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Justice Theater Project Opens “Tuesdays with Morrie”

David Henderson (left) and John Honeycutt

David Henderson (left) and John Honeycutt

The Justice Theater Project will present Tuesdays with Morrie, a two-character Off-Broadway hit written in 2002 by Jeffrey Hatcher and Mitch Albom, based on Albom’s 1997 nonfiction novel about his life-changing friendship with his favorite teacher, on Feb. 11-13, 18-20, and 25-27 in Clare Hall at the Catholic Community of St. Francis of Assisi in north Raleigh, NC. The show stars David Henderson as journalist and author Mitchel David “Mitch” Albom (born 1958) and John Honeycutt as Albom’s former college professor Morris S. “Morrie” Schwartz (1916-95), who was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s Disease, in 1994 and died on Nov. 4, 1995 at age 78.

“I first read this script after Deb Royals-Mizerk, artistic director for The Justice Theater Project, suggested I direct it,” admits JTP guest director Andy Hayworth. “I picked up the script intending on skimming it, but immediately poured over the entire script without stopping. It was such a moving, well-written piece that I could not put it down.”

He adds, “It such a simple but important story, with a simple but important message. The show was already cast when I came on board. I was excited to work with these two veteran actors I love and admire.”

Hayworth notes, “Tuesdays with Morrie is the story of the reunion of Mitch Albom (David Henderson) with his old college professor and mentor, Morrie (John Honeycutt). As Morrie’s life draws to a close, he impresses upon Mitch that giving and loving are much better investments than career-building and financial success. Morrie teaches this ‘final lesson,’ and Mitch turns his own life around as a result.”

Tuesdays with Morrie made its Off-Broadway debut, directed by David Esbjornson, on Nov. 19, 2002 at the Minetta Lane Theatre and closed on Feb. 23, 2003. The show starred Alvin Epstein as Morrie Schwartz and Jon Tenney as Mitch Albom.

The 1999 TV movie version of Tuesdays with Morrie, directed by Mick Jackson from a screenplay by Thomas Rickman, starred Hank Azaria as Mitch and Jack Lemmon — in his last credited film role — as Morrie. The film won four 2000 Emmy Awards, including the Emmys for Outstanding Made for Television Movie, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie (Jack Lemmon), Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie (Hank Azaria), and Outstanding Single Camera Picture Editing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special (Carol Littleton).

In addition to guest director Andy Hayworth, the Raleigh-based small professional theater’s creative team for Tuesdays with Morrie includes technical director and lighting designer Tom Wolf, costume designer Keena Lindsay, properties manager John Honeycutt, and stage manager Emma Elsea.

Andy Hayworth notes, “The play is staged in-the-round for an intimate atmosphere. Attendees will feel like they are in Morrie’s living room, witnessing the ‘Coach’ instruct Mitch as it happens. There is a bare minimum of furniture and no real ‘scenery.’ The play speaks for itself and does not need any help or extra trappings.”

He adds, “Staging the play in-the-round presents obvious challenges, but these are outweighed by the advantages gained through the added intimacy and immediateness.

“Another challenge is the role of Morrie,” claims Hayworth. “John Honeycutt must effectively portray Morrie’s progression over time through the physical effects of ALS.”

Lighting designer Tom Wolf says, “As the show takes place in a single act that transcends many Tuesdays, the lighting is instrumental in relaying the passage of time and the emotional level of the play. Theater-in-the-round can be more challenging to light, [because] one has to think of the image from all angles, but this also allows the use of heavy shadow and color to bring actors ‘out of the scene’ for monologues.”

Costume designer Keena Lindsay adds, “Morrie’s costumes are inspired by my brief memories of my grandfather, together with the eleventh Doctor Who. Mitch’s look is business casual, comfortable enough to wear while traveling and still look professional.”

“You may have read the book or seen the movie,” says director Andy Hayworth. “The play is its own entity, with its own unique life and distinct sense of humor. Whether you’ve heard of the book or not, you’ll enjoy the play and take away something, too.”

The Justice Theater Project presents TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE at 8 p.m. Feb. 11 and 12, 2 p.m. Feb. 13, 8 p.m. Feb. 18 and 19, 2 p.m. Feb. 20, 8 p.m. Feb. 25 and 26, and 2 p.m. Feb. 27 in Clare Hall at the Catholic Community of St. Francis of Assisi, 11401 Leesville Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina 27613.

TICKETS: $15 ($12 students and seniors), except $10 per person for groups of 10 or more.

BOX OFFICE: 919/264-7089, marketing@thejusticetheaterproject.org, or https://www.etix.com/.

SHOW: http://www.thejusticetheaterproject.org/.

PRESENTER: http://www.thejusticetheaterproject.org/.

VENUE: http://www.stfrancisraleigh.org/.

DIRECTIONS/PARKING: http://www.stfrancisraleigh.org/mapsandphoto.

NOTE 1: Representatives from the Jim “Catfish” Hunter Chapter (http://www.CatfishChapter.org/) of the ALS Association (http://www.alsa.org/) will be in the lobby at each show to answer questions and talk about ALS in the Triangle.

NOTE 2: At 2 p.m. on Feb. 20th, SEED Raleigh (http://www.seedraleigh.org/) will provide FREE babysitting for the first 20 children (potty trained to age 12) registered via marketing@thejusticetheaterproject.org.

NOTE 3: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh (http://www.artsaccessinc.org/) will audio describe the 8 p.m. Feb. 25th performance.

NOTE 4: At 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 26, there will be a preshow discussion led by Tracy Bell, assistant pastor of the Poplar Springs Christian Church (http://www.poplar-springs.org/).

OTHER LINKS:

The Book: http://mitchalbom.com/d/books/3856/tuesdays-morrie (author’s website), http://www.randomhouse.com/features/morrie/ (Random House), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuesdays_with_Morrie (Wikipedia).

The Play: http://mitchalbom.com/d/theater/3734/tuesdays-morrie (author’s website), http://www.randomhouse.com/features/morrie/play.html (official website), and http://www.lortel.org/ (Internet Off-Broadway Database).

The Film: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuesdays_with_Morrie_(film) (Wikipedia) and http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0207805/ (Internet Movie Database).

Mitch Albom: http://mitchalbom.com/ (official website), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitch_Albom (Wikipedia), http://www.lortel.org/ (Internet Off-Broadway Database), and http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0207805/ (Internet Movie Database).

ALS Therapy Development Institute: http://www.als.net/ (official website).

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review,a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

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