Archive for March, 2012

Stirring, Spellbinding ‘Lincoln – An American Story’ A Triumph – Examiner.com

theater review | March 29, 2012
Candyce ColumbusLA Theater Examiner

Stirring and at times spellbinding, Hershey Felder’s world premiere of Lincoln—An American Story is a triumph. Directed by Joel Zwick the show is based on an only once told account by Dr. Charles Augustus Leale, a twenty-three-year old medical student who attended the April 14, 1865 performance of Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre at which President Abraham Lincoln was shot. Hershey weaves spoken word, song and magnificent orchestral accompaniment into an enthralling 90-minute performance.

As Leale, who finds his ghostly self back at the Ford to tell his tale, Felder masterfully recounts his tale which incorporates other national events including the Civil War that led up to that fateful night. Taking the audience into this pivotal moment in U.S. history, he used treasured traditional American folk songs as well as original music.
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When the actor, John Wilkes Booth made his way into President Lincoln’s box to assassinate him, he changed the history of the world as well as the life of that young surgeon who spent the last nine hours of Lincoln’s life trying to save him.

Projections onto several strategically placed curtains of the Booth family, fires outside a New York theater and a starlit night, transformed the stage and house evocatively. Kudos to David Buess, Trevor Hay, Chris Rynne, Erik Carstensen and all the production designers and crew.

Under the baton of Alan Heatherington the 45-piece on stage symphony was superb.

Felder performed as a song one of the few poems written by the 16th president, a verse that explored themes of death and dying, but the words got lost in the music leaving some audience members wishing he had recited the poem with the music as background.

With a very short run, history lovers and those to whom Abraham Lincoln is appreciated as one of the greatest presidents should not delay in purchasing tickets to this remarkable production.

Lincoln—An American Story performs through April 7. Single show regular ticket prices range from $44 – $69, with Premium Seating available for $100. Call 626-356-7529 visit www.pasadenaplayhouse.org or visit The Pasadena Playhouse Box Office. Group Sales (8 or more) are available by calling 626-921-1161.

The Pasadena Playhouse is located at 39 South El Molino Avenue, Pasadena, CA91101.

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Felder’s Lincoln — He Doesn’t Play Lincoln or a Piano – LAStateTimes.com

Features by Rachel Fain  |  March 28, 2012
Hershey Felder in “Lincoln – An American Story for Actor and Symphony Orchestra”

Hershey Felder stands downstage center. His voice carries across the seats, easily reaching the back of the house. It is this acoustic perfection, as well as its historic beauty, that make the Pasadena Playhouse Felder’s favorite place to perform in California. “It’s the real thing. It’s old, it’s natural, it’s perfect.”  He raises his voice only slightly to fill the space, “and you hear everything and you don’t have to do anything, and you can play piano and it’s beautiful, and-and-and-and!” Felder laughs.

Hershey Felder

Felder is rehearsing for the premiere of his play Lincoln – An American Story. He mentions a woman who said to him, “I didn’t know Lincoln played pi-a-no.” His voice pitches up and into his nose, the final word drawn out. In a departure from the plays of his Composers Sonata (George Gershwin Alone, Monsieur Chopin, Beethoven As I Knew Him, and Maestro: The Art of Leonard Bernstein), Felder does not play the piano—or any other instrument—in Lincoln. But he is joined onstage by a 45-piece symphony orchestra playing a score that Felder himself composed (with the help of some American folk songs) and arranged.

“It’s so liberating…” Felder almost moans, and then paraphrases pianist Arthur Rubinstein. “How do you think it feels to be dressed like an undertaker, sitting in front of a nine-foot coffin every night?” he laughs. “From a physical standpoint as an actor, I can’t do anything because the piano is there, and I have to keep going back to it. This frees me up to be an entirely physical person.” At the moment, however, a piano still dominates the stage, lingering after two weeks performing Chopin and Bernstein.

