Auctioning the Ainsleys
by Laura Schellhardt
directed by Meredith McDonough
originally produced at TheatreWorks,
Palo Alto, CA.
July 17, 2010
through August 8, 2010
Going once…going twice…The bids come fast and furious as a family of professional auctioneers puts its heart, its heritage, and even its darkest secrets on the block in this comic drama that electrified our New Works Festival. With a brilliant flair for mystery, language, and laughter, one of America’s hottest young playwrights explores what happens when what we own becomes more important than who we are.
from New Works Director, Meredith McDonough
Is my great pleasure to be opening our 41st season with world premiere of Auctioning the Ainsleys as the cornerstone of our New Works Festival where it was first seen in workshop form one short year ago! This project is special, and is a perfect illustration of the artistic partnerships that develop between New Works Initiative artists and TheatreWorks. When I first came across a Laura Schellhardt’s Auctioning the Ainsleys as a reading at the Northlight Theatre in Chicago, I had just gone through the painful process of packing of my childhood home. This difficult time, the literal packing of my past, choosing what gets discarded and what must be held close was one of the loneliest moments in my life. This deeply personal experience made me feel as if no one else could understand what I was going through. And yet, as I watched the delightful story unfold before me, and as the audience laughed, cried, and sighed along with me, I realized that this play was speaking to a common part of our hearts. The part that we eternally carry with us after the last of the family heirlooms are auctioned away, the part that cherishes the memory of our childhood home, the part that never quite lets go of yesteryear. Simultaneously, the play encourages the process of letting go, helping us realize that we are not defined by our belongings, and that we are truly who we are – solid and strong on our own two feet. Auctioning the Ainsleys celebrates the depth and duality of this uniquely personal time of transition in truthful and moving way.
Schellhardt builds on that connection as she magically paints the physical world; here, objects literally disappear as the mother slips closer to her final moments. This is a play of the American repertoire – it’s beautiful and delicate story is one that audiences of all backgrounds can share and is one for which you must be in a theatre to fully experience. The complexities of its characters contrasted with the delight of its magical realism are the same as those that draw us to Williams and Kushner and Ruhl. At this moment in the American Theatre, I believe we need to support and further our truly theatrical playwrights – this is a time to ignite our audiences’ imagination, not coddle them with sitcom stories and situations. Its captivating theatrical style and its exploration of the resilience of the human spirit is what ensures Auctioning the Ainsleys a place in the repertoire of frequently produced American plays.
Director: Meredith McDonough
Set Design: Annie Smart
Lighting Design: Paul Toben
Sound Design: Cliff Caruthers
Costume Design: Annie Smart
Cast: Alice Ainsley - Diane Dorsey*
Avery Ainsley - Heidi Kettenring*
Aiden Ainsley - Liam Vincent
Annalee Ainsley - Molly Anne Coogan*
Amelia Ainsley - Jessica Lynn Carroll*
Arthur - Lance Gardner*