Jarlath Conroy and Dianne Wiest in HAPPY DAYS by Samuel Beckett, directed by James Bundy. Photo by Joan Marcus, 2016.

Dianne Wiest and Jarlath Conroy in Yale Rep’s HAPPY DAYS at Theatre for a New Audience, April 23 – May 28

Dianne Wiest and Jarlath Conroy Star in Yale Rep's HAPPY DAYS at Theatre for a New Audience.
Dianne Wiest and Jarlath Conroy Star in Yale Rep’s HAPPY DAYS at Theatre for a New Audience.

Theatre for a New Audience will present the Yale Repertory Theatre production of Samuel Beckett’s masterpiece Happy Days. Two-time Academy Award-winner Dianne Wiest (Hannah and Her Sisters, Bullets over Broadway) plays Winnie, widely considered modern drama’s pinnacle female role, alongside Jarlath Conroy, who plays Willie, directed by Yale Repertory Theatre Artistic Director James Bundy.

Buried up to her waist and sinking into the earth, Winnie is an endlessly fascinating spirit of buoyant resourcefulness and unassuming grace in the face of inevitable oblivion. By turns hilarious and heartbreaking, compassionate and ferocious, this extraordinary Happy Days comes to Polonsky Shakespeare Center (262 Ashland Place), TFANA’s state-of-the-art home in the heart of the Brooklyn Cultural District, for a strictly limited engagement, April 23 – May 28.

Winnie (Dianne Wiest) with paraphernalia (photo: Joan Marcus)
Winnie (Dianne Wiest) with paraphernalia (photo: Joan Marcus)

Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days continues the collaboration between TFANA and Yale Repertory Theatre, following Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground, adapted by Bill Camp and RoBert Woodruff, and Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters. Looking to the future, the companies are exploring a new co-production. yalerep.org

Jarlath Conroy and Dianne Wiest in HAPPY DAYS by Samuel Beckett, directed by James Bundy. Photo by Joan Marcus, 2016.
Jarlath Conroy (Willie) and Dianne Wiest (Winnie) in HAPPY DAYS by Samuel Beckett, directed by James Bundy. Photo by Joan Marcus, 2016.

Wiest waited 30 years to play Winnie, whom she has described as “the Hamlet for actresses,” before finally undertaking the challenge. The role had always seemed utterly daunting to her: aside from requiring a nuanced mixture of humor and pathos, Winnie entails performing what amounts to a monologue for nearly two hours, while halfway, and then almost entirely, submerged in sand. Her counterpart in this two-hander, her husband Willie-played by Jarlath Conroy-utters just one word in the entire second act. Over ten years ago, James Bundy asked Wiest if there was a role she’d like to play, if she could choose, and she told him Winnie. But it wasn’t until 2014 that she decided to take it on.

For Wiest, Happy Days marks a return to Beckett after four decades away. Early in her career, she appeared in the U.S. premiere of Beckett’s Footfalls, directed by the preeminent Beckett director Alan Schneider, in 1976. Theatre for a New Audience last presented Beckett in 2011 when it staged Fragments, an evening of five of the Irish playwright’s short works, directed by Peter Brook and Marie-Hélène Estienne.

The production features scenic design by Izmir Ickbal, costumes by Alexae Visel, lighting by Stephen Strawbridge, sound design by Kate Marvin, vocal coaching by Walton Wilson, movement coaching by Jessica Wolf, dramaturgy by Catherine Sheehy and Nahuel Telleria, casting by Tara Rubin Casting, and stage management by Kelly Montgomery.

Performances of Happy Days take place April 23 and 25-30, and May 2, 4-6, 9-13, 16-20, and 23-27 at 7:30pm; May 3 at 7:00pm; and May 6 & 7, 13 & 14, 20 & 21, and 27 & 28 at 2:00pm. Critics are welcome May 2 at 7:30pm and May 3 at 7:00pm for an official opening May 4 at 7:30pm.

Tickets are $85-95 (with a limited number of premium seats available at $120 each) and are on sale to the public at www.tfana.org, 866-811-4111 and the Polonsky Shakespeare Center box office. New Deal tickets – for those aged 30 and under, and for full-time students of any age – are available for all performances for $20, and can be purchased online, by phone or at the box office, in advance or day-of, with valid ID. Happy Days runs approximately two hours, including one intermission. Polonsky Shakespeare Center is located at 262 Ashland Place, Brooklyn, NY 11217.

TFANA Talks, free post-show conversations with artists and scholars, will take place after the Sunday matinee performances on May 7 and May 14. After the 7:30pm performance on Sunday, April 30, TFANA will host one of its popular Post-Show Parties. Every ticket purchased for that evening includes a drink ticket for use at the party.

Jarlath Conroy as Willie in HAPPY DAYS. Photo by Joan Marcus
Jarlath Conroy as Willie in HAPPY DAYS. Photo by Joan Marcus

Jarlath Conroy (Willie), Broadway: The Seagull; The Weir; The Iceman Cometh; On the Waterfront; Philadelphia, Here I Come!; The Visit; Ghetto; Macbeth; Comedians. Off-Broadway: Loot, The Coward, A Man of No Importance, Pigtown, A Life, Our Lady of Sligo, A Couple Blaguards, Gardenia, the American premiere of Translations, and The Matchmaker. Regional: Hamlet; Outside Mullingar; The Homecoming; Da; The Steward of Christendom (Barrymore Award); Juno and the Paycock (Helen Hayes Award); Henry V (Helen Hayes nom.); Faith Healer; Molly Sweeney; Twelfth Night; Ah, Wilderness!; The Plough and the Stars; and A Christmas Carol. At the Royal Court: Cromwell and Hamlet. He has also directed productions of True West and Human Resources. Film/TV: Putzel, True Grit (2010), The Art of Getting By, Across the Universe, Kinsey, Stay, Day of the Dead, Heaven’s Gate, “Law & Order: SVU,” “NYPD Blue,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” “The Beat,” “Summer,” and “A Marriage: O’Keefe and Stiegletz”.

Dianne Wiest as Winnie in HAPPY DAYS. Photo: Joan Marcus
Dianne Wiest as Winnie in HAPPY DAYS. Photo: Joan Marcus

Dianne Wiest (Winnie), New York Theater credits include Rasheeda Speaking (The New Group), The Cherry Orchard (Classic Stage Company), Arthur Miller’s All My Sons on Broadway, The Seagull (CSC), Third, Memory House, Salome and Oedipus with Al Pacino, The Shawl, Hunting Cockroaches, After the Fall, Beyond Therapy, and The Art of Dining. For Yale Rep, she previously appeared in Hedda Gabler and A Doll House. Her film credits include Five Nights in Maine; Sisters; The Humbling; Synecdoche, New York; A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints; Hannah and Her Sisters (Academy Award); The Purple Rose of Cairo; Radio Days; September; Bullets Over Broadway (Academy Award); Parenthood (Academy Award nomination); Rabbit Hole; FootlooseEdward Scissorhands; and The Birdcage. She received Emmy Awards for her performances in “The Road to Avonlea” and the HBO series “In Treatment” and currently appears in the CBS series “Life In Pieces”.

Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang_photo by Garth Kravits
Lia Chang_photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers,  musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.

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