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Greg just committed the ultimate crime regarding his love life. He told someone his girlfriend Steph’s face was “regular.” And he got caught. This offhand remark throws Greg’s life into total chaos as the relationships in his life quickly disintegrate. Steph breaks up with Greg in a seething fury, forcing Greg to evaluate the choices he has made as an adult. Over the course of the play, Greg, Steph, and their two other working class friends, Kent and Carly, go on a wild ride through a national fascination with what it means to be “pretty.”
Evolving Beauty – Changing Views on Beauty through the Ages
An Exclusive Interview with Neil LaBute
Why are you so fascinated with the American fixation on physical beauty?
Well, you've partially answered your own question by mentioning 'the American fixation on physical beauty. It's not just me that is fascinated but most of the people around me, both men and women, of all ages and sexes. Whether we've been trained by our parents and publicists and commercials or we have some innate pull inside of us toward all things beautiful, it remains a topic that I have found both intriguing as a person and dramatically fertile as a writer. Why do we crave it, both for ourselves and in others? What price will we pay for it? What actually is beauty? Great questions to ask at a dinner table and terrific fun to dissect on the stage. I've also spent such a large part of my life being held up as a male example of beauty that I felt it was time to understand why people were so drawn to my own looks (that last part is a bit of a fib).
Unlike Fat Pig and The Shape of Things, the world of Reasons to Be Pretty is a blue collar one. How do you see class playing a role in our obsession with physical beauty?
I think that there is probably a division in what various classes consider beautiful in the same way that the money divide helps us make decisions about various things in life. I can easily imagine my father--who was a truck driver--seeing the penthouse of Donald Trump or the Hamptons home of Jerry Seinfeld and scoffing at it as he mutters: "I wouldn't take that piece of shit if they gave it to me." Now, is that true? In reality, why wouldn't he? He could sell it and buy anything else that he wanted. The idea, though, that his values have been molded by his specific section of society to see something else as 'beautiful' is very possible. To my father and his contemporaries, to wear a Versace shirt would be to die a thousand deaths. I would honestly believe that in his eyes a 'Member's Only' jacket is much more desirable (and attractive) than one designed by Tom Ford or Hugo Boss. And the same goes for physical beauty. While the blue-collar worker may see the beauty in a face that appears on the cover of BAZAAR, he or she has been led to believe that an attractive young woman working at Hooter's or a local cheerleader is actually more beautiful (or at least in their same league).
The conflict of this play hinges on semantics. Greg believes he has said one thing and Steph hears the same words but thinks he means something entirely different. Why do you think their misunderstanding is so irreconcilable?
I think the thematic elements that deal with 'beauty'--especially once the monologues that dealt with that subject were removed [an earlier draft of Reasons to Be Pretty contained a number of direct-address monologues]--had less to do with the breakup of Steph and Greg than the fact that they were in a relationship that was going nowhere and Steph, perhaps even unwittingly at first, jumped on the next major fight (the one that happened to deal with her looks as seen through the eyes of her boyfriend) and used it as a catalyst for change. She instinctively knew that it was time to move on and that this argument was the beginning of the end. As much as she still loved him, Steph knew that Greg was not looking for the same things in life as she was at that time and that time was slipping by. That's not to say that she wasn't horribly put off by the fact that he called her "regular" looking--and yes, that one beat is all about the semantics of a word--but more than even that she knows that as a couple they are drifting and she had to move off in another direction if she was going to survive or, more than that, thrive as a person.
You say that this is the first coming of age story you’ve written. How do you see Greg growing up and does this reflect where you are as a writer?
I don't think this idea of 'growing up' should be taken too literally, at least not for me. The ending one sees now on the play is not what I originally wrote: what is now 'bittersweet' was once more 'bitter' than anything. Through working on the show with a terrific director, actors and dramaturg I discovered that I was, in this play, trying to say something new and different and I eventually arrived there. Greg makes a choice at the end of the play to let Stephanie go off and marry someone else even though she gives him the chance to take her back--I believe he makes an adult choice (maybe even his first) when he realizes that her needs are more important than his own and he sends her off to 'be happy.' I've written about a lot of boy-men who are selfish and scared and needy and bullying and all the rest--a real gallery of rogues--but this time out a boy grew into a man. Who knew? It might even happen to me one of these days.
