Failure: A Love Story | West Coast premiere

May 7, 2014, updated June 9, 2014

Production photos are available here.



Eight performances weekly from June 5 to June 29, 2014
Opening Night: June 10

MILL VALLEY, CA—To close it’s 47th Season, Marin Theatre Company will produce the West Coast premiere of Failure: A Love Story by the “hugely talented Chicago writer” (Chicago Tribune) Philip Dawkins. Directed by MTC’s artistic director Jasson Minadakis, this “enchanted and enchanting” play about love and loss will feature five actors playing multiple characters, using puppets and playing live music both original (by MTC’s frequent collaborator Chris Houston, a Berkeley-based composer and musician) and from the era of the play – 1920s Chicago. This “wholly wonderful show that is profound, yet at the very same time whimsical beyond all imagining” (Chicago Sun-Times) will feature a cast of talented local actors – all previously seen at MTC before – including Marin natives Patrick Kelly Jones, Liz Sklar and Kathryn Zdan, as well as Brian Herndon and Megan Pearl Smith. The production will run for 29 performances from June 5 through June 29. Opening night is Tuesday, June 10. Based in Mill Valley, MTC is a 47-year old professional nonprofit theater that is a destination for exhilarating performances, inspired new American plays and powerful theatrical experiences.

Filled with Roald Dahl-like mirth, mischief and melancholy, Failure: A Love Story is recommended for ages 8 and up.

MTC has partnered with Radio Sausalito, 1610AM in Sausalito, Marin City and Mill Valley and online at, to offer a special program called Friday Nights Under the Lights during the run of Failure: A Love Story. Patrons are invited to enjoy FREE live music on MTC's patio before each Friday performance of Failure. Hosted by Radio Sausalito's Dizzy Jones, MTC presents ISOJI Jazz Band's the Wizard featuring Carol “Kelly” Thomas (R&B, jazz standards) on Friday, June 13; Honey Cooler (rock, reggae, funk) on Friday, June 20; and Mood Swing (swing, jump/jive, jazz standards, boleros) on Friday, June 27. Bands play from 6:30pm to 7:30pm. Radio Sausalito will be live broadcasting on Fridays, June 13, and June 27.

Failure: A Love Story is one of those gems that we would never have found,” said Minadakis, “if it wasn’t for this organization’s role in new play development both here in the Bay Area and around the country. Our Director of New Play Development Margot Melcon found this play when she was doing reading for the Horton Foote Prize. She brought it straight into my office and said ‘you have to read this. This is a fantastic piece of work.’ This is one of those plays that the minute we read it, we just had to figure out how we could possibly do it. And it’s been a long time coming… two years. With the help of our frequent collaborator composer Chris Houston and many of the actors on stage, we workshopped this version of the play. This will be the first time Failure will be done in this way – the first time it’s being done with only five actors, and the first time so with many instruments and musical numbers – so not only are we really excited, but the playwright Philip Dawkins is too!”

With the very opening lines, we know the basic plot of this anything-but-predictable, “wildly charming” (Chicago Reader) and “fantastically macabre” (Huffington Post) new play set in 1920s Chicago: “Nelly was the first of the Fail Girls to die, followed soon after by her sisters, Jenny June and Gerty Fail, in that order. Causes of death were Blunt Object, Disappearance and Consumption, also in that order.” But before each young woman meets her untimely end, she finds love and happiness in this “lovely, bittersweet play” (Philadelphia Inquirer), in which “Dawkins approaches death with a quiet strength and gentle humor” (Chicago Now). MTC’s production will emphasize the musicality of Dawkins’ play – highlighting the American Songbook standards mentioned in the script’s stage directions, as well as adding original tunes to underscore the playwright’s playfully poetic words.

Developed at the Lark Play Development Center in New York, Failure premiered in November 2012 at Chicago’s Victory Gardens and has also been produced at Azuka Theatre in Philadelphia, Illinois Shakespeare Festival and Stages Repertory Theatre in Houston. Best known for his Joseph Jefferson Award-nominated play The Homosexuals, which premiered at Chicago’s About Face Theatre in 2011 and receives its Bay Area premiere this month at New Conservatory Theatre Company in San Francisco, Dawkins receives his joint Bay Area debut in May and June at NCTC and MTC. Chicago Sun-Times has called his work “smart, funny, poignant, sharply observed [and] up-to-date.” He is a Victory Gardens Ensemble Playwright, an artistic associate of About Face Theatre and a founding member of Chicago Opera Vanguard.

