by Lawrence Wright
Originally produced at Alley Theatre, Houston, TX
April 6 to April 29, 2018
About the Premiere Production:
Synopsis: Set during the filming of the disastrous 1963 movie Cleopatra, Cleo is the story of the scandalous romance of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Their relationship brought condemnation from the Vatican and the US Congress, and it opened the age of paparazzi and tabloid celebrity, ensuring that the names Burton and Taylor would always be associated with the greatest sex scandal in ancient history. Acclaimed director and actor Bob Balaban (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Gosford Park and multiple films with Christopher Guest including Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show) directs this new play by the Texas-based, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lawrence Wright.
Artistic Statement: Cleo is a romantic play about the real people behind the major tabloid scandal. But what you wouldn’t expect about this story of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton is that it was penned by Lawrence Wright, one of the great minds writing today. Wright is best known as a New Yorker journalist who won a Pulitzer Prize for his book The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. He also co-produced the Emmy-winning documentary about Scientology, “Going Clear,” which was based on his book of the same name. With Wright’s reputation outside of the theatre and the play’s subject matter, we expect other theaters will be compelled to produce this exciting new work.
Though Wright is mainly identified as a journalist, he has already had success as a playwright. His play Camp David, about the Camp David Peace Accords, was produced at the Arena Stage in Washington D.C. and The Old Globe in San Diego. He has had plays produced at The Public Theater and Berkeley Rep, among other theaters. The Alley’s relationship with Wright began with the reading of Cleo at the inaugural Alley All New Festival in February 2016. Given that Wright is both talented and based nearby in Austin, we are delighted to be premiering this play and hope it will be the first of many collaborations with him.
Director: Bob Balaban
Set Designer: Richard Hoover
Lighting Designer: David Weiner
Costume Designer: Alejo Vietti
Sound Designer:John Gromada
Additional funders: Jerry & Nanette Finger Family Foundation, Associate Producers; Trini Mendenhall, Associate Producer; Christina and Stephen C. Morse, Associate Producers; Bank of America, Supporting Sponsor; Rand Group, Supporting Sponsor