2017/2018 Season

Gospelists, philosophers, and writers: get to know the historical figures of Discord

A former president, the writer responsible for “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”, and a Russian aristocrat dressed like a peasant walk into a room… The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord by Scott Carter imagines what might happen if these three men were trapped in limbo together.

Whether you’re a devotee of one of these men or only know them by their most famous contributions, they were defining characters of their time beyond our stage—their philosophies and written texts shaped (and continue to shape) a legion of followers.

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) was the 3rd U.S. president, and a longtime politician and philosopher:

  • Focused on universal human rights, religious equality, and education.
  • Fathered six children with his slave, Sally Hemmings.
  • Famous work: Declaration of Independence.

Charles Dickens at the age of 47, by William Powell Frith. London, England, 1859

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) was a British author, critic, and commentator:

  • Focused on poverty and social class.
  • The first modern literary celebrity.
  • Famous works: Oliver TwistA Christmas Carol, and Great Expectations.

Tolstoy

Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (1828-1910) was a Russian writer, thinker, and social reformer:

  • Focused on morality and faith.
  • Born an aristocrat and revered the peasant class.
  • Famous works: War and Peace and Anna Karenina.

Performances of The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord by Scott Carter run September 19 – October 22, 2017 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. Click here for tickets and more information.

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Scott Carter’s The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Suggested Reading

In hopes of shining a light on the weighty life questions put center stage in Scott Carter’s The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy, we’ve put together the following resources for further exploration of their relationships to legacy, philosophy, and religion. From lesser known works by the men themselves to sweeping adaptations of beloved stories, there’s hardly a medium that Dickens, Jefferson, or Tolstoy did not influence.

Books

  • A Confession and Other Religious Writings by Leo Tolstoy: Tolstoy is best known for his novels, War and Peace and Anna Karenina, but this collection of his personal writings—on the likes of faith, freedom, and morality—is further testimony to the tireless mind of a man lauded as one of the greatest authors in history.
  • Jefferson’s Extracts from the Gospels by Dickinson W. Adams: Thomas Jefferson was unsatisfied with the authors of the four Gospels and the trustworthiness of their accounts, so he took it upon himself to literally extract the offending passages from his own copies of the New Testament. This volume is a compilation of Adams’ research into Jefferson’s Bible, and the definitive presentation of the president’s religious beliefs.
  • The Life of Our Lord by Charles Dickens: Written exclusively for his children, Dickens forbade the publication of this book so long as he or any of his children lived. Published 64 years after his death, Dickens’ The Life of Our Lord is a simple and endearing retelling of Jesus Christ’s life and became a bestseller in its first year of publication (1934).   

Film & TV

  • A Christmas Carol (1984): If you’ve ever wrinkled your nose at the holiday season, you’re likely to have been called a “Scrooge.” We have Dickens to thank for coining the term with his iconic Ebenezer Scrooge and the timeless (and oft adapted) story of a miser transformed by visits from the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come.
  • War and Peace (1966): Adaptations of Tolstoy’s epic have taken liberties with their sprawling source material, but Sergei Bondarchuk’s 1969 Academy Award-winning undertaking—some 7 hours on 3 discs—is as close to visualizing the text as you can get.

Documentaries

  • Thomas Jefferson (1997) by Ken Burns: The 3 part documentary by American filmmaker Ken Burns is an overview of both the public and the private face of the once president (and also writer, inventor, and architect). Academics and political figures discuss his life and legacy, as well as his relationship with his slave, Sally Hemings.
  • The Trouble with Tolstoy (2011) by Alan Yentob: Originally aired in two installments on the BBC, Alan Yentob’s documentary takes the viewer on a train ride through Tolstoy’s Russia. Featuring contributions from the author’s great great grandson and distinguished Russian commentators, it is a comprehensive overview of a singular and mercurial man.
  • Uncovering the Real Dickens (2003) by Peter Ackroyd: Presented by Peter Ackroyd for the BBC, this 3-disc set explores the best of times and the worst of times of the author, with the help of dramatic reconstruction. The additional material includes the 1999 adaptation of David Copperfield and A Christmas Carol as performed by Anton Lesser.

