The Birthday Party, by Harold Pinter
Directed by Dan Wirth
Fall 2006
Poster from Dan Wirth
In a small house at a coastal resort live a man, his mentally wayward wife and their boarder who has been with them for a year. He is a strange chap, unkempt and in flight from we know not what. Enter an even stranger sleek Jewish man and his muscle bound Irish henchman. The mentally immature wife accommodates them with a room and then decides that it is time for the boarder to have a birthday. At the party she arranges, the new guests play cruel games with the boarder break his glasses, make a buffoon of him, and push him over the psychotic precipice. The next morning he is reduced to a gibbering idiot and meekly leaves with them.

Stanley arrives at the small boarding house thinking it will be just the place for the quietness that comes from seclusion. He soon discovers just how wrong he is when a mistimed birthday party is thrust upon him and he is showered with unwelcome attention. Everyone in the house seems to want a piece of Stanley, but their motives are unclear. This absurdist comedy tugs at emotional strings as we see Stanley prodded and pulled from his comfortable shell and pushed into the spotlight for the entertainment of his hosts and the audience.
(Samuel French, Inc. Catalog)

"Fascinating capacity to be menacing, ominous and evocative of some dark and threatening doom." N.Y. Post.

"The most interesting play to be seen on Broadway." N.Y. Times.
Director’s Note

Stanley Webber lives in a run down bed and breakfast in a seaside town south of London. His hosts are Meg and Petey Boles, a couple in their sixties. Every day is the same. Then two men show up. They seem to have come for him. He appears to know they have come for him and he is filled with fear. He tries to convince them to leave with a combination of charm, reassurances, begging, and threats. He is given a birthday party amidst protestations that it is not his birthday. He becomes increasingly agitated, and during a game of Blind Man’s Bluff he tries to strangle Meg. All the lights go out, and when the two men shine a flashlight on him, we see he is attacking Lulu, a young woman attending the party. The next morning he appears, well-groomed and well-dressed but mute, and is taken away by the two men.

What does it all mean? Who are the men? Why do they want Stanley? What did he do? In an exchange of letters published in the London Daily Mail, November 28, 1967, we see Pinter’s attitude toward giving interpretations of his work. The first letter:

"Dear Mr. Pinter,
"I would be obliged if you would kindly explain to me the meaning of your play, The Birthday Party. These are the points which I do not understand: (1) Who are the two men? (2) Where did Stanley come from? (3) Were they all supposed to be normal? You will appreciate that without the answers to my questions I cannot fully understand your play."

Pinter replies:
"Dear Madam,
"I would be obliged if you would kindly explain the meaning of your letter. These are the points which I do not understand: (1) Who are you? (2) Where do you come from? (3) Are you supposed to be normal? You will appreciate that without the answers to my questions, I cannot fully understand your letter."

Perhaps Pinter is being too flippant, but there does come a point when we stop thinking and want everything handed to us. We have been grooming our expectations on films and television, where everything is presented in a real world and there is a justifiable cause for all actions.

But. . . does it really matter that we know who the two men are, where Stanley is from, or even the psychological state of the people? What we are seeing is a theatrical presentation, terrifying, funny, confusing, sad but an event that only exists because we, the company, are presenting it to you, the audience, the only conditions that create theatre. We are left with a sense of genuine unease, as though indescribable evil really were stalking outside the door of even the most ordinary of homes, awaiting its chance to enter. So to paraphrase Goldberg, "Sit back, relax, take it easy... remember, don’t worry; only you know what it all means."

The Birthday Party opened on Broadway on my 12th birthday. This was 12 years before I met the director of the production, Alan Schneider. He became a mentor and a friend to me until his tragic death in 1984. It is to him that I dedicate this production. I’d like to think he is still with us, and is a guest at The Birthday Party.

- Dan Wirth


Cast:

Petey............Chris Leonard
Meg..............Kara Ewinger
Stanley..........Marshall Brown
Lulu.............Stephanie Wyatt
Goldberg.........Patrick Garone
McCann...........Frank Past

Production Crew:

Producer...... Anna Antaramian
Director......Dan Wirth
Stage Manager...... Rachel Backing
Assistant Director/Assistant Stage Manager...... Sara Moss
Scenic Designer/Co-Technical Director......Lizz Otto-Cramer
Lighting Designer/Co-Technical Director...... John Rodriguez
Costume Designer....... Jana Anderson
Sound Designer.......Leroyd Manuel
House Manager......Lauren Carter
Box Office Manager....... Jamie Kolacki
Bookkeeper......Becca Raven Uminowicz
Light Board Operator....... Beth Turkin
Sound Operator....... James Mallory
Running Crew.......Javier Delgado
Fight Choreographer......Dan Wirth
Playbill Designer.......David Ropinski
Set Crew.......Theatre Practicum class



"How oftten is it a pleasure to meet someonet it's a pleasure to meet?"  Meg (Kara Ewinger),  McCann (Frank Past), Goldberg (Patrick Garone) A black-and-tan fact
McCann (Frank Past),  Stanley (Marshall Brown.),  Goldberg (Patrick Garone)
The Little Drummer Boy
Stanley (Marshall Brown.), Meg (Kara Ewinger)




