TheaterWorks Hartford (TWH), under the leadership of Producing Artistic Director Rob Ruggiero, is thrilled to announce details for its upcoming 2023–2024 Season. Filled with great music, captivating stories, and world-class writing, it’s unexpected and bold theater that brings community together. Individual tickets along with flexible subscription plans for TheaterWorks Hartford’s 38th season are currently on sale at twhartford.org.
TheaterWorks Hartford’s 2023–2024 Season opens with the all-female musical Lizzie by Steven Cheslik-deMeyer, Tim Maner, and Alan Stevens Hewitt. Directed by Lainie Sakakura and with music direction by Erika R. Gamez, Lizzie uses a searing rock score to explore the historical record of Lizzie Borden, the 19th century ax murderer whose controversial acquittal continues to fascinate the public. Similar in spirit to the Broadway hit Six, this contemporary musical, running September 29–October 22, is a rock concert re-telling of a mind-bending American myth.
Artistic Director Rob Ruggiero commented, “Coming from Massachusetts, the Lizzie Borden story is a familiar part of my childhood. I’ve wanted to tell some version of it on stage for years. After seeing the Broadway tour of Six recently, I immediately thought again of Lizzie, a musical project that was brought to me years ago. And I knew, this is the Lizzie story for TheaterWorks Hartford and now is the moment to tell it.”
The cast for Lizzie includes Kim Onah (Broadway’s & Juliet) as Alice Russell, Nora Schell (Spamilton, Broadway’s Jagged Little Pill) as Bridget Sullivan, Sydney Shepherd (Broadway’s First Date, Bandits on the Run) as Lizzie Borden, and Lili Thomas (Dear Evan Hansen) as Emma Borden, all of whom are making their TheaterWorks Hartford debuts.
The creative team for Lizzie includes Brian Prather (set design), Saawan Tiwari (costume design), Rob Denton (lighting design), Megan “Deets” Culley (sound design), Ashley Rae Callahan (wig, hair, make-up design), Camilla Tassi (projection design), Paul Hardt (casting director), Rob Ruggiero (producing artistic director), Mike Lenaghan (director of production), and Tom Kosis (production stage manager).
Alongside performances of Lizzie, TheaterWorks Hartford will present a special one-night-only concert with BANDITS ON THE RUN on October22. This musical trio includes Adrian Enscoe,Regina Strayhorn, and Sydney Shepherd, who stars as Lizzie Borden in Lizzie. Formed upon a chance encounter while busking in the subways of New York City, the Brooklyn based outfit has gone on to receive accolades from NPR Music’s All Songs Considered,American Songwriter, NPR Weekend Edition, and the Johnny Mercer SongwritersProject. Concert tickets are available here.
THE SEASON CONTINUES:
The Garbologists from playwright Lindsay Joelle is a heartwarming,surprising, and outside-the-box comedy. Directed by Producing Artistic Director Rob Ruggiero and running Feb 8–Feb 25,2024 it pairs Danny: a gruff male, blue-collar NYC sanitation worker hiding a heart of gold, and Marlowe: a determined female, Ivy-League-educated “newbie” who is assigned to his route. When this unlikely pair is thrown together to pick up what the world has discarded, they unexpectedly find common ground in uncommon times.
In Sanctuary City, Pulitzer Prize-winner Martyna Majok brings audiences a compelling story of two teenagers, young DREAMers who are fighting to establish a place for themselves in America, the only country they know as home. Co-Directed by theatermaker Jacob G. Padrón and filmmaker Pedro Bermúdez, this OBIE Award-winning play, running March 29–April 21, 2024, illuminates how much immigrants are willing to risk when they have everything to lose. Sanctuary City is presented in partnership with Long Wharf Theatre. Running May 31–June 23, 2024, and closing out TheaterWorks Hartford’s 2023–2024 season is
Sandra, a bold theatrical thriller by playwright David Cale. It centers on one woman, Sandra, who seeks to get to the bottom of the mysterious disappearance of her closest friend, a young pianist and composer, who went on a trip to Mexico and never returned. Her search for clues leads her into both a highly charged love affair, and increasingly dangerous territory. Featuring an original piano score, this engaging journey takes audiences on an immersive experience that ultimately asks how far would you go for love? Sandra is directed by Jared Mezzocchi, celebrated by audiences during the pandemic for his work on The New York Times Critics Pick and Obie Award winning production of Russian Troll Farm, and features creative content and video technology Camilla Tassi.
Additionally, TheaterWorks Hartford’s twisted holiday tradition, Christmas On The Rocks, returns November 29–December 23 for its 11th annual presentation. This “shiny, new, and dangerously irreverent holiday production” (New YorkTimes) features your favorite kids from Christmas stories—all grown up, shaken, stirred, and served with a twist.
