Mission & History
Literature to Life, The American Place Theatre’s performance-based literacy program which premiered in 1992, presents professionally stages verbatim adaptations of significant American literary works. This educational program gives students a new form of access to literature by bringing to life the world of books with performances that create an atmosphere of discovery and spark the imagination. Literature to Life encourages reading, writing, and critical thinking and has already provided a catalyst for learning and self-expression for over 400,000 students nationwide.
In recent years, we have unified our innovative Arts Education Programs under the umbrella of Literature to Life® including Literature to Life Stage Presentations, which present professionally staged verbatim adaptations of significant American literary works; Literature to Life Residencies, in-school residencies that encourage creative drama as a means of student self-expression and a catalyst for literacy; Literature to Life Professional Development, a series of workshops for teachers that provide them with strategies for using dramatic techniques in the classroom; and Literature to Life Teaching Artist Training, a series with professional teaching artists in specific preparation for leading Literature to Life Residencies.
In the grand tradition of The Theatre's mainstage production history, plays dealing with minority and immigrant experiences continue to be emphasized. Recently produced Literature to Life adaptations with minority themes were China Boy (Chinese-American), Annie John (Caribbean) and The House on Mango Street (Latin-American).
Also produced are plays based on oral histories including Growing up a Slave, The Liberty Project, and Voices of War, a commissioned project by the Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress. Newest adaptations include New York Times Bestsellers The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls among others.
Now in its 49th Season (2010-11), The Theatre is led by Artistic Director/Co-founder Wynn Handman, Executive Director David Kener, and Managing Director Jennifer Barnette in conjunction with an active Board of Trustees and a staff of five. The American Place Theatre was founded in 1963 by Wynn Handman, Sidney Lanier, and Michael Tolan at St. Clement’s Church, far west on 46th Street in Manhattan and was incorporated as a not-for-profit theatre in that year. Tennessee Williams and Myrna Loy were two of the original Board members. The first full production was Robert Lowell’s theatre trilogy masterpiece, The Old Glory, in November 1964.
In addition to poet Robert Lowell, The American Place Theatre has produced and developed the first plays of outstanding writers from other literary forms including Donald Barthelme, Robert Coover, Paul Goodman, H.L. Mencken, Joyce Carol Oates, S.J. Perelman, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, May Swenson, and Robert Penn Warren.
Significant playwrights have been nurtured and, in many cases, initially produced at The American Place, such as:
- Sam Shepard (8 plays including one co-authored with Joseph Chaikin)
- Ronald Ribman (6)
- Steve Tesich (6)
- Maria Irene Fornes (4 including one produced as part of The Women’s Project)
- Ed Bullins (5)
- Philip Hayes Dean (3)
- William Hauptman (3)
- Jonathan Reynolds (4)
- William Alfred
- Emily Mann
- Richard Nelson
Also, major attention has been brought to unusual contemporary actor/writers such as Eric Bogosian, Bill Irwin, John Leguizamo, Aasif Mandvi, and Dael Orlandersmith.
The American Place Theatre played an important role in the emerging African-American theatre beginning in the early 1960’s by producing the first productions of plays by Michael Bradford, Ed Bullins, Kia Corthron, James de Jongh, Joseph Edward, Lonne Elder III, Phillip Hayes Dean, Elaine Jackson, Alonzo D. Lamont Jr., Ron Milner, Matt Robinson, Charlie L. Russell, and Vincent Smith.
Our American Humorists’ Series has transferred from the page to live performance the work of outstanding humorous writers, among them George Ade, Robert Benchley, Roy Blount Jr., A. Whitney Brown, Jules Feiffer, Bruce Jay Friedman, Cynthia Heimel, Dorothy Parker, Roger Rosenblatt, Damon Runyon, Jean Shepherd, James Thurber, and Calvin Trillin.
In 1978, The Women’s Project, directed by Julia Miles, was designed to encourage, develop, and produce women playwrights and directors. After nine years of producing many groundbreaking works at The American Place, the project has grown into a separate entity.
Actors for whom The American Place has been a launching pad include Mary Alice, Ellen Barkin, Roscoe Lee Browne, Kathleen Chalfont, Michael Douglas, Faye Dunaway, Sandy Duncan, Morgan Freeman, Richard Gere, Joel Grey, Dustin Hoffman, Frank Langella, Mary MacDonnell, Zakes Mokae, Howard Rollins, John Spencer, Ralph Waite, Sam Waterson, and Sigourney Weaver.
The Kite Runner-WIOct 29
The Kite Runner-WI
When: October 29, 2012 at 2:56pm
For ticket and reservation information please visit the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire website.
Bring Literature to Life to your school! Visit The Kite Runner Roster Page to fill out a booking inquiry form.
To connect with audiences, artists and media: http://www.literaturetolife.org/kite