By Randy Gener
NEW YORK CITY | Anything the great Estelle Parsons takes on as a director always fascinates. At one point, she staged SALOME in the form of a reading starring Al Pacino, Marisa Tomei, Dianne Wiest and David Straithairn, which was developed at the Actors Studio.
The critical key has been her longtime commitment to the Actors Studio, for which she has been an in-house leader. The studio, now in its 7th year, figured out a way took collaborate with La MaMa, which turned 55 years old downtown.
Performances began Thursday March 9th at La MaMa for THE LAST DAYS OF JUDAS ISCARIOT by Pulitzer Prize winner Stephen Adly Guirgis. It was a revival, and Parsons herself directed it.
The cast are Actors Studio veterans (the likes of Richarda Abrams, Bob Adrian, Victor Almanzar, Erick Betancourt, Michael Billingsley, Fig Chilcott, Suzanne DiDonna, Lash Dooley, Timothy Doyle, Gabe Fazio, Gabriel Furman and Leland Gantt, among others). This was the first time the play was performed with a full cast, without using double or triple casting (actors taking on more than one role).
Part of the Theater & Social Justice program, using Actors Studio members, LAST DAYS belongs to a trove of upcoming rare revivals.
“We plan to do most of the plays of Stephen Adly Guirgis as the years go on because they are brilliant and don’t get done much and he is a new member of the Studio,” said Estelle Parsons who is an Associate Artistic Director of the Actors Studio. Parsons created the Theater & Social Justice program there last year with a five part agenda exploring racism, poverty & illiteracy, religion, community, and environment,
So far, the program has produced Leland Gantt‘s Rhapsody In Black, now on an international tour, (addressing racism); Maria Irene Fornes‘s Mud (poverty and illiteracy); and Community, the premiere of an evening of four one acts about what community means now.
You only know Estelle Parsons as an Academy Award-winning actor? Well, her directing credits are considerable. For instance, she directed As You Like It, Macbeth, and Romeo and Juliet on Broadway for Joseph Papp. This was known as Shakespeare On Broadway and played for two years. As an actress, her most recent Broadway appearances were The Velocity of Autumn for which she received a Tony nomination, Nice Work If You Can Get It, and August: Osage County.
She’s still known, of course, for her many film roles, which include Bonnie and Clyde (Academy Award), Paul Newman‘s Rachel, Rachel (Oscar nomination), and many others. Television audiences know her from “Roseanne,” where she played Roseanne’s mother for ten years; as well as “All in the Family,” “Archie’s Place,” “Empire Falls,” among others.
Upon her arrival in New York City she was one of eight people who put together NBC’s “The Today Show,” and became the first female political reporter for a television network.
Her most recent stage appearance was Israel Horovitz‘s Out of the Mouths of Babes at the Cherry Lane last summer, which was commissioned by Angelina Fiordellisi and written for Parsons and Judith Ivey.
Ten tickets are priced at $10 each for every performance (advance sales only) as part of La MaMa’s 10 @ $10 ticketing initiative. To purchase tickets or for more information, visit www.lamama.org or call the box office at 212-352-3101.