THE CITY OF CONVERSATION
An invigorating look at American politics…” -Ventura Star
“The whole evening is a triumph. Go see it.” – Voice Magazine
Starring Meredith Baxter and Sharon Lawrence
Meredith Baxter starred in four television series, including the long-running “Family Ties” and the hit show “Bridget Loves Bernie.” She’s been nominated for four Emmys, and made about sixty movies for television, among them “Betty Broderick: A Woman Scorned.” Her theater work includes productions of Butterflies are Free, Vanities, The Country Wife, and touring productions of Talley’s Folly and Diaries of Adam and Eve. She has starred in about 30 different productions of Love Letters around the country. Baxter’s New York Times Bestselling book “UNTIED, a Memoir of Fame, Family and Floundering” was published in March 2011.
Sharon Lawrence has appeared on stage and screen over the last 25 years. Her television work includes her multiple Emmy nominated and SAG award-winning run on “NYPD Blue,” as well as notable performances on the hit shows “Queen Sugar,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Shameless,” “How To Get Away With Murder,” and “Rizzoli & Isles.” She also earned another Emmy nomination for her work on “Grey's Anatomy.” Sharon's film work includes the indie hit Middle Of Nowhere. She recently performed at the Mark Taper Forum, the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, and the Geffen Playhouse.
By Anthony Giardina • Directed by Cameron Watson
February 8 - 25, 2018
It’s 1979, and Washington, D.C. socialite Hester Ferris is notorious for her posh dinner parties that can change the course of politics. But when her son turns up with an ambitious girlfriend and a newly minted political agenda, it ignites a family divide that spans 30 years and six presidential administrations. A timely and moving look at a family forced to choose between defending opposing political views and keeping their family together.
Student Matinee for The City of Conversation is Friday, February 23, 2018, at 11:00 am (Read More)
With Sponsorship from Frank and Parm Williams, and Gail Beust; Elaine and Herbert Kendall; Sara Miller McCune.
ETC's 2017-18 Season Sponsored by Leatrice Luria
Photos: David Bazemore
The season continues with The City of Conversation by Anthony Giardina, nominated for the 2014-15 Outer critics Circle and Drama Desk awards for Best Play. Hailed as "uncannily of the moment" by the LA Times, The City of Conversation explores family politics by looking at a family in politics.
Meredith Baxter (Jean) has been an actress for 47 years; she’s also a writer, artist and mother of five, grandmother of three. She has starred in four series, including the long-running “Family Ties.” She’s been nominated for four Emmys, and made about sixty movies for television, among them “Betty Broderick: A Woman Scorned.” She’s been in a smattering of plays: Butterflies Are Free, Vanities, Country Wife, toured with Talley’s Folly, Diaries of Adam and Eve and about 30 different productions of Love Letters around the country. Baxter’s New York Times bestselling book, UNTIED, a Memoir of Fame, Family and Floundering, was published in March, 2011. Meredith has performed with Speaking of Stories at Santa Barbara’s Center Stage, and recently she and Michael Gross gave a fundraiser for them with performances of Love Letters. She is a speaker on issues as diverse as alcohol abuse, domestic abuse, breast cancer, abortion rights, and LGBT issues. Aging gracefully with purpose, she just might be writing and speaking about that, too. Baxter lives in Santa Barbara, California, with her wife, Nancy Locke.
Timothy P. Brown (Donald) Theatres: PCPA Theatre, Twelfth Night; Dallas Theater Center: All the Way, A Christmas Carol, Sherlock Holmes: Final Adventure; Undermain Theatre, 10 Out of 12; Trinity Shakespeare Festival: Love’s Labour’s Lost, The Tempest, King
Lear, Comedy of Errors.Commercials: Ruffles, Danone, Texas Lottery. Training: BFA, UT Arlington; MFA, Southern Methodist University
Matthew Grondin (Colin, Ethan) is thrilled to be back at ETC, where he previously appeared as Trenner in Women In Jeopardy and Stevie in Good People. Other recent credits include: South Coast Repertory (District Merchants, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing), Rubicon Theatre (A Moon for the Misbegotten) Stage West (Stupid F*cking Bird, Bad Jews), Actor’s Co-op (Spinning Into Butter, Rabbit Hole), Theatre @ Boston Court (u/s Everything You Touch, u/s Shiv), NY Fringe Festival (Friends Like These). He is a member of the Antaeus Theatre Company, where he has participated in many staged readings, including A Streetcar Named Desire at the Pasadena Playhouse. Also interested in writing – his first play, Granite, was staged at Joan Scheckel’s Collective Loft. Big thanks to Jonathan, Cam, Amy and everyone else at ETC for making this happen. This one’s for Dad. Always.
