Playwrights Joan Ackermann, Eric Bogosian, Larry Gelbart, and David Mamet to Write Original Short Plays for Berkshire Playwrights Lab Gala

Posted April 17, 2009

Actors Karen Allen, Elizabeth Franz, Dan Lauria, Wendie Malick, Peter Riegert, and Jay Thomas Set to Perform

Great Barrington, Mass.–Berkshire Playwrights Lab announces that award-winning contemporary playwrights Joan Ackermann, Eric Bogosian, Larry Gelbart, and David Mamet will write original short plays to be read by celebrated actors Karen Allen, Elizabeth Franz, Dan Lauria, Wendie Malick, Peter Riegert, Jay Thomas, and others at the organization’s Gala Season Opening on Friday, May 29, 2009, 8pm at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center (14 Castle Street, Great Barrington, Mass.).

Proceeds from the Gala Season Opening will benefit the Berkshire Playwrights Lab Free Staged Reading Series, which will take place on Wednesdays at 8pm on June 10, July 1, July 15, July 29, August 12, August 26, and September 16 at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center. Specific play titles and casts TBA.

Founded in 2006 by theater professionals Joe Cacaci, Bob Jaffe, Jim Frangione, and Matthew Penn, Berkshire Playwrights Lab is dedicated to encouraging, developing, and presenting new plays. Through readings, workshops, and fully-staged productions, the Lab provides emerging and established writers with a professional and creative environment, while offering audiences the unique and provocative opportunity to share in the dramatic evolution of premiere works. For more information about this new organization, see

The Gala Season Opening will feature original material written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet (Glengary Glen Ross) and Pulitzer Prize finalist Eric Bogosian (Talk Radio). Larry Gelbart is best known for writing the musical, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, the television series, M*A*S*H, and for co-writing the Oscar-nominated screenplay, Tootsie. Playwright Joan Ackermann is the co-founder and artistic director of Mixed Company, a twenty-five-year-old theater in Great Barrington, Mass., and she was a long-time writer and producer for the television series, Arli$$.

The evening’s actors are equally accomplished as the playwrights. Karen Allen is best known for starring in the films, Raiders of the Lost Ark and National Lampoon’s Animal House. Elizabeth Franz won the Tony Award and was nominated for an Emmy for her performance as Linda Loman in Death of a Salesman. Dan Lauria played Jack Arnold (the dad) on the television series, The Wonder Years. Wendie Malick was twice nominated for an Emmy and once for a Golden Globe for playing Nina Van Horn on the sitcom, Just Shoot Me!. Peter Riegert starred in the films, Local Hero and Traffic, and in many David Mamet plays on Broadway. Jay Thomas is a two-time Emmy winner for playing Jerry Gold on television series, Murphy Brown.

Tickets to the Berkshire Gala Season Opening range from $35 to $100 (with the high-end tickets including a post-performance reception on stage with the playwrights and actors). Tickets may be purchased online at and by calling the Mahaiwe box office at 413.528.0100.


Joe Cacaci is the founding director of East Coast Arts, where he produced twenty world premiere plays over seven seasons, and the Producing Director, with Dan Lauria, of The Playwrights Kitchen Ensemble in L.A. from 1993 to the present, where over 500 new plays have been given staged readings in the Monday Night Reading Series. Joe co-produced David Mamet’s Obie-winning play, Edmond at the Provincetown Playhouse. His own plays have been produced at The Public Theater, The Coconut Grove Theatre (where he also directed), The Long Wharf Theater, and at The Alley Theatre in Houston. He has directed at The Westport Playhouse and commercially in Los Angeles. He has written numerous made-for-television movies and co-created the CBS prime time series The Trials of Rosie O’Neill. He was executive producer (show runner) of two prime time series: Showtime‘s The Hoop Life and CBS’ The Education of Max Bickford, which starred Richard Dreyfuss and Marcia Gay Harden. He directed the PBS pilot Cop Shop, which starred Richard Dreyfuss and Blair Brown. Currently, Joe teaches television writing in the graduate program of the Film School at Columbia University.

Jim Frangione has performed in the NY premiere of several David Mamet plays, including The Old Neighborhood and Oleanna, (as well as the National Tour) and most recently in Romance, at New York’s Atlantic Theater Company and subsequently in Los Angeles at the Mark Taper Forum. He also performed in American Buffalo opposite Chris Noth at the Berkshire Theater Festival. Also with Atlantic: The Night Heron, Hobson’s Choice, Edmond, Sea of Tranquility, and Hellhound on My Trail. He directed Romance at the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater and recently performed in The Front Page at Long Wharf Theatre and The Pursuit of Happiness at The Merrimack Repertory Theater. Jim was a founder and artistic director of The Stage Company of Boston, where he directed and acted in many plays, by, among others: David Mamet, Athol Fugard, and Harold Pinter. On TV, he has appeared in episodes of Brotherhood, The Unit, Law & Order (original, SVU, & CI), New York Undercover, Another World and All My Children. His film appearances include Transamerica, Spartan, Heist, State and Main, The Spanish Prisoner, Homicide, Suits, Claire Dolan, Maryam, Frozen Impact, Rubout, Little Kings, and The Last Days of May.

Bob Jaffe is an actor-director based in New York City and Providence, RI. He has recently been touring a one-man show by writer-director David Eliet, But for the Grace...(a commission from the Rhode Island Food Bank), which played at the 2008 New York International Fringe Festival. This past fall, Bob played Dr. Sweet in Bug at the Providence Black Repertory Company. Other recent performances include the Providence Black Repertory’s World Premiere of Black Maria by Kevin Young, Amadeus for the Berkshire Theatre Festival, The Bacchae for the Spingold Theatre Company, and The Theatre of a Two-Headed Calf's Major Barbara at La MaMa E.T.C. Bob originated …and then you go on. An Anthology of the Works of Samuel Beckett at various theatres and Off-Broadway. He played Charlie Gueno in the Showtime original series Brotherhood. Bob directed the world premiere of William S. Yellow Robe Jr.’s Better-n-Indins, the NY premiere of Were You There When the Sugar Beets Got Married? commissioned by the violinist Midori, with text and illustrations by Maurice Sendak and music by Pierre Jalbert, Grammy Award-winner Bill Harley’s Get Lost: Rules for Travelers, Rose Weaver’s Menopause Mama, and, most recently, Kenny Carnes’ Pieces of War, now touring the U.S. He is an affiliated artist at the Providence Black Repertory Company and a board member of Perishable Theatre and the Ensemble Studio Theatre, all of which focus upon the development of new works for the stage.

Matthew Penn has had roots in the Berkshires for over 40 years. He began his career as an actor appearing in a half-dozen films and more than 30 plays. He started directing for the stage at Ensemble Studio Theater in NY. Ed Sherin gave Penn the opportunity to direct Law & Order 14 years ago. Since then he has directed over 50 prime time dramas. He directed the 200th episode of Law & Order starring Julia Roberts, for which he was nominated for an Emmy. He subsequently spent four seasons as the Executive Producer of Law & Order, during which time he produced over 90 episodes. His other notable dramatic work has included Damages, The Closer, House, NYPD Blue, and The Sopranos.

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