Hershey Felder

Along with Felder and the piano, on the stage are a couple of nondescript, 1970s office armchairs; a replica of Abraham Lincoln’s theater seat—a red brocade-upholstered rocking chair; an 1864 replica rifle; and Trevor Hay, Lincoln production manager and scenic co-designer. “I’ve been liking getting Trevor’s perspective lately because I’m too much on the inside,” says Felder, by way of an explanation.

Felder’s interest in Lincoln was sparked by a visit to the president’s birthplace and childhood home. But his academic curiosity did not turn to the theatrical until he came across the speech “Lincoln’s Last Hours,” given by Dr. Charles Augustus Leale on Lincoln’s 100th birthday in 1909. Leale was a young army surgeon and the first doctor on the scene at Ford’s Theatre the night of the assassination. He stayed with the president until his death the following morning. In Dr. Leale, Felder found his storyteller, and it is Leale—not Lincoln—whom Felder portrays in the play.

Hershey Felder

Like all Felder’s subjects, Leale is carefully researched—only the context for the performance is invented. In addition to the centenary address, Felder found family papers and public records in Yonkers, New York, where Leale was from. And to further assist him in getting into character, Felder’s costumes are scrupulously period-accurate. The Leale costume was built by tailors who specialize in clothes for historical re-enactors. Every detail is authentic, from the fabric down to the epaulettes. Similarly, his Chopin shirt has huge billowy sleeves crammed into the velvet coat, even though the audience will never see them. The entire costume was made for him in Paris.

The most challenging part of playing the composers was learning to transition from acting to music. Felder finds acting, no matter how small or private the moment, an extroverted activity; while playing music is inherently introverted—the audience sees an outpouring of emotion and experience, but the musician is ideally inside himself, completely relaxed and quiet. And Felder’s playing changes with each character. “I don’t know why it happens, but it does. It’s influenced by what I feel, by the approach of the character,” he explains. “Bernstein is an extroverted, more pushy player. Chopin is a more internal, delicate choir player. Gershwin is more bangy.”

Hershey Felder in “Maestro: The Art of Leonard Bernstein” (left) and “Monsieur Chopin”; Photos by John Zich

Felder finds Bernstein particularly difficult to portray. “When you do a play you have to invest 100 percent every night, twice on Saturday, twice on Sunday, and it eventually takes its toll,” Felder confides. “I don’t relate to Bernstein in almost any way, other than we both grew up in Jewish households. My father was much kinder than Bernstein’s. He didn’t want me to be a musician, but he was very generous once I was. There wasn’t that meanness that Bernstein’s father exhibited throughout his life.” In Felder’s play, Bernstein is disappointed at being better known as a conductor than as a composer. When asked if there is anything else he would like to do and perhaps be known for, Felder immediately says, “Cooking is at the top of the list.”

“He’s quite good,” chimes in Hay, attesting to Felder’s prowess in the kitchen.

But back to the play. “All of Hershey’s work is story-driven,” Hay continues. “He has the ability to tap into the parts of stories that reach us all. And he’s a genius musically, so when you add music into the story it completes the picture. He creates them in a way that is unique.”

Hershey Felder

“Even the music is story-driven,” Felder agrees. “I draw on Americana and American feelings, processed through my own sense of color and emotion and sound. It goes with the story, enhances the story, and it uses the craft of real symphonic writing.” Hay describes the score as epic, sweeping and American. “It’s as much a part of the story as Dr. Leale, and it gives a whole other color—red, white and blue. It’s about where we came from, what we’re about.”

Felder is nodding. “The driving force is the connection between people, and the human connection revealed allows the story to be told and connect with the audience.”

Lincoln – An American Story for Actor and Symphony Orchestra presented by Pasadena Playhouse and produced by Eighty-Eight Entertainment and Samantha F. Voxakis. Opens tonight. Plays Tues-Fri 8 pm,  Sat 4 pm and 8 pm, Sun 2 pm and 7 pm. Through April 7. Tickets: $54-100. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 South El Molino Avenue, Pasadena. 626-356-7529.  www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.

