THE MAN BEHIND SUPERMAN COMES TO LIFE IN DAVID BAR KATZ'S THE HISTORY OF INVULNERABILITY AT THEATER J
(Washington, DC) – The History of Invulnerability, David Bar Katz's provocative new drama, brings the origin story of the Superman comic to life, in all its political complexity. Behind every great superhero is a determined creator. In 1930s America, that creator was usually a young Jewish man with an active imagination. Batman, Spiderman, The Incredible Hulk and other iconic cartoon characters were all products of young American Jews. Bar Katz's play illuminates the story of Jerry Siegel—the brains behind Superman's brawn—and the imagined struggle between the creative father and his uber-mensch son.
The History of Invulnerability runs June 6–July 8, 2012 at Theater J in the Washington DCJCC's Aaron & Cecile Goldman Theater. Press night is Monday, June 11 at 7:30 pm. Performances on Saturday, June 9 at 8:00 pm and Sunday, June 10 at 3:00 pm are $30 previews. Performances on Wednesday, June 6 and Thursday, June 7 at 7:30 pm are pay-what-you-can previews. Performances on June 17 and 24 and July 1 and 8 at 7:30 pm are $35 Sunday night specials. On Thursday, June 21 at 7:30 pm the show will have open-captioning for the hearing impaired. There will be special matinee performances at noon on Friday, June 22. Tickets are available starting at $30 at theaterj.org or (800) 494-TIXS.
With a new Superman blockbuster film opening in 2013 and the re-release of the Superman comic as "The New 52" by DC Universal in September 2011, The Man of Steel remains an enduring American phenomenon. As Bar Katz traces the iconic character back to his conception in the mid 1930s, the audience views the action from the inner landscape of creator Jerry Siegel (David Deblinger) who begins his journey in his mother's basement in Clevelend. Frustrated with feelings of powerlessness in the face of the mounting horrors of Nazi Germany, Siegel and illustrator Joe Shuster (David Raphaely) create a being capable of overpowering all enemies. After their Superman comic catches on, the duo's desire to depict Superman slaughtering Nazis is curbed by Harry Donenfeld (Conrad Feininger), the head of DC Comics who purchased the rights to Superman for a mere $130. As Jerry wrestles to retain control of his comic book sensation and his life, America is drawn into WWII. Interspersed with scenes from Siegel's life is the story of inmates of Birkenau. Audacious Benjamin (David Raphaely) dreams of rebellion, elderly Saul (Conrad Feininger) struggles to keep faith in God, and young Joel (Noah Chiet) waits expectantly for the day when Superman will come to their rescue. The History of Invulnerability was a finalist for the 2011 ACTA Steinberg New Play Award and the Acclaim Award for "Outstanding Play World Premiere" at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. Theater J's production marks The History of Invulnerability's East Coast premiere and second production overall.
Artistic Director Ari Roth welcomes The History of Invulnerability to the Theater J stage, remarking "In the tradition of David Mamet, David Bar Katz is a writer of muscular Jews with a wild, robust writing style to match. He's got a number of interesting plays: Philip Roth in Khartoum, [staged at the Public Theatre in 2008] Burning Burning Burning [surrounding Shabbetai Tzvi, the false messiah] and The Atmosphere of Memory [Featuring Ellen Burstyn]. He's a great writer for a new generation, and we're glad to start an ongoing relationship with him." Bar Katz is a company member of the prestigious LAByrinth Theatre in New York, which includes artists like Philip Seymour Hoffman, who directed the Emmy-nominated HBO presentation of Bar Katz's Oh The Power. Bar Katz also earned two Tony Award nominations for the Broadway production of his play Freak. In an article in CityBeat, Cincinnati, Bar Katz describes himself as a writer who understands the "desire to fight battles in the real world using your fiction."