Some of Steph’s most memorable moments – the opening outburst and her humiliation of Greg at the mall – portray her as extraordinarily aggressive. Do you see her reactions as justified?
In the moment, yes. I think she's a passionate person and her emotions get the better of her in those scenes, particularly when she's dealing with some of Greg's more passive/aggressive tendencies. Greg, as much as I like the character, can be a little maddening at times. I always imagined that Steph grew up around a bunch of brothers and was maybe even the baby sister, so she was coddled by the boys but also ran with the pack and that fuels some of her outbursts in the present. She is quick to yell or scream or slap or even hit when she wants to be heard or be loved or get her way. It's not always attractive but it's true for a certain kind of person. I like that their fictive relationship moves in the opposite direction from most stories; Greg and Steph are first seen in the midst of a terrible fight and even though they break up and move on, our last image of them is quiet and soft and loving. A last kiss that they secretly both want more of. I grew up around a lot of male aggression but I've definitely seen the other side--the bullying female. She exists. Steph is probably one of them but that doesn't make her a bad person or unlovable, she has just been raised to use those tools first when trying to get her needs met and I think this is also the story of a woman who finally comes into her own and finds a way to get those needs met and discovers a few new tools that allow her to soften and be vulnerable and, ultimately, to grow as a person. She and Greg both grow up over the course of the play, they just happen to grow in different directions and finally, they grow apart.
Read the Reviews
A Studio Theatre Exclusive Interview
In Conversation with Reasons to Be Pretty (and incoming
Studio Theatre Artistic Director) David Muse
Sarah Wallace: You direct both classic and contemporary work. Can you discuss major differences/similarities to your approach to the two?
David Muse: It’s somewhat hard to generalize, because so much of what a director does is production specific. Usually classic plays involve a different type of pre-production work: I spend gobs of time just getting to know what everything means and editing together the script for my production, I figure out what kind of ensemble I need to people the world, I make decisions about setting and period and style, I read what scholars have to say, I do historical research. Contemporary plays tend to involve more givens in terms of script and casting and design. But what’s surprised me over the years is how much classical and contemporary plays have in common, and how much work on one type of material feeds one’s work on the other. The tools one learns to approach language in the classics, for example, are remarkably helpful when working on contemporary plays, and the ways in which we deal with psychology and emotion in contemporary plays open up exciting avenues of exploration in classical work.
SW: Along the same line, how do you approach a play with a large cast of actors (i.e. Julius Caesar) versus a small cast (i.e. Blackbird or Frozen)?
DM: One of the most exciting things for me about the last few years has been jumping back and forth between extremely large cast and extremely small cast productions. Frozen had three actors, Julius Caesar had 43. Romeo and Juliet had twenty-something, Blackbird had basically two. I had a week off between directing the 33 people in Henry V and the four in Reasons to Be Pretty. Dealing with different cast sizes absolutely flexes different directorial muscles – and the ways you shape a 30 person scene are different than the things you do with a two-hander – but the essential tasks tend to be the same: control focus, frame moments, move people around in a way that is artful but not conspicuous, and help shape the most compelling performances possible.
SW: Why do you think Neil LaBute’s work resonates with (or provokes) so many people so strongly?
DM: First of all, his characters are “regular people.” These ordinary, “just like you and me” people behave in cruel, awful ways, but we’re meant to recognize ourselves and those we know in them. LaBute holds a fearless mirror up to some of the least flattering parts of our nature – the ways we hurt each other, the ways we judge each other, the ways we use each other, the ways we daily inflict little cruelties on each other – and his plays are provocative precisely because we do behave like that. In short, LaBute isn’t afraid to portray how un-pretty human nature is. Plus it doesn’t hurt that his plays are so wickedly funny.
SW: LaBute’s writing is generally considered extremely realistic, yet you mentioned in the first production meeting that there is a very particular style to his dialogue. Can you elaborate?
DM: LaBute has a keen ear for language – he captures the rhythms and the idiosyncrasies of everyday speech but shapes them with a kind of hidden artifice: his dialogue is crisper and more musical and more stylish than “real talk,” but you hardly notice when you hear it. This play is full of strange turns of phrase, misused clichés, and malapropisms; it’s as if LaBute is relishing in the strangeness of common talk. And throughout, Labute’s characters use words as weapons. He has a sensitive ear for the POWER language has to wound, especially when the speaker is seemingly lacking in eloquence or education.