Articles

  • “Charles Dickens: Six Things He Gave the Modern World” by Alex Hudson: From shaping the portrayal of modern Christmas in our culture to his influence on cinema, Dickens’ work has a reach that transcends the page.
  • “Leo Tolstoy’s Poignant Letter to Gandhi on the Laws of Love” by Nathan Gelgud: It’s easy to overlook the fact that history’s most towering figures lived alongside equally formidable contemporaries and didn’t just exist in a vacuum by themselves. Take Tolstoy’s writings to Gandhi in the last years of the former’s life, where he expounds on his belief in love triumphing over force: “any employment of force is incompatible with love as the highest law of life, and that as soon as the use of force appears permissible even in a single case, the law itself is immediately negatived.” The letters in their entirety can be read here.
  • “Charlottesville: Why Jefferson Matters” by Annette Gordon-Reed: Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author of The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, Annette Gordon-Reed, writes on Jefferson’s aspirations and paradoxes, and how they continue to underline the fragility of the American experiment.

The Primary Stages production of The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord runs until October 22, 2017 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. For tickets and additional information, please visit our website.

Discord: The Crossword Puzzle!

Crossword fans and history buffs will love this special puzzle inspired by The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord by Scott Carter. Put your knowledge of these three historical figures to the test in this challenging puzzle.

Discord Crossword2

Download a printable PDF version here. Download the solution here. (But no cheating!)

Performances of The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord by Scott Carter run September 19 – October 22, 2017 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. Click here for tickets and more information.

 

Enter the Mind of Celebrated Costume Designer David Hyman

Ever wondered how costumes transform from small sparks of inspiration into the fully finished garments you see onstage? David Hyman, the costume designer of The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord
by Scott Carter, gave us an exclusive sneak peek into his personal drawings and research for the three iconic characters before the play’s New York Premiere.

Check out David Hyman’s sketches and inspiration behind the costume designs of Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Leo Tolstoy.

Discord Drawings 1

Sketch of Thomas Jefferson alongside various portraits of the third President and his contemporaries in distinguishable attire.

 

Discord Drawings 2

Colorful portrayal of Jefferson decked out in green next to textured and patterned fabric swatches.

 

Discord Drawings 3

Draft of Charles Dickens with pictures of the famous writer in his trademark bow tie.

 

Discord Drawings 4

Drawing of Dickens draped in purple with an assortment of unique fabric influences.

 

Discord Drawings 5

Depiction of Leo Tolstoy in traditional Russian garments beside the images that inspired the design.

 

Discord Drawings 6

Illustration of Tolstoy in classic peasant attire featuring a belted loose-fitting shirt and trousers with distinct red and brown fabrics.

 

Discord Drawings 9

A close up of the of fabric samples for Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Leo Tolstoy’s costumes.

Performances of The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord by Scott Carter run September 19 – October 22, 2017 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. Click here for tickets and more information.

Special Talkbacks Scheduled for …Discord

Scott Carter (Executive Producer of “Real Time with Bill Maher”), and playwright of The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord will lead several post-show talkbacks with a number of special guests.

Scott Carter Talkbacks for Discord

The lineup is currently as follows, but is subject to change.

Saturday, September 30 at 2pm – Iconic Performance Artist & Author Karen Finley

Saturday, October 7 at 2pm – New York Times Columnist & CNBC “Squawk Box” Host Andrew Ross Sorkin

Saturday, October 7 at 8pm – Ex-New York Times Ethicist & “Person, Place Thing” Host Randy Cohen

Thursday, October 12 at 8pm – Comedian, Author & Playwright Lewis Black

Friday, October 13 at 8pm – Thrive Global Founder & CEO Arianna Huffington

Saturday, October 14 at 8pm – New Yorker Contributing Writer & Author Maria Konnikova

Sunday, October 15 at 3pm – Ex-U.S. Representative Rick Lazio (R-NY)

Sunday, October 21 at 8pm – Progressive Radio Talk Show Host & Author Thom Hartmann

Sunday, October 22 at 3pm – “Curb Your Enthusiasm” Star & Comedian Susie Essman

Traditional Talkback Performances for Discord

We will also continue our traditional talkbacks led by a member of the Primary Stages artistic staff on October 4 and October 11.  These evenings  opportunity for the audience to engage in a dialogue with the artists in our productions.