Director Shirley Serotsky understands this impulse as well, commenting "The desire to will into existence a better place, a better solution, a better being, is a fascinating piece of the Jewish and of the human story." Initially coming from a musical theatre background, Serotsky was struck by the parallels between musical theater and comic books: "Both are uniquely American art forms…dominated by Jews, often first–generation Jews who needed an escape both from the tragedies going on in Europe, and from their own often harsh circumstances in America." As the Director of Literary and Public Programming, and frequent director at Theater J, Serotsky has an extensive background staging stories from the Jewish experience. Ms. Serotsky's Theater J credits include The Rise and Fall of Annie Hall, The Moscows of Nantucket, Mikveh and next season's The Hampton Years. Recently, she garnered praise with her production of Birds of a Feather at The Hub Theatre, Blood Wedding at Constellation Theatre Company, and Working at Keegan Theatre.
Serotsky describes her cast as "a gutsy group of actors who are able to embrace both the stylistic world of a comic book and the deeply honest emotions and desires of the characters in this world." They are led by David Deblinger, who garnered rave reviews for his portrayal of Jerry Siegel in Cincinnati Playhouse's world premiere of The History of Invulnerability. Deblinger is one of the founding members of the LAByrinth Theater Company, where he has performed in over 15 productions. He recently appeared in the world premiere of The Killings Room at Teatro Circulo and Animals Out Of Paper at The San Francisco Playhouse. In addition to being a talented actor, Deblinger is also a prolific playwright and solo performer. On June 25, Deblinger will share his work-in-progress Abe's Lucky Penny, which deals with the themes of fathers and sons also raised in The History of Invulnerability.
Playing the brash Harry Donenfeld is Conrad Feininger. Mr. Feininger recently appeared at Theater J in Benedictus, Either/Or and String Fever. A frequent performer at The Shakespeare Theatre, he recently appeared in their productions of King Lear, Richard II, Henry V and All's Well That Ends Well. Other recent credits include Hysteria at Rep Stage and Charming Billy at RoundHouse Theatre. Playing the Man of Steel himself is Tim Getman, fresh from his appearance in After The Fall earlier in the Theater J season. Getman has also appeared in the Theater J productions Photograph 51, Passing the Love of Women, The Last Seder and as Danny Saunders in Theater J's original production of The Chosen. He recently starred in Gruesome Playground Injuries at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, where he also appeared in The Unmentionables and The Distance from Here.
Also making a second appearance in the Theater J season is Brandon McCoy, who just reprised his role as Simon in Theater J's encore presentation of New Jerusalem: The Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza. Playing both Joe Shuster, the illustrator of Superman, and Benjamin, the revolutionary concentration camp inmate is David Raphaely. One of Philadelphia's most popular young actors, Mr. Raphaely has appeared in productions at The Wilma Theatre, The Arden Theatre Company, The Walnut Street Theatre, PlayPenn, and the Philadelphia Theatre Company. In the summer of 2010, he was a guest artist in the Theater J/TheatreLab staged readings of Ari Roth's Born Guilty cycle. Jjana Valentiner, who recently gained acclaim playing barmaid Patsy in Sideman at 1st Stage, will play Jerry's mother and other roles. Valentiner's other recent credits include Pride and Prejudice at Round House Theatre; Birds of a Feather at The Hub Theatre; Fucking A at The Studio Theatre 2ndStage and Tartuffe at the Journeymen Theater Ensemble. She is joined by James Whalen, returning to Theater J after appearing in last season's Voices from a Changing Middle East festival. Mr. Whalen was recently seen in The Shakespeare Theatre Company's production of Cymbeline. He is also a frequent player at Everyman Theatre, where he has appeared in The Exonerated, Betrayal and The Cripple of Inishmaan. Alyssa Wilmoth, a graduate of the Shakespeare Theatre Company Academy for Classical Acting who recently earned accolades in No Rules Theatre Company's production of StopKiss will play Superman's paramour, Lois Lane. Noah Chiet completes
the ensemble as the young boy imprisoned in a concentration camp, dreaming of Superman. By the age of 12, Mr. Chiet has already gained rave reviews for his turn in Ganeymede Arts' Falsettos and in Liberty Smith at Ford's Theatre. He has participated in two readings at Theater J, and this is his first production.
