Dear Friend,

We’re traveling back in time again this week, taking a look at PBD’s pivotal 2008-2009 season. But before we begin, a few reminders.

There’s still time to reserve your free ticket for tonight’s interview with the esteemed actress Lynne Moody, part of PBD’s Luminaries of Stage & Screen initiative. The conversation is hosted by Bill Hayes. Next week, on June 2, Bill turns the spotlight on Michael McKeever in anticipation of the June 7 launch of Contemporary Voices featuring three of McKeever’s plays. And we're now taking reservations for our next Luminaries program on June 30, an interview with playwright, actor, cabaret artist, and drag icon Charles Busch. All interviews are pre-recorded.

Now, let’s journey back to PBD’s ninth season, which featured Eugene O’Neill’s A Moon for the Misbegotten, Edward Albee’s At Home at the Zoo, Noel Coward’s Private Lives, Eugène Ionesco’s The Chairs, and Conor McPherson’s The Weir. By any standard, it’s a very ambitious lineup. But for Bill Hayes, one of those plays stands out above the others, as it would “define what makes us unique as a theatre company in this community.” It also brought PBD national attention for the first time.

That play is the absurdist The Chairs, written in 1952, a tragic farce about human folly as an elderly couple, the Old Man and the Old Woman, frantically prepare chairs for invisible guests who are coming to hear an orator reveal the Old Man’s discovery of the meaning of life. In a program note for the original production, Ionesco wrote, “As the world is incomprehensible to me, I am waiting for someone to explain it.”

The Chairs is not the kind of play audiences or critics expected to encounter in South Florida – which was precisely the reason Bill chose it. “Going into that season, I felt that we still didn’t have an identity, that we hadn’t really defined who we were,” he says. “We were talking about this idea of ‘Theatre to Think About,’ and I was looking for a play that would set us apart and exemplify the type of thought-provoking work I wanted to produce.” He asked J. Barry Lewis to direct, and told him, “This play is going to make or break us.”

Critic Terry Teachout came to see the play. Some years before, Teachout had begun reviewing regional theatre for The Wall Street Journal, but he hadn’t previously ventured to Florida. When he learned about this production, he was curious. “Palm Beach is, of course, a resort town dedicated to the pursuit of expensive pleasure, and I was understandably skeptical when I arrived at the theater, a converted storefront with some 80-odd seats,” he recalled in 2020. What he saw left him “staggered.” In his 2009 review, he called the production “a close-to-ideal piece of work, vibrantly staged by J. Barry Lewis and acted with colossal gusto by Barbara Bradshaw, Dan Leonard and Shel Shanak in a set designed by Michael Amico that looks like a long-abandoned waterfront warehouse... All hail Palm Beach Dramaworks for dishing up such formidable fare, and doing it in high style.”

It wasn’t just Teachout who raved. Feedback from the audience was equally effusive, demonstrating that there was a local audience hungry for challenging fare. The rest, as they say, is history.          
Dan Leonard and Barbara Bradshaw
Barbara Bradshaw, Shel Shanak, Dan Leonard, and all those chairs
Please consider donating to PBD. With your support, we can continue to offer a variety of programs virtually and preserve our reserve funds as we await the return to our live, mainstage performances later in the year.

Stay safe.