Reflecting upon the 2023-2024 season, Artistic Director Rob Ruggiero commented, “This season, we’re bringing four powerful stories to TheaterWorks Hartford, using innovative tools and immersive design. We’re excited to explore the boundaries of traditional theater-making and to introduce our audience to these new experiences. It’s exactly what you’d expect from TWH plus so much more.”
Performances take place at TheaterWorks Hartford’s historic home located downtown at 233 Pearl Street in Hartford, CT. Individual tickets and flexible subscription can be purchased online at twhartford.org or by calling 860.527.7838.
Please visit twhartford.org for more information.
About the Lizzie Artists
Fresh out of art school in the early 80s, Steven Cheslik-deMeyer (Music and Lyrics) bought a used guitar in a junk shop on St. Marks Place, learned three chords, and taught himself to write songs by listening to Dolly Parton records. He insinuated himself into the post-punk neo-folk scene in the East Village, but soon discovered the world of downtown theater. Through the late 80s and early 90s, he wrote and performed music in several experimental productions with tiny mythic theatre company and directors Kristin Marting and Tim Maner. In 1992, he and Jay Byrd created an act called Y’all, singing original songs and telling stories in the style of old-time country vaudeville.The act sprang from the downtown theater scene but went on to play in coffeehouses, churches, retirement homes, and rock clubs across the U.S., Canada, and Europe. In ten years, Y’all recorded four CDs, published two books, appeared on MTV and Comedy Central, and went broke. Their last two years together, they lived in a camper on the road with a third partner. Steven made a documentary about that relationship and the final years of Y’all, Life in a Box, which premiered in the San Francisco International Film Festival in 2005. After the demise of Y’all, Steven returned to New York where he continues to make music and theater and musical theater. He is a 2019 Jonathan Larson Grant finalist, a MacDowell Fellow, and a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in American Studies.
Right out of college, Tim Maner (Book, Music and Lyrics) co-founded the Tiny Mythic Theatre Company with a focus on developing the work of creator/directors and a mission to “disrupt the american living room / rearrange the furniture in the american mind”. Tiny Mythic’s work became a staple of the downtown alt-theatre scene of the early 90s, and just a few years later, the previously transient company transformed into the award-winning NYC arts center, HERE, called “One of the most unusual arts spaces in New York – and possibly the model for the cutting edge arts space of tomorrow” by The NewYork Times. His producing/presenting history at HERE included hundreds of productions brought to life by thousands of artists. He remains an active founding board member working to expand opportunities for mid-career artists. Tim has created over twenty original works as a creator/director including: The Hawthorne Project, a six-year collaboration with writer/adaptor Elizabeth Banks building a trilogy of multi-layered multi-media events adapted from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s three American novels and The Opera Project, a five-year collaboration with writer Ruth Margraff and composers MatthewPierce and Fred Ho creating a series of original new wave operas. Outside of the work he created with his own companies, he has directed at The New York Shakespeare Festival and New Dramatists Guild, was a guest artist/teaching fellow at Harvard University and has taught at New York University/PlaywrightsHorizons. He’s also sung in some bands, arranged and conducted a Cowgirl Chorus, and originated roles in two Robert Wilson shows: Hamlet Machine (NY/European Tour) and Salomé (La Scala, Milan). He is a graduate of NYU/ Tisch School of the Arts.
Alan Stevens Hewitt (Music and Lyrics) grew up in a musical family, the son of a Philadelphia Orchestra oboist. He cut his teeth as a teenager recording for Ruffhouse/Columbia Records at Studio 4 in Philly, and during the ’90s as member of alt-folk band The Low Road (Caroline Records), touring with Los Lobos, Barenaked Ladies, and label-mates Ben Folds Five. He moved full-time to NewYork City in the late ’90s to pursue his conservatory degree in Composition at Mannes College of Music/The New School, where he studied with Robert Cuckson and Carl Schachter. In the mid-aughts, with partners, he opened The Coral Room, a nightclub in the Chelsea section of Manhattan, which featured a 10,000 gallon saltwater aquarium with live “mermaid” performances and hosted cutting edge bands, performance artists, events, and DJs nightly. As an actively performing musician, his credits include Broadway’s Frozen, Come From Away, The Band’sVisit, Fun Home (also 1st Natl. Tour), Finding Neverland, Matilda, Sting’s LastShip, Rocky, Jekyll & Hyde, Lysistrata Jones, Green Day’s American Idiot, Spring Awakening (also 1st Natl. Tour), Off-Bway’s Closer Than Ever, RENT, tours in the U.S. and abroad, and numerous recordings as a player, composer, arranger, and producer. His first score for theatre was for a production of Bertolt Brecht’s Baal that The New York Times thought was awful. He lives in the Lower Hudson Valley and enjoys motorcycles and long boarding.