MTC’s artistic director Jasson Minadakis directs the West Coast premiere of Failure: A Love Story. Winner of the 2010 San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award for best director (Equivocation) and a nominee in the same category in 2011 (The Glass Menagerie), he most recently directed the “bold, original and groundbreaking” (North Bay Bohemian) world premiere of Lasso of Truth in February. Earlier this month, The Whipping Man, which Minadakis directed for MTC and Virginia Stage Company in 2013, won the 2013 SFBATCC Awards for best production and ensemble. The show was also highlighted as one of the best in the Bay Area of 2013 by San Francisco Chronicle, Marin IJ and – San Francisco.

Failure: A Love Story features the returns of five talented local actors, including three Marin County natives – Oakland native/San Francisco resident Brian Herndon, who was last seen on stage at MTC in The Good German in 2007; Larkspur native and Redwood High School graduate Patrick Kelly Jones, who was last seen at MTC in public readings of Bill Cain’s play-in-development 33, as well as It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play; Marin native and Branson School graduate Liz Sklar, who last appeared at MTC in the world premiere Lasso of Truth in February; Megan Pearl Smith of the folk duo Misner & Smith, last seen at MTC in 2010’s Woody Guthrie’s American Song (for which an official cast recording will be released this summer); and Mill Valley native and Tamalpais High School graduate Kathryn Zdan, last seen at MTC in the world premiere of Bellwether.

Performing Arts | Theater

Failure: A Love Story | West Coast premiere

Marin Theatre Company
By Philip Dawkins | Directed by Jasson Minadakis
Featuring Brian Herndon,* Patrick Kelly Jones,* Liz Sklar,* Megan Smith* and Kat Zdan*
* Member of Actors Equity Association

June 5 – June 29, 2014
Opening Night: Tuesday, June 10
Previews: Thursday, June 5 - Sunday, June 8

Performance Days
Tue, Thu, Fri & Sat 8:00 pm
Wed 7:30 pm
Sun 7:00 pm
Matinees: Every Sun 2:00 pm | Sat 6/14 & 6/28, 2:00 pm | Thu 6/19, 1:00 pm

Check or call the box office at (415) 388-5208 for exact performance dates and times.

Marin Theatre Company | 397 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley, CA 94941

“Enchanted and enchanting… a wholly wonderful show that is profound, yet at the very same time whimsical beyond all imagining” – Chicago Sun-Times
With the very opening lines, we learn the basic plot of this anything-but-predictable new play set in 1920s Chicago: the three Fail sisters – Nelly, Jenny June and Gerty – have very little time left. But before it’s curtains for each young woman, she finds love and happiness in this quirky, macabre fantasia that examines the truism: “’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
Set to live music, this production will feature five actors performing guitar, piano, stand-up bass, violin, mandolin, flute and more.

$37–$58, details below (discounts available for Seniors and those Under 30)

Ticket Prices
Previews: $37 all
Opening Night & Sat Evenings: $53 side | $58 center
Tues: $37| $42
Wed, Thu, Sun Evenings & Matinees: $42 | $47
Fri: $48 | $53

Discounts available:
RUSH tickets: $20, available one hour prior to show, based on availability
Under 30: $20, all performances
Senior discounts: $4 off, all performances
Military personnel, their families & US veterans: $5 off, all performances, must show ID

For group sales, contact Julie Knight, (415) 388-5200, ext. 3302

“MTC Engaged” invites patrons to join MTC’s artistic staff, designers and casts in conversation.

After Words – A member of MTC’s artistic staff (often with one or more members of the cast) hosts a Q&A talk back after every performance, except Saturdays and Opening and Closing Nights.

