Projects

 

Edwin Premiere

In Sept. 2016, Great Circle Productions presented the world premiere of EDWIN, The Story of Edwin Booth, a new musical that commemorated the 150th anniversary of the actor’s return to the stage. The new work featured music by Marianna Rosett and book and lyrics by Eric Swanson. Directed by Christopher Scott (A Class Act, Masterworks Theatre Company) the cast featured Dana Watkins (In Masks Outrageous and Austere) as Edwin Booth, with Adam Bashian (Phantom of the Opera, On Your Toes), Paul DeBoy (A Dirty Shame, Red Dead Redemption), Todd Lawson (Summer and Smoke, Top Floor), Deanne Lorette (La Bete, Benefactors), Ben Mayne (Forever Plaid, Vinyl), and Patricia Noonan (Death Takes a Holiday, Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice).

Edwin Booth was the finest American Shakespearean actor of his day. Eight months after his brother assassinated President Lincoln, he returned to the stage, braving death threats and public outrage. EDWIN takes us backstage on that fateful night, revealing the private grief of a man struggling to redeem his family’s name.

photo credits: Folger Shakespeare Library

Reflecting on Rehearsals

At the end of March, our director, Ben Donenberg, flew in from Los Angeles to lead rehearsals for our April previews of EDWIN, The Story of Edwin Booth. The excitement built with each passing day. I don’t think any of the team took another breath until the second preview ended on April 9th! Watching a group of artists come together to create what has never been before is an awesome adventure. The level of commitment, focus and moment-to-moment exploration are truly inspiring. In just 10 short days, people who didn’t know each other previously became a small company, guided by our hugely imaginative director and held together by the extraordinary dedication and professionalism of our musical director, Hugh Murphy. We were also blessed with Maxine Glorsky, one of the best stage managers in the business, at our backs. As the cast, musicians and creative team moved into The Players for the first time on April 8th, we were ready for our first showing for an audience!

High Kicks

At the end of February, we kicked off our very first crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to raise funds for the April previews of EDWIN, The Story of Edwin Booth at the Players. The response was astonishing! Within three days we’d raised half the amount of our $5,000 goal—and the pledges kept coming as chilly winter finally (and rather grudgingly) gave way to spring. By the end of our month-long campaign, we’d raised more than $7,000, fifty percent more than our initial goal.

In all, 64 generous people backed our campaign. Many were dear friends and family members; but we also made some new friends along the way, including a history buff from Pennsylvania and an elementary school teacher from Maryland, who runs a blog devoted to the events surrounding Lincoln’s assassination. By far the most popular reward chosen in return for pledges were tickets to the previews of EDWIN on April 8th and 9th, and it was a real “kick” to see so many friends, old and new, turn out to support us in person!

A Magical Idea

We began with a very small idea—inspired by a dear friend, Gary Ramsey, who had been trained both as a classical actor and an opera singer. Why not create a work about an actor that would showcase a performer’s classical chops and musical virtuosity? When Gary heard the idea he said, “It’s not about any actor, Jane. It’s about Edwin Booth.” The story almost began to weave itself, opening on the fateful night that Edwin returned to the stage for the first time after his brother stole the life of Abraham Lincoln….

And so it began… through adventures and misadventures, we found a glorious composer, the perfect librettist, and a vitally creative director. It became clear that we needed to provide a ground and ground bass for this unusual seed so with the inestimable help of Milbank and Company, we formed Great Circle Productions, Inc.

The magical coincidences that began to occur are so delicious that it would be a shame not to share some of them with you.

While we were applying for incorporation in Albany, our attorney quit. It was my birthday! The very next day I heard from Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy. They found us, they chose us and they wanted to work with us pro bono!

By mid-November the incorporation papers arrived. For some reason, although Wednesdays are my busiest workdays, I felt compelled to race to the bank, sign the papers, get them notarized and send them back to Milbank immediately. When I got back to work, I checked the date. It was November 13, Edwin Booth’s birthday! By January 14, 2014 we were incorporated in the State of New York.

In December 2014, we were granted 501(c)3 tax exempt status. Our application was handled quickly and professionally by H&R Block. I explained what we needed and asked Tax Associate, Robert Davidson, what his fee would be. He looked me straight in the eye and said–“Two tickets to opening night!”