***All Lincoln – An American Story for Actor and Symphony Orchestra production photos by Craig Schwartz

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Hershey Felder’s two Los Angeles theater turns – JewishJournal.com

March 27, 2012
By Tom Tugend

Hershey FelderHershey Felder

Hershey Felder is a prolific performer, writer and composer, but he is setting a new personal record with world premieres of two plays at different Los Angeles venues.

Best known as the piano-playing alter ego of George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein and Frederic Chopin, Felder is exploring new territories in both productions

He is currently on stage at the Pasadena Playhouse in “Lincoln – An American Story,” tripling as author, symphonic composer and solo actor.

Felder portrays Dr. Charles Leale, an actual, though largely unknown, historical figure. Leale, then a 23-year old army surgeon, was at the Ford’s Theatre on the night Lincoln was assassinated and rushed to the stricken president’s side.

Across the mountains at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood, Felder, staying for once behind the scenes, is the adapter and director of “The Pianist of Willesden Lane,” with previews starting April 17.

Concert pianist Mona Golabek is the solo performer of the show, which, like “Lincoln,” is taken from life, but in a vastly different time and setting.

Golabek portrays her own mother, Lisa Jura, who inherited her musical virtuosity from her own mother and, in turn, passed it on to her daughter.

A gifted young Jewish pianist in Vienna, Lisa was sent by her parents to safety on a Kindertransport to England, following the Nazi takeover of Austria in 1938.

There she found shelter, along with 30 other young Jewish refugees, in a Quaker-run hostel on Willesden Lane, all enduring intense German aerial bombardment during the London Blitz.

Golabek wrote of her mother’s travails and musical triumphs in her book “The Children of Willesden Lane” (with Lee Cohen), on which the show is based.

But the real message of the play is the power of music to uplift our spirits in the darkest of times, Golabek observed during an interview at the Geffen Playhouse, and her performance is permeated with some of the world’s most enduring piano compositions.

Unlike many survivors of the Holocaust era who never spoke about their experiences with their children, Lisa Jura shared her stories freely with her daughters Mona and Renee.

“My mother would be giving us piano lessons and suddenly a passage would remind her of some childhood event, and she would talk about it,” Golabek said.

One such incident was Lisa’s heartbreaking separation from her family at the Vienna train station in 1938, when her mother’s final words to her were, “Hold on to your music; it will be your best friend.”

The advice has become the family’s leitmotif through succeeding generations and is perpetuated in their Hold On To Your Music Foundation. There is one other dimension to Golabek’s performance. “My role allows me to pay homage to my parents,” she said. “How many people ever get that opportunity?”

After the war, the family moved to Los Angeles, where Mona was born and grew up to become an internationally acclaimed concert pianist. Her honors include the Avery Fisher Prize and the People’s Award of the International Chopin Competition.

She, in turn, is passing on the legacy to her late sister’s four children, of whom Michelle, Sarah and Rachel are pianists, and Jonathan is a violinist.

Golabek met Felder three years ago, while he was performing at the Geffen Playhouse, and she asked him whether the story of her mother could be transferred to the stage.

Felder said yes, wrote the adaptation, and for the last few weeks has been in rehearsal with Golabek. At the same time, he has been performing nightly at the Pasadena Playhouse, first in “Monsieur Chopin,” then “Maestro: The Art of Leonard Bernstein,” and is now appearing in “Lincoln.” Joel Zwick (“My Big Fat Greek Wedding”) is the director of all three plays.

Felder juggles his responsibilities “by performing in the evening and preparing for the next show during the day,” squeezed into a daily 7:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. schedule, he said during a phone interview.

Turning to the Lincoln play, he noted that Leale, the young surgeon who rushed to Lincoln’s side, talked about his historic encounter only once, during a convivial evening 44 years later.

“This is a fascinating story about what can happen to an ordinary man who is suddenly thrust into a historical event,” Felder said. “Lincoln” also features Felder’s symphonic compositions, performed by a 45-piece orchestra.

As to his role as behind-the-scenes director of “The Pianist of Willesden Lane,” Felder said that his friends are so used to seeing him at the center of the stage action, “that they suspect I may be playing Mona’s role in drag.”

