Central Square Theater presents the gender-bending, Off-Broadway hit about our own hometown boys' rise to fame, MATT & BEN by Mindy Kaling (of NBC's The Office) and Brenda Withers, featuring Marianna Bassham and Philana Mia. M. Bevin O'Gara directs. The press performance is Sunday, July 10 at 2PM.
We all know the story: Best friends from Cambridge write a screenplay, star in the hit movie, win the Academy Award, and suddenly the world can't get enough of them. But what's the real story behind Matt Damon and Ben Affleck's breakout success? Can fame literally land in your lap? MATT & BEN comes home to Cambridge with a sharp skewering of celebrity culture and an affectionate look at Boston's favorite bromance. Warning: MATT & BEN contains strong language.
When Good Will Hunting captured the 1998 Oscar for Best Original Screenplay before 1 billion television viewers, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck rocketed from struggling young actors to household names and icons of hard-earned success. They had made their own way, penning a script with roles for themselves that forever changed their lives. Hometown boys who had made the big time, Damon and Affleck became Boston's - and the nation's - "Matt & Ben".
Fast-forward to the summer of 2001. Recent Dartmouth College graduates Mindy Kaling and Brenda Withers are camped out in their apartment in Astoria trying to beat the heat wave outside. They notice that Ben Affleck's face is on the cover of almost every tabloid on the newsstands or in their mailbox. Immersing themselves in the gossip, they realize with curiosity that Damon and Affleck had not shown screenwriting promise before Good Will Hunting. So how did they do it? Around this skepticism they begin to improvise the plot for their own artistic vehicle, featuring Kaling as Ben and Withers as Matt.
MATT & BEN had its world premiere at the New York Fringe Festival in 2002, where it won "Best in Fringe" (Best Overall Production). In 2003, it began a successful Off-Broadway run, where it was named one of Time magazine's "Top Ten Theatrical Events," was on Rolling Stone's "Hot List", and was the only play invited to appear at the HBO sponsored U.S. Comedy and Arts Festival in Aspen, CO. Since then, the play has been produced around the United States and abroad.
Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Mindy Kaling (playwright) graduated from Dartmouth College in 2001. She has appeared in such movies as The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005), Night at the Museum (2009), and No Strings Attached (2011). Since 2005, she has been a writer, co-executive producer and actor on NBC's critically acclaimed television show, The Office, for which she has won a Writers Guild Award, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and a 2006 Emmy Award. Her new book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), comes out at the end of 2011.
Brenda Withers (playwright) grew up in Long Island, New York, and graduated from Dartmouth College in 2000. She has appeared on such television shows such as Law and Order: Criminal Intent and The Office. Theater credits include productions of Pride and Prejudice (Jane), Crimes of the Heart (Chick Boyle), and The Philadelphia Story (Tracy Lord). Withers is company member and playwright at the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theatre (WHAT) in Wellfleet, MA. Her play The Ding Dongs or What is the Penalty in Portugal? will premiere at the WHAT Harbor Stage this September.
MATT & BEN is the second Central Square Theater production to be produced under the auspices of the organization's Leadership Program, which engages our region's brightest emerging artists for dynamic collaborations on professional stage productions. Following in the footsteps of last season's hit, The Hound of the Baskervilles, the creative team, under the artistic direction of Alison R. Klejna, is comprised of an exceptional group of young theater professionals, many new to Central Square Theater. M. Bevin O'Gara, the Huntington Theatre Company's Associate Producer, directs the production with a design team including IRNE Award-winner Dahlia Al-Habieli (sets), Miranda Giurleo (costumes), and Aaron Sherkow (lighting). Nathan Leigh, winner of the 2010 IRNE Award for The Hound of the Baskervilles, returns as the Sound Designer. Megan Kinneen is the properties coordinator. The production stage manager is Dominique D. Burford.
Elliot Norton Award-winner Marianna Bassham, returns to the Central Square Theater stage as Ben. Philana Mia makes her Central Square Theater debut in the role of Matt.