SW: Some consider this LaBute’s first coming-of-age tale. What is your take on that idea?
DM: I agree with that characterization in many ways. I mean, it sounds a little crazy to attach such a cozy term to a play full of caustic wit, devastating insults, profanity-laced blowouts, raunchy “guy talk,” and general viciousness, but it’s true that this play is something of a departure for LaBute. Many of his previous plays feel like machines that are constructed to expose some bit of human awfulness through a shocking turn of plot, but Reasons to Be Pretty isn’t like that. The play is nestled in a beauty-obsessed world, but LaBute’s project here isn’t just to expose the darkest sides of that obsession. Instead, he’s writing about a man who is actually struggling to learn from his experiences and to behave better.
Three Great Reviews!
Washington Post | Metro Weekly | Washington City Paper
By Peter Marks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 30, 2010; C05
Guys can be so clueless.
Case in point: Greg, the rumpled but attractive Everyschlub of Neil LaBute's delectable "Reasons to Be Pretty." He has a good thing going with Steph, a hairdresser he has lived with for four years, until one day he makes the lame move of remarking on her looks to a third party. Not in intentionally hurtful terms; just not, well, in the most sensitive or flattering way he could have come up with.
So, sure enough, Steph gets wind of it, blows her stack -- and off we go on a prickly and perceptive stuff-hits-the-fan evening at Studio Theatre, from the playwright who brought you "Fat Pig" and "The Shape of Things." Like those earlier comedies, "Reasons to Be Pretty" focuses on our unhelpful predilection for judging all books by their covers, on how ruinous it is to try to calibrate human relations to some idealized standard of physical perfection.
Studio should have a juicy little hit with "Reasons," because it's one of those plays you go to with a date or spouse or friend or partner, then spend the after-hours sorting out which character missed what signals and how couples stuff can go so wrong.
It also happens to be LaBute's most effective work, one with a soft spot as well as abrasive facets, and a plot that doesn't hinge on some contrivance, such as a shocking reverse. We know -- from LaBute's other plays and elsewhere -- that men behave badly. But as "Reasons" would have it, women's vanity about their appearance can be as much to blame for the horrendous state of our body politics as the masculine tendency to engage in sexual objectifying.
This production benefits greatly from astutely balanced casting and the ministrations of director David Muse, who knows how to steer it for laughs, for pathos, even toward a sense of danger. (Strange: The show with one of the most persuasively staged fight scenes in memory lists no fight choreographer.)
It remains on a gratifyingly strong footing because of the splendid anchoring performance of Ryan Artzberger, whose Greg comes across as an appealing manual on how to make a bad situation worse. It's an indication of Artzberger's charming hold on us that we identify with Greg even when he feels compelled to corroborate the lies of a truly reprehensible buddy.
Artzberger gets sturdy support from the trio of actors who fill out the tale: Margot White, who plays the tempestuous Steph; Thom Miller as Kent, Greg's strutting co-worker and the embodiment of every ghastly macho excess, including too much testosterone and self-adoration; and Teresa Stephenson as Carly, a fetching security guard with an insurmountable disability: She's married to Kent.
"Reasons" is set in a thoroughly nondescript exurb, where Greg, Kent and Carly toil in unremarkable shift work. LaBute likes American drabness as a blank background. His characters upend the sterile rule books of comportment in malls and Italian chain restaurants. (Debra Booth's set pieces are mere suggestions of ordinary spaces: a factory lunch room, the plastic chairs of a food court, although we could do without the obligatory over-amplified rock music during scene changes.)
On this occasion, it is the relationship faux pas by Greg, a bookish warehouse worker, that sparks the conflagration. The play begins in Greg and Steph's apartment, with Steph erupting in a torrent of profanity over Greg's casual remark about her appearance, which she has been told about by Carly. The outburst itself is more than a little ugly.
Does Greg grasp precisely why Steph is so volcanically offended? One of the more enigmatic aspects of "Reasons" is that you're never quite sure that chasm is bridged, that Greg truly comprehends the line he has crossed. Isn't it enough, Greg asks, that he loves her and prefers her to all other women? Steph can't forgive the utterance, as palpable a betrayal for her as an act of actual infidelity.