These are only a few of our adventures. The best are yet to come. Marianna Rosett (composer) and Eric Swanson (librettist) have been working furiously. Ben Donenberg (director) flew in from California and we had our first read/sing through in August. A second work-through was held during the holiday break at the end of 2014 and the first few days of 2015. What a way to launch a new year!

In April, we held two staged readings at The Players in New York City–the club for actors Edwin founded in his Gramercy park home.

We have received our first unsolicited donations and we are, of course, seeking funding from all available sources. Our fundraising plans include the traditional applications for grants as well as use of the Internet in new and creative ways.

You can support EDWIN on our Support Us page. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call me at 212-724-9755 or email me at jkosminsky@greatcircleproductions.org.

Edwin Premiere

In Sept. 2016, Great Circle Productions presented the world premiere of EDWIN, The Story of Edwin Booth, a new musical that commemorated the 150th anniversary of the actor’s return to the stage. The new work featured music by Marianna Rosett and book and lyrics by Eric Swanson. Directed by Christopher Scott (A Class Act, Masterworks Theatre Company) the cast featured Dana Watkins (In Masks Outrageous and Austere) as Edwin Booth, with Adam Bashian (Phantom of the Opera, On Your Toes), Paul DeBoy (A Dirty Shame, Red Dead Redemption), Todd Lawson (Summer and Smoke, Top Floor), Deanne Lorette (La Bete, Benefactors), Ben Mayne (Forever Plaid, Vinyl), and Patricia Noonan (Death Takes a Holiday, Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice).

Edwin Booth was the finest American Shakespearean actor of his day. Eight months after his brother assassinated President Lincoln, he returned to the stage, braving death threats and public outrage. EDWIN takes us backstage on that fateful night, revealing the private grief of a man struggling to redeem his family’s name.

photo credits: Folger Shakespeare Library

Reflecting on Rehearsals

At the end of March, our director, Ben Donenberg, flew in from Los Angeles to lead rehearsals for our April previews of EDWIN, The Story of Edwin Booth. The excitement built with each passing day. I don’t think any of the team took another breath until the second preview ended on April 9th! Watching a group of artists come together to create what has never been before is an awesome adventure. The level of commitment, focus and moment-to-moment exploration are truly inspiring. In just 10 short days, people who didn’t know each other previously became a small company, guided by our hugely imaginative director and held together by the extraordinary dedication and professionalism of our musical director, Hugh Murphy. We were also blessed with Maxine Glorsky, one of the best stage managers in the business, at our backs. As the cast, musicians and creative team moved into The Players for the first time on April 8th, we were ready for our first showing for an audience!

High Kicks

At the end of February, we kicked off our very first crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to raise funds for the April previews of EDWIN, The Story of Edwin Booth at the Players. The response was astonishing! Within three days we’d raised half the amount of our $5,000 goal—and the pledges kept coming as chilly winter finally (and rather grudgingly) gave way to spring. By the end of our month-long campaign, we’d raised more than $7,000, fifty percent more than our initial goal.

In all, 64 generous people backed our campaign. Many were dear friends and family members; but we also made some new friends along the way, including a history buff from Pennsylvania and an elementary school teacher from Maryland, who runs a blog devoted to the events surrounding Lincoln’s assassination. By far the most popular reward chosen in return for pledges were tickets to the previews of EDWIN on April 8th and 9th, and it was a real “kick” to see so many friends, old and new, turn out to support us in person!

A Magical Idea

We began with a very small idea—inspired by a dear friend, Gary Ramsey, who had been trained both as a classical actor and an opera singer. Why not create a work about an actor that would showcase a performer’s classical chops and musical virtuosity? When Gary heard the idea he said, “It’s not about any actor, Jane. It’s about Edwin Booth.” The story almost began to weave itself, opening on the fateful night that Edwin returned to the stage for the first time after his brother stole the life of Abraham Lincoln….

And so it began… through adventures and misadventures, we found a glorious composer, the perfect librettist, and a vitally creative director. It became clear that we needed to provide a ground and ground bass for this unusual seed so with the inestimable help of Milbank and Company, we formed Great Circle Productions, Inc.

