Westport Country Playhouse Stages World-Premiere Drama “Thousand Pines,” Directed by Austin Pendleto

The cast of Westport Country Playhouse’s “Thousand Pines,” L to R, Katie Ailion, Joby Earle, William Ragsdale, Kelly McAndrew, Anne Bates, Andrew Veenstra. Photo by Stephen Emerick

A Story of Families in the Wake of a School Shooting

Westport Country Playhouse’s world-premiere drama, “Thousand Pines,” brings the national dialogue about gun violence to the stage, October 30 through November 17. Written by Matthew Greene, and directed by Austin Pendleton, the new play was part of the Playhouse’s 2017 New Works Circle Initiative, a program dedicated to the discovery, development, and production of new live theatrical works. “Thousand Pines” is a story of common humanity, healing, and forgiveness in the wake of a shooting at Thousand Pines Junior High School. As three families gather months later, on Thanksgiving Day, they are united in their grief and determination to move forward. “This world premiere is an important moment in Playhouse history, returning to its founders’ passion for encouraging great new writing,” said Mark Lamos, Playhouse artistic director. “Not only is the play relevant, it’s a feast for actors. The cast is superb. The direction perfectly calibrated. I love this play, I’m deeply moved by this play. I’m also thrilled to be able to produce its world premiere here at the Playhouse.” Matthew Greene, playwright, stated, “The families portrayed in ‘Thousand Pines’ are lost. They're grieving, they're hurting, and they're desperately confused. But in the midst of this darkness they learn a lesson that I think resonates with all of us: the only thing we can cling onto in these times of extreme crisis is the people we love.” Greene will participate in panel discussions about the play’s theme on Monday, October 29, and Sunday, November 11, at the Playhouse. The three families in “Thousand Pines” are The Fosters, The Kanes, and The Garrisons. The family members are played by six actors in a variety of roles. The play is set in the dining room of three identical suburban tract houses over the course of a Thanksgiving dinner. The cast includes Katie Ailion (Portland Stage Company’s “Red Herring,” North Carolina Symphony’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Comedy Central’s “Viralocity”); Anne Bates (Off-Broadway’s “Dan Cody's Yacht,” “The Effect,” “Tartuffe,” “The Tempest,” “Icebound,” “Alison's House,” “Discord”); Joby Earle (Broadway’s “War Horse,” Playwrights Horizons’ “Familiar,” Yale Repertory Theatre’s “Native Son”); Kelly McAndrew (Broadway’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” as Maggie, Off-Broadway’s “Almost, Maine,” Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black”); William Ragsdale (Broadway’s “Biloxi Blues,” “Getting Away with Murder,” Off-Broadway’s “Man from Nebraska”); and Andrew Veenstra (Lincoln Center Theater’s “Hamlet,” First National Tour of “War Horse,” Off-Broadway’s “An Error of the Moon”). Playwright Matthew Greene’s works have been seen on both coasts and a few places in between. His play “Gregorian” premiered at Walker Space, produced by Working Artists Theatre Project. “Adam and Steve and the Empty Sea” had its sold-out world premiere at Plan B Theatre, where it was named “Best Original Play” by the 2013 Salt Lake City Arty Awards. It subsequently had a run at the 2013 New York International Fringe Festival and was presented as part of OUTReach’s LGBTQ Youth Summit. His other plays include “Good Standing” (Plan B Theatre and the 2018 United Solo Festival); “Job Well Done” (national finalist, American College Theatre Festival); “Bread of Affliction” (Society for the Study of Jewish American and Holocaust Literature); and “#Mormoninchief” (New York International Fringe Festival). His film “Boy with Blue” was awarded Best of Fest at the Oceanside Film Festival. His play “Good Standing” will premiere at the upcoming United Solo Festival in New York. He spends his days working with Opening Act, an organization that provides theater education to underserved high schools. A California native and proud foster father, Greene earned a B.A. in Theatre at Brigham Young University and currently lives in New York City. Director Austin Pendleton previously directed Westport Country Playhouse’s “Park Your Car in Harvard Yard.”Pendleton has most recently been represented as a director in New York with his productions of “Between Riverside and Crazy” by Stephen Adly Guirgis, Pulitzer Prize winner; “A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur” by Tennessee Williams; “Uncle Vanya,” ‘Three Sisters,” “Ivanov,” “Hamlet” for Classic Stage Company, featuring between them Peter Sarsgaard, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ethan Hawke, and Marin Ireland; and “Fifty Words” by Michael Weller. Pendleton is also an actor (Broadway, Off-Broadway, Off-off-Broadway, regional theater), and an ensemble member of Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre, where he has frequently acted and directed. His plays “Orson’s Shadow” (produced at Westport Country Playhouse in 2000), “Uncle Bob,” and “Booth” are all published and have been produced worldwide, including New York, Chicago, England, and France. He teaches acting, and sometimes directing, at HB Studio in New York. The creative team includes Walt Spangler, scenic design; Barbara A. Bell, costume design; Xavier Pierce, lighting design; and Ryan Rumery, sound design and composer. A series of special events surrounding the production include panel discussions, guest speakers, post-show talkbacks, and an art exhibit. A full schedule is available at westportplayhouse.org. “Thousand Pines” is made possible with support from CT Humanities and National Endowment for the Arts. Production Partners are Stephen Corman; and Carole Hochman and Stan Green. Performance schedule is Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 and 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Special series feature Taste of Tuesday (October 30), LGBT Night OUT (November 1), Opening Night (November 3), Sunday Symposium (November 4), Together at the Table Family Dinner (November 6), Sitter Sunday (November 11), Open Captions (November 11), Backstage Pass (November 14), Playhouse Happy Hour (November 15), and Thursday TalkBack (November 15). Single tickets start at $30; buy early for best prices. For more information and to buy tickets, visitwww.westportplayhouse.org