Lainie Sakakura (Director) is a NYC based director, award winning choreographer (Joe A. Callaway Award & Joseph Jefferson Award), writer, educator and long time advocate for diversity and inclusion in the performing arts. Conceived & directed My APPI Broadway Story: Breaking Barriers, Lincoln Center Public Library for the Performing Arts (2022 Archival viewing TOFT); Book & Direction for Corner of Bitter and Sweet the musical adaptation of New York Times Bestseller, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, Music/Lyrics by Paul Fujimoto (29 hour AEA reading co-produced by the 5th Avenue Theatre, Abingdon Theatre Company,). 2022 Connecticut Critics Circle Nomination for Outstanding Choreography Cabaret, Goodspeed Musicals.
About the Lizzie Cast
Kim Onah (Alice Russell | she/her) is thrilled to be making her TWH debut! A graduate fromHarvard University, Kim is an NYC-based actor, singer, and writer. Favorite credits include & Juliet (Broadway); Beautiful (Tour Company); Aida (as Aida); Guys and Dolls (as Sarah Brown); All Shook Up (as Lorraine).
Nora Schell (Bridget Sullivan | they/them) is making their TWH debut. Nora graduated from The University of Michigan with a BFA in Musical Theatre and a minor in Gender, Race and Nation. They received Drama Desk, Drama League and Clive Barnes Award nominations for their performance and Off-Broadway debut in Spamilton. Nora made their Broadway debut in Jagged Little Pill. With their educational background, Nora continues to cultivate a career focused on the intersection of performing and social justice.
Sydney Shepherd (Lizzie Borden | she/her) is elated to be making her TWH debut. Selected stage includes Broadway: First Date, Regional: August Rush (Lyla), Jasper in Deadland (Agnes). Selected TV/Film: Red Dead Redemption II, Netflix’s Ask the Storybots, and the upcoming feature The Midnight Song, a film for which she also wrote the title track. Sydney is 1/3 of the critically acclaimed indie folk-pop band Bandits on The Run. They’ve released several albums, toured internationally, and played festivals like The NPR Tiny Desk Tour, Cambridge Folk Fest, and Singapore Formula 1 Grand Prix. Sydney is also a longtime collaborator of actor/musician Christopher Sears and originated the role of The Moon in Sears’ Moonchildren the Opera. Sydney is currently working with collaborators Adrian Enscoe, Regina Strayhorn, Sears, and Peter Hedges on a new stage musical.
Lili Thomas (Emma Borden | she/her) is thrilled to be making her TWH debut in a role she has been dying to play for years! Her most recent credits are Helene in Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 at Pittsburgh CLO, the final Cynthia Murphy of the Broadway production of Dear Evan Hansen (closing the 1st Nat’l Tour), and Karly/Paula/Jessica cover in Octet with Dave Malloy at Berkeley Rep. Off-B’way: We’re Gonna Die ( 2nd Stage), The Hello Girls (59e59), Only Human (St. Clements). Select regional: Berkeley Rep, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, PCLO, Milwaukee Rep,The Rev. BFA NYU/Tisch.
About TheaterWorks Hartford
Celebrating its 38th season, TheaterWorks Hartford (TWH) is committed to the power of storytelling in creating community. TWH produces high quality, contemporary theater that is relevant to our audiences, engages a diverse community, and provides insight into the human experience. Founded in 1985, TWH has produced over 170 plays and presents approximately 150 performances per season. TWH also owns and manages the historic property at 233 Pearl Street, known as City Arts on Pearl. For updates on TheaterWorks Hartford, visit here and follow on Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube.
Making Things Happen:Greater Hartford Arts Council, Travelers, Bank of America, CT Office of the Arts, CT Humanities, Edward C. And Ann T. Roberts Foundation, Lincoln Financial Foundation, Richard P. Garmany Fund at Hartford Foundation For Public Giving, Raytheon Technologies, Burry Fredrik Foundation,The Shubert Foundation, HSB, Etch, John and Kelly Hartman Foundation, Gawlicki Family Foundation, Cheryl Chase & Stuart Bear Family Foundation, Liberty Bank, Ensworth Charitable Foundation, George A. and Grace L. Long Foundation, TD Bank, William And Alice Mortensen Foundation, The Elizabeth M. Landon and Harriette M. Landon Charitable Trust, The Katherine K. Mclane and Henry R. Mclane Charitable Trust, M&T Bank.