The magical coincidences that began to occur are so delicious that it would be a shame not to share some of them with you.

While we were applying for incorporation in Albany, our attorney quit. It was my birthday! The very next day I heard from Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy. They found us, they chose us and they wanted to work with us pro bono!

By mid-November the incorporation papers arrived. For some reason, although Wednesdays are my busiest workdays, I felt compelled to race to the bank, sign the papers, get them notarized and send them back to Milbank immediately. When I got back to work, I checked the date. It was November 13, Edwin Booth’s birthday! By January 14, 2014 we were incorporated in the State of New York.

In December 2014, we were granted 501(c)3 tax exempt status. Our application was handled quickly and professionally by H&R Block. I explained what we needed and asked Tax Associate, Robert Davidson, what his fee would be. He looked me straight in the eye and said–“Two tickets to opening night!”

These are only a few of our adventures. The best are yet to come. Marianna Rosett (composer) and Eric Swanson (librettist) have been working furiously. Ben Donenberg (director) flew in from California and we had our first read/sing through in August. A second work-through was held during the holiday break at the end of 2014 and the first few days of 2015. What a way to launch a new year!

In April, we held two staged readings at The Players in New York City–the club for actors Edwin founded in his Gramercy park home.

We have received our first unsolicited donations and we are, of course, seeking funding from all available sources. Our fundraising plans include the traditional applications for grants as well as use of the Internet in new and creative ways.

You can support EDWIN on our Support Us page. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call me at 212-724-9755 or email me at jkosminsky@greatcircleproductions.org.


 

Growing Gains

Most of us know a lot about growing pains—the physical and emotional aches we feel as we move from one stage of life to another. As we’ve journeyed toward bringing EDWIN, The Story of Edwin Booth back home to New York City at St. Clements, we’ve certainly endured a few “slings and arrows.” I’m happy to say, however, that whatever challenges we’ve faced have been answered by outrageously good fortune.

The immensely talented Christopher Scott has joined us as director. Chad McArver, a genius on and Off-Broadway, has graciously committed himself to designing the set and lighting. One of my dearest friends, Emmy Award winner David Zyla, is designing costumes for the production. In the coming weeks, we’ll give you a few peeks at the deigns and glimpses of the rehearsal process.

We also owe an immense debt of gratitude to our casting director, Stephanie Klapper, and her team for assembling a truly remarkable cast. And with great delight we announce that our management company is Dailey-Monda.

Yet our joy as we move forward is tempered by sorrow at the loss of a dear Juilliard colleague James Houghton—the founder and artistic director of the Signature Theater Company and a true titan of the theater world. In his honor, we are dedicating EDWIN to his memory.

Growing Gains

Most of us know a lot about growing pains—the physical and emotional aches we feel as we move from one stage of life to another. As we’ve journeyed toward bringing EDWIN, The Story of Edwin Booth back home to New York City at St. Clements, we’ve certainly endured a few “slings and arrows.” I’m happy to say, however, that whatever challenges we’ve faced have been answered by outrageously good fortune.

The immensely talented Christopher Scott has joined us as director. Chad McArver, a genius on and Off-Broadway, has graciously committed himself to designing the set and lighting. One of my dearest friends, Emmy Award winner David Zyla, is designing costumes for the production. In the coming weeks, we’ll give you a few peeks at the deigns and glimpses of the rehearsal process.

We also owe an immense debt of gratitude to our casting director, Stephanie Klapper, and her team for assembling a truly remarkable cast. And with great delight we announce that our management company is Dailey-Monda.

Yet our joy as we move forward is tempered by sorrow at the loss of a dear Juilliard colleague James Houghton—the founder and artistic director of the Signature Theater Company and a true titan of the theater world. In his honor, we are dedicating EDWIN to his memory.


 

Edwin Booth Comes Home

Finding a theater to produce a new work in New York City could be seen as a challenging task or a magnificent adventure. We’ve chosen to take the latter view. Finding a home for EDWIN, The Story of Edwin Booth has an extraordinary journey. Though we’ve been surprised by the politics of supporting theater in a city supposedly renowned for its support for the performing arts, after a long search we’ve found the perfect home for EDWIN: St Clement’s, one of the most storied Off-Broadway theaters in New York City.