MTC Engaged Special Events:

• Theater Lecture Series – FREE public lectures by MTC artistic staff, all start at 7:30 p.m. unless otherwise noted
- Tues, 5/20 – Belvedere-Tiburon Library, 1501 Tiburon Blvd., Tiburon
- Wed, 5/21 – Mill Valley Public Library, 375 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley
- Thur, 5/29 – Larkspur Library, 400 Magnolia Ave, Larkspur

• Perspectives: pre-show topical lecture: Thur 6/19, 12:00 p.m.

“MTC All Access” strives to make theater accessible to all audiences. For visually impaired patrons, Large Print playbills are available at the box office at all performances and Braille playbills are available with two-weeks advance notice through partnership with LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired. To request a Braille playbill, call MTC’s Box Office, (415) 388-5208, or use the California Telecommunications Relay Service by dialing “711.” For hearing impaired patrons, amplified sound Listening Devices are available.

CONTACT | (415) 388-5208 |


Philip Dawkins (playwright) makes his MTC debut with the West Coast premiere of Failure: A Love Story. His work includes the recent Joseph Jefferson Award nominated world premiere of Miss Marx: or the Involuntary Effect of Living at Strawdog Theatre in Chicago, as well as recent critically-acclaimed plays The Homosexuals and Failure, which also received “Jeff Award” nominations for New Work after their world premieres with About Face Theatre in 2011 and Victory Gardens Theater in 2012. Dawkins is making his Bay Area debut this May with the local premiere of The Homosexuals at New Conservatory Theatre Center in San Francisco. His plays for young folks are published through Playscripts, Inc. A graduate of Loyola University, Chicago, he is an Artistic Associate of About Face Theatre, an Ensemble Playwright at Victory Gardens and a founding member of Chicago Opera Vanguard. Dawkins teaches playwriting at Northwestern University, his alma mater Loyola University Chicago and through the Victory Gardens ACCESS Program for writers with disabilities. He also teaches Kung Fu to little Chicago kids through Rising Phoenix Kung Fu.

Jasson Minadakis (director) is in his eighth season as artistic director of MTC, where he has directed the world premiere of Lasso of Truth, The Whipping Man (San Francisco Bay Area Critics Circle Award for best production), Waiting for Godot, Othello, the Moor of Venice, The Glass Menagerie, Edward Albee’s Tiny Alice, the world premiere of Seagull, Happy Now?, Equivocation (SFBATCC Award for best director), the world premiere of Sunlight, Lydia, The Seafarer, Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, A Streetcar Named Desire, said Saïd, Love Song and The Subject Tonight is Love. As artistic director of Actor’s Express Theatre Company, he directed The Pillowman, Bug, Carson Kreitzer’s The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer, Echoes of Another Man, Killer Joe, Burn This, The Goat or, Who is Sylvia?, Blue/Orange and Bel Canto. As producing artistic director of Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival, he directed Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train, Chagrin Falls (2002 Cincinnati Entertainment Award for Best Production), The Beard of Avon, Arcadia, Nocturne, Fuddy Meers, Lovers & Executioners, Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol, Betrayal, The Weir, Waiting for Godot, The Misanthrope, A Chance of Lightning, The Three Musketeers, Dracula, The Color Wheel and 19 productions of Shakespeare. Regional credits include The Whipping Man at Virginia Stage Company, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Hamlet at Georgia Shakespeare, Copenhagen at Playhouse on the Square (2003 Ostrander Theatre Award for Best Dramatic Production) and Bedroom Farce at Wayside Theatre.

Brian Herndon (Mortimer Mortimer) has appeared at MTC in The Good German and As Thousands Cheer. His recent work includes Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness with Shotgun Players and The Taming of the Shrew with Livermore Shakes. Herndon originated the role of Philip Elton in Jane Austin’s Emma at TheatreWorks and has reprised it in all the play’s regional productions, including Arizona Theatre Company, the Old Globe and Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. He spent five seasons with the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival as an actor and two with Marin Shakespeare Company as a fight choreographer. Herndon attended the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre and received his MFA from the Alabama Shakespeare Festival.