Rich Hoag (George) began his theatrical career at the age of 17 when cast as Baby John in the San Francisco Civic Light Opera production of West Side Story, starring Anna Maria Alberghetti. Since then he has played leading roles in more than 30 musicals, including The Music Man, Oklahoma, 1776, Cabaret, Company, Camelot, Hello Dolly, Carousel, Sweet Charity, Funny Girl, The Sound of Music, I Do, I Do, and the Rubicon Theatre’s world premiere of Hello, My Baby! taking over the role of Bert Coots for George Wendt. Equally adept at dramatic roles, Rich has been featured in such plays as Dancing at Lughnasa, Prelude to a Kiss, Terra Nova, Murder in the Cathedral, Mr. Roberts, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, See How They Run, Private Eyes, The Madwoman of Chaillot, Fuddy Meers, Emma’s Child, Neville’s Island, 154 and Paradise, Taking Sides, Over the Tavern, Ambition Facing West, Omnium Gatherum and To Kill a Mockingbird. He is the recipient of five Indy awards, including his one-man show, Will Rogers’ America. Recent film credits include Small, Beautifully Moving Parts premiering at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin (available on Netflix). Rich is a writer/show designer as well, having designed stage productions all over the world, including theme parks, world expos, Radio City Music Hall and Las Vegas (co-writing EFX at the MGM Grand with Phantom star, Michael Crawford). He has likewise contributed scripts to both the Disney and Discovery Channels. Rich lives in Santa Barbara with his wife, Ruth Ellen, a well-known artist and instructor.
Sally Hughes (Anna) is thrilled to be making her ETC debut in this thought-provoking piece. She was recently seen as Rosalind in Antaeus Theatre Company’s As You Like It, and other theatre credits include: Colony Collapse (Theatre @ Boston Court); Top Girls, Henry IV Part I (Antaeus); Rock N Roll (Huntington Theatre Co.); Titus Andronicus (Manhattan Shakespeare Project); among others. TV/Film: “Rosewood,” “Code Black,” “Criminal Minds,” “General Hospital,” and upcoming social horror film Vellum. BFA from Boston University. Now let’s start a Conversation.
Bjørn Johnson (Chandler) – Credits include: Broadway (Cyrano, Les Miserables, George White’s Scandals), Off-Broadway, and regional theaters throughout the United States and Canada. Local: The Road To Appomattox, Educating Rita (Colony Theater), Educating Rita (North Shore Rep), Summertime (Boston Court Theatre), Poets’ Garden, Sight Unseen, The Stand-In, All My Sons, The Chekhov Machine, The Cosmonauts’ Last Message…, Macbeth, Criminal Geniuses and Three Penny Opera (Open Fist Theater) Actors Gang. Film: Beerfest, Part Time Fabulous, The Hunger, In An Instant. Now in post: Parallel Chords, Bad Impulse. TV: “Counterpart,” “Modern Family,” “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” “Mad Men,” “ER,” “The Event,” “Criminal Minds,” “Nip Tuck,” “Dexter,” “Sons Of Anarchy,” “Sopranos,” et al.
Sharon Lawrence (Hester) After earning a degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Sharon has gone on to be prominently featured on stage and screen over the last 25 years. Her television work includes her multiple Emmy-nominated and SAG award-winning run on “NYPD Blue,” as well as notable stints on hit shows such as “Queen Sugar,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Shameless,” “How To Get Away With Murder,” and “Rizzoli & Isles.” She also earned another Emmy nomination for her work on “Grey’s Anatomy.” Sharon’s film work includes the indie hit Middle of Nowhere from Ava DuVernay, amongst many others. An accomplished stage actress, and 2012 Ten Chimneys Fellow, Sharon recently completed an acclaimed performance in The Mystery of Love and Sex at the Mark Taper Forum. She also played twenty different women in the cabaret Love, Noel at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. Area audiences have seen her in Orson’s Shadow, for which she was nominated for an Ovation Award and won the LA Drama Critics Circle Award. She was also directed in two different productions at the Geffen Playhouse by the late Gil Cates. Philanthropy has played a major role in Sharon’s life: she has chaired the Women in Film Foundation, currently sits on the boards for Heal The Bay and Green Wish, and is a trustee of the Screen Actors Guild Foundation
Kathy Marden (Carolyn) is thrilled to be making her debut with Ensemble Theatre Company, particularly in such a thought-provoking and timely play. Kathy was last seen at Center Stage Theater in Speaking of Stories reading an Alice Hoffman story. She has also been part of the Personal Stories series. Also at Center Stage, she was seen in Drama Dog’s production of The Boondawgle Estate as well as Dance Me To The End of Love. Other shows at Center Stage include the Producing Unit’s production of 154 & Paradise, Mornings at Seven, Bill W & Dr. Bob. With SBCC Theater Group she was seen in Dead Man’s Cell Phone. For 11 seasons she was also part of the Circle Bar B theater company.