In 1962, St. Clements initiated “a ministry to the theater arts” under the direction of Reverend Sidney Lanier, a cousin of Tennessee Williams. It has served as the home of premieres by David Mamet, Terrence McNally, Sam Shepard, Martha Clarke, and Julie Taymore. Many of America’s greatest performers have appeared there, including Zero Mostel, Faye Dunaway, Dustin Hoffman, Nathan Lane, Harvey Fierstein, and Al Pacino.

Best of all, St. Clement’s was built in the 19th century. When you enter that magnificent space, you can’t help but feel, “Yes, this is the kind of place in which Edwin Booth would have performed!”

The performance at St. Clement’s is a very limited New York City engagement. The production will preview September 4, 6 & 7. We’ll open on September 8. At the moment we’re planning to run only through September 18.

Catch it then, or be the first to say “I could have caught it when.”

At the moment the cast, and where we will present next, remain a secret.

Edwin Booth Comes Home

Finding a theater to produce a new work in New York City could be seen as a challenging task or a magnificent adventure. We’ve chosen to take the latter view. Finding a home for EDWIN, The Story of Edwin Booth has an extraordinary journey. Though we’ve been surprised by the politics of supporting theater in a city supposedly renowned for its support for the performing arts, after a long search we’ve found the perfect home for EDWIN: St Clement’s, one of the most storied Off-Broadway theaters in New York City.

In 1962, St. Clements initiated “a ministry to the theater arts” under the direction of Reverend Sidney Lanier, a cousin of Tennessee Williams. It has served as the home of premieres by David Mamet, Terrence McNally, Sam Shepard, Martha Clarke, and Julie Taymore. Many of America’s greatest performers have appeared there, including Zero Mostel, Faye Dunaway, Dustin Hoffman, Nathan Lane, Harvey Fierstein, and Al Pacino.

Best of all, St. Clement’s was built in the 19th century. When you enter that magnificent space, you can’t help but feel, “Yes, this is the kind of place in which Edwin Booth would have performed!”

The performance at St. Clement’s is a very limited New York City engagement. The production will preview September 4, 6 & 7. We’ll open on September 8. At the moment we’re planning to run only through September 18.

Catch it then, or be the first to say “I could have caught it when.”

At the moment the cast, and where we will present next, remain a secret.


 

First Project: Edwin

2016 will mark the 150th anniversary of the return to the stage of one of the most gifted actors in American history, as well as the 400th anniversary of the passing of William Shakespeare. To commemorate these two events, we have created a work of theatre, music, and history called EDWIN, The Story of Edwin Booth. The focus of this project is the life of Edwin Booth, the greatest Shakespearean actor of his day and the older brother of John Wilkes Booth. The work, as presently conceived, has been created for seven performers and a small orchestra.

Edwin’s life mirrors the scope and depth of Shakespearean drama. Through great courage in the face of public and private tragedies, he saved himself and his family several times from disaster. As a boy he was sent on the road as caretaker of his father—a brilliant, but abusive, volatile and alcoholic actor—and in the process, transformed adversity into opportunity and mastered the craft of acting. He met his first wife, Mary Devlin, while playing Romeo to her Juliet. They fell in love, married and had a daughter; but two years later, Mary died, leaving him with an infant to raise and an extended family of mother and siblings to support. Two years later, his brother assassinated Lincoln, and Edwin and his family faced poverty, public outrage, and death threats. Only Edwin’s courage in returning to the stage, not knowing whether he would be vilified or killed, saved his family from ruin.

EDWIN begins on the evening Edwin returns to the stage for the first time after Lincoln’s assassination, his personal history playing out in a series of ghostly encounters with figures from his past, and culminating in the moment he steps onto the stage to play Hamlet. Because his story takes place during the period before, during and after the Civil War—a time of unprecedented, violent divisiveness—Edwin’s life not only encompasses our nation’s history, but also reflects disturbing trends in contemporary society; for once again, our nation confronting perilous divisions.