White, too, brings a believably coarse edge to Steph; she and Artzberger have a terrific scene together -- their war is consistently entertaining -- in the waiting area of a restaurant, at a time when both of their characters profess to be moving on.
Of course, we wait, too, to learn whether the confused but repentant Greg is going to find a way back into Steph's good graces. A sign of LaBute's mature handling is that where they do end up manages to feel at once surprising and satisfying. And, like much of what we've gleaned, worthy of a healthy argument on the way home.
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Reasons is a Provocative, Troubling Look at Cruelty
by Tom Avila
Published on March 31, 2010, 10:05pm
In Neil LaBute's Reasons to Be Pretty, now at Studio Theatre, a similar storm is released, not from the depths of a mysterious box, but from the utterance of a single word -- a word the speaker barely realizes he has said before it has flown beyond his control, poised to disrupt and destroy.
Greg (Ryan Artzberger) is the kind of guy who doesn't spend a good deal of time thinking about his life. It simply is what it is. He has a decent job in a warehouse. He has an apartment and a girlfriend and a best friend and a spot on the company softball team.
And then, banging around under the hood of a car with Kent (Thom Miller) -- the previously mentioned best friend -- he makes a statement he will quickly learn to regret.
Actually, to call what he has said a statement might be giving it too much weight in the world beyond the stagecraft LaBute has set into motion.
Greg makes a remark about his girlfriend Steph (Margot White). It's the kind of offhand comment that, if Greg and Kent are to be believed, is the kind of thing ''guys'' say to one another when they're hanging out.
Because this is a LaBute play, the thick net of profanity that knots the story together is far less shocking than the fine gilt edge of hope that trims Reasons to Be Pretty. There are still those moments that set up uncomfortable shop in the gut, delivered by an ensemble that seems to have made a careful study of how to draw out discomfort like a slow, dull paper cut, but there is something else at work here, something that gleefully plays hide-and-seek with the audience.
Artzberger is the most charming of heroes, an actor who bounces with appealing awkwardness between the story he wants us to see and the story he knows should be told. It's an engaging performance that requires a certain quiet reluctance. He hits it spot on.
Miller's Kent is the stark contrast to Artzberger's Greg. Miller swaggers, mugs and slouches Kent satisfyingly into being. It's the rare time when presenting a character as a very shallow pool – perhaps all the better to gaze narcissistically at himself – proves strong talent.
White and Teresa Stephenson, lovely as Kent's wife Carly, round out this wonderful ensemble. White is the standout, a phenomenally physical actress with the ability to lash out in a wild flail one moment and to cross the stage minutes later with the polish of a starlet from a bygone age. In her hands, Steph becomes the kind of role any woman would want to play but the kind of woman no one would want to actually be.
Like so many LaBute plays, Reasons to Be Pretty finds its voice in how horrible individuals can be to one another. It finds its life in causing us all to consider the horrifyingly casual forms that cruelty can assume.
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House of Ill LaBute:
Yet another domestic excoriation from the master of scorn.
By Trey Graham
Washington City Paper
April 2, 2010
Dear Neil LaBute,
We know you’re capable of winding us up. What I’d like to know is whether you’re ever going to explain why you do it. Is it bitterness? Cheap scorn? Just a habit?
I know, I know: Reasons to Be Pretty supposedly represents a newly mature kind of play for you. You actually seem to like one or two of the four characters—your tongue-tied warehouse box-humper Greg, certainly, though I’m still not sure about Steph, the hairstylist girlfriend whose self-esteem he so clumsily wrecks. Or Carly, the decent but not-so-bright security guard you keep condescending to, even as you elbow us unsubtly toward something like pity for her.
Yes, I admire your facility with language. You’ve got a real ear for abuse, and it’s entertaining the way you launch the play with that explosion—what is it, five minutes? eight?—of hurt and evasion and escalating rage. That, come to think of it, is part of why you trouble me: When you’re not despising the people you hold up to your audiences like some grim, unforgiving mirror, you’re appealing to our basest spectator instincts, displaying recognizable people suffering recognizable anguish, deploying them like Christians and lions and gladiators for our delectation, giving off an authorial whiff that smells an awful lot like amusement. It makes me think of cynical, road-weary circus roustabouts, poking the elephants with those long-hooked poles to keep them lined up prettily for the paying crowd. You’ll forgive me for saying so, but I don’t like those guys much, either.