Hudson Redmond (Ethan) Hudson is in 2nd grade and loves to read, play his violin, and have nerf wars. Hudson has two pets, a mini labradoodle named Levi and a leopard gecko named Leppy. He has an older sister and younger brother that he loves playing with on the trampoline.
Theodore Wilson (Ethan) Teddy is thrilled to be part of this cast of The City of Conversation. He attends Montessori Center School and enjoys acting, science and basketball. Teddy would like to thank Collabreations Youth Theatre for their guidance. He is grateful to his friends and family for their love and support.
THE CREATIVE TEAM
Anthony Giardina (Playwright) was born in Waltham, Massachusetts, and educated at Fordham University. He is the author of the novels Men with Debts (1984), A Boy’s Pretensions (1988), Recent History (2001) and White Guys (2006), as well as the story collection The Country of Marriage (1998). His fifth novel, Norumbega Park, was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in February 2012. His short fiction and essays have appeared in Harper’s, Esquire, GQ and The New York Times Magazine. His plays, including Living at Home, An American Tragedy, The Child, Scenes from La Vie de Boheme, The Beach, Black Forest and Custody of the Eyes, have been produced in New York at Playwrights Horizons and the Manhattan Theater Club, and regionally at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., Seattle Rep, Yale Rep, the Long Wharf in New Haven and the Cleveland Playhouse. He has taught at Smith and Mount Holyoke College, Colorado College, the University of Rochester, and in the MFA program at the University of Massachusetts. He is a regular visiting professor at the Michener Center of the University of Texas at Austin. He lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Cameron Watson (Director) has been hailed by the Los Angeles Times as “one of our finest contemporary directors.” He recently directed Miracle on 34th Street - The Radio Play starring Alfred Molina, Peri Gilpin and Beth Grant at The Pasadena Playhouse. He also directed the world premieres of Sharr White’s Stupid Kid at The Road Theatre and Bled for the Household Truth at Rogue Machine Theatre in Los Angeles. He directed the critically-acclaimed revival of Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at Antaeus Theatre Company, where he also directed the smash-hit productions of Picnic and Top Girls. Cameron helmed the world premieres of The Super Variety Match Bonus Round at Rogue Machine Theatre and Dream Catcher at The Fountain Theatre. Other credits include Cock (Rogue Machine Theatre), All My Sons (The Matrix Theatre Company), Trying, Grace & Glorie and The Savannah Disputation (The Colony Theatre), I Never Sang for My Father (The New American Theatre), I Capture the Castle and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey) and Rolling with Laughter in Los Angeles, Edinburgh and London’s West End. Cameron wrote and directed the Miramax feature film Our Very Own, starring Allison Janney in an Independent Spirit Award-nominated performance alongside Keith Carradine, Jason Ritter, Beth Grant, Dale Dickey, Cheryl Hines, Faith Prince and Mary Badham. He created the new comedy web series “Break a Hip,” starring Christina Pickles, Allison Janney and Octavia Spencer, now available at www.breakahip.com.
Fred Kinney (Scenic Designer) This is Fred’s seventh production at ETC. Previously he designed Amadeus, Looped, The 39 Steps, Loot, In the Continuum and Old Wicked Songs. Other credits include Sight Unseen, Ordinary Days, A Wrinkle in Time, Sunlight, Emperor’s New Clothes and A Year with Frog & Toad (South Coast Repertory). Peter Pan and Wendy (Prince Music Theater); Intimate Apparel (San Diego Repertory Theatre); End Game and Taming of the Shrew (Cutting Ball Theatre, San Francisco); A Picasso (Pittsburgh City Theatre); Serious Money (Yale Repertory Theatre); The Grouch (The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey); Cats Talk Back, Suburban Stories (NYC Fringe Festival); The Good Daughter, The Adjustment, Color of Flesh, Winterizing a Summer House (New Jersey Repertory Company); Anna Christie, Tennessee Playboy, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Tartuffe, Angel Street, Sleuth, Proof, Noises Off, Steel Magnolias, On Golden Pond and Bus Stop (Triad Stage, North Carolina). Mr. Kinney has also worked on television productions such as “Dave Chappelle’s Equanimity & The Bird Revelation,” “Larry the Cable Guy’s Christmas Special” and “Jeopardy!.” He is recipient of the NEA/TCG Career Development Program for Designers and holds an MFA from the Yale School of Drama.
