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Ensemble Theatre Company Closes Award-Winning Season with ‘Syncopation’

The Ensemble Theatre Company (ETC) at the New Vic will close the 2016–17 Season with Allan Knee’s Syncopation.

Set in Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 1911, Syncopation is a magical blend of drama and dance that tells the story of an unlikely romance between a butcher and a seamstress who, through a series of dance lessons, reach for their dreams of a life far better than the one that is slipping them by.

Directed by Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill and choreographed by William Soleau, the production – a collaboration with State Street Ballet –  runs June 8 through June 25, 2017.

In Syncopation, Henry leads a solitary life as a meat packer and part-time dishwasher. Desperate for an escape from the monotony of factory life, he places a classified ad looking for a dance partner who wants to “give their life a lift and dance for royalty.”

When the shy seamstress Anna answers his ad, she finds Henry in a dusty sixth-floor walk-up studio with a broken door. Her reluctance to buy into Henry’s dreams of becoming a famous ballroom dancer leads to initial tension… but with each tango and foxtrot, they are drawn closer together, setting off an unlikely romance. 

Syncopation is the perfect closing play in our season featuring interesting couples,” said Jonathan Fox, ETC’s artistic director. “It’s exciting for us to present a show that spotlights the art of dance. I’m delighted to bring my friend and colleague Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill to direct the production, and to work with choreographer William Soleau from State Street Ballet.”

Ms. Mancinelli-Cahill makes her ETC directorial debut, coming to the west coast from Albany, where she serves as Producing Artistic Director of the award-winning Capital Rep Theatre.

Zander Meisner is Henry, and Sara Brophy is Anna in the Ensemble Theatre Company’s presentation of ‘Syncopation,’ which opens Thursday and runs through June 25. Click to view larger
Zander Meisner is Henry, and Sara Brophy is Anna in the Ensemble Theatre Company’s presentation of ‘Syncopation,’ which opens Thursday and runs through June 25. (Ensemble Theatre Company photo)

Her direction of Syncopation at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre was lauded for its “flawless direction, inventive choreography, and creative design across the board” by Broadway World.

Ms. Cahill has served as producing director of Urban Stages in New York City, artistic director at Theatre Under Glass in Denver, and worked at Aspen’s Playwrights Festival, Arena Stage in Washington D.C. and The Women’s Project and Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York.

She taught acting at the National Theatre Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center in Connecticut. Her directing credits include The Secret Garden, Red, Man of La Mancha, Nora, the world premiere of William Kennedy’s Grand View, Metamorphoses, Race, My Fair Lady, The Taming of the Shrew, and Terra Nova.

She received a Directors Project Fellowship from the Drama League of New York and holds an MFA in directing from Columbia University. 

Mr. Soleau’s close association with Santa Barbara’s State Street Ballet over the past 16 years has produced such works as An American Tango, Appalachian Spring, Carmen, Carmina Burana and Starry Night.

He has worked as a principal dancer in ballet and modern companies with choreographers Antony Tudor, John Butler, Alvin Ailey, Toer Van Shayk and Grey Verdon.

While dancing with Finis Jhung’s Chamber Ballet USA in New York City, Mr. Soleau created his first work, Isle.

In 1987, he gained international recognition for his work Universe, created for the Shanghai Ballet of China during its first International Shanghai Arts Festival.

Mr. Soleau has created over 80 ballets in the repertoires of many dance companies around the world including Ballet British Columbia, The Icelandic Ballet, Ballet Austin, Ballet de Montreal, Richmond Ballet, Ballet Met, American Ballroom Dance Theater, Louisville Ballet and Ballet Florida. This is Mr. Soleau’s debut with ETC. 

The talented two-person cast of Syncopation features new faces to the ETC stage: Zander Meisner as Henry, and Sara Brophy as Anna.

West coast audiences may recognize Mr. Meisner from the national tour of Once at the Hollywood Pantages Theater, or in the national tour of Annie at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.

He has been seen regionally at the Northlight and Apple Tree Theatres in Chicago, at Kitchen Theatre, Drilling Company, New Ohio Theatre, and Engeman Theatre in NY, in several NYC fringe productions, and in three national tours.

He is the recipient of the Denver Post Ovation Award for Best Actor in a Musical and was recently profiled in the Wall Street Journal.  

Ms. Brophy has been seen on Broadway in Amazing Grace, off-Broadway in Iron Curtain, and has traveled across the United States as Lola in the national tour of Damn Yankees!

Regionally, she has performed at the Walnut Street Theatre, Westchester Broadway Theater, Allenberry Playhouse, and the Harbor Lights Theater Company.  

The design team for Syncopation includes scenic designer Roman Tatarowicz, costume designer Dianne K. Graebner, lighting designer Pablo Santiago, and sound designer Jane Shaw.

Syncopation premiered in 1999 and received an American Theater Critics Award for Best New Play. The play has been performed at numerous regional theatres throughout the country, and was slated for a Broadway debut in 2004, before financing issues stalled the production. 

Playwright Allan Knee is the author of the New York hit play Schmulnik’s Waltz, as well as Sholom Aleichem Lives, Late Nite Comic, Second Avenue Rag, and the book to the Broadway musical, Little Women.

His most recent play, The Jazz Age, about Hemingway, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald has been produced at East 55th Street Theatres in New York and at The Blank Theatre in LA to excellent reviews, with a Broadway production planned.

His play, The Man Who Was Peter Pan, became the basis of the award-winning movie Finding Neverland. Allan is now writing the book for the upcoming Broadway musical of the movie for The Weinstein Company.

A graduate of the Yale School of Drama, he won a Richard Rodgers Musical Theater Award as well as a Cine Eagle Award from the Washington Film Festival. His plays have been produced at Jewish Repertory Theatre, American Repertory Theatre, Milwaukee Rep, Long Wharf Theater, Manhattan Punchline, Theatreworks/USA among many others.

ETC’s 2016-17 Season has been generously sponsored by The Stephen and Carla Hahn Foundation. Syncopation is sponsored by Leatrice Luria, and Bob and Leah Temkin.

Founded in 1979, Ensemble Theatre Company is Santa Barbara’s leading professional, resident theatre company. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Jonathan Fox and Managing Director Jill Seltzer, ETC has attracted accomplished performing artists from around the country. 

Performances of Syncopation run Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 and 7 p.m., with a Saturday 4 p.m. matinee performance on June 17, and a Tuesday 7 p.m. show on June 13.

Tickets are $35 to $70. Discounts are available to seniors and groups of 10 or more. Youth tickets are available for patrons age 29 and under for only $20 each.

Single tickets are available through the ETC box office at 805.965.5400, or online at

For group sales information, please call 805.965.5400.

Box office hours are Monday through Friday from 1 to 5 p.m. On days with performances, the box office opens one hour prior to curtain and stays open until show

The New Vic is located at 33 W. Victoria St., Santa Barbara, California, 93101.


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