I do think David Muse and his cast are doing you a favor at the Studio Theatre. I hear the guy who played Greg in New York was terrific, but he can’t have been much better than Ryan Artzberger, who’s creating a wonderfully complicated portrait of a regular guy here. He’s stubborn and glib early on—when he doesn’t want to admit that calling his girlfriend’s face “regular” is a ditching offense, when he’s trying to smooth things over and wheedle her back into bed. Then he’s convincingly broken when he realizes that she’s really done with him—and later still, when the signs suggest that the door might be open again, his struggle to do the right thing is kinda heartbreaking. (So I’ll overlook that you basically lifted that moment from the conclusion of Moon for the Misbegotten; you did switch the genders, so we’ll call it an homage.)
Margot White is pretty terrific casting, too: She’s convincingly plain and pretty by turns, which is probably tougher than I realize. And the eruption of passion in that opening rant is eclipsed only by the shaky, spill-over-the-dam feeling with which she frames that famous catalog of Greg’s deficiencies. You know, the one you set in the food court at the mall, with the audience of shoppers. Because public humiliations, I guess, are still intensely interesting to you. (Sidebar: It’s cheating to let her unload on Greg, then claim she doesn’t mean it so she can keep the high ground. You’ll probably argue that’s her character flaw, but I’m going to argue it’s yours.)
Back on the public humiliations, though: Way to write a fight scene, there on the softball field, after Greg has wised up to what a tool his friend Kent is. And again, the Studio folks are doing you proud: Thom Miller is so thoroughly repugnant, such a bratty, bullying example of LaButian manhood that by the midpoint of that scene, I didn’t just want Greg to punch him. I wanted Greg to pick up the bat Kent had just been swinging so aggressively and beat the motherfucker to death.
So yeah, you’ve still got it. You’re a craftsman, and you’re observant, and you know that people can be shits, and you can pull all those strings and make us feel whatever you want us to feel. I guess my question is: What the hell happened to you, man, that you want us to feel so goddamn bad?
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Cast | Director and Designers
Ryan Artzberger (Greg) makes his Studio Theatre debut with Reasons to be Pretty. In Washington he has starred as Pericles in Pericles and Valvert in Cyrano, among many other roles at The Shakespeare Theatre Company. Regional theatre credits include Mercutio in Romeo & Juliet, Walt Whitman in The Heavens Are Hung In Black, Howie in Rabbit Hole, Biff in Death of a Salesman, Macbeth in Macbeth at Indiana Repertory Theatre; Pericles in Pericles and Herve Joncour in Silk at The Goodman Theatre; Shahryar in The Arabian Nights at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Kansas City Repertory Theatre and The Lookingglass Theatre; Hamlet in Hamlet and Treplev in The Sea Gull at Shakespeare Santa Cruz; Friar Laurence in Romeo & Juliet at Great Lakes Theatre Festival and Ray Dooley in The Beauty Queen of Leenane at The Denver Center. Mr. Artzberger is a graduate of Ohio University and The Juilliard School.
Margot White (Steph) is thrilled to return to The Studio Theatre where she last appeared in the first play of Neil LaBute’s trilogy, The Shape of Things. Other favorite credits include The Farnsworth Invention on Broadway; Marshall Mason’s revival of Talley’s Folly at The McCarter Theatre with Richard Schiff; The Traveling Lady at the Ensemble Studio Theatre (Drama Desk Nomination); Pericles at Red Bull Theatre; So Help Me God! with Kristen Johnston at the Mint Theatre; and the world premiere of When They Speak of Rita at Primary Stages, directed by Horton Foote. Other Regional credits include work at American Conservatory Theatre, Great Lakes Theatre Festival, Pioneer Theatre Company, Delaware Theatre Company, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey and she recently spent a summer playing Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Hampton’s Shakespeare. Television and film credits include Law & Order, Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Ugly Betty, as well as the independent film Four Single Fathers.