His next project will be set in Paris, where Felder, when not on the road, lives with his wife, Kim Campbell, a former Canadian prime minister.

“Lincoln” is playing at the Pasadena Playhouse through April 7. For tickets and information, call (626) 921-1161, or check http://www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.

“The Pianist of Willesden Lane” will be at the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theatre of the Geffen Playhouse, with previews starting April 17. The official opening night is April 25, and closing night May 27. For tickets and information, phone (310) 208-5454, or visit http://www.geffenplayhouse.com.

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Pasadena Playhouse Premieres LINCOLN – AN AMERICAN STORY, 3/27 – Broadwayworld.com

Pasadena-Playhouse-Premieres-LINCOLN-AN-AMERICAN-STORY-327-20010101

The Pasadena Playhouse (Sheldon Epps, Artistic Director and Charles Dillingham, interim Executive Director), in association with Stephen Eich announced that Hershey Felder will return to The Pasadena Playhouse with the World Premiere of the Eighty-Eight Entertainment and Samantha F. Voxakis production of LINCOLN – AN AMERICAN STORY for Actor and Symphony Orchestra. LINCOLN – AN AMERICAN STORY is written, composed, arranged and performed by Hershey Felder; is directed by Joel Zwick; and will be performed in front of a 45-piece orchestra. Performances will begin March 27 with an official press opening on Wednesday, March 28, 2012, at 8:00 p.m. LINCOLN – AN AMERICAN STORY is a Special Presentation by The Pasadena Playhouse.

“Last season Hershey Felder brought Pasadena audiences his amazing portrayal of George Gershwin. The performance was very enthusiastically received, and we are thrilled that he has chosen to premiere LINCOLN – AN AMERICAN STORY at The Pasadena Playhouse,” said Artistic Director Sheldon Epps. “Hershey is truly a renaissance man – a writer, actor and accomplished musician – and only he could develop and bring to life such important and entertaining works. His collection of virtuoso performances will now be showcased for our audiences here in Pasadena, and we are thrilled.”

LINCOLN – AN AMERICAN STORY is written, composed, arranged and performed by Hershey Felder and directed by Joel Zwick. The creative team for LINCOLN – AN AMERICAN STORY will feature scenic design by David Buess and Trevor Hay, lighting design by Chris Rynne, sound design by Erik Carstensen, costume design by Abigail Caywood, projection design by Greg Sowizdrzal and Andrew Wilder, scenic construction by Christian Thorsen, special effects by Pat Cain, production associate Judith Caywood, production management by Trevor Hay, technical direction by Matt Marsden, production stage manager Nate Genung and dramaturges Cynthia Caywood, Ph.D. and David Hay, Ph.D. The orchestra will be conducted by Alan Heatherington

LINCOLN – AN AMERICAN STORY, Hershey Felder’s newest work for actor and symphony orchestra is based on traditional American folk songs and poetry by Abraham Lincoln, Stephen Foster, John Howard Payne and Henry Bishop. LINCOLN – AN AMERICAN STORY is a true tale based on the words of Dr. Charles Augustus Leale – who in April of 1865 as a twenty-three year old medical student attended the April 14th performance of Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., with President Lincoln in attendance. When the actor, John Wilkes Booth made his way into President Lincoln’s box to assassinate him, a surgeon was called for, and Charles Leale, just a young American army surgeon found himself at the center of history that would change the world. Charles Leale only told the story of what he witnessed, and was a part of that evening, only once in his life as a sixty-three year old man – at a gathering of army friends at Delmonico’s restaurant in New York City on the occasion of Lincoln’s hundredth birthday in 1909. It is this story, the document of which resides at the Library of Congress, upon which this new musical/theatrical work is based.