Marianna Bassham (Ben) returns to Central Square Theater, where she last appeared in The Nora Theatre Company's Not Enough Air. Around town: Othello (Commonwealth Shakespeare Company); Blackbird (Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Actress), In the Next Room (or the vibrator play) and Reckless (SpeakEasy Stage Company); Little Black Dress by Ronan Noone (Boston Playwrights' Theatre); A Streetcar Named Desire, Silence, Tartuffe, Picasso at the Lapin Agile and Quills (New Repertory Theatre). She received a 2009 IRNE Award for her work in Reckless and Little Black Dress. A resident Acting Company member with Actors' Shakespeare Project, she has appeared in the Elliot Norton Award-winning ensemble of The Hotel Nepenthe, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Hamlet, Love's Labor's Lost, and The Merchant of Venice; Miss Witherspoon and Talley's Folly (The Lyric Stage Company of Boston); Gaslight and The Rimers of Eldritch (Stoneham Theatre); and Heart of Jade with CentaStage and Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater. Regional credits: The Majestic Theater, Great Lakes Theater Festival, Oldcastle Theatre, New Century Theatre, and St. Michael's Playhouse.
Philana Mia (Matt) makes her debut with Central Square Theater in Matt & Ben. Recent credits include: Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead (Moses Mogilee/NYC), Melancholy Play (Holland Productions), The Wonderful World of Dissocia (Apollinaire Theatre Company), and The Pain and the Itch (Company One). Film: Whaling City (dir. Jay Burke), winner of the 2007 Sundance Feature Film Production Grant, and Silver Circle (Lineplot Productions/dir. Pasha Roberts). Television: Louis Brandeis: The People's Attorney (PBS/Stuart Productions). She holds a BA from Emerson College.
M. Bevin O'Gara (Director) is currently the Associate Producer at the Huntington Theatre Company. Directing credits include: 2.5 Minute Ride (Downstage @ New Rep), IRNE Award nomination for Best Solo Performance; The Pain and the Itch (Company One), IRNE Award nomination for Best Director and Best Ensemble; Two Wives of India, Gary (Boston Playwrights Theatre), Elliot Norton nomination for Best Production; Othello, The Crucible (New Rep On Tour); Bat Boy (Metro Stage Company); Melancholy Play (Holland Productions); Tattoo Girl, Painting You, Artifacts (Williamstown Theatre Workshop); Anti-Kiss (3 Monkey's Theatrical Productions); Play It Again Sam (Footlight Club); and La Cage Aux Follies and the upcoming Anything Goes (Longwood Players). O'Gara has been working for the Huntington Theatre Company since 2002, previously holding the positions of Artistic Associate, Assistant to the Artistic Director and Faye Stone Literary Intern. From 2006 to 2008 she was the Artistic Associate at New Repertory Theatre in Watertown, MA. She is the recipient of Company One's 2011 Lois Roach Award for Outstanding Commitment to the Boston Theatre Community. Other companies include Gaiety Theatre of Dublin and the Actor's Center of Australia. Bevin holds a BFA from Boston University in Theatre Studies.
MATT & BEN plays at Central Square Theater, 450 Mass. Ave. in Cambridge, Thursday, July 7 through Sunday, July 31. Performances are Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30PM, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 2PM and 7PM. Tickets are priced at $40 for weeknights (including Sunday nights) and $45 for Weekends (including Fridays), with discounts for seniors (ages 62+), students ($25 with college ID), and youth ($15, ages 18 and under). Tickets are purchased by calling (866) 811-4111, online at centralsquaretheater.org, or at the CST box office. For box office hours, group discounts, and more information call (617) 576-9278 x210.
Central Square Theater is a three-year old nonprofit organization, created through a groundbreaking partnership between The Nora Theatre Company (The Nora) and Underground Railway Theater (URT). This collaboration has been called a model for the arts community (The Boston Foundation, Culture is our Commonwealth and The National Collaboration Prize) as it has paired two like-minded performing arts organizations in a strategic alliance with the City of Cambridge and MIT, resulting in the development of a state-of-the-art performing arts center in the heart of Central Square. CST has a mission to support its two theaters-in-residence while maintaining a shared vision of artists and audiences creating theater vital to their communities. The Nora and URT have a combined 52-year track record of producing award-winning theater. Located in Central Square, Cambridge, and steeped in its multiracial, intergenerational, ethnically and economically diverse neighborhoods, the CST theater experience exudes a democratic energy where classes, races and age groups come together to be inspired, entertained and energized.