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Circa Theatre presents Other Desert Cities

Other Desert Cities

By Jon Robin Baitz
Directed by Ross Jolly

Saturday 19th April 8pm

“Funny, fierce, and immensely entertaining – a winner!.” - New York Daily News

A smart new play of high drama, serious laughter and dazzling repartee, Other Desert Cities was one of the hottest tickets in New York as Pulitzer Prize finalist and creator of hit TV series, Brothers & Sisters and contributor on The West Wing, Jon Robin Baitz took America by storm with his Broadway debut. Nominated for five Tony Awards, this award-winning play, which has just opened to rave reviews in London, now makes its New Zealand premiere at Circa.

Other Desert Cities opens in Circa One on Saturday 19th April at 8pm, with a stellar cast of CATHERINE DOWNES (The Year of Magical Thinking), MICHELLE LANGSTONE (The Almighty Johnsons), JEFFREY THOMAS (The Hobbit), EMMA KINANE (Tribes), and PAUL WAGGOTT (Red).

It is Christmas Eve 2004 and in the sun-drenched comfort of Palm Springs, California, Lyman Wyeth, ex-movie star and friend of Ronald Reagan, and his fiercely Republican wife Polly have it all. Novelist daughter, Brooke, is back home to celebrate the holidays with her parents, her TV producer brother and Aunt Silda, a recovering alcoholic. But the warm desert air turns chilly when Brooke announces she’s written a tell-all memoir about the most painful chapter of the family’s buried past that threatens to destroy everything her famous parents hold dear. Love, loyalty, and reality collide as old wounds are re-opened, childhood memories are tested, and the Wyeth clan learns that some secrets cannot stay buried forever.

A witty, clever and deeply affecting tour-de-force that that springs surprises to the very end with electrifying results Other Desert Cities has been hailed as one of the best new plays of the decade.

“This outstanding play had me completely hooked” - Daily Telegraph

“A witty, blistering play” - Independent

“The most richly enjoyable new play for grown-ups in many a season.” - New York Times

“Laugh-out-loud funny … richly satisfying … beautifully crafted and continually absorbing.”- Charles Spencer

Directed by ROSS JOLLY


19th April – 17th May
Circa Theatre
1 Taranaki Street, Wellington

$25 SPECIALS - Friday 18th April – 8pm, Sunday 20th April – 4pm

AFTER SHOW FORUM – Tuesday 22nd April

Performance times: Tuesday & Wednesday - 6.30pm
Thursday, Friday, Saturday - 8pm
Sunday - 4pm

Ticket Prices: Adults - $46; Concessions - $38; Friends of Circa - $33
Under 25s - $25; Groups 6+ - $39

1 Taranaki Street, Wellington
Phone 801 7992



Jon Robin Baitz is a celebrated American playwright and is perhaps best known in this country for his internationally successful TV series, Brothers and Sisters, about a wealthy Californian family who grapple with love, loss and living in the modern age. His plays include: The Substance of Fire, A Fair Country, and Ten Unknowns, (all produced at The Lincoln Centre), The Paris Letter, The Film Society, Mizlansky/Zilinsky and Three Hotels as well as a new version of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler. He is the recipient of a Rockefeller Foundation Award, a Drama Desk Award, is a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Pulitzer Prize finalist for both A Fair Country and Other Desert Cities. He won a Humanitas Award for the PBS-TV’s American Playhouse, with his version of Three Hotels, which he also directed, and his version of the Australian TV mini-series, The Slap begins filming for NBC this Summer.

Other Desert Cities was originally produced by Lincoln Center Theater, New York City, 2010.


Founding member of Circa Theatre, Circa councillor, actor and freelance theatre and television director, Ross has directed many productions for Circa including: Master Class, Moonlight, F.I.L.T.H., Picasso at the Lapin Agile, Travels with my Aunt, Social Climbers, Taking Sides (Best Circa Production 1997), Heretic (1998 NZ International Festival of the Arts), The Cripple of Inishmaan, How I Learned to Drive, Waiting for Godot, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, ART, The Unexpected Man, The Memory of Water, The Weir, Madame Melville, Copenhagen, Life x 3, The Birthday Party, Conversations after a Burial, Ancient Lights, Humble Boy, Roger Hall’s Spreading Out (2004 Festival of the Arts), Stones in his Pockets, Neil LaBute’s The Shape of Things which was nominated for Best Director and Best Production at the Chapman Tripp awards 2004, An Inspector Calls, The Mercy Seat and Democracy. In 2006 Ross directed the NZ premiere of Ross Gumbley’s Happy Coupling for the Court Theatre, and The Underpants, Wild East and a revival of Master Class for Circa. In 2007 he re-directed Neil LaBute’s The Shape of Things for the Court Theatre, followed by Heroes in Circa Two before returning to the world of LaBute for Fat Pig, and ending the year with Rattigan’s modern classic, The Winslow Boy. 2008 saw Ross direct Roger Hall’s Who Wants to be 100? (International Arts Festival), Love Song (Circa 2) and Some Girl(s) (Circa 1), and also re-directed the original cast in Heroes for a season at Expressions in Upper Hutt. In 2009, Ross directed Harold Pinter’s Betrayal and Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage in Circa One before heading to Dunedin to direct the NZ premieres of Don Juan in Soho (by Patrick Marber) and Lucky Numbers, and then back to Circa for the sell-out season of Roger Hall’s Four Flat Whites in Italy. In 2010 Ross directed David Harrower’s adaptation of Friedrich Schiller’s Mary Stuart. This highly successful production was Circa’s contribution to the NZ Festival of the Arts 2010. Ross’ most recent productions were Mauritius and My First Time (2010), Our Man in Havana, Meet the Churchills and the return season of Four Flat Whites in Italy (2011), A Shortcut to Happiness, Clybourne Park (2012) and Tribes, No Naughty Bits (2013), all in Circa One.