Joel Zwick directed My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the highest-grossing romantic comedy of all time, produced by Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson and Gary Goetzman. Recent films include Fat Albert (with Bill Cosby), and Elvis Has Left the Building, starring John Corbett and Kim Basinger. Mr. Zwick directed the Broadway production of George Gershwin Alone at the Helen Hayes Theatre, as well as all other productions. Mr. Zwick began his theatrical career at La Mama E.T.C., as director of the La Mama Plexus. He has directed on Broadway, Off-Broadway and Broadway touring companies. Currently, Mr. Zwick is recognized as Hollywood’s most prolific director of episodic television, having the direction of five hundred and twenty-five episodes to his credit. These include having directed twenty-one pilots, which have gone on to become regular series. Television shows include: “Laverne & Shirley,” “Mork & Mindy,” “Bosom Buddies,” “Webster,” “Perfect Strangers,” “Full House,” “Step By Step,” “Family Matters,” “It’s a Living,” “Bros. Wayans,” “Joanie Loves Chachi,” “Jamie Fox,” “Kirk,” “Parent’ Hood,” “Angie,” “On Our Own,” “Two Of A Kind,” “Love Boat,” “Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper,” etc. Previous New York productions have included Dance With Me (Tony nomination), Shenandoah (Broadway national tour), Oklahoma! (national tour) and Cold Storage (American Place Theater). He acted in the original New York production of MacBird. He directed Esther (Promenade Theater, NY), Merry-Go-Round (Chicago and Las Vegas), Last Chance Saloon and Woycek (West End, London). Mr. Zwick has taught drama at Yale University, Brooklyn College, Queens College, Wheaton College, and the University of Southern California. He is a graduate (B.A., M.A.) of Brooklyn College.

LINCOLN – AN AMERICAN STORY is the final production of a Special Presentation of the Hershey Felder Collection which was preceded by limited engagements of Monsieur Chopin (February 28 – March 7) and Maestro: The Art of Leonard Bernstein (March 10 – 18) at The Pasadena Playhouse.

LINCOLN – AN AMERICAN STORY is a Special Presentation by The Pasadena Playhouse. LINCOLN – AN AMERICAN STORY will play from March 27 – April 7, 2012 with the official press opening on March 28, 2012, at 8:00 p.m. The Pasadena Playhouse is located at 39 South El Molino Avenue in Pasadena. The performance schedule is Tuesday through Friday at 8:00 p.m.; Saturday at 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Single show regular ticket prices for LINCOLN – AN AMERICAN STORY range from $54.00 – $79.00, with Premium Seating available for $100.00. Tickets for HERSHEY FELDER’S GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK SING-ALONG on March 19 range from $39.00 – $59.00. Tickets are available by calling the Pasadena Playhouse at 626-356-7529 or by visiting The Pasadena Playhouse Box Office, Monday from 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. and Tuesday – Sunday from 12:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. during non-performance dates. On performance dates the box office is open Tuesday- Saturday from 12:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. and 12:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. on Sunday. The box office is closed on holidays. Tickets are available 24 hours online at www.PasadenaPlayhouse.org. Group Sales (8 or more) are available by calling 626-921-1161. For additional information visit www.PasadenaPlayhouse.org.

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Theatre review: Hershey Felder makes Abe Lincoln’s story sing – Pasadena Sun

Lincoln, An American StoryHershey Felder sits at a piano on stage at the Pasadena Playhouse in Pasadena. Felder, created “Lincoln — An American Story,” a play that he will star in as a young Army surgeon who was in the theater the night of the assassination, performed with a symphony orchestra. (Tim Berger / Staff Photographer / March 14, 2012)
By Lynne HeffleyMarch 24, 2012 | 3:00 p.m.

The young Army surgeon at Ford’s Theatre the night of Abraham Lincoln‘s assassination remained silent about what he had done to aid the dying president until 1909, too shattered by the event to speak of it until late in life. Dr. Charles Augustus Leale’s eventual account of his experience forms the basis for an unusual new theatrical work: “Lincoln — An American Story, for Actor and Symphony Orchestra,” opening Wednesday at the Pasadena Playhouse.

Created by musician-composer-actor-playwright Hershey Felder, the world premiere production concludes a special engagement of a trio of the multifaceted storyteller’s biographical works.

“Lincoln” follows the playhouse run of “Monsieur Chopin” and “Maestro: Leonard Bernstein,” part of Felder’s tour-de-force series that also includes “Beethoven, As I Knew Him” and the Ovation Award-winning “George Gershwin Alone,” reprised last year at the playhouse.

