is the grass any bluer...

is the grass any bluer...
on the other side?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ask Not for Whom the Cell Rings...

Dead Man’s Cell Phone… 
Jean is sleepwalking through her life until she answers a dead man's cell phone. It turns out to be a wake-up call that sends her on a date with the dead man's brother, a drinking binge with his wife, and a mysterious rendezvous with his mistress--leading Jean to rediscover herself.

Theater circles in the Bluegrass are alive with talk of the dead...Dead Man's Cell Phone, that is.  The beguiling comedy opens tomorrow night when Actors Guild of Lexington returns for its 27th season.  

You can chime in along with Artistic Director Eric Seale and his top notch cast and crew as they revive AGL audiences with Dead Man’s Cell Phone, a quirky comedy of telephonic and telepathic transformation written by America’s sweetheart of satire, Sarah Ruhl.   AGL will open the show in its new space at South Elkhorn Village at 4383 Old Harrodsburg Road, #155) (formerly Kentucky Dancesport).
Hayley Williams and Tom Phillips

All rehearsal photos of
Dead Man's Cell Phone are
courtesy of Hilary Brown

Although Seale is busy with finishing touches for the new location, he was kind enough to take a few minutes "down from the ladder" to talk about AGL's newest venture with him at the helm.   Seale tells me he looked at a number of spots before discovering the location at 4383 Old Harrodsburg Road during the exhaustive search to find the new space.  “There were a lot of places we looked at and considered, however when we stumbled across the dance studio closing, I felt it was perfect. It many ways, the layout reminded me of the old AGL Short Street location (except on a ground floor).  Also, the height of the ceiling really sold me -- finding a location with significant height for lighting is much harder than you might think.”

Actors Guild of Lexington Artistic Director Eric Seale
Grateful to the many who have pitched in with last-second help to get the new theater ready for AGL’s return, Seale admits, “Frankly the biggest obstacle is the ever-challenging tick of the clock.  In all, we had about a two-week turnaround to try and get the space ready in time to open for the patrons -- demolition, patching, construction, painting, new electrical work, etc.  It's been a huge job with lots of work and I'm highly thankful for the volunteers who've made it possible. The space is ready, but it is going to grow and evolve with future shows, there’s plenty of parking, great adjacent restaurants for a pre- or post-show meal, and there's a bar in the Elkhorn Village liquor store, so you can meet your cocktail requirements. Check out this first show and see what we've accomplished so far, then watch us grow throughout season 27.”

Bob Singleton, Eric Seale and Tom Phillips
(all seriousness aside :)

The lively and beyond-deadly script of this popular play is indeed its own beguiling ring-tone, but if that's not enough to get your attention, you need to know that the cast of Dead Man’s Cell Phone is a decadently talented assortment of local stage veterans, all will be familiar as on-stage sirens and scoundrels alike.  Seale describes the troupe as “a great cast.  Missy Johnston and Sharon Sikorski -- I've been on stage with both of them, but I've only directed them in a few pieces; directed Missy for Until the Violence Stops for V-Day few years back; worked with Sharon last winter on the Midway 10-Minute Play Festival."
Timothy Hull & Sharon Sikorski in last Fall's
Midway Festival of Plays

"I'm also really excited to be directing Tom Phillips in a full show (previously worked with him on TOMMY-The Concert), and of course there's Bob Singleton.  No need to say more. This is my first time really getting to work with Hayley Williams, which has been going great. We played brother and sister in Tartuffe, but didn't really have any scenes together, so this has been a blast."

We also have Schanne Mobley from Corbin, a University of Kentucky grad I'm meeting for the first time, who came out for the Season Open Auditions and we're very lucky to have her.”
Schanne Mobley

So, why Dead Man's Cell Phone, and why now?   “Dead Man’s Cell Phone is a show I've loved since the first time I picked it up.  As the first show I'm directing in a new space in my first season as Artistic Director it seemed the perfect fit.  A manageable sized cast, with a free form staging that suits our initial performance configuration. Sarah Rhul, MacArthur "Genius" Grant recipient, is one of the great new voices in contemporary theatre. Dead Man's Cell Phone is really the first of a new era of plays that will have to address our technology obsession.  How do we really connect with other people in a world of smart phones, social media, and all of the other forms of constant scrutiny and instant communication?  It's an excellent modern comedy, sometimes in subtle dry wit, and others in gut busting absurdity. You got a phone? Then you need to see this show.” 
Super couple of Lexington stage,
Jim Gleason and Missy Johnston