Performances of The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord by Scott Carter run September 19 – October 22, 2017 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. Click here for tickets and more information.

Meet the Cast: of …Discord

The first show of our 2017/18 season is The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord by Scott Carter. Meet the three actors who will portray these historical figures and debate everything from religion to literature to marriage in this New York Premiere.

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DUANE BOUTTÉ (Charles Dickens) played Harlem Renaissance artist “Bruce Nugent, young” in Rodney Evans’ film Brother to Brother, and “Bostonia” in Nigel Finch’s Stonewall (’96). Boutté appeared on Broadway in Parade and Carousel (Lincoln Center), and Off-Broadway in The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin and as “Louis Chauvin” in The Heliotrope Bouquet by Scott Joplin and Louis Chauvin (Playwrights Horizons).

Michael Laurence

MICHAEL LAURENCE (Thomas Jefferson) previously appeared at Primary Stages in Opus and The Morini Strad. Also: Talk Radio (Broadway), Hamlet in Bed (playwright/performer, Rattlestick), Appropriate (Signature), The Few (Rattlestick), Genet’s Splendid’s (La Colline, Paris), Poison (Origin), Krapp 39 (playwright/performer, DramaDesk nomination),“John Proctor” in The Crucible (Hartford), Starbuck in The Rainmaker (Arena).TV: “Shades of Blue” (recurring), “Damages,” “The Good Wife,” “Elementary,” others.

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THOM SESMA (Count Leo Tolstoy) has appeared in leading roles on and Off-Broadway, and at some of the nation’s leading regional theaters, including The Old Globe, Yale Rep, Cincinnati Playhouse, Arena Stage, McCarter, and Baltimore Centre Stage. Most recent credit: John Doyle’s acclaimed revival of Pacific Overtures (Classic Stage Company.) Television: “Madam Secretary,” “Jessica Jones,” “Gotham,” “The Good Wife,” “Person Of Interest,” “Over/Under,” “Single Ladies,” and more. Proud member AEA and SAG-AFTRA.

Performances of The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord by Scott Carter run September 19 – October 22, 2017 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. Click here for tickets and more information.

Experiencing Pride and Prejudice Two Ways

Pride and Prejudice, adapted by Kate Hamill, is a co-production between the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival and Primary Stages. To celebrate the show’s opening at Hudson Valley, here are a few fun facts about how experiencing the show at each performance venue will differ.

The Venue

Primary Stages performs at the Cherry Lane Theatre which is a traditional theater space with 179 seats.

The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival performs in an open air tent at the Boscobel House and Gardens,  with a natural backdrop, 540 seats, and a stage floor made of sand.

Your Visit

The Cherry Lane Theatre is located in Greenwich Village. It is a short walk away from beautiful Washington Square Park, and is surrounded by amazing restaurants, bars, and clubs. It is a short walk from the Christopher Street Station on the 1 line or the West 4th Station on the A,B,C,D,E,F, and M lines, which are easily accessible by subway from all over NYC.

Patrons can arrive at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival up to 2 hours before the performance to picnic or tour the grounds. There is also a café for those who wish to purchase a meal instead of bringing one. It is about an hour and a half by car from central Manhattan, and an additional hour by train. On select Saturdays there is a round-trip bus from Lincoln Center organized by the festival.

The Seasons

2017/18 Season at Primary Stages:

The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord by Scott Carter running September to October

Pride and Prejudice by Kate Hamill running November to December

A Walk with Mr. Heifetz by James Inverne running January to February

Feeding the Dragon by Sharon Washington running March to April

 

Running in repertory until September at Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival:

Pride and Prejudice, adapted by Kate Hamill

The Book of Will, by Lauren Gunderson

Twelfth Night, by William Shakespeare

The General from America, by Richard Nelson

Love’s Labour’s Lost, by William Shakespeare

Talk Backs

Primary Stages will offer post-performance talk backs on select performances of Pride and Prejudice. The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival also offers pre-performance talks for Pride and Prejudice.