“It’s funny,” Felder said, “people say to me, ‘You’re doing Lincoln? I didn’t know he played. Did he sing too?’”

It’s not such a departure. Felder’s soulful and often humorous channeling of iconic figures from the world of music owes much to the fact that he is a self-proclaimed history buff who relishes the extensive research required to shape his work. It was while he was at the Library of Congress studying up for “Gershwin,” Felder said, that he came across a copy of Leale’s speech, “Lincoln’s Last Hours.”

After decades of silence, and persuaded that history demanded it, Leale gave the address on what would have been Abraham Lincoln’s 100th birthday.

“It touched me deeply,” Felder said, “and it always interested me, why he kept it quiet. I think I understand. It must have been so hard for him to have witnessed that, and to know that he had the responsibility for the country’s sake to keep the president alive as long as possible so that a safe transference of power could happen.”

The speech stuck “in my brain,” Felder said, “and I just thought that maybe this is the time to tell the story.”

For his previous biographical turns, Felder has performed alone on stage with his Steinway grand. In “Lincoln,” directed by his longtime theatrical collaborator Joel Zwick, Felder will be joined by a 45-piece orchestra led by conductor Alan Heatherington, founding music director of the Illinois-based Ars Viva Symphony Orchestra.

The new show “felt symphonic because the story felt so massive,” said Felder, who composed, orchestrated and adapted the music for the piece.

Rather than attempting to play Lincoln himself, “because I’m not 6 foot 4 and from Kentucky — I’m not 6 foot 4 anywhere,” it was more feasible, he felt, to portray the doctor in a theatrical tapestry woven with period music and the words and poetry of Lincoln, a Civil War soldier and other contemporaries of the era.

The songs of Stephen Foster feature prominently because “Lincoln knew Foster’s music. ‘My Old Kentucky Home’ was his favorite song,” Felder observed, although he omitted original lyrics from songs that reflected the accepted racism of the time, he said. They were “vile, just horrible.”

Felder set the iconic Gettysburg Address to music and uses a poem by Lincoln in the poignant context of the president’s death.

The poet Walt Whitman, who gave comfort to wounded soldiers during the war, also speaks.

One key element was inspired by an event that took place during a specific Civil War battle. Felder prefers not to give away details, “but it’s a great true story. I was so touched by it, and I thought it was so representative of the Civil War.”

Canadian-born Felder, who considers the United States “my adopted home,” divides his time between this country and France, where he lives with his wife, Kim Campbell, former prime minister of Canada.

His eclectic mix of storytelling and music has its roots in his childhood in Montreal, where Felder began studying piano at age 8. While his initial trajectory led toward a career as a concert pianist, “as a kid, one important thing that I understood was that I was made for talking,” Felder said, laughing, “so I had to figure out how to talk when I played.”

The impulse to create a kind of conversational intimacy with audiences as he performs, no matter how large the theater space, fuels each of Felder’s shows. “I think people want to be engaged, that they don’t want to be talked at, but spoken with. I love that,” he said.

The conversation generally continues after the performance. Felder’s post-show sing-along for “George Gershwin Alone” is a crowd-pleaser, and he sparks audience participation after “Monsieur Chopin” by staying in character as the composer for a Q&A session. His popular “Hershey Felder’s Great American Songbook Sing-Along” is the performance.

What happens after “Lincoln” was to be determined at the show’s dress rehearsal, Felder said. “The audience part is the only thing that I can discover when it’s actually on stage. Then it either goes or it stays. Right now, it’s a question of how can I involve the audience, and how can an audience do this with an orchestra?

“It also depends on if they’re feeling patriotic at the end of this. What others will do for my freedom resonates in me so deeply, and that’s what I hope is the end game of this piece.

“The great tragedy” is that Lincoln, “this man who cared so deeply and learned so much, didn’t live to see the reunification,” Felder said. “It’s heartbreaking.”

LYNNE HEFFLEY writes on theater and culture for Marquee.