Kate Bergh (Costume Design) is happy to be working at ETC again, where she designed Woyzeck, Metamorphoses, and the inaugural production at the New Vic, A Little Night Music. Recent credits: The world premiere production of Chasing Mem’ries with Tyne Daly, Next Fall and Yes, Prime Minister (The Geffen Playhouse); Hopscotch, the Mobile Opera (The Industry with Ann Closs-Farley), Bled for the Household Truth (world premiere with Cameron Watson), Daytona, Super Variety Match Bonus Round, Cock (Rogue Machine), Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally, Transition (Theater Planners), The Graduate, Twelve Angry Men, The Roger Miller Story, Six Dance Lessons… (Laguna Playhouse), Stupid Kid with Cameron Watson (The Road Theatre), Tribes (Change Theatre) Broadway Bound (The Odyssey Theatre), For Piano and Harpo (Falcon Theatre), Empire Burlesque (The Broad Stage), Grey Nomad, Ruben Guthrie, Speaking in Tongues (The Australian Theatre Company): Gigi, Cabaret (Backstage Garland Award), (Reprise Theatre), Prisoner of Second Avenue (El Portal Theatre), Side Show, Shrek The Musical (3D Theatricals – Ovation Nomination), The House in Scarsdale, Creation (Theatre at Boston Court), Amahl and the Night Visitors, Art, Sleepless in Seattle, Miracle on 34th Street, Casa Valentina (Ovation Nomination, LADCC Award) (Pasadena Playhouse). Kate works in all mediums telling stories with costumes – theater, opera, dance, film, television, commercials. She loves her job.
Jared A. Sayeg (Lighting Designer) is a four-time Ovation Award Nominee and winner of the Ovation, StageRaw & Garland Award as well as a recipient of the LADDC Kinetic Lighting Award. His designs have been seen throughout the U.S., Broadway, Off-Broadway, West End, Canada, Spain, Edinburgh & Las Vegas. National tours include Blithe Spirit starring Angela Lansbury, The Who’s Tommy with Alice Ripley, Queen of Spades starring Placido Domingo (Madrid) and Rolling with Laughter at Her Majesty’s Theatre (West End). Broadway: The Illusionists (Neil Simon & National Tour) Bravo Bernstein, and Gotham Glory (Carnegie Hall). He was on the design teams for: PRIMO, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Woman in White and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Regional: Center Theatre Group, Pasadena Playhouse, South Coast Repertory, Sacramento Music Circus, International City Theatre, Reprise, Ensemble Theatre Company, Cabrillo Music Theatre, Laguna Playhouse, Virginia Stage Company, The Colony, Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey & CLO of South Bay. Other designs include 18 productions sailing worldwide for Holland America Line and Le Cirque Bijou for Norwegian Cruise Line. Jared is Principal Designer for the USA International Ballet Competitions held every four years. Jared became the youngest member of the United Scenic Artists-Local 829 and serves as a trustee to the executive board. www.jaslighting.com.
Avery Wheeler (Sound Designer) has worked with Ensemble Theatre Company on Good People, Metamorphoses, Red, Looped, Amadeus, The Best Brothers, Intimate Apparel, Woyzeck, Venus In Fur, Sweeney Todd, Women in Jeopardy!, I Am My Own Wife, Bad Jews, Fallen Angels, and Macbeth. Avery is currently in his second year as Events Manager at UCSB’s Campbell Hall.