"Stop doing that!"
McCann (Frank Past), Goldberg (Patrick Garone)
"Oh, that's better."
Lulu (Stephanie Wyatt.)
"What two men?"
Stanley (Marshall Brown.), Meg (Kara Ewinger)



Blind Man's Bluff
Stanley (Marshall Brown.),  Meg (Kara Ewinger)
"I was the bell of the ball!" 
Meg (Kara Ewinger), Petey (Chris Leonard.)
"Blow in my mouth"
McCann (Frank Past), Goldberg (Patrick Garone)



A New Man
Stanley (Marshall Brown.), McCann (Frank Past)
"The drum's broken."
Meg (Kara Ewinger)
"Don't let them tell you what to do."
Petey (Chris Leonard.)



"He's only been unfrocked six months."
Lulu (Stephanie Wyatt), Goldberg (Patrick Garone), McCann (Frank Past)
"The bastard sweatpig is sweating."
Stanley (Marshall Brown.), McCann (Frank Past)
"What's your opinion?"
Goldberg (Patrick Garone), Stanley (Marshall Brown), McCann (Frank Past)
(Publicity Photos)
The hostess with something a little less than the mostest, Meg (Kara Ewinger) with husband Petey (Chris Leonard.) Goldberg (Patrick Garone) has his own little party with Lulu (Stephanie Wyatt.) The party givers, Goldberg (Patrick Garone, right) and McCann (Frank Past, left), close in on Stanley (Marshall Brown.)

Marshall Brown (Stanley) is a junior currently majoring Biological Anthropology with a minor in Theatre at Northeastern. This is his second appearance at the Stage Center Theatre. He is tremendously thrilled to be working with such a swell cast and splendid crew. He would like to extend loving gratitude to his family for their unfaltering patience and support. Enjoy!


Kara Ewinger (Meg) recently celebrated her first year anniversary of moving to Chicago. She has performed with Appetite Theatre, The Towle Theater, Red Tape Theatre Company, and Act 1 Studios. Prior to her move she was an ensemble member of Dreamwell Theatre, and performed with various companies in Iowa City, Iowa. She received her B.A. in Theatre Arts from the University of Iowa. She has also lived in Wellington, New Zealand, where she studied theatre and performed in several productions.


Patrick Garone (Goldberg) is a senior at NEIU majoring in Communications, Media and Theater. He is big fan of Harold Pinter’s work and is thrilled to get this great opportunity to work on The Birthday Party. His favorite roles here at NEIU have included Pablo Picasso in Picasso at the Lapin Agile and Les Kenkat in Boy Gets Girl. Patrick has directed the CMT Studio Shows, Was He Anyone? and his own sketch revue Backwardly Mobile. He is also currently serving as the Artistic Director of ¡Salsation! Theatre Company and directed their recent sketch show, The FANTA Menace.


Christopher Leonard (Petey, Dialect Coach) is pleased to be working with such a talented cast and director. Chris has been seen in many plays at the Stage Center over the past three years, dating back to the role of "Moon" in The Real Inspector Hound. Chris has just completed his master’s degree in linguistics here at Northeastern, and plans to teach in order to support his acting habit. Be sure to check out Chris’ directorial debut; he will be directing The Actor’s Nightmare as part of the Studio Series here in February.


Frank Past (McCann) is extremely pleased to be involved in this production of The Birthday Party. An English major minoring in Theatre, Frank was most recently seen performing the role of Zanni in the Stage Center Theatre’s production of, The Three Cuckolds. Frank would like to thank his family and friends and of course this most talented cast and crew for their support and tireless effort.


Stephanie Wyatt (Lulu) "He stood there watching her sleep, staring, wondering, waiting. She awoke and was startled by this mysterious figure standing, like a shudder some silhouette in her doorway! Spasmodically he slithered in like the Grinch who stole Christmas from the helpless Whos. The figure skated toward her closet like Tanya Harding on a bad day, he grabbed a mysterious object from her closet and upon leaving he simply and so eloquently stated, "There is cereal in the kitchen but...no Milk!" She lay there heart beating fast (insert creepy music)." This excerpt was taken from a book that has not been written yet by Stephanie called, When I moved to Chicago and in with a Creepy roommate that I found on Craigslist. Stephanie moved to Chicago in June and since she has been here she has experienced the following: 1. Creepy Roommate, 2. Rodents, 3. A Narcoleptic Carpooling Buddy, and 4. Twenty Five Cent beer (Hey they aren’t all bad). She absolutely loves being in Chicago and is having the time of her life! Stephanie would like to leave the audience with a famous quote that is very dear to her, "Eagles may soar but weasels never get sucked into jet engines."

Harold Pinter (Playwright), the son of a Jewish tailor, was born in East London in 1930. He started writing poetry for little magazines in his teens. As a young man, he studied acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and the Central School of Speech and Drama, but soon left to undertake an acting career under the stage name David Baron. He travelled around Ireland in a Shakespearean company and spent years working in provincial repertory before deciding to turn his attention to playwriting.

