“Oliver Twist” is a story of redemption for PICT Classic Theatre.
PICT is back with a classic about the spirit of charity in time for the holidays.
Pittsburgh, PA, November 4, 2015- After a total staff lay-off, the cancellation of a production and a series of very real discussions about whether PICT should close its doors forever, PICT Classic Theatre is pleased to announce its return to the Pittsburgh theatre scene. PICT will move forward with its final production of 2015, also the organization’s final performance in the Stephen Foster Memorial on the University of Pittsburgh Campus, with a presentation of Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens and adapted by PICT’s Artistic & Executive Director, Alan Stanford, running December 3 through 19.
“It’s very ironic to do Oliver Twist after a year in which I have had to seek additional funds from our donors and sponsors,” jokes Stanford, “It really gives me so much respect for the little boy with the bowl saying ‘please, sir, I want some more’. Though it seems PICT’s donors were far more generous to PICT than Mr. Bumble was to Oliver at the workhouse.”
In order to put on the production, Stanford had to raise an additional $65,000 in only two weeks’ time. “And our individual donors stepped up to the plate marvelously,” praises Stanford. “We actually raised nearly $70,000. It certainly doesn’t get us out of the woods, but thanks to them, we now have a path to follow.”
This path leads PICT’s audience through the streets of dark and grimy Victorian London with some very familiar Dickensian characters. Audiences may find some surprises along the way, however, as PICT’s presentation will be very different from the famous musical adaptation of the same story. Stanford created his adaptation nearly 20 years ago for the Gate Theatre in Dublin, and Dickens aficionados will find Stanford’s adaptation to be far truer to the plot of the 1837 novel.
“It’s a wonderful story of redemption,” expresses Stanford, “ and it is about innocence surviving in a corrupt world. It is also a savage indictment of how children and the poor were treated in the nineteenth century. Dickens had considerable influence on political thinking, and he reinforced the idea that we have a responsibility to care for and educate the young and destitute.”
Stanford originally chose Oliver Twist for December because of the incredible reaction to PICT’s production of Great Expectations in 2014 and also because he believes that Dickens and the holiday season go together. But it is the spirit of charity Dickens embeds within the story that makes Oliver Twist, which was funded primarily through the kindness of individual donors, even more suited the season of giving.
“All that we can give in return is the finest production of Oliver Twist we can produce, and we are committed to that mission,” Stanford pledges. “Oliver may be bringing us to a close in our tenure at the Stephen foster, but it’s also a marker for the rebirth of PICT in 2016, our 20th year. Audiences can expect to hear the details of that season and our venues shortly.”
PICT Classic Theatre is committed to the creation of high-quality, professional thought-provoking theatre of substance. We accomplish this mission by investing in and promoting the community and region, and by producing and presenting classics and the “modern” classics of Irish and world theatre. We continue to explore innovative ideas that showcase the emotional power of a play and its ability to stir the soul in unimaginable ways.
ABOUT OLIVER TWIST:
PICT Veterans and newcomers make up this rich cast of Dickens’ characters.
Oliver Twist, a young orphan boy, becomes lost in the underbelly of old Victorian London while in search of a forever home. Along the way, he meets both kindhearted and terrifying strangers who are the foundation of one of the most recognizable tales of all time.
Will Sendera, a sixth-grader at Pittsburgh CAPA, will make his PICT debut as Oliver Twist in this production. He has been seen locally in productions at Pittsburgh CLO, CLO Academy and Prime Stage, and he has also performed in Austin, TX, at the ZACH Theatre and St. Edwards University.
The old miser, Fagin, who is one of the more frightening characters Oliver meets along the way, will be played by 2014 Featured Artist James FitzGerald, who was last seen at PICT as Dinzie Conlee in Sharon’s Grave and Mr. Detweiler in How the Other Half Loves. Fagin is the head of a gang of pickpocketing children, which will be played by eight young boys and girls from in and around the Pittsburgh area. Charity Hipple, Carolyn Jerz, Elliot Pullen and Simon Colker, who will be playing the Artful Dodger, are all returning to PICT to be members of Fagin’s gang after performing in Great Expectations last December. Jacob Epstein, Dan Harmon, Justin Bees and Lance Wilhelm will also be playing young pickpockets for their PICT debuts.
Nancy, a former member of Fagin’s gang and a woman of ill repute, will be played by Karen Baum, who was a 2014 Featured Artist. She was last seen at PICT as Rita in Educating Rita, Trassie Conlee in Sharon’s Grave, Mrs. Detweiler in How the Other Half Loves and Clarinda in For the Tree to Drop. Karen was also seen in PICT’s 2014 season in Great Expectations, Macbeth, Woman and Scarecrow and Blithe Spirit.
Her abusive boyfriend, Bill Sykes, will be played by Tony Bingham, who was last seen at PICT as Mr. Phillips in How the Other Half Loves. Other PICT credits include Nat McIlwaine in Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme, Herring in The Mask of Moriarty and Careless in The School for Scandal. Tony has also performed in Pittsburgh at CLO Cabaret, The Rep, Pittsburgh Public Theater and Off the Wall Theatre.
Martin Giles recently appeared in Educating Rita and Sharon’s Grave, and he is returning to play the kindhearted Mr. Brownlow. Martin is in his fourteenth season with PICT and is a 2015 Featured Artist. Martin Giles also directed How the Other Half Loves, by Alan Ayckbourn and appeared in PICT’s 2014 Season in Great Expectations, Macbeth, Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme and Waiting for Godot.
Mr. Bumble, the cruel beadle of the orphanage, will be played by David Cabot, who was last seen at PICT in James Joyce’s The Dead, The Shaughran, Wilde Tales and King Lear. He will be joined by Bridget Connors, who is making her PICT debut as the matron of the orphanage, Mrs. Corney.
Other PICT veterans joining this rich cast are Mark Conway Thompson, playing Mr. Grimwig, and Ken Bolden and Linda Froehlich playing the Sowerberrys and other roles. Dylan Marquis Meyers, Jordan Ross Weinhold, John Henry Steelman, Parag Gohil and Amy Wooler will also return to PICT to play multiple roles in this production with Alexis Cash, who is making her PICT debut.
The artistic team for this Oliver Twist includes scenic design by 2015 Featured Artist Johnmichael Bohach, lighting design by Keith A. Truax, costume design by Joan Markert, sound design by Elizabeth Atkinson and props by James Thome.
By Charles Dickens
Adapted for the stage by Alan Stanford
The Charity Randall Theatre inside the Stephen Foster Memorial
December 3 – 19
- Open dress rehearsal at 10 a.m. on December 2
- Opening Night reception following the December performance at The Porch (Free to ticketholders for the December 5 performance.)
- Post-Show Talkback: Discussion and Q&A will follow December 6 performance
- Pre-show lecture from 7:00 to 7:30 p.m. before the December 9 performance. (Free and open to the public.)
- What’s the BIG DEAL… about Oliver Twist? A special package combining dinner, show-enhancing conversation and your seat at the performance on Thursday, December 17.