Jonathan Fox (Artistic Director) joined ETC in 2006. He adapted and directed ETC’s recent production of Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives. His other ETC productions include Porgy and Bess, Macbeth, Sweeney Todd, Woyzeck, Amadeus, A Little Night Music, The Liar, Crime and Punishment, and a dozen others. He directed Opera Santa Barbara’s 2014 production of The Consul at the Granada Theatre. He has collaborated with the Santa Barbara Symphony on their Shakespeare and Valentine’s Day concerts. In 2016, he directed ETC’s production of Bad Jews, which traveled to Germany for the play’s German premiere. Other European productions include Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, A Streetcar Named Desire, Visiting Mr. Green, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at The English Theatre Frankfurt, and Old Wicked Songs, Crimes of the Heart, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the Vienna English Theatre. Before joining ETC, Mr. Fox spent 12 years with Two River Theater Company in New Jersey, which he helped establish in 1994. He served as Managing Director of the company from 1994-99, and subsequently became its Artistic Director. For Two River, he directed their recent world premiere production of Lives of Reason. His production of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg was profiled in American Theatre Magazine, as was his festival of work by Samuel Beckett. His directing work has been seen in New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Cologne, and has received critical acclaim in The New York Times, Variety, the LA Times, and other publications. He received his MFA from Columbia University, and is a recipient of the prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Fellowship. He has served as an adjunct faculty member in theater departments at UCSB, Columbia University, University of Utah, and Monmouth University.
Kristin Weber (Stage Manager) is thrilled to return to ETC. Her previous credits include: ETC: Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, Husbands and Wives, Antaeus Theater Company: The Crucible, The Liar, Top Girls, The Curse of Oedipus, Wedding Band, Henry IV - Part One, Picnic, Uncle Vanya, Cloud 9, Hedda Gabler, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, As You Like It, and various ClassicsFests. Kirk Douglas: If All The Sky Were Paper. A Noise Within: The Imaginary Invalid. Sierra Madre Playhouse: Driving Miss Daisy, Women in Mind. Unbound Productions: Wicked Lit 2012. Kristin graduated at the top of her class from Chapman University, where she majored in Entertainment Theatre Technology with an emphasis in stage management. Forever thanks to her family and friends for their endless love and support. Special thanks to Cam, Lara, Sam, Alex, RC, and to my wonderful cast! Enjoy
Sam Lahne (Dramaturg) is a playwright and dramaturg who originally hails from Washington, DC, but is now happy to call Santa Barbara his home. He is thrilled to be working as the resident production dramaturg for Ensemble Theatre Company’s 2017-18 season. As a dramaturg, he has worked on the development and production of a number of plays, including the world premieres of Jonathan Fox’s adaptation of Husbands and Wives (ETC SB), Aaron Posner’s Stupid F-ing Bird (Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, DC), and Mia Chung’s You for Me for You (Woolly Mammoth). He has served as the Literary Assistant at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington, DC, and at New Dramatists in New York. Sam’s own plays have been produced and developed at theatres across the country, including the Playwrights’ Center (MN), Bay Area Playwrights Festival (CA), the Kennedy Center/National New Play Network (DC), Barter Theatre Company (VA), Scripps Ranch Theater (CA), and the Jewish Plays Project (NY). Sam received his BA from Vassar College and his MFA from the University of Iowa Playwrights Workshop.
Amy Lieberman, CSA (Casting Director): Six-time Artios Award winner. Center Theatre Group, 1982–1990 and 1999–2006. Broadway (The Dinner Party, Flower Drum Song, Big River). Ongoing: Ensemble Theatre Company of Santa Barbara (10 seasons). Other: Reprise Theatre Company, La Jolla Playhouse, Manhattan Theatre Club, Goodman Theatre, ACT, Denver Center, Berkeley Rep, Seattle Rep, Pasadena Playhouse, Rubicon, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Actors Theatre of Phoenix, Actors Theatre of Louisville, L.A. Theatre Works’ The Play’s the Thing series, North Coast Repertory and more. Film and TV throughout the 90’s. Visiting Associate Professor at UCLA’s MFA program 2007-2013.
- Book Club, Feb 14, 2018, 5:30 - 6:30pm: Scripts are now available for checkout at the Santa Barbara Public Library, 40 East Anapamu Street. Join other theatregoers for a lively discussion about the play from a literary and dramatic perspective. FREE!
- Pre-Show Talks, Feb 14 & 21, 2018 at 7:15 pm: Join us in the courtyard of The New Vic for an informative and insightful discussion about the play before you see it, sure to enhance your theatrical experience.
- Martini Night, Feb 16, 2018 at 7:15pm, performance at 8:00pm: Free to ticket holders. Come early to enjoy a complimentary martini and mingle before the show.
- Talk Back, Feb 22, 2018: Meet the cast after the show and discuss the production.