Ross won Director of the Year for his production of Waiting for Godot, at the Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards 1999.


Catherine Downes
Polly Wyeth

Catherine Downes is one of New Zealand’s finest theatrical talents, working in theatre, film and Television for four decades on both sides of the Tasman as an actress, director and playwright.
Catherine graduated from the Queen Elizabeth II Drama School (now Toi Whakaari) after completing a B.A. in English, Politics and Drama at Victoria University.

For the next three years she worked at the Court, Circa, Downstage and TV then travelled to Europe and established two theatre companies - in Amsterdam and in London, and developed her acclaimed one-woman play, The Case Of Katherine Mansfield, of which she has since played approximately 1000 performances, in six countries, over the last twenty years, winning awards in Britain, NZ and Australia. In 2013 she developed this material further into Talking of Katherine Mansfield, which premiered at Circa and then toured New Zealand.

In Australia, Catherine became a member of the Nimrod Actors Company in Sydney, where she worked for several years, before returning to NZ.

Catherine’s recent stage performances include Lady Windermere’s Fan, Vincent in Brixton, The Cherry Orchard, Joyful and Triumphant, Calendar Girls, Collapsing Creation, Four Flat Whites In Italy, A Shortcut to Happiness, The Year of Magical Thinking, and The Girl in Tan Boots.

Her directing credits include work throughout NZ, International tours, in Australia and for TVNZ. Circa productions include WIT, Speaking in Tongues, The Book Club, Les Parents Terribles, Closer and The Sisters Rosensweig..

From 2006 – 2008 Catherine was Director of Downstage Theatre in Wellington, and prior to this was Artistic Director of The Court Theatre from 2000-2005.

Catherine has won many awards including Best Production and/or Director for Closer, Purapurawhetu, Tzigane, Good Works and Three Tall Women. She was hailed in National Radio’s Millennium‘ Golden Kiwi’ series, and in 1998 was appointed a Member Of The NZ Order Of Merit for her services to the Arts.

Michelle Langstone
Brooke Wyeth

Michelle trained at Unitec School Of Performing and Screen Arts. Since graduation she has acted in theatrical productions with the Silo Theatre, Easy Company, and ATC. Her most recent theatre work was in The Lover, directed by Caroline Bell-Booth. Her favourite performance was Silo's Under Milk Wood, directed by Caroline Bell-Booth, in which she played 14 different characters. She is perhaps best well known for her recent roles in the television programs The Almighty Johnsons, playing the Love Goddess Michele, and in Go Girls, playing Sarah Bennett. Other Desert Cities marks Michelle's professional theatrical debut in Wellington.

Jeffrey Thomas
Lyman Wyeth

Jeffrey has appeared in many plays at Circa. Pigland Prophet, Art, The Cherry Orchard, Uncle Vanya, The Seagull, Mauritius, How I Learned to Drive, The Winslow Boy, August Osage County, All My Sons and Tribes - to name but a few. And he's enjoyed every minute of it.

Recent Television – Spartacus, and the Dwarf king Thror in The Hobbit.

Paul Waggott
Trip Wyeth

Paul was born in the U.K. and moved to New Zealand in 2002. He graduated from Victoria University of Wellington in 2011 with a B.A. Hons in Theatre and a B.A. in English Literature. He has performed in numerous shows around Wellington including Death and the Dreamlife of Elephants (BATS 2009, Downstage 2011); Eight (Circa 2011), West End Girls, Clybourne Park (Circa 2012), A Play about Space (Bats Fringe), Tribes, Red (Circa 2013) and most recently A Play about Fear (Fringe).

In 2010 he was awarded the Downstage Theatre Award for the Most Promising Male Newcomer at the Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards for his role in Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead (BATS 2010).

Emma Kinane
Aunt Silda

Emma graduated from Toi Whakaari/NZ Drama School in 1988.

Theatre roles include Kate in All My Sons, Gail in Turbine, Helen in Fat Pig, Gertrude in Hamlet, Maggie in Dancing at Lughnasa, Gertie in Fuddy Meers, Phil in The Sex Fiend, Yvonne in Sisters, Trish in Pack of Girls, Beth in Tribes, Jeanne Duval/Mme Bourgeois in Pasefika, and roles in musicals such as Lonely Heart, Troy, Monarchy, Rome and The Nero Show. Emma’s favourite singing role involved channelling various pop stars in Dead Tragic which has a return season this year at Circa Theatre.

TV/Film credits include Outrageous Fortune, Spies and Lies, Reservoir Hill, Darren Exists, The Killian Curse, Coverstory and Willy Nilly. Her favourite film role was Sue in The Man Who Couldn’t Dance.

She received the Evening Standard Best Actress of 1990 Award for Ruth in Blithe Spirit and since then has been an awards bridesmaid; with acting nominations in 2007’s Chapman Tripp Awards for Fat Pig, 2009’s 48 Hours Furious Filmmaking entry Call Me Al, and for Tribes in 2013.

Emma has just completed a Master's Degree in Scriptwriting. Previously she co-wrote Turbine, Paua and The December Brother with the SEEyD Collective and in 2009 Emma won a place in the NZ Film Commission’s First Writers Initiative for her screen adaptation of Turbine. In 2011 she won first equal in the NZ Writers Guild Scriptwriting competition with a TV series pilot episode. Her radio play Clouds was a winner in the Radio NZ New Shorts Competition in 2013.


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