“Lincoln — An American Story,” Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena. Opens Wednesday, March 28. Runs 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 4 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday. Ends April 7. Regular admission, $54 to $79; premium seating, $100. (626) 356-7529, www.pasadenaplayhouse.org

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Hershey Felder Maestro of the one man Show at the Pasadena Playhouse: Part One – Examiner.com

March 22, 2012
LA Performing Arts Examiner

Hershey Felder, actor, playwright, director, musician, has performed his one man performance of Chopin at dozens of theaters around the world and the United States, including at least one command performance for an Ambassador.  Now he has brought his talents to the Pasadena Playhouse for three different men, Chopin, and Maestro (Bernstein), who he has performed numerous times, and a new character from history.  this time, not a pianist, or singer, but one of the greatest Presidents of history- Lincoln.  But is he playing Lincoln?

Felder’s performance of Maestro, The art of Leonard Bernstein, was running this past week, and Lincoln’s world premiere begins next week.  Felder has performed Bernstein numerous times across the country.  He plays not just the man, but his father, friends, teachers, and lovers.  He does not switch costumes, remaining dressed as the subject of the piece, but uses the true tools of an actor- voice and body to tell the story of one man’s life, from childhood to death.  The audience sees the conflicts between Bernstein and his father who wanted him to get a good paying job, and great teachers who told him he should consider conducting.  The story Felder weaves is of the tragic struggles of a man yearning for Love of music, of people, and from the world.  A line from the performance speaks volumes, “Love is the only thing any of us really wants to feel.”  Felder explores many aspects of this most powerful emotion, and in the process the audience is given a music theory lesson, and a picture of a man yearning to be a composer of music to be remembered for all time.

Felder ended his beautifully crafted performance with a speech to the audience.  Next week he is going to be premiering Lincoln for the first time.  Felder found a collection of a copy of an address at the Library of Congress called “Lincoln’s Last Hours.”  It was a speech given by a Doctor Charles Augustus Leale in New York in February 1909 on the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth about how he at 23 fought to keep Lincoln alive and comfortable for his last hours.  It is this text that became the birth for Felder’s new musical theatre telling.  The work is set at the Ford Theater which is designed very much like the Pasadena Playhouse.

Felder pointed out that it is fitting in his mind that he should premiere his new work on Lincoln at a Theater just like the Ford.  It is a musical story telling of the Doctor’s last hours with Lincoln.  Felder has recorded selections for the piece with the Chicago Symphony and Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestras.    As research for the work, Felder was given a special tour at the Chicago History Museum where items from that fateful night April 15th, 1865, including the sheet he was wrapped in and a tuft of hair from the President’s wound are kept.    Seeing those items overwhelmed him and he spent the next two years writing about that day.  If his performance of Maestro is any indication, he will bring the audience to beautiful tears and perhaps teach another life lesson from the past to the future.

Felder is performing through April 7th, see the website of the Pasadena Playhouse for tickets and details.

(Note: Part two Lincoln: An American Story will appear late next week.)

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“Destination” This Year’s Playhouse Premiere Gala – PasadenaNow.com

“Best Party in Pasadena” will honor two jewels: Michele Dedeaux Engemann and The Pasadena Playhouse, hosted at a private home in San Marino

Michele Dedeaux Engemann. Photo by Jim Cox.

from STAFF REPORTS
Published: Thursday, March 22, 2012 | 12:19 PM

The Pasadena Playhouse’s “best party in Pasadena” annual fundraiser entitled Premiere Gala: Destination will be held at the private home of Playhouse Board member Stephen Bennett and his wife Chantal Bennett in San Marino on Saturday, May 19, 2012 at 6:30 p.m. This year’s event will honor two “jewels” – Playhouse Board Chair Michele Dedeaux Engemann and The Pasadena Playhouse. Gala Chair Sheila Grether-Marion and The Playhouse Board of Directors will be spearheading this gala event which will sparkle with cocktails, a seated dinner catered by The Kitchen For Exploring Foods, dancing and live entertainment provided by Wayne Foster.