MAY 26
Lynne Moody has been a working actress since 1973, when she appeared in the blaxploitation horror film Scream Blacula Scream. She then went on to forge a distinguished career, particularly in television, where her credits include the mini-series Roots and Roots: The Next Generations (Irene Harvey); That’s My Mama, E/R, Soap, and Knots Landing (series regular); Hill Street Blues (recurring role); and the daytime series General Hospital, for which she received a 2001 nomination for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Daytime Drama Series. Other notable TV appearances include the mini-series The Atlanta Child Murders, which featured a cast that included James Earl Jones, Jason Robards, Morgan Freeman, and Ruby Dee; the TV movies A Caribbean Mystery (based on an Agatha Christie novel), A Fight for Jenny, Escape to Witch Mountain, Last Light, Lost in London (opposite Ben Vereen), Ray Alexander: A Taste for Justice, which starred Louis Gossett Jr.; and countless guest shots on a wide variety of series. Moody studied at the Pasadena Playhouse and the Goodman Theatre, and her acclaimed stage work in Los Angeles includes David Hare’s A Map of the World at Odyssey Theatre, Jefferson Beeker’s First Couple at Tiffany Theatre, and C. Bernard Jackson’s Piano Bar at Inner City Cultural Center. She also directed Dennis Gersten’s Willie Said To at Playwrights’ Arena. 
Michael McKeever has written 30 full-length plays that have been produced at theatres around the world. Theatres in North America include Penguin Rep, Marin Theatre Company, NCTC, Phoenix Theatre, Stage West, and Florida Studio Theatre. His work has also been seen in major European cities, including Berlin, Warsaw, and Vienna. His play Daniel's Husband, produced in New York by Primary Stages, was nominated for an Off-Broadway Alliance Award for Best New Work and went on to successful runs at the Westside Theatre (Off-Broadway) and the Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles. His play After was seen Off-Broadway at 59E59 Theaters in 2019. McKeever has won numerous Carbonell and Silver Palm awards, and has been nominated four times for the Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award. McKeever is a co-founder of Zoetic Stage, a Miami-based theatre company dedicated to developing new work. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild.
(June 7, 7:30pm; Discussion June 9, 7:30pm)
Hannah List lives in a large and comfortable home in Nuremberg, Germany in 1939. Within the peaceful setting of her glorious and well-maintained garden, she and her family are faced with a dilemma: take a stand or do nothing as the Nazi Party rises to power around them.
(June 14, 7:30pm; Discussion June 16, 7:30pm)
Hollywood, 1950. Prior to a dinner party at the home of director George Cukor, Billy Haines, interior designer to the stars, invites a handful of friends, including Tallulah Bankhead, for cocktails. When agent Henry Willson arrives with his newest protégé, Chad Manford, a simple request turns into a heated debate on the hypocrisy of what it takes to be a star in the land of make-believe.
(June 21, 7:30pm; Discussion June 23, 7:30pm
Mitchell Howard does not believe in gay marriage. His partner, Daniel Bixby, does. Before they can resolve their difference of opinion, fate intervenes. This Off-Broadway hit explores the devastating consequences that can occur when fundamental rights are denied.  
Charles Busch has forged a unique place in the world of entertainment as playwright, actor, director, novelist, cabaret performer and drag icon. He is the author and star of over 25 plays including The Divine SisterThe Lady in QuestionRed Scare on SunsetThe Tribute ArtistThe Confession of Lily Dare, and Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, one of the longest running plays in the history of Off-Broadway. The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife (in which he did not appear) had a run of 777 performances on Broadway and received a Tony nomination for Best Play. He wrote and starred in the film versions of his plays Psycho Beach Party and Die Mommie Die, the latter of which won him the Best Performance Award at the Sundance Film Festival. In 2003, Busch received a special Drama Desk Award for career achievement as both performer and playwright. He is also the subject of the acclaimed documentary film The Lady in Question is Charles Busch. He is a two-time MAC Award winner and has performed his cabaret act in many cities, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, New Orleans, Philadelphia, London, Paris, Barcelona, and New York. In the winter of 2016, his show The Lady at the Mic premiered at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series. His first CD, Charles Busch Live at Feinstein’s 54 Below, was released in 2016 by Broadway Records.
Marilyn Meyerhoff and Samuel Feldman are the executive producers of Contemporary Voices.
Marsha and Stephen Rabb are the program sponsors for The Garden of Hannah List, The Code, Daniel’s Husband, and the interview with McKeever.
Louise and Barry Snyder are the sponsors of PBDonline.