With EDWIN, we have chosen to examine our country’s past from the perspective of salvation through acts of courage, hope, and love in the midst of war and devastation. Fusing elements of music, theatre, and history, we are creating a work that will enchant and inspire, and offer an opportunity to discover anew, a transformational epoch in American culture.

First Project: Edwin

2016 will mark the 150th anniversary of the return to the stage of one of the most gifted actors in American history, as well as the 400th anniversary of the passing of William Shakespeare. To commemorate these two events, we have created a work of theatre, music, and history called EDWIN, The Story of Edwin Booth. The focus of this project is the life of Edwin Booth, the greatest Shakespearean actor of his day and the older brother of John Wilkes Booth. The work, as presently conceived, has been created for seven performers and a small orchestra.

Edwin’s life mirrors the scope and depth of Shakespearean drama. Through great courage in the face of public and private tragedies, he saved himself and his family several times from disaster. As a boy he was sent on the road as caretaker of his father—a brilliant, but abusive, volatile and alcoholic actor—and in the process, transformed adversity into opportunity and mastered the craft of acting. He met his first wife, Mary Devlin, while playing Romeo to her Juliet. They fell in love, married and had a daughter; but two years later, Mary died, leaving him with an infant to raise and an extended family of mother and siblings to support. Two years later, his brother assassinated Lincoln, and Edwin and his family faced poverty, public outrage, and death threats. Only Edwin’s courage in returning to the stage, not knowing whether he would be vilified or killed, saved his family from ruin.

EDWIN begins on the evening Edwin returns to the stage for the first time after Lincoln’s assassination, his personal history playing out in a series of ghostly encounters with figures from his past, and culminating in the moment he steps onto the stage to play Hamlet. Because his story takes place during the period before, during and after the Civil War—a time of unprecedented, violent divisiveness—Edwin’s life not only encompasses our nation’s history, but also reflects disturbing trends in contemporary society; for once again, our nation confronting perilous divisions.

With EDWIN, we have chosen to examine our country’s past from the perspective of salvation through acts of courage, hope, and love in the midst of war and devastation. Fusing elements of music, theatre, and history, we are creating a work that will enchant and inspire, and offer an opportunity to discover anew, a transformational epoch in American culture.


 

Biography

Edwin Booth was born on November 13, 1833, under a sky lit by a meteor shower, which residents of the family farm in Maryland regarded as an omen of greatness. The second eldest of five surviving children of British-born actor Junius Brutus Booth, Edwin was sent on the road at the age of 13 to look after his father as he toured the major cities of the eastern United States; for although Junius was a gifted actor, he was also a notorious alcoholic, frequently spending his earnings in taverns or failing to show up for performances.

During the five years Edwin travelled with his father, he learned the craft of acting: first while watching and listening backstage, then appearing in minor roles. At 17, he triumphantly assumed the title role in Shakespeare’s Richard III in New York City, substituting for his father, who was “indisposed.” In 1852, he accompanied his father and his eldest brother, Junius Jr. (also an actor) to California, where new theatres were being built in the wake of the Gold Rush and fortunes could be made. But the California tour proved disappointing, and Junius Sr. chose to head home. Edwin, craving independence, decided to stay. Unattended for the first time in years, his father died on the trip home, an event that filled young Edwin with guilt and remorse.

In 1856 Edwin returned east, and slowly built a reputation as the heir of his brilliant father, while bringing his own unique brand of naturalistic, quiet intensity to his roles. Four years later, he married a young actress, Mary Devlin—whom he’d met playing Romeo to her Juliet. They had a daughter, Edwina in 1861; but weakened by childbirth and troubled by Edwin’s own plunge into alcoholism, Mary died in 1863.

Battling another round of grief and guilt, Edwin gave up drinking and threw himself into work, assuming management of the Winter Garden Theater in New York, where he solidified his reputation with a record-breaking run of 100 performances of Hamlet. In 1864, he and his brothers, Junius Jr. and John Wilkes, appeared together onstage for the first and only time, in a production of Julius Caesar, a benefit to raise funds for the statue of Shakespeare in Central Park. His place in the theatrical firmament seemed assured—until catastrophe struck again, when his younger brother assassinated President Lincoln. Public outrage and death threats forced Edwin to retire from the stage; but, faced with the responsibility of supporting not only his daughter, but his mother and sisters, as well, he braved the dangers and returned to the Winter Garden as Hamlet in January, 1866.

