COLUMBIA, SC – September 12, 2008 – Theatre South Carolina at the University of South Carolina will present “The Violet Hour” by Tony Award-winning playwright Richard Greenberg, beginning Sept. 26. The play, a story capturing life’s promise of possibilities, will be directed by Brian Hanscom, a third-year master of fine arts candidate in theater directing.
The production will be staged at Drayton Hall through Oct. 5. Curtain times are 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are available at the Longstreet box office, which opens Sept. 19 at 12:30 p.m., and at the Drayton Hall box office two hours before every show. Tickets are $16 for the public; $14 for military, senior citizens, faculty and staff; and $10 for students.
“The Violet Hour” isn’t Hanscom’s first directing credit for Theatre South Carolina; he also directed “Romeo and Juliet” in the spring and previously helmed “Fuddy Meers” and “This is Our Youth” for the university’s Lab Theatre. He also has directed off-off Broadway at the Contemporary Stage Company in Delaware and was an assistant director for the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey.
“We are excited to kick off our 2008 – 09 season celebrating ‘Masters of the Modern Stage’ with Richard Greenberg’s ‘The Violet Hour,’” said Jim Hunter, chairman of the theatre and dance department. “This production, like all of this year’s shows, promises plenty of surprises. ‘The Violet Hour’ is the type of show that allows us to do what we do best – explore large themes in innovative and energizing ways.”
“The Violet Hour” premiered on Broadway in 2003. That same year, Greenberg won a Tony for “Take Me Out,” which also earned Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Lucille Lortel awards for Best Play.
Set in the early 1900s, “The Violet Hour” follows John Pace Seavering, a young publisher who finds himself in a dilemma. He only has enough money to publish one book, but is torn between the works of his best friend and his secret lover. Best friend Denis McCleary has written a novel, “The Violet Hour,” and desperately needs it to be successful to impress his heiress girlfriend’s family. Jessie Brewster, a popular jazz singer and Seavering’s lover, wants her memoirs published and her name memorialized after discovering her own life may be nearing an end. With the help of a mysterious machine that prints words from the future, Seavering discovers his destiny and the impact of his decision on the lives of everyone he loves.
“I think through ‘The Violet Hour’ Greenberg provides us with a glimpse of people who come to face a terrifying destiny but must somehow go on without succumbing to despair,” said Hanscom. “That may be what carries this play from its setting in the early 20th century into our 21st (century). By the end of the play, there seems to be a way to gird against the bleakness of the future.”
Hanscom, knowing of Greenburg’s affinity for the novel, “The Great Gatsby,” drew heavily from the jazz era for character inspiration. The roles of Denis McCleary and Rosamund Plinth, played by MFA candidates Matthew Haws and Jennifer Burry, respectively, were influenced by F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Seavering, played by MFA candidate Michael Downey, is reminiscent of Fitzgerald’s legendary editor Maxwell Perkins. Guest actor Maythinee Washington will play Jessie Brewster, an echo to jazz singer Josephine Baker. Washington, a resident of Las Vegas, is a former student of university theater professors Robyn Hunt and Steven Pearson.
A major set piece in the production is Seavering’s magical printer that spews enough paper to fill the entire stage as the show progresses. With help from area businesses, which supplied paper to be re-used for the production and recycled afterward, the crew creates an impressive “tower of paper” effect, said Hunter.
“The Violet Hour” won a 2004 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Lighting. MFA design candidate Aaron Pelzek will serve as Theatre South Carolina’s lighting designer for its production. Rounding out the crew are MFA candidate Kimi Maeda, set designer; undergraduate theater majors Jillian Peltzman, stage manager, and Daniel Bumgardner, sound designer; and associate professor Lisa Martin-Stuart, costume designer.
More on playwright Richard Greenberg
Richard Greenberg has written more than 25 plays, many of which have won awards. Greenberg won the Tony Award, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Lucille Lortel Awards for Best Play for “Take me Out.” His play, “Three Days of Rain,” was a finalist for the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, received Olivier, Drama Desk and Hull-Warriner nominations and won the L.A. Drama Critics Circle Award. “The Dazzle” earned Greenberg an Outer Critics Circle Award. Other notable plays include “Everett Beekin,” “Hurrah At Last,” “Night and Her Stars” and “The Extra Man.”
Greenberg received the Oppenheimer Award for new playwrights, as well as the First PEN/Laura Pels award for a playwright in mid-career. He is a member of the Ensemble Studio Theatre and an associate artist with South Coast Repertory where “The Violet Hour” had its world premiere.
On “The Violet Hour,” Greenberg told Newsday, “I wrote ‘The Violet Hour’ because I’m interested in ambition and plans that go awry and paralysis. There’s something excruciating and deeply attractive to me about a highly ambitious guy at the beginning of his career discovering all the consequences of all the actions he’s ever going to take.”