Park Avenue Armory’s Original Production of Judgment Day, Adapted by Christopher Shinn and Directed by Richard Jones, Makes World Premiere
Armory’s Wade Thompson Drill Hall, Reminiscent of the European Train Sheds of the Nineteenth Century, Becomes Home to a Grand, Space-Filling Setfor a Morality Play that Reflects on Devastation of Mob Mentality
This December, Park Avenue Armory will round out its 2019 season with the world premiere of a new adaptation of Ödön von Horváth’s 1937 play Judgment Day, an ambitious work that explores morality, responsibility, and the guilt of a small-town’s train stationmaster and his community. The adaptation, commissioned by the Armory and penned by Obie Award-winning and Pulitzer Prize-nominated playwright Christopher Shinn, is staged by famed British theater director Richard Jones, who returns to the Armory to helm this gripping moral parable following his critically acclaimed, eight-time Drama Desk–nominated production of The Hairy Ape at the Armory in 2017. With much of the narrative centered around an ill-fated train depot, Judgment Day and its vast set will take on special resonance in the 55,000-square-foot Wade Thompson Drill Hall—reminiscent of the great nineteenth century train sheds of Europe, with its vaulted ceiling and raw industrial design. The production runs December 5, 2019 through January 11, 2020. Casting will be announced in the coming weeks.
“We are excited to welcome Richard Jones back to the Armory after his exhilarating production of The Hairy Ape riveted New York audiences in 2017. At the Armory, we are committed to supporting and maintaining long-term relationships with boundary-breaking artists like Richard,” said Rebecca Robertson, Founding President and Executive Producer of Park Avenue Armory. “Our expansive Drill Hall is a perfect partner to the production team, as it aptly evokes historic European train stations and serves as an inspiration for what is a jaw-dropping and spectacularly immersive aesthetic experience. We are honored to be a part of the process of bringing this challenging play to life, and couldn’t be more thrilled to commission and house the world premiere.
Ödön von Horváth’s penultimate play from 1937 is a hybrid of theatrical genres: part moral fable, part sociopolitical comedy, part noirish thriller. The work follows the actions of a meticulous and respected stationmaster, Hudetz, who struggles with the overwhelming power of conscience and guilt when he becomes culpable for a major accident, causing a violent train crash that results in eighteen casualties. A game of judicial cat-and-mouse ensues, as the town becomes susceptible to mob mentality, ostracizing anyone who threatens the collective definition of morality and truth.
“There is no doubt that this will be a visually unique and powerful dramatic theatrical experience for New York audiences, with the grand scale of the design, coupled with Richard’s extraordinary directorial talent,” said Pierre Audi, Marina Kellen French Artistic Director at Park Avenue Armory. “As soon as we closed The Hairy Ape, I knew we would need to draw Richard Jones back to the Armory to help activate the expansive Drill Hall with another compelling project. As audiences witnessed with The Hairy Ape, Richard excels in his attention to the minutiae and the moments in-between. His choreography and the way he moves and places people across the stage help to create an invigorating visual experience that is unrivaled by many directors working on large stages today. Ödön von Horváth’s plays are enjoying an astonishing revival right now. We are thrilled to be presenting a new adaptation by Christopher Shinn of Judgment Day, an adaptation which will support the vision behind the production and do justice to the psychological richness of the play.”
This production dramatically plays on the interior of the Wade Thompson Drill Hall, with an immersive environment that reflects the internal experience of the characters, as they become overwhelmed by conscience and the burden of guilt. Jones has partnered with famed theater and opera scenic designer Paul Steinberg to create a monumental set, towering at over 25-feet high. At the center of the design is a two-piece monolith that moves and rotates across the stage to create the train depot, a viaduct, and “The Wild Man” Inn. Rounding out the production team are lighting designer Mimi Jordan Sherin, costume designer Anthony McDonald, and composer Daniel Kluger (2019 Tony Nominee for Oklahoma). The result is a massive, innovative, and immersive design that presents a living portrait of Shinn’s fresh take on Judgment Day.
Born Austro-Hungarian, von Horváth lived in Berlin and Vienna during the 1920s and 30s. Having witnessed first-hand the rise of Nazism, his plays often explore popular culture, politics, and history, with a particular focus on fascism and its dangers. Written on the eve of WWII, Judgment Day has been seen as an allegory for the indoctrination of Nazi ideology.
In conjunction with Judgment Day, the Armory will host an Artist Talk on Thursday, December 12 at 6:00 pm, featuring Director Richard Jones and his collaborators discussing the process of adapting Ödön von Horváth’s play for the stage and mounting it in an unconventional space.
Judgment Day will concludePark Avenue Armory’s 2019 season. Additional upcoming Fall programming at the Armory includes: Antigone, a multicultural adaptation of the ancient Greek tragedy directed by Satoshi Miyagi that integrates Japanese culture, Buddhist philosophy, and Indonesian shadow puppetry; Theaster Gates’ renowned Black Artists Retreat, a multi-day convening of black artists, which will include public events such as a celebration in the Wade Thompson Drill Hall with roller skating, DJs, and performers, along with keynote conversations as part of the weekend’s event; the continuation of the Armory’s Recital Series featuring Barbara Hannigan with Stephen Gosling and the Emerson String Quartet, and Leila Josefowicz with John Novacek; the final 2019 installment of the Jason Moran-curated Artist Studio series, showcasing the multidisciplinary work of Rosa Barba in collaboration with percussionist Chad Taylor for a performative and site-specific installation; and an Interrogations of Form conversation and demonstration on 21st-century dance, presented in partnership with Dance Theatre of Harlem.
Previous theatrical productions at the Armory include Sam Mendes’ hit production of The Lehman Trilogy, adapted by Ben Power and starring Adam Godley, Ben Miles, and Simon Russell Beale; Macbeth, directed by Rob Ashford and Kenneth Branagh, and starring Branagh and Alex Kingston for which the Wade Thompson Drill Hall was transformed into a bloody, rainy Scottish heath; Ivo van Hove’s chilling staging of The Damned; Simon Stone’s critically acclaimed, Obie Award-winning, and four-time Drama Desk-nominated production Yerma, starring Billie Piper and performed within glass walls; Obie Award-winning and eight-time Drama Desk-nominated play The Hairy Ape, directed by Richard Jones and starring Bobby Cannavale in a production where the audience was surrounded by a massive revolving stage;Obie Award-winning A Room in India (Une chambre en Inde) with Le Théâtre du Soleil under the direction of Ariane Mnouchkine; and the unprecedented residency of the Royal Shakespeare Company of five productions in repertory over six weeks in association with Lincoln Center Festival.