From clown to actor, from performer to playwright, from actor to social commentator, Bill Irwin, Billy Porter, and Anna Deavere Smith share their artistic journeys in Philadelphia Theatre Company’s new Theatre Masters series.  Launched as part of PTC’s celebration of its 40th Anniversary season, Theatre Masters will offer an array of Monday night on-stage interviews with major theatre artists with whom PTC has worked, each sharing their personal journey of transformation and creative growth over time and how it has impacted both their art and their lives.  This season’s schedule features Bill Irwin on February16, Billy Porter on March 23, and Anna Deavere Smith on May 11.

Tickets are available at or by phone at 215.985.0420 and range from $5 for enrolled college students to $25 for the general public.

“Our 40th Anniversary season offers us the perfect opportunity to launch this exciting series which will become a permanent part of our programming.  With the Theatre Masters series we will share with our community a probing look into the career paths and artistic process of three extraordinary artists, each of whom excels so brilliantly in so many arenas.  These artists have evolved and transformed in a way that reflects changing tastes and priorities in American theater as well as in other media,” said PTC’s Executive Producing Director Sara Garonzik.  “The interviews also underscore PTC’s mission to produce and develop new American plays and musicals and to host our nation’s most noteworthy artists as they work in collaboration with our region’s finest actors, directors and designers.”

Bill Irwin kicks off the series on Monday, February 16. An actor, film and television star, world-renowned clown, playwright, director and choreographer, Irwin is one of the most versatile performers on the American stage today.  The recipient of a Barrymore Award for his performance in Philadelphia Theatre Company’s production of Trumbo, Irwin won a Tony Award for his lead role in Edward Albee’s Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? opposite Kathleen Turner and appeared in the Roundabout Theater Company’s revival of Waiting for Godot which earned him a Drama Desk nomination.  The creator and star of the productions Regard of Flight, Fool Moon, for which he also won a Tony Award, and more recently, Old Hats with David Shiner at Signature Theater, he starred opposite Sally Field in the 2002 Tony Award-winning play Edward Albee’s The Goat or, Who is Sylvia?  The Signature Theatre’s 2003/04 Season was dedicated entirely to his original work for which he served as writer, director, and star.  Other Broadway work includes his original work, Largely New York, which received five Tony Award nominations and won Drama Desk, Outer Critic Circle and New York Dance and Performance Awards.  In the fall of 2000, Irwin directed and performed his own adaptation of Samuel Beckett’s prose work Texts for Nothing at the Classic Stage Company, for which he received a nomination for Outstanding Solo Performance by the Outer Critics Circle.  His feature films include:  Interstellar with Matthew McConaughey, Rachel Getting Married with Anne Hathaway, Love Conquers All!, Igby Goes Down, The Laramie Project for HBO, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas with Jim Carrey, John Turturro’s Illuminata, Scalpers with Andy Garcia and Mike Hoffman’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Michelle Pfeiffer, Kevin Klein and Rupert Everett.

Tony and Grammy Award-winning singer, recording artist, composer, actor, playwright and director Billy Porter is up next on Monday, March 23.  He conceived and directed Being Alive based on the music of Stephen Sondheim which PTC produced to inaugurate the Suzanne Roberts Theatre.  As a director, his extensive credits include Once on this Island at Reprise Theatre Company for which he won a NAACP Theatre Award for Best Direction of a Musical as well as a critically acclaimed production of The Wiz.  He recently won the 2013 Drama Desk and Tony Awards for his role as Lola in Kinky Boots.  Other Broadway acting credits include Miss Saigon, Five Guys Named Moe, Grease, Smokey Joe’s Café, and the 20th Anniversary Broadway concert of Dreamgirls.  His one-man show, Ghetto Superstar: The Man That I Am, was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award, and he won critical acclaim as Belize in the 20th Anniversary revival of Angels in America at New York City’s Signature Theatre.  As a playwright, his play While I Yet Live recently received its world premiere at Primary Stages with a cast including S. Epatha Merkerson and Lillias White. 

Anna Deavere Smith concludes the series on Monday, May 11.  Actress, playwright, and social commentator, Smith last appeared at PTC in Let Me Down Easy in 2011 for which she won the Barrymore Award for Best Actress, and is currently developing The Pipeline Project which will address the increasing numbers of American youngsters – especially African-American males – being “shuttled” from school into the criminal justice system.  She is probably most recognizable in popular culture as Nancy McNally, national security advisor on NBC’s long-running hit The West Wing and as Gloria Akalitus on Showtime’s current hit series Nurse Jackie.  The recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Award, Smith’s work blends theatrical art, social commentary, journalism and intimate musings.  Twilight: Los Angeles received two Tony nominations, an OBIE, Drama Desk Award, and a Special Citation from the New York Drama Critics Circle, and Fires in the Mirror, examining a race riot in Crown Heights, Brooklyn (1991), when age-old racial tensions between black and Jewish neighbors exploded, received an OBIE Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.  She was the 2013 recipient of the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize awarded to “a man or a woman who has made an outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and mankind’s enjoyment and understanding of life.”  She is the recipient of numerous honorary degrees, among them those from Juilliard, The University of Pennsylvania, Arcadia Northwestern, Williams College, Radcliffe, Haverford College, Bryn Mawr College, Barnard, Spelman, The John Jay College of Criminal Justice and many more.

Images courtesy of Philadelphia Theatre Company