An all-star design team of Theater J veterans reunite to create the vibrant world of comic books and the equally atmospheric concentration camps. In addition to designing the set for The Rise and Fall of Annie Hall and The Moscows of Nantucket, scenic designer Robbie Hayes has worked on Theater J's Sholom Aleichem: Laughter Through Tears. Lighting will be designed by Dan Covey, who also designed lights for Mikveh at Theater J. Debra Kim Sivigny, a veteran Theater J designer (Rise and Fall of Annie Hall, The Moscows of Nantucket and Mikveh) and company member of Rorschach Theatre, will be designing costumes. Returning to Theater J after several seasons is Dre Moore, as Properties Designer. Matthew Nielson (The Whipping Man, New Jerusalem) will create the sound design.
The History of Invulnerability is presented as the annual Arthur Tracy "The Street Singer" Endowment Production honoring the memory and musical legacy of Arthur Tracy, the renowned radio, stage and screen singer and entertainer whose talent delighted millions around the world. Additional funding has been provided by Ann and Don Brown and Judy and Leo Zickler.
Complimenting The History of Invulnerability in the DCJCC Ann Loeb Bronfman Gallery will be the exhibit "Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women" opening on June 7. See washingtondcjcc.org/gallery for more information.
THE HISTORY OF INVULNERABILITY FACT SHEET
WRITTEN BY: David Bar Katz
DIRECTED BY: Shirley Serotsky
SCENIC DESIGNER: Robbie Hayes
LIGHTING DESIGNER: Dan Covey
COSTUME DESIGNER: Debra Kim Sivigny
PROPERTIES DESIGNER: Dre Moore
SOUND DESIGNER: Matthew Nielson
DRAMATURG: Stephen Spotswood
PRODUCTION STAGE MANAGER: Roy A. Gross
James Whalen, Alyssa Wilmoth and Noah Chiet
PRESS NIGHT: Monday, June 11
PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE: June 6-July 8, 2012
Regular Schedule: Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Saturdays at 8:00 pm, Sundays at 3:00 and 7:30 pm
$30 Previews: Saturday, June 9 at 8:00 pm and Sunday, June 10 at 3:00 pm
Pay-What-You-Can Previews: Wednesday, June 6 and Thursday, June 7 at 7:30 pmSpecial Matinees: Friday, June 22 at 12:00 pm
Please note: Thursday, June 21 at 7:30 pm the show will have open captioning for the hearing impaired.
THEATER J INFORMATION:
LOCATION: The Washington DC Jewish Community Center's Aaron & Cecile Goldman Theater at 1529 16th Street NW in Washington, DC, 4 blocks east of Dupont Circle.
PARKING & METRO: Limited parking in the Washington DCJCC lot; additional parking available at Colonial Parking, 1616 P Street NW; limited street parking. Dupont Circle Station RED line.
TICKETS: Starting at $30. Box Office Tickets (800) 494-TIXS or boxofficetickets.com.
Theater J is handicapped accessible and offers assisted listening devices for interested patrons.
High resolution digital images are available upon request. More information about this production is available at (202) 777-3230 or theaterj.org.
Theater J, a program of the Washington DCJCC, produces thought-provoking, publicly engaged, personal, passionate and entertaining plays and musicals that celebrate the distinctive urban voice and social vision that are part of the Jewish cultural legacy. Acclaimed as one of the nation's premiere playwrights theaters, Theater J presents cutting edge contemporary work alongside spirited revivals and is a nurturing home for the development and production of new work by major writers and emerging artists exploring many of the pressing moral and political issues of our time. Dedicated first to a pursuit of artistic excellence, Theater J takes its dialogues beyond the stage, offering an array of innovative public discussion forums and outreach programs which explore the theatrical, psychological and social elements of our art. We frequently partner with those of other faiths and communities, stressing the importance of interchange among a great variety of people wishing to take part in frank, humane conversations about conflict and culture.