Pinter started writing plays in 1957. He had mentioned an idea for a play to a friend who worked in the drama department at Bristol University. The friend liked the idea so much that he wrote to Pinter asking for the play. The only problem was that if the university was to perform the play, they would need a script within the week. Pinter wrote back and told his friend to forget the whole thing--then sat down and wrote the play in four days. The product of his labors, a one-act entitled The Room, contained many of the elements that would characterize Pinter’s later works--namely a commonplace situation gradually invested with menace and mystery through the deliberate omission of an explanation or motivation for the action. Later this same year, Pinter would develop his style still further in another oneact, The Dumb Waiter, about two hired killers employed by a mysterious organization to murder an unknown victim. In this second play, Pinter added an element of comedy, provided mostly through the brilliant small-talk behind which the two men hide their growing anxiety. Their discussion over whether it is more proper to say "light the kettle" or "light the gas" is wildly comic and terrifying in its absurdity. The Dumb Waiter was first performed at the Hampstead Theatre Club in London in 1960.

Although written after The Dumb Waiter, Pinter’s first full-length play (The Birthday Party) was produced two years earlier in 1958 at the Arts Theatre in Cambridge. The play centers around Stanley, an apathetic man in his thirties who has found refuge in a dingy seaside boarding house which has apparently had no other visitors for years. But when Goldberg and McCann (characters reminiscent of the hired assassins in The Dumb Waiter) arrive, it soon becomes clear that they are after Stanley. Like Samuel Beckett, Pinter refuses to provide rational explanations for the actions of his characters. Are the two men emissaries of some secret organization Stanley has betrayed? Are they male nurses sent to bring him back to an asylum he has escaped from? The question is never answered. Instead, the two men organize a birthday party for a terrified Stanley who insists that it is not his birthday.

He is married to Lady Antonia Fraser.

Dan Wirth (Director) has been involved with Theatre for more than 30 years. He has an M.F.A. from The University of California, San Diego, and a B.S. from Central Michigan University. As a professional actor, he toured throughout the United States with The Acting Company. While in New York City, he performed at the Public Theatre, the Harold Clurman Theatre, the 18th Street Playhouse, the Lamb’s Theatre, Playwright’s Horizons, The American Place Theatre, and the Actor’s and Director’s Lab (later renamed the Samuel Beckett Theatre.) In Europe, he performed at the Edinburgh International Theatre Festival and in London’s West End. Regionally, he has appeared at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, and the Utah and Oregon Shakespeare Festivals. He has worked with the esteemed directors Alan Schneider, Joseph Papp, Michael Langham, Liviu Ciulei, Garland Wright, Jerry Turner, and Sharon Ott. Dan was a Chicago Cub in the film Rookie of the Year. An award winning playwright, Dan’s plays have been performed in Ohio, California, and Washington, D.C. Dan has directed for six theatre companies in the Chicago area. Also a published poet and a film maker, Dan has taught theatre and communication courses at Dominican University, Wright College, Harper College, Oakton Community College, Daley College, and Lake Forest College. At Northeastern Dan has directed Dracula, Buried Child, Little Murders, The Curate Shakespeare As You Like It, and The Nerd, four Children’s Theatre productions, and five Summer Transition Program Drama Workshops. He appeared on stage here a few seasons back as a very large Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest. This is his 11th year at Northeastern, and he is the proud parent of two terrific children, Ian (16) and Kailey (11.)

Lizz Otto-Cramer (Set Desiger, Co-Technical Director) earned her Master of Fine Arts at the School of the Arts in Winston-Salem North Carolina. She has been working professionally since graduation and has designed and painted in Milwaukee WI, North Carolina, and Washington D.C. Her credits include Dracula, Fiddler on the Roof, A Christmas Story, and Cole among others.

John Rodriguez (Lighting Desiger, Co- Technical Director) joined the theatre faculty at Northeastern three years ago and has been teaching courses in technical theatre as well as working as a designer on Stage Center productions. John shares responsibilities of Technical Director along with Lizz Otto- Cramer. John most recently designed the set and lighting for
Dracula and the lighting for Picasso at the Lapin Agile.

Jana Anderson (Costume Design) after working on
Dracula in the fall, is delighted to be working with Stage Center Theatre again. Her work has been featured by numerous theater groups including Redmoon Theater, Light Opera Works, Irish Repertory Theatre, Rivendell, Experimental Theatre and Collaboraction. Prior to coming to the United States, Jana created elaborate costumes for classical opera productions at the Slovak National Theater in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia. She also attended the University of Art in Bratislava, where her interest in working on period pieces originated. For this production she had to find a way to incorporate unique and completely different styles of various historical periods and make them work together side by side. Since moving to Chicago in 1997 her focus has been to create costumes for theatres. However her costume designs have also be featured in fashion photo shoots and advertising campaigns. When she is not preparing costumes for theatrical productions, Jana is busy designing and creating unique haute-couture fashions for individual clients in the United States and Europe.


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