The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
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The time is 1890; the place, the Wild West. Ransome Foster, a scholar from the East in search of adventure, is beaten and left for dead on the outskirts of town. He is rescued by a grizzled gunslinger and taken to Two Trees, where he falls for a local girl. But will her love be enough to save him when Liberty Valance comes to town?
Rubicon Theatre Company’s 2015-2016 Season continues with the American premiere of THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE by Jethro Compton. Adapted from the short story by Dorothy M. Johnson that also inspired the legendary John Ford 1962 film, THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE is a classic tale of love, honor, ambition and revenge set against the backdrop of the American West.
Directed by Rubicon’s Artistic Associate Jenny Sullivan, THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE features Gregory Harrison, a Broadway and television veteran best known for his recurring role on “Rizzoli & Isles” and as Dr. “Gonzo” Gates in “Trapper John, M.D.”; and Jeff Kober, oft-recognized for his roles as Dodger on “China Beach” and Jacob Hale, Jr. on “Sons of Anarchy.”
Director Sullivan, who has helmed more than 20 plays at Rubicon as Artistic Associate, has a close association with the genre, having grown up in the 60s and 70s on Western sets. In fact, while John Ford was shooting THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE in black-and-white on the sound stages of Paramount with Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne and Lee Marvin, Sullivan’s father Barry Sullivan was playing frontier sheriff Pat Garrett in more than 75 episodes of “The Tall Man.” He went on to play the charming and likeable villain in the Western “Seven Ways from Sundown,” and the role of John Chisum in Sam Peckinpah’s “Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid.”
Harrison plays Bert Barricune, the mysterious cowboy who discovers the injured Foster on the prairie and brings him to the saloon, where he is nursed back to health by the attractive and spirited saloon-owner Hallie Jackson.
Kober, who has made a career playing various “bad guy” roles, plays the venomous outlaw Liberty Valance, who represents the lawless side of the West.
Jacques Roy, whose credits include Trinity Rep and the Guerilla Shakespeare Project in New York, makes his Rubicon debut as Ransome Foster, the earnest, though perhaps misguided New Yorker, whose passion for “book learning” begins to bring civilization to the denizens of Two Trees.
Sylvie Davidson, a resident of Nashville, plays Hallie, the tough-talking saloon owner who has lost her brothers to the rough ways of the West and who becomes torn between the affections of Barricune and Foster. The versatile Davidson most recently played the title role in Emma for Book-It Repertory in Seattle, and last appeared at Rubicon in Lonesome Traveler, which transferred Off-Broadway and was nominated for Drama Desk and Outer Critics’ Circle Awards.
Dorian Logan, a recent graduate of UCLA’s MFA program, makes his Rubicon debut as “Reverend” Jim Mosten, an African-American man who has been a brother to Hallie and whose life is imperiled when he is taught to read by Foster.
Company member Joseph Fuqua, who has played nearly 30 roles at Rubicon including Hamlet and Henry Higgins, plays the cowardly local sheriff. Dillon Francis, whose Rubicon credits include Our Town and Defying Gravity, is the inquisitive young reporter Jake Howett. Dillon G. Artzer and Trevor Wheetman play multiple roles including mourners, students and members of Liberty’s gang. Wheetman also serves as Music Director, and is writing and performing original music in this American premiere.
The design team for THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE is Rubicon Resident Artist Thomas S. Giamario (sets and lights), Alex Jaeger (costumes), Cricket S. Myers (sound), T. Theresa Scarano (set dressing and props) and Danielle White (hair and make-up). The Production Stage Manager is Linda M. Tross.
The World Premiere of the stage adaptation of THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE took place at the Park Theatre in London in 2014. The show was directed by Compton. The Canadian Premiere took place earlier this season in Winnipeg.
Says Rubicon Producing Artistic Director Karyl Lynn Burns, “We are thrilled to present the first production anywhere in the U.S. of this consummately Western story, for which we owe a great debt to Steven Schipper and the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre and to Samuel French. It is perfect to produce the premiere in Ventura, which is also known as Two Trees (the name of the town in the story).”
“The play will take audiences on a breathtaking thrill ride,” says Burns. “It is filled with humor, high-stakes romance, and life-and-death situations. And the characters are just delicious,” she adds. “Somehow they are both archetypes and gritty, flawed, complex, real humans to whom we can relate.”
“What we hope to achieve with our production,” continues Burns, “is a melding of two worlds and styles. The play is set in the past and we want to be true to the time period (which will be reflected in Alex Jaeger’s gorgeous costumes). But it also questions the role of the fable in forging the legends of the West and looks at current issues of integrity and ambition in politics. So we are working towards more spare, stark and sexy production values with sets and lights, and using original underscoring and some electric music in places to bridge the historical and the contemporary.”
THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE opens on Sat., Mar. 5 at 7 p.m. at Rubicon Theatre, 1006 E. Main Street, Ventura, CA 93001 (the corner of Main and Laurel). There will be a Western-Themed Pre-Show Event with a step-and-repeat and country station KHAY-FM broadcasting a live radio remote at the theatre. After the performance, guests are invited to join the cast and local VIP’s to an after party at Watermark on Main. Low-priced previews are Wed., Mar. 2 at 7 p.m., Thurs., Mar. 3 at 8 p.m. and Fri., Mar. 4 at 8 p.m. The production continues for a limited run through Sun., Mar. 20. For tickets, call (805) 667-2900.