About the playwright:
Schanne Mobley and Hayley Williams in a scene from
Dead Man's Cell Phone
Sarah Ruhl, whose intriguing characters are best known for the startling leaps they take, creates plays that blend "the mundane and the metaphysical, the blunt and the obscure, the patently bizarre and the bizarrely moving. Characters in her plays, which include The Clean House and Eurydice, negotiate the no man’s land between the everyday and the mystical, talking like goofs one minute and philosophers the next. She writes surrealist fantasies that happen to be populated by eccentrically real people, comedies in which the surface illogic of dreams is made meaningful — made truthful — by the deeper logic of human feeling”   according to Charles Isherwood of The New York Times (A Nagging Call to Tidy Up an Unfinished Life, 2008).  The title role was initially and masterfully portrayed by Mary-Louise Parker, everyone's favorite Weeds monger mom). 

Missy Johnston

About the play:
An incessantly ringing cell phone in a quiet café. A stranger at the next table who has had enough. And a dead man—with a lot of loose ends. So begins Dead Man’s Cell Phone, a wildly imaginative new comedy by MacArthur “Genius” Grant recipient and Pulitzer Prize finalist, Sarah Ruhl, author of The Clean House and Eurydice.  A work about how we memorialize the dead—and how that remembering changes us—it is the odyssey of a woman forced to confront her own assumptions about morality, redemption, and the need to connect in a technologically obsessed world.

AGL's invitation:

Directed by Eric Seale.

January 13-23
8pm (Sunday matinees at 2pm)
Doors open at 7pm (1pm for Sunday matinees)
Bob Singleton

Tickets are $20 for Adults, $15 for Seniors and Students

Purchase tickets in advance by going to, or by calling 1.866.811.4111.

Subscribers, make your reservations by emailing the AGL box office at

Tom Phillips

After the show on January 13, stay and celebrate the beginning of our 27th Season! Enjoy food and music, meet the case of DEAD MAN'S CELL PHONE and the directors of upcoming shows, and more! One night only, so get your tickets now!

About Actors Guild of Lexington:
Actors Guild of Lexington was created in 1984 by a collective of artists with the purpose of giving the city of Lexington a place to see edgy and contemporary theatre. The theatre was first located in the basement of Levas’ Italian restaurant and then moved to 139 W. Short Street.
At the Short Street location Actors Guild of Lexington made a name for itself as the place to see exciting and thought provoking theatre in Lexington. The theatre thrived and was immensely popular with local patrons looking for something a little outside the norm for community theatre.

Sharon Sikorski and Hayley Williams

As the theatre grew, the need for a larger space brought Actors Guild of Lexington to the newly renovated Downtown Arts Center at 141 E. Main Street in 2002.
At the beginning of the 2006-2007 season the Actors Guild of Lexington board voted to make a change to the theatre’s mission and vision statements. Now no longer just a theatre for contemporary plays, the theatre gives the Lexington and Central Kentucky audience a wide spectrum of performances.
Mission Statement: "The Mission of Actors Guild of Lexington is to produce quality live professional theatre that stimulates, engages and entertains; elevates the quality of life for citizens of the Bluegrass region of Kentucky; and affirms the commonality of human experience through sustained production excellence and educational outreach."
Vision Statement: The Actors Guild of Lexington aspires to be the leader in the cultural community of Central Kentucky by producing quality professional theatre that illuminates and examines the common humanity in all of us. We affirm that theatre can and should entertain, enlighten, stimulate, inspire, provoke, question, elevate, transform, uplift, challenge and awaken. We believe that theatre can and should generate meaningful public discourse and be truly public: responsive to the evolution of our community and accessible to a wide cross-section of our populace. Actors Guild of Lexington will share and celebrate stories from across the spectrum of time and place while consistently reminding our community of timeless themes and universal interconnectedness.

With hopes as high as his new theatre's ceilings and armed with a fully charged battery of seasoned stage veterans, Seale seems poised to ring in AGL's 27th season with characteristic ambition and artistry.  Call 1.866.811.4111 to reserve your seat today!

See y'all at the show,

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