Patrick Kelly Jones (John) has appeared at MTC in It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, the world premiere of Bellwether, two School Tour productions – TALL Tales and Animal vs. Animal: an Aesop’s Fables Mashup – and public readings of Bill Cain’s play-in-development 33. His Bay Area appearances include The Coast of Utopia Trilogy at Shotgun Players, Buried Child at Magic Theater, Abigail's Party at SF Playhouse, The Death of the Novel at San Jose Rep, The Pitmen Painters at TheatreWorks, Metamorphosis at Aurora Theatre Company and Exit, Pursued by a Bear with Crowded Fire Theater. Nationally, his credits include Cymbeline and Misalliance at New York Classical Theatre; Step One: Plays with Instructions at the 52nd Street Project in New York City; You Can’t Take It with You at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts; The Lieutenant of Inishmore and In the Belly of the Beast at Florida Studio Theatre; Vincent in Brixton at Cleveland Play House; and Arms and the Man at Great Lakes Theater. Jones holds an MFA in acting from Case Western Reserve University.

Liz Sklar (Jenny June) has appeared at MTC in the world premieres of Lasso of Truth, Bellwether and Seagull, as well as Othello, the Moor of Venice and public readings of Bill Cain’s play-in-development 33, and was an MTC teacher in residence at Martin Luther King Junior Academy in Marin City. She recently participated in A.C.T.’s staged reading of The Desk Set. Other Bay Area credits include Becky Shaw at SF Playhouse, Care of Trees at Shotgun Players, A Christmas Carol at A.C.T., King John at Marin Shakespeare Company and The Tempest at Cal Shakes. Sklar also performed in Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Mortal Folly Theatre in New York City and co-starred with Stacy Keach in the film Imbued. She holds a BA in theater arts from Brown University, an MFA in acting from A.C.T. and has trained with the SITI Company in New York.

Megan Pearl Smith (Gertrude Fail) has appeared at MTC in Woody Guthrie’s American Song, which she has also performed over a hundred times around the country, including locally at Freight & Salvage in Berkeley and Foothill Theatre Company in Nevada City. Bay Area credits include San Jose Repertory Theatre, Cal Shakes, TheatreWorks, SF Playhouse, CenterREP and Playground. Regional credits include Capital Stage, Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival and Willamette Repertory Theatre. Smith performs original music with the folk and Americana duo Misner & Smith. The pair recently released their fourth full-length album Seven Hour Storm and, in 2007, their song “Madeline (Paradise Cracked)” won the West Coast Songwriters Association’s Song of the Year. Smith will be featured on the forthcoming official cast recording of Woody Guthrie’s American Song, which features the entire cast of MTC’s 2010 production.

Kathryn Zdan (Nelly) has appeared at MTC in the world premiere of Bellwether.  As an actor, creator, singer, mover, teacher and director, she has worked extensively around the Bay Area with TheatreWorks, Shotgun Players, Crowded Fire, CenterREP, Magic Theatre, Shakespeare Santa Cruz, Cal Shakes, Livermore Shakes, Central Works and Berkeley Playhouse, among others. A Mill Valley native, Zdan received a BFA from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an MFA in ensemble based physical theatre from the Dell'Arte International School of Physical Theatre. After graduate school, she performed and toured Europe with the internationally acclaimed, Amsterdam-based street theater and performance art group Warner & Consorten. Zdan is a guest artist at the Tam High drama department, of which she is an alumna.

Founded in 1966, Marin Theatre Company is the Bay Area’s premier mid-sized theater and the leading professional theater in the North Bay. We produce a six-show season of provocative plays by passionate playwrights from the 20th century and today in our 231-seat main stage theater, as well as a five-show Theater Series for Young Audiences in partnership with the Bay Area Children's Theatre in our 99-seat studio theater. We are committed to the development and production of new plays by American playwrights, with a comprehensive New Play Program that includes productions of world premieres, two nationally recognized annual playwriting awards, readings and workshops by the nation’s best emerging playwrights and membership in the National New Play Network. Our numerous education programs serve more than 6,000 students from over 40 Bay Area schools each year. MTC is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Sasha Hnatkovich, Communications Director

(415) 388-5200, ext. 3313 |
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