Teresa Stephenson (Carly) makes her Studio Theatre debut with Reasons to Be Pretty. Her recent credits include Race Music with Diverse City Theater Company; Y-E-L-L and Up with (Some) People at Ensemble Studio Theatre; Therese Raquin Desire with Project Y and Caitlin and the Swan with The Management. Regionally, she has performed with The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey as Rosalind in As You Like It and as Juno in The Tempest. She has also performed in June Moon at the Dorset Theatre Festival and in Trash Bag Tourist with the New Orleans Theater Experiment. Film and television work include Evan and Gareth are Trying to Get Laid on Comedy Central and the independent feature Happy New Year. Ms. Stephenson earned a B.A. from Vanderbilt University and an M.F.A. in Acting from Rutgers University.
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Director and Designers
Director and Designers
David Muse (Director) returns to The Studio Theatre for his fourth production. His Studio and 2ndstage productions of Blackbird, Frozen and The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow earned 10 Helen Hayes nominations and received four. Years before, David performed on the Milton stage in Blue Heart and studied at The Studio Theatre Acting Conservatory. David is the Associate Artistic Director at the Shakespeare Theatre Company, where he has directed six productions including Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar and this season’s Henry V. Other recent directing projects include Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune at Arena Stage, The Bluest Eye at Theatre Alliance and Swansong for the New York Summer Play Festival. He has helped to develop new work at numerous theatres including New York Theatre Workshop, Ford’s Theatre, Arena Stage, Geva Theatre, and The Kennedy Center. David has also taught acting and directing at Georgetown University, Yale University and The Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Academy for Classical Acting. A three-time Helen Hayes Award nominee for Outstanding Direction, Muse was a recent recipient of the DC Mayor’s Arts Award for Outstanding Emerging Artist and the National Theatre Conference Emerging Artist Award. He is a graduate of Yale University and the Yale School of Drama.
Debra Booth (Setting) returns to The Studio Theatre where she has designed Adding Machine: A Musical, Moonlight, Blackbird, The Road to Mecca The Internationalist, and My Children! My Africa!. Other Studio Theatre productions include The Pillowman, Red Light Winter, Caroline or Change, Fat Pig, A Number, Afterplay, The Russian National Postal Service, Far Away, The Shape of Things, and Privates on Parade. Her international work includes the world premiere operas Marco Polo, composed by Tan Dun and directed by Martha Clarke, and The Hindenburg, composed by Steve Reich and directed by Roman Paska. Regionally, her credits include Lost Boys of the Sudan for the Minneapolis Children's Theater; Rough Crossing and Famous Orpheus for Geva Theatre; Spread Eagle by Jim Luigis at WPA Theatre in New York; Marisol for Hartford Stage and the New York Shakespeare Festival; The Illusion, The Baltimore Waltz, Happy Days and My Children! My Africa! for Portland Stage; Pelléas and Mélisande for Skylight Opera; the New York premiere of Angels in America for the Juilliard; Game of Love and Chance for the Berkshire Theatre Festival; Broken Glass for the Philadelphia Theatre Company (Barrymore Award nominated) and Moon for the Misbegotten, directed by Lloyd Richards at Yale Rep with Frances McDormand and David Strathairn. She also worked on the workshop production of Salomé, directed by Estelle Parsons with Al Pacino, Dianne Wiest and Marissa Tomei in New York. Ms. Booth was the recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Designer Grant, is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama and is Director of the Design Program at Brandeis University.
Michael Giannitti (Lighting) is the Resident Lighting Designer at The Studio Theatre; he has designed over 30 productions including In the Red and Brown Water, Rock ‘n’ Roll, The Seafarer, The Road To Mecca, Shining City, The Pillowman, Red Light Winter, Fat Pig, Afterplay, The Russian National Postal Service, Galileo and Seven Guitars, which earned him a Helen Hayes Award Nomination. He designed lighting on Broadway for August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone, and for its pre-Broadway tour which included Arena Stage. He has designed extensively for Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, Trinity Repertory Theatre, Capital Repertory Theatre, Shakespeare & Company and Weston Playhouse. Mr. Giannitti has also designed for Virginia Stage, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Portland Stage Company, George Street Playhouse, Jomandi, Yale Repertory Theatre and Olney Theatre Center. New York dance lighting credits include Dance Theatre Workshop, Dancespace, The Joyce, The Kitchen and P.S. 122. Additional regional venues include the Spoleto Festival and Walker Art Center. He has been on the faculty at Bennington College since 1992. As a Fulbright Senior Specialist, he taught at the National University of Art, Theatre and Cinema in Bucharest, Romania and at the New Zealand Drama School.
