The Washington Stage Guild kicks off its 27th season with one of the most beloved plays of the past century, an indelible hit by the Stage Guild's "playwright in residence" - George Bernard Shaw. PYGMALION was written in 1912, and the story of Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle, her speech lessons at the hands of the temperamental Henry Higgins, and the sparks that fly between them, has rarely left the stage since its premiere. Directed by Stage Guild Artistic Director, Bill Largess, Shaw's comedy is sharp and insightful, asking questions as valid today as a century ago. Exactly what "makes" a lady a lady? The way she behaves, or the way she is treated?
"With PYGMALION, Shaw achieved a popular success that surprised even his fans. Less political and polemical than most of his plays, its portrayal of Eliza and Higgins, Doolittle and Pickering delighted audiences as much as its social message intrigued them," says Largess. "Hollywood and Broadway embraced the play, too, with Shaw's Oscar-winning screenplay for the 1938 film, which was the basis for Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady. Arena Stage will be presenting the musical during our run, a perfect opportunity to examine Shaw's original intent. It's fascinating how spare, how unsentimental the original is - and that may surprise My Fair Lady devotees. Shaw's famous epilogue makes clear that the characters don't conclude the story when the play ends - perhaps someone should dramatize that into a mini-series to rival Downton Abbey!"
The acting ensemble for PYGMALION features newcomers and old hands from the company. Steven Carpenter, playing Henry Higgins, has appeared in the Stage Guild's Shavian productions of The Philanderer (Helen Hayes nomination), Major Barbara, Man & Superman and You Never Can Tell. Other appearances with the Guild include The Countess, Anna Karenina, and Ill Met By Moonlight. At Ford's Theatre, he appeared in 1776, the world premieres of The Heavens Are Hung In Black and The Road From Appomattox, and five years of A Christmas Carol. Credits at Rep Stage include The Goat and The Lonesome West.
Returning to the Stage Guild after appearing in last season's Shavian one-acts Overruled and Village Wooing is Rana Kay as Eliza Doolittle. Other DC-area credits include: Junie B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells (Imagination Stage), Julius Caesar (Taffety Punk Theatre Company's Riot Grrrls), Mauritius (Bay Theatre Company), Lie With Me (Charter Theatre), Twelve Angry Women (Manhattan Theatre Source), Midwives (Round House Theatre), Electra (MetroStage), The Light of Excalibur and Dreams in the Golden Country (Kennedy Center Theater for Young Audiences), Necessary Targets (Olney Theatre Center), Arcadia (Rep Stage), Fifth of July (Helen Hayes nomination), Incident at Vichy, Marat/Sade, and Troilus and Cressida (Washington Shakespeare Company), The Ride Down Mt. Morgan (Theatre J), and The Chalk Garden (Washington Stage Guild).
Vincent Clark will portray Higgins' accomplice Colonel Pickering. His Shavian credits at Stage Guild include The Apple Cart, Augustus Does His Bit, Press Cuttings, Fanny's First Play, On the Rocks, Major Barbara, Too True to Be Good, Heartbreak House, Man & Superman, and John Bull's Other Island. Mr. Clark has also performed in productions at Olney Theatre including: The Underpants, Democracy, 13 Rue de L'Amour and Shaw's St. Joan.
Playing the father who "can't afford" morals will be Conrad Feininger as Alfred Doolittle; another Stage Guild Shaw veteran, having previously appeared in productions of The Apple Cart, Getting Married, You Never Can Tell, as well as Molnar's The Tale of the Wolf, for which he was nominated for a Helen Hayes award for lead actor.
Appearing as Mrs. Higgins is Lynn Steinmetz, who was in last season's Husbands & Lovers. Besides being a company member of the Stage Guild, she has performed at several venues in the Washington-Baltimore area, including Everyman Theatre in Pygmalion, as well as Arena Stage, Woolly Mammoth, Olney Theatre Center, Round House Theatre, Kennedy Center, and the Smithsonian Institution.