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Public Theater’s Live Streaming of What Do We Need to Talk About?

Public Theater’s Live Streaming of What Do We Need to Talk About?

The Public Theater NYC Announces the Live Streamed World Premiere of What Do We Need to Talk About?

Wednesday, April 29

Written and Directed by Richard Nelson

The Public Theater (Artistic Director, Oskar Eustis; Executive Director, Patrick Willingham) announced the world premiere of WHAT DO WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT? Conversations on Zoom,a new play in the acclaimed Rhinebeck Panorama, written and directed by Tony Award winner Richard Nelson, on Wednesday, April 29 at 7:30 p.m. ET. The live-streamed play will be available to watch for free via both YouTube Live and The Public’s website. Commissioned by The Public Theater and written by Nelson from his home in Rhinebeck, New York, during the COVID-19 pandemic, this unique theatrical experience will be performed as a benefit to raise money for The Public Theater.

Richard Nelson has spent the last decade chronicling the way we live now in his glorious plays set in Rhinebeck, N.Y. For What Do We Need to Talk About? he has not only turned out a beautiful new play in a matter of days, he has invented a new form: the dramatic Zoom call,” said artistic director Oskar Eustis. “For the last time, the Apples are back, and what a wonderful thing it is to welcome them into our homes.

The MichaelsWritten and Directed by Richard Nelson
Rita Wolf, Maryann Plunkett, Jay O. Sanders, and Haviland Morris in The Michaels, written and directed by Richard Nelson, at The Public Theater. Photo by Joan Marcus.

What Do We Need to Talk About? will feature the return of the original Apple Family performing from their homes including Jon DeVries (Benjamin), Stephen Kunken (Tim), Sally Murphy (Jane), Maryann Plunkett (Barbara), Laila Robins (Marian), and Jay O. Sanders (Richard).

For the past 10 years, The Public has been presenting Richard Nelson’s minimalist epic, The Rhinebeck Panorama, which includes The Apple Family PlaysThe Gabriels, and The Michaels. Now, in the midst of our unsettled world, The Apple Family, last seen in 2014, returns, though not over the dinner table, but via Zoom. This hour-long play picks up with them during their now suspended and quarantined lives. They talk about grocery shopping, friends lost, new ventures on a hoped-for horizon—all at a time when human conversation (and theater) may be more needed than ever before.

THE GABRIELS: Election Year in the Life of One FamilyPlay Three: WOMEN OF A CERTAIN AGE Written and Directed by Richard Nelson Featuring Meg Gibson, Lynn Hawley, Roberta Maxwell, Maryann Plunkett, Jay O. Sanders, Amy Warren Scenic Designers Susan Hilferty and Jason Ardizzone-West Costume Designer Susan Hilferty Lighting Designer Jennifer Tipton Sound Designers Scott Lehrer and Will Pickens Production Stage Manager Theresa Flanagan
THE GABRIELS: Election Year in the Life of One Family Play Three: WOMEN OF A CERTAIN AGE Written and Directed by Richard Nelson Featuring Meg Gibson, Lynn Hawley, Roberta Maxwell, Maryann Plunkett, Jay O. Sanders, Amy Warren. Photo by Joan Marcus.

These plays have always been, in my mind, about the need to talk, and the need to listen. That is, at their heart, they are about our need for each other. Never in my life have I felt that need more than now,”said playwright and director Richard Nelson. “I last wrote about The Apples in 2014. Recently, I began to think about what they would be going through today, in my hometown, Rhinebeck; thought about how close they live to each other, only a street or two apart. How they, like us, are now separated, isolated from each other. And how they, like us, would find ways to come together.

In advance of the live premiere, Richard Nelson’s four original Apple Family Plays and The Gabriels trilogyare now available to stream for free in the New York Metro area on THIRTEEN’s Theater Close-Up website:

That Hopey Changey Thing
That Hopey Changey Thing in the Apple Family play cycle at The Public Theater. Photo: Carol Rosegg.

Richard Nelson (Playwright and Director)’s plays include The MichaelsIllyriaThe Gabriels, The Apple Family Plays, Nikolai and The Others, Farewell to the Theatre, Conversations in Tusculum, Goodnight Children Everywhere (Olivier Award, Best Play), Two Shakespearean Actors (Tony nomination, Best Play), Some Americans Abroad (Olivier nomination, Best Comedy), and others. His musicals include James Joyce’s The Dead (with Shaun Davey, Tony Award Best Book of a Musical); his screenplays include Hyde Park on Hudson (Roger Michell, director). With Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, he has co-translated plays by Chekhov, Gogol, Turgenev, and Bulgakov. He is an honorary associate artist of the Royal Shakespeare Company and recipient of the PEN/Laura Pels “Master Playwright” Award.

Public Theater logo1

The Public is theater of, by, and for all people. Artist-driven, radically inclusive, and fundamentally democratic, The Public continues the work of its visionary founder Joe Papp as a civic institution engaging, both on-stage and off, with some of the most important ideas and social issues of today. Conceived over 60 years ago as one of the nation’s first nonprofit theaters, The Public has long operated on the principles that theater is an essential cultural force and that art and culture belong to everyone. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Oskar Eustis and Executive Director Patrick Willingham, The Public’s wide breadth of programming includes an annual season of new work at its landmark home at Astor Place, Free Shakespeare in the Park at The Delacorte Theater in Central Park, the Mobile Unit touring throughout New York City’s five boroughs, Public Forum, Under the Radar, Public Studio, Public Works, Public Shakespeare Initiative, and Joe’s Pub. Since premiering HAIR in 1967, The Public continues to create the canon of American Theater and is currently represented on Broadway by the Tony Award-winning musical Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Girl From the North Country. Their programs and productions can also be seen regionally across the country and around the world. The Public has received 59 Tony Awards, 178 Obie Awards, 53 Drama Desk Awards, 56 Lortel Awards, 34 Outer Critic Circle Awards, 13 New York Drama Critics’ Circle Awards, and 6 Pulitzer Prizes.

Photo by Ross.

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My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to

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