Kate Turner-Walker (Costumes) has previously designed costumes for Blackbird, This is How it Goes, Red Light Winter and Fat Pig at The Studio Theatre. Ms. Turner-Walker’s other design credits include How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, The Little Prince, A Prayer for Owen Meany and A Murder a Mystery and a Marriage at Round House Theatre; Arcadia, Henry IV Part 1, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night's Dream (Helen Hayes Nomination), The Game of Love and Chance, Much Ado About Nothing, Clandestine Marriage and Two Gentlemen of Verona (Helen Hayes Nomination) at the Folger Theatre; Dead Man’s Cell Phone, Vigils, Martha, Josie and the Chinese Elvis, Starving, and many more at The Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. Ms. Turner-Walker holds an MFA in Costume Design and is a member of United Scenic Artists.
Neil McFadden (Sound) has designed many shows at The Studio Theatre, including Adding Machine: A Musical, Radio Golf, The Seafarer, Blackbird, The Internationalist, Rosencrantz & Gildenstern Are Dead, This Is How It Goes, Red Light Winter, Fat Pig, Take Me Out, The Cripple of Inishmaan, Topdog/Underdog, and Betty’s Summer Vacation. He was the Resident Sound Designer at Round House Theatre for eleven years. His work has also been heard at Arena Stage, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, The Folger Theatre, Source Theatre, Olney Theatre Center, Theatre J, The Washington Savoyards and numerous others. A nine-time nominee, he was the recipient of the 1990 Helen Hayes Award for Sound Design for his work on Heathen Valley at Round House Theatre.
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The Playwright: Neil LaBute
“I write things on a page I don’t want to have to deal with in life, writing is a safe vacuum for me because I’m not saying those horrible things to someone’s face... I feel I have a kind of bravado in my writing I don’t have in life.”–Neil LaBute
“Pretty guys have this glow. No matter how bad they are, people keep going back to them. Being pretty can bring out the worst in people. I always keep an eye on the pretty guy who can hurt me.” –Neil LaBute
With fourteen plays, seven films and one book of short stories under his belt, there is little that prolific playwright Neil LaBute hasn't written—except for “no offense.” Born in Detroit, Michigan in 1963, LaBute grew up in Spokane, Washington before attending Brigham Young University on a minority scholarship for non-Mormons. In 1981, while studying drama and film at BYU, LaBute converted to the Church of Latter-day Saints. After receiving his degree he pursued further study at the University of Kansas and earned his master’s degree in dramatic writing at New York University.
After being awarded a scholastic literary fellowship at the Royal Court Theatre in London, LaBute wrote and directed 1997’s In the Company of Men, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to numerous awards including the New York Film Critics Circle Award and the Filmmakers Trophy. The film skyrocketed his career, and he has since written for the stage, page, and screen.
Notorious for treading the line between audacious and abusive, LaBute’s unflinching eye is fixated on mankind’s darker hypocrisies and habits. In 1999, after the release of Bash: Latter-Day Plays (LaBute’s only play with predominantly Mormon overtones), he was “dis-fellowshipped” in a probationary move by the church, from which he ultimately resigned in 2005.
Because his body of work is frequently referred to as “edgy” and “controversial,” Neil LaBute often gets mislabeled as a moralist. Undaunted by condemnation, LaBute tackles unspoken taboos with eye-opening candor, coupling everyday people with unconventional acts of depravity. His work exposes without judgment and errs without excuse, forcing audiences to struggle with the elusive questions of truth and morality on their own.
Reasons to be Pretty is the last in a trilogy of LaBute’s plays that skewer America’s obsession with physical appearance. Like its predecessors, The Shape of Things and Fat Pig, it chips away at the aesthetic ideal, leaving us to grapple with the fallacies in our own definitions of beauty. Reasons is also the first of LaBute’s plays to transfer to Broadway.