"Railroad Bill" Runs July 29-August 9 at Chester Theatre Company

Posted July 23, 2009

CHESTER - When the long lost journal of a legendary African-American train robber is discovered, it touches off a mad ownership scramble by the ethically challenged characters of Railroad Bill. The world premiere of TJ Edwards' satiric look at the confluence of American capitalism and race relations is the third play in Chester Theatre Company's 20th Anniversary Season. The rapid fire farce in the Mamet tradition will run July 29 through August 9.

Abe, a literary agent trying to make a comeback, is introducing Jessie, his African-American protege, to the finer ethical points of making a financial killing. Samantha, a mixed-race Southerner, turns up with the recently discovered journal of a legendary train robber - Railroad Bill, the black Robin Hood. The discovery of the rare historical treasure kicks off an hysterical bidding war that brings out all the baser instincts in a cast of bumbling, scurrilous characters, none of whom is what they seem.

CTC Artistic Director Byam Stevens, explained how Railroad Bill fits into a season programmed around the theme of identity. "The characters in this play span the spectrum of racial identity in America-whites, blacks, and mixed race, and the ways they define themselves and the ways they interact with each other is profoundly influenced by their placement on that spectrum. At a time when America has its first mixed race president and is experiencing the immediate after-effects of a financial crisis fueled by unbridled speculation, Railroad Bill struck me as an amazingly timely play."

TJ Edwards is a company member of New York's Pearl Theatre Company His plays have been performed in New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and London, garnering two Helen Hayes Awards along the way (New York Mets and National Defense). Father Mike was workshopped at the Utah Shakespearean Festival and Mike's Lunch was a finalist at both the Midwest Playlabs and Eugene O'Neill Festival. As an actor, he has performed in over 60 productions at theatres including Denver Center Theatre, Baltimore's Center Stage, Missouri Repertory Theatre, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Arena Stage, and Woolly Mammoth Theatre.

Regge Life recently directed I Just Stopped By To See The Man at Milwaukee Rep, Ghosts at the Pearl Theater and Piano Lesson at Virginia Stage. Other credits include, Gem Of The Ocean and Yellow Man for the Pittsburgh Public Theater, A Walk In The Woods, Raisin In The Sun, Driving Ms. Daisy and Looking Over The President's Shoulder for Capital Rep, August Wilson's Jitney at the Studio Theatre in Washington, DC. Living In The Wind and Do Lord Remember Me at former American Place Theatre.

Terry Alexander (Jones) appeared on Broadway in No Place to Be Somebody, and at Lincoln Center in Streamers (directed by Mike Nichols), Playboy of the West Indies and Northeast Local. His television credits include: One Life to Live, Law and Order, Homicide, NYPD Blue. Film work includes: Conspiracy Theory, All That Jazz, Flashpoint, and Day of the Dead.

Warren Jackson (Jesse) most recently played Romeo at New York's American Globe Theater. He appeared in the Alabama Shakespeare Festival's national tour of Macbeth, as a part of the NEA's Shakespeare in American Communities program. He was nominated by the Black Theatre Alliance of Chicago for Best Featured Actor in Victory Gardens Theatre's world premiere production of Shoes.

Melissa Miller (Sam) appeared on Broadway in Tartuffe (Roundabout Theatre). Recent work includes: Bob Clyman's Secret Order (Alley Theatre); Ariel Dorfman's Widows (59E59); Charles Mee's Mail Order Bride (Beckett Theatre). Her regional credits include: Shakespeare Theatre of NJ, Williamstown Theatre Festival and NJ Rep.

Charles Stransky (Abe) appeared on Broadway in Glengarry Glen Ross, and The Front Page. Off-Broadway: La Poubelle in The Primary English Class, Death Defying Acts, Psychopathic Sexualis and Sarah, Sarah. Regional theatre work includes: Capital Repertory Theatre; Old Globe Theatre, Delaware Theatre Co.; and the Goodman Theatre, etc. On film, he can be seen in The Spanish Prisoner, Homicide, Things Change, all written and directed by David Mamet.

Tickets are available on CTC's website: . To receive a brochure, contact the box office at 413-354-7771. Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 8:00pm., with matinees Thursday and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $28-$32; group rates are available. For further information visit CTC's website.

CTC performances are supported, in part, by funds from the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts; Massachusetts Cultural Council; and the Local Cultural Councils of Blandford, Chester, Huntington, Middlefield, Montgomery, Russell, Westfield, and Worthington.

About Chester Theatre Company Chester Theatre Company is a professional summer theatre located in the foothills of the Berkshires. Founded in 1990 by Vincent Dowling as The Miniature Theatre of Chester, CTC produces 4-5 plays each summer and fall, performed by top-flight actors, directors and designers from across the country. Performances take place in the intimate setting of the Chester Town Hall, with audiences are drawn from the Pioneer Valley, Berkshire County, and portions of Connecticut and New York.

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