On the night he died, a wild thunderstorm caused a blackout in the Gramercy Park area where Edwin had made his home—a fitting and dramatic signal of the departure of a remarkable performer, whose birth had been heralded by a rain of shooting stars.

Biography

Edwin Booth was born on November 13, 1833, under a sky lit by a meteor shower, which residents of the family farm in Maryland regarded as an omen of greatness. The second eldest of five surviving children of British-born actor Junius Brutus Booth, Edwin was sent on the road at the age of 13 to look after his father as he toured the major cities of the eastern United States; for although Junius was a gifted actor, he was also a notorious alcoholic, frequently spending his earnings in taverns or failing to show up for performances.

During the five years Edwin travelled with his father, he learned the craft of acting: first while watching and listening backstage, then appearing in minor roles. At 17, he triumphantly assumed the title role in Shakespeare’s Richard III in New York City, substituting for his father, who was “indisposed.” In 1852, he accompanied his father and his eldest brother, Junius Jr. (also an actor) to California, where new theatres were being built in the wake of the Gold Rush and fortunes could be made. But the California tour proved disappointing, and Junius Sr. chose to head home. Edwin, craving independence, decided to stay. Unattended for the first time in years, his father died on the trip home, an event that filled young Edwin with guilt and remorse.

In 1856 Edwin returned east, and slowly built a reputation as the heir of his brilliant father, while bringing his own unique brand of naturalistic, quiet intensity to his roles. Four years later, he married a young actress, Mary Devlin—whom he’d met playing Romeo to her Juliet. They had a daughter, Edwina in 1861; but weakened by childbirth and troubled by Edwin’s own plunge into alcoholism, Mary died in 1863.

Battling another round of grief and guilt, Edwin gave up drinking and threw himself into work, assuming management of the Winter Garden Theater in New York, where he solidified his reputation with a record-breaking run of 100 performances of Hamlet. In 1864, he and his brothers, Junius Jr. and John Wilkes, appeared together onstage for the first and only time, in a production of Julius Caesar, a benefit to raise funds for the statue of Shakespeare in Central Park. His place in the theatrical firmament seemed assured—until catastrophe struck again, when his younger brother assassinated President Lincoln. Public outrage and death threats forced Edwin to retire from the stage; but, faced with the responsibility of supporting not only his daughter, but his mother and sisters, as well, he braved the dangers and returned to the Winter Garden as Hamlet in January, 1866.

On the night he died, a wild thunderstorm caused a blackout in the Gramercy Park area where Edwin had made his home—a fitting and dramatic signal of the departure of a remarkable performer, whose birth had been heralded by a rain of shooting stars.


 

Future Projects

  • Ladies Unsuited for Travel, The Flight of the Portuguese Court Ladies: 1807–a film by Emmy® Award winning producer, Molly McBride, that examines the process of shedding the superficial parts of oneself and making space for something deeper.
  • The Mischling–a book by Bärli Nugent, D.M.A., Assistant Dean and Director of Chamber Music, The Juilliard School. A daughter pauses mid-life to explore the true but hidden story behind her half-Jewish mother’s unexpected survival in Hitler’s Austria, from the winds of National Socialism that swept the Vienna Reichsakademie after the 1938 Anschluss, to the student life of one of Austria’s youngest piano virtuosos, and the actions of two unpredictably visionary Nazi leaders.

Future Projects

  • Ladies Unsuited for Travel, The Flight of the Portuguese Court Ladies: 1807–a film by Emmy® Award winning producer, Molly McBride, that examines the process of shedding the superficial parts of oneself and making space for something deeper.
  • The Mischling–a book by Bärli Nugent, D.M.A., Assistant Dean and Director of Chamber Music, The Juilliard School. A daughter pauses mid-life to explore the true but hidden story behind her half-Jewish mother’s unexpected survival in Hitler’s Austria, from the winds of National Socialism that swept the Vienna Reichsakademie after the 1938 Anschluss, to the student life of one of Austria’s youngest piano virtuosos, and the actions of two unpredictably visionary Nazi leaders.