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Chekhov/Tolstoy: Love Stories

Beginning January 23, 2020, Mint Theater Company will present a program of short plays adapted from stories by two of the world’s greatest authors, Anton Chekhov and Leo Tolstoy. These dramatic adaptations come from one of our favorite playwrights, Miles Malleson, author of Mint productions, Conflict and Yours Unfaithfully, both New York Times Critic’s Picks.

As a playwright, screenwriter, director, producer, and character actor, Miles Malleson  (1888-1969) established himself as a theatre artist of dazzling versatility. Yet while Malleson “acted the fool most memorably” in dozens of plays and films, he was also a playwright of provocative wit, searching insight and, as described by The Manchester Guardian, a sense of “ethical passion” drawing upon a lifelong engagement in progressive politics.

A Day By the Sea

After our acclaimed production of A PICTURE OF AUTUMN, Mint revisited the work of playwright N.C. Hunter with A DAY BY THE SEA. A warm, human, and often humorous depiction of the ‘crisis’ of middle age, the play tells the story of Julian Anson, a once-promising Foreign Service employee, who confronts professional disappointment and personal failure while picnicking along the English seaside.

N.C. Hunter (1908-1971) was one of the leading English dramatists of the 1950s and early 1960s. As theatrical revolution—spearheaded by John Osborne and his school of “angry young men”—exploded around him, Hunter kept his head down and provided moving portraits of a people questioning their own purpose in chaotic post-war England.

A Picture of Autumn

“N.C. Hunter’s beautiful, shamefully neglected comedy was performed only once in London in 1951, and receives its American premiere here,” wrote The New Yorker of Mint Theater’s A PICTURE OF AUTUMN. “It’s about an aging, once prosperous family living in an aging, once grand manor, and the echoes of Chekhov are unmistakable, if subdued and Anglicized. It’s a big, generous play, exquisitely written, both funny and touching.” 1

N.C. HUNTER (1908-1971) was one of the leading English dramatists of the 1950s and early 1960s. As theatrical revolution—spearheaded by John Osborne and his school of “angry young men”—exploded around him, Hunter kept his head down and provided moving portraits of a people questioning their own purpose in chaotic post-war England.

Susan and God

“Surprisingly up-to-date, fast-paced, and engaging,”1 declared the New York Times of Rachel Crothers’ neglected masterwork, SUSAN AND GOD. The 2006 production reclaimed Crothers as the “first lady” of American playwrights and was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts: Mint’s first.

RACHEL CROTHERS (1878-1958) was born in Bloomington, Illinois. When her mother embarked on a medical career, Crothers was sent to live with an aunt in Massachusetts. She learned early about the struggle to balance a career with family life. The lesson would prove a recurrent theme in her plays.

Far and Wide

Known mainly for his oft-adapted work La Ronde (or Reigen), FAR AND WIDE (Das weite Land) introduced New York audiences to European playwright Arthur Schnitzler as they had never seen him before. FAR AND WIDE is a complex examination of love and sex among the decadent upper classes of early twentieth century Vienna. It opened simultaneously in nine European cities in 1911 but was never seen in New York until Jonathan Bank’s adaptation premiered at the Mint in 2003.

Arthur Schnitzler (Playwright 1862-1931) was one of the most famous of all of the great personalities in Vienna at the turn of the last century.  A prolific author, Schnitzler wrote more than twenty prose works including stories, novellas and novels in addition to over twenty-five plays.  From before 1900 until 1925, Schnitzler was more talked about, and his plays were more performed on the stages of Germany and Austria than any other writer.  Schnitzler was both a Jew and a critic of the Austrian Monarchy, contributing to the censorship of his work in his lifetime, and by the Nazi’s after his death.  His work ultimately suffered the same fate as the Viennese culture that he was describing and vanished into obscurity after Word War I.    His best-known play today is probably Reigen a.k.a. La Ronde.  This work was the basis for The Blue Room by David Hare, as well as the recently released film Love in the Time of Money.  Audiences may also be familiar with Anatol, an early work (1893) consisting of seven scenes variously controversial, censored or banned for immorality.  Neither of these plays accurately represents the breadth or depth of Schnitzler’s genius; what Benedict Nightingale describes as his “inquisitive, complex, formidably moral intelligence.”

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