THE SECOND INTERNATIONAL THORNTON WILDER CONFERENCE
NEWPORT, RI | JUNE 11 – 13, 2015
Playwright Paula Vogel, Tony Nominee Maria Dizzia and Experts from
Three Continents Gather for Three-Day Event
Excerpts To Be Read From A Newly Discovered Wilder Play
(New York, NY) — Celebration and study of Thornton Wilder will take over Newport, Rhode Island, for the Second International Thornton Wilder Conference, a three-day event with more than 20 presentations, round table conversations, panel discussions, readings and events featuring leading academics and theater professionals from countries including France, China, Iran, Italy, Mexico, Switzerland and the United States.
The conference includes Pulitzer Prize winner Paula Vogel and Pulitzer Prize finalist Will Eno giving their perspectives on Wilder as playwrights; Tony nominee and Orange is the New Black star Maria Dizzia reading from Wilder’s work; the presentation of excerpts from a newly discovered, unfinished play by Wilder, set in Capri, entitled Villa Rhabani; award-winning artistic director of Connecticut’s Long Wharf Theatre Gordon Edelstein in conversation about directing Wilder’s plays; and Tappan Wilder, Thornton Wilder’s nephew, sharing anecdotes from his 20-year history managing the Wilder Estate.
“Our event reflects Wilder’s wide-ranging and eclectic interests and talents in its inclusion of playwrights, theater directors and performers, as well as literature, theater, classics, and American studies scholars from around the world,” said Thornton Wilder Society President Jackson R. Bryer. “With academic talks, roundtable discussions, and readings from Wilder’s plays and novels, there’s something for everyone here.”
Thornton Wilder (1897-1975) is one of America’s most celebrated writers. The Bridge of San Luis Rey, one of his seven novels, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1928, and his next-to-last novel, The Eighth Day, received the National Book Award in 1968. Two of his four major plays garnered Pulitzer Prizes, Our Town (1938) and The Skin of Our Teeth (1943). His play The Matchmaker ran on Broadway for 486 performances (1955-57), and was later adapted into the record-breaking musical Hello, Dolly! Wilder’s many honors also include the Gold Medal for Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the National Book Committee’s Medal for Literature.
Wilder also has a deep connection to Newport, Rhode Island. In 1922 he worked on his first novel, The Cabala, while living at the local YMCA and tutoring the children of Newport families. These experiences later served as seminal inspiration for his last, and most autobiographical novel, Theophilus North. He returned to Newport many times, working on his essays, plays and novels, including completing The Bridge of San Luis Rey there in 1927.
Daily conference highlights include: on Thursday, June 11, a conversation with leading academics about the enduring relevance of Wilder’s work and worldview on “New Directions in Wilder Studies”; a private bus tour of Wilder’s Newport; and an evening reception and reading of Wilder’s drama and fiction, including excerpts from Villa Rhabani, by actors from Rhode Island’s Trinity Rep at America’s oldest lending library, Newport’s Redwood Library & Athenaeum. Friday, June 12 features a lunchtime panel discussion about marketing Wilder in the 21st century, with his publishers, agents and managers; a roundtable discussion on directing Wilder with Gordon Edelstein and Princeton University’s Head of Theater Timothy Vasen; and an evening reception and talk by Tappan Wilder about his extraordinary experiences in his 20-year history as executor of the Wilder estate, at Salve Regina’s McKillop Library. On Saturday, June 13, events include: a session on “Wilder In Production,” which includes presentations on a series of recent non-traditional productions, including a semester-long project with high school students on Pullman Car Hiawatha, and the staff of a psychiatric hospital creating a production of Our Town; a talk about the discovery of Villa Rhabani; a conversation with playwrights Matthew Burnett, Will Eno and Paula Vogel; and a banquet dinner with the presentation of The Thornton Wilder Prize to Paula Vogel and a reading by Maria Dizzia.
“ ‘Our true life is in the imagination and in memory,’ my uncle wrote at the time he was writing Theophilus North. So I’m naturally thrilled that students and fans of his work, myself included, gather soon in the city that inspired a novel constructed from the lively interplay of those elements in his heart and mind,” says Tappan Wilder. “And I gain a special bonus: I get to visit the famous courts where Thornton’s older brother-and my father, a Centre Court Wimbledon veteran–played some notable tennis. And that’s in the novel, too. As they say, what’s not to like?”
Tickets range from $50-$250, including student discount prices. Tickets and a complete schedule are available on The Thornton Wilder Society website, http://www.twildersociety.org. A limited number of tickets for all events will also be available for sale at the conference desk located in the Young Building of Salve Regina University. For questions regarding single tickets, please contact Jackson R. Bryer at email@example.com. All program events, except the Thursday and Friday evenings’ receptions, will be held at the Young Building of Salve Regina University, 514 Bellevue Avenue, Newport, Rhode Island.