www.ptnj.org, or call
973/514-1787, extension 30. Ask about special rates for groups of
twelve or more.
Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey is the only professional (Actors'
Equity) theatre in the state devoted solely to the development of new
plays and writers for the stage. In addition to their New Play
Development Program which offers a working arena for emerging and
nationally-known professional writers, Playwrights Theatre has an
extensive educational program. Through the New Jersey Writer's Project and
Language in Motion, Playwrights Theatre reaches over 17,000 students each
year in a number of local and statewide venues, making up one of the
largest creative writing residency programs in the country. Local
offerings include classes for adults and for young people as well as the
nationally-recognized Madison Young Playwrights Program that takes
creative writing activities into each of the Madison public schools as well as the private school, St. Vincent Martyr for an extensive 12-week
Funding for Playwrights Theatre's programming is made possible in part by
generous grants from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department
of State, a partner agency with the National Endowment for the Arts, the
Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Additional funding for Playwrights Theatre's New Play Development Program
is made possible in part by the Dramatists Guild Fund, the F.M. Kirby
Foundation, Inc., the Shubert Foundation, as well as many other
foundations, corporations, and individuals.
Additional funding for Playwrights Theatre's Educational Programs is made
possible by Atlantic Mutual Companies, Bay Foundation, Whitney Houston
Foundation for Children, Maersk, Inc., MCJ Foundation, Prudential
Foundation, Schering-Plough Corporation, and the Victoria Foundation.
Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey is a member of The New Jersey Theatre
Alliance and The National New Play Network.