ITC Opens Season with Classic ‘Country Girl’

il-theater-center-itc.jpgPark Forest, IL–(ENEWSPF)– Clifford Odets’ backstage drama THE COUNTRY GIRL is considered a "modern classic" of American theatre. The Illinois Theatre Center of Park Forest is proud to present it as the opening production of their 33rd Season, starting September 26th.

THE COUNTRY GIRL tells the story of a washed-up, alcoholic stage actor, his devoted wife, and the young director who puts his own career on the line to give the actor a shot at a comeback. The play premiered on Broadway in 1950, starring Paul Kelly, Uta Hagen and Stephen Hill. The film version (1954) starred Bing Crosby, William Holden, and Grace Kelly, who earned an Oscar. The play was revived on Broadway earlier this year with Morgan Freeman, Frances McDormand and Peter Gallagher.

Clifford Odets was born in 1906 in Philadelphia and raised in the Bronx. He helped found the Group Theatre, a highly influential company that utilized the acting techniques associated with Stanislavski. After briefly trying acting, Odets decided to become the Group Theatre’s first original playwright. His first two plays, WAITING FOR LEFTY and AWAKE AND SING (1935) brought him fame and fortune, and the attention of Hollywood. He divided his time between writing for the stage and the screen. His best known plays include GOLDEN BOY (1937), ROCKET TO THE MOON (1938), THE BIG KNIFE (1949), THE COUNTRY GIRL (1950) and THE FLOWERING PEACH (1954). Movie screenplays include “Humoresque” (1946) and “Sweet Smell of Success” (1957).

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In 1952, Odets was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). He disavowed his communist affiliations and cooperated by "naming names". As a result, he did not share the fate of many of his colleagues who were blacklisted. His first wife was actress Luise Rainer; his second wife was actress Bette Grayson, and he also had a relationship with actress Frances Farmer. Clifford Odets died of stomach cancer at the age of 57 in 1963.

Director Etel Billig has assembled an exciting and talented cast for the ITC production. Mark Stegman returns to ITC to portray Frank Elgin, the actor. Mr. Stegman received critical praise for his performance a year ago as Phil Romano in THAT CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON. His other stage credits include numerous productions in both the Chicago and St. Louis areas. Making her ITC debut as his wife Georgie is Barbara Zahora. Ms. Zahora has an impressive list of credits, including shows at The Goodman Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare, Lookingglass, Northlight, and Writers’ Theatre.

The remaining cast members are all making their ITC debuts. They include Christopher Kudlacz as Bernie Dodd, the director, Scott Lynch-Giddings as Phil Cook, the producer, Marco Tazioli as Paul Unger, the playwright, Sarah Pitard as Nancy Stoddard, an actress, and Antonio Brunetti as Larry, the stage manager.

THE COUNTRY GIRL opens Friday, September 26 and runs through Sunday, October 12. Performances are Wed. through Sat. evenings at 8 PM and Sundays at 2:30 & 7:30 PM. Tickets are priced at $21 on Fri. & Sat., $19 at all other times. There is a $1 discount for students & seniors (65+). The Illinois Theatre Center is located in Downtown Park Forest at 371 Artists Walk (off Indianwood Blvd., adjacent to Village Hall). For tickets, call (708) 481-3510.

(Photo supplied)