“The Playhouse Gala is tremendously important to us in terms of its yearly fundraising efforts,” said Playhouse Artistic Director Sheldon Epps. “In this case it becomes of even more vital importance as it gives us the opportunity to honor and celebrate Michele for her many valuable contributions to its theatre. I am so happy that this year’s grand and glorious party will serve the theatre’s efforts, while we also honor Michele for all that she has done and continues to do to keep The Playhouse alive and thriving.”

“I’d like to invite everyone to join us at “the best party in Pasadena”—its largest annual fund raising event—and to honor its outgoing Board Chair, Michele Engemann. Under her outstanding leadership over the past three years, The Playhouse has successfully emerged from a period of reorganization free of debt, strong and excited about its future!” stated Gala Chair Sheila Grether-Marion. “We plan to celebrate its two “jewels” with this special, theatrically festive evening.”

“It has been an honor and privilege to work with a gifted group of individuals who truly love The Pasadena Playhouse and who celebrate the importance of dramatic arts in its worldwide community,” said Playhouse Board Chair and Gala honoree Michele Dedeaux Engemann. “We have and will continue to foster the cultural and artistic legacy represented in the works performed here and I am truly honored to have played a small role in a time cherished cast of fellow supporters of the performing arts.”

Corporate, patron, underwriting and other sponsorship opportunities are available from $1,000 – $25,000 and single tickets are $275 per person. Print media sponsorship for the Gala will be provided by Outlook Newspapers and online media sponsorship will be provided by Pasadena Now.

Premiere Gala: Destination is overseen by The Pasadena Playhouse’s development department led by Jennifer Berger, Director of Development together with Patti Eisenberg, Director of Individual Gifts and Beth Lewis, Development Associate.

For more information on the Gala sponsorship or ticket information, please contact the Development Office at (626) 921-1156 or gala@pasadenaplayhouse.org.

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Premiere of ‘Lincoln—An American Story’ by Hershey Felder at Pasadena Playhouse – Examiner.com

March 21, 2012
By Candyce Columbus

Hershey Felder finishes his three-show gig at the Pasadena Playhouse with the premiere of his newest work for actor and symphony orchestra Lincoln—An American Story opening Tuesday, March 27, 2012.

The piece is a true tale based on the words of Dr. Charles Augustus Leale, who in April of 1865 as a twenty-three-year old medical student attended the April 14th performance of Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre in Washington DC with President Lincoln in attendance. When the actor, John Wilkes Booth made his way into President Lincoln’s box to assassinate him, a surgeon was called for, and Charles Leale, just a young American army surgeon found himself at the center of history that would change the world.

Leale only told the story of what he witnessed and was a part of that evening once in his life as a sixty-three year old man – at a gathering of army friends at Delmonico’s restaurant in New York City on the occasion of Lincoln’s hundredth birthday in 1909.  It is this story, the document of which resides at the library of Congress, upon which this new musical/theatrical work is based.

Lincoln—An American Story for Actor and Symphony Orchestra will be performed in front of a 45-piece orchestra.

“Last season Hershey Felder brought Pasadena audiences his amazing portrayal of George Gershwin. The performance was very enthusiastically received, and we are thrilled that he has chosen to premiere Lincoln—An American Story at The Pasadena Playhouse,” said Artistic Director Sheldon Epps. “Hershey is truly a renaissance man – a writer, actor and accomplished musician – and only he could develop and bring to life such important and entertaining works.”

Lincoln—An American Story will perform March 27 through April 7. Single show regular ticket prices range from $44 – $69, with Premium Seating available for $100. Call 626-356-7529 visit www.pasadenaplayhouse.org or visit The Pasadena Playhouse Box Office. Group Sales (8 or more) are available by calling 626-921-1161.

The Pasadena Playhouse is located at 39 South El Molino Avenue, Pasadena, CA91101.

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Video – Hershey Felder Discusses LINCOLN – AN AMERICAN STORY

Video – MAESTRO: THE ART OF LEONARD BERNSTEIN

Watch Hershey Felder Discuss MAESTRO: THE ART OF LEONARD BERNSTEIN