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“We’re all of us sentenced to solitary confinement inside our own skins, for life.”—Tennessee Williams, Orpheus Descending

Orpheus Descending
By Tennessee Williams
Featuring Christopher Abbott and Maggie Siff
Directed by Erica Schmidt
July 9 – August 6, 2023

Tennessee Williams’ Orpheus Descending is a uniquely imaginative mix of styles. It is steamy and lyrical, a love story and a tragedy, blending realism, expressionism and poetry, and tells the story of the passion of two outcasts—Lady Torrance, a storekeeper’s wife and daughter of a murdered Sicilian bootlegger and Val, a wandering guitar player—and their doomed attempt to escape from a Southern Hell. Set in a dry-goods store in the 1950s deep South, the play’s toxic brew of racist violence, bigotry, misogyny, provincialism, and sexual passion evokes an American past that unfortunately is not the past, and that seethes with hatred, savagery, and  longing for liberation. Christopher Abbott will play Val and Maggie Siff, Lady Torrance.

Frank Rich, in his 1989 New York Times review of Orpheus Descending, wrote that the play was ”a pivotal chapter in the author’s canon, reverberating throughout his career.” Erica Schmidt, who adapted and directed Shakespeare’s Macbeth for seven schoolgirls entitled Mac Beth (“raucously exuberant,” New York Times Critics Pick), stages, in her TFANA debut, this seldom-seen Williams masterpiece. 

Christopher Abbott (Actor). Christopher Abbott’s feature credits include: Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things, Jerrod Carmichael’s On the Count of Three, Brandon Cronenberg’s Possessor, Lawrence Michael Levine’s Black Bear, Nicolas Pesce’s Piercing and Trey Shults’ It Comes at Night. Abbott was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for his work in the lead role of Hulu’s limited series Catch-22 directed by George Clooney. He was also nominated for both an Independent Spirit Award and a Gotham Award for his portrayal of the title role in Josh Mond’s James White. He is about to begin production on Swimming Home, a film adaptation of the Man Booker Prize-nominated novel by Deborah Levy. On stage, Abbott made his Broadway debut in John Guare’s The House of Blue Leaves. Other theatrical work includes The Rose Tattoo at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, Lucy Thurber’s Where We’re Born at Rattlestick Theater, Annie Baker’s John at Signature Theatre, and Sam Shepard’s Fool for Love at the Williamstown Theatre Festival.

Maggie Siff (Actor) is about to start shooting the seventh season of Showtime’s Billions (three Satellite Award nominations). She is also known for the FX series Sons of Anarchy (two Critics’ Choice Award nominations), and for playing “Rachel Menken” on the first season of AMC’s Mad Men (Screen Actors Guild Award nomination). Recent films include The Short History of the Long Road, A Woman/A Part, The Sweet Life, The Fifth Wave, One Percent More Humid, and Concussion. Siff is also an established theater actress, starring most recently in Signature Theatre’s production of Curse of the Starving Class, as well as in A Lie of the Mind at the New Group (directed by Ethan Hawke) and in Much Ado About Nothing and The Taming of the Shrew at TFANA.

Erica Schmidt (Director) adapted/directed Cyrano with The National (Goodspeed, New Group); and directed MacBeth (Lucille Lortel, Hunter Theater Project, Drama Desk nominations for Best Direction and Revival and Lortel nomination for Best Revival); All the Fine Boys (The New Group); Richard 2 (The Old Globe); A Month in the Country (Classic Stage Company); Taking Care of Baby (Manhattan Theatre Club); Humor Abuse (co-creator/director; MTC, The Taper; Lucille Lortel Award); Rent (Tokyo); Trust (The Play Company, Callaway Award nominee); As You Like It (The Public Theater); Debbie Does Dallas (adapted/directed Off-Broadway; Princess Grace Award 2001). Schmidt wrote the screenplay for Cyrano (BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations for Best Film).



Deloitte and Bloomberg Philanthropies are the 2022-2023 Season Sponsors.

Principal support for Theatre for a New Audience’s season and programs is provided by the Jerome L. Greene Foundation Fund in the New York Community Trust, The SHS Foundation, The Shubert Foundation, and The Thompson Family Foundation.

Theatre for a New Audience’s season and programs are also made possible, in part, with public funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Shakespeare in American Communities, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest; the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature; and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.