The Whale | Bay Area Premiere
  • 2023-10-09

The Whale | Bay Area Premiere

September 10, 2014
Updated September 22, 2014

Publicity photo for The Whale now available online. Headshots of Samuel D. Hunter are available through the MacArthur Foundation's website.




Eight performances weekly from October 2 to 26, 2014
Opening Night: October 7

MILL VALLEY, CA—Marin Theatre Company continues its 48th Season with the Bay Area premiere of Samuel D. Hunter’s The Whale, which won MTC’s 2011 Sky Cooper New American Play Prize and has gone on to become one of the most critically acclaimed new plays in America since its premiere in 2012. Named a 2014 MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant" Fellow in mid-September, Hunter will be in residence at MTC for one week during the run of The Whale as part of the company's New Play Program. MTC’s artistic director Jasson Minadakis (Failure: A Love StoryLasso of Truth, The Whipping Man) directs this “beautifully devastating, remarkably eloquent [and] frequently very funny” family drama that the Chicago Tribune declared “one of the very best plays of 2012,” and which received the Off-Broadway League’s Lucille Lortel Award for Best Play in 2013. MTC’s production features the return of Bay Area actor Nicholas Pelczar (The Whipping Man, 2013 San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award winner for best production and acting ensemble) in one of the most unique and demanding roles in contemporary theater: Charlie, an intelligent and sensitive 600-pound shut-in. The Whale features a supporting cast of local actors that includes Adam Magill (MTC debut), Michelle Maxson (MTC debut; Marin native), Cristina Oeschger (MTC debut) and Liz Sklar (Failure: A Love StoryLasso of Truth; Marin native). The production will run for a limited engagement of 29 performances from October 2 through October 26. Opening night is Tuesday, October 7. Based in Mill Valley, MTC is a 48-year old professional nonprofit theater that is a destination for smart contemporary American plays, uncommonly high quality productions and adventurous live theater experiences.

“I first read Samuel Hunter's The Whale in 2010 when it was submitted for our 2011 Sky Cooper Prize, which it went on to win,” said Minadakis. “I was immediately enraptured with the play. It is easily one of the most beautiful and moving pieces of theater I have ever encountered. I am so excited that we have finally found the right season to program it in and the right artists to bring it to life. I am incredibly honored that Sam will be in residence with us to work on his new companion pieces Lewiston and Clarkston. I hope Bay Area audiences will take this unique opportunity to see all three of these new works by this talented young American dramatist.”

The central character of The Whale is Charlie, a gentle but grieving giant, beached on a couch in Northern Idaho. Weighing in at nearly 600 pounds, he is a shut-in who spends his days teaching online English classes and seeing no one but his nurse and only friend Liz. When Charlie has a dangerous cardiac episode after a surprise visit from a young Mormon missionary, he decides to reach out, after years of estrangement, to his troubled teenage daughter. This critically acclaimed play has been hailed as “riveting, impassioned and arresting” by The New York Observer, “vibrant and provocative” by the Village Voice, “extraordinary” by New York Magazine, “wonderful” by New York Post, “harrowingly good” by Time Out New York and “deeply affecting and piercingly amusing” by New York Daily News.

The Whale won MTC’s 2011 Sky Cooper Prize, which celebrates the work of the American playwright and encourages the creation of bold, powerful new plays for the American stage. Premiering at Denver Center Theatre Company in January 2012, this new play has gone on to have productions Off Broadway by Playwrights Horizons in October 2012, at South Coast Repertory in March 2013 and at Victory Gardens Theater in April 2013, among others. The play has won numerous awards, including the Off Broadway League’s 2013 Lucille Lortel Award for Best Play, the 2013 Drama Desk Special Award for Significant Contribution to Theatre and 2013 GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding New York Theatre. Though Hunter won Village Voice’s 2011 Obie Award for playwriting, the success of The Whale marks a turning point in the young dramatist’s career. Playbill declared 2014 “The Year of the Hunter,” noting that his plays were receiving numerous productions across the US during the 2013-14 season, including the premieres of The FewA Great Wilderness and Rest. On September 16, he received a MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant" Fellowship, which recognizes him as an exceptionally creative individual with a track record of achievement and the potential for significant contributions in the future. Aurora Theatre Company in Berkeley produced A Bright New Boise in November 2013 and the Playwrights Foundation’s Bay Area Playwrights Festival held a staged reading of I Am Montana in 2007.

In addition to the production of The Whale, Hunter will be in residence at MTC for one week during the run of the play, from October 7 to 13. As part of MTC’s New Play Program, he will workshop his new plays Lewiston and Clarkston with MTC’s artistic staff and local Bay Area actors. A free public reading of these works will follow on Monday, October 13, at 7:00 p.m. in MTC’s 99-seat studio theater.


Performing Arts | Theater

The Whale | Bay Area premiere

Marin Theatre Company
By Samuel D. Hunter
Directed by Jasson Minadakis (Failure: A Love Story, The Whipping Man)
Featuring Adam Magill (MTC debut), Michelle Maxson* (MTC debut), Cristina Oeschger (MTC debut), Nicholas Pelczar* (The Whipping Man), Liz Sklar* (Failure: A Love Story, Lasso of Truth)
* Member, Actor’s Equity Association

October 2 - 26, 2014
Opening Night: Tuesday, October 7
Previews: Thursday, October 2 - Sunday, October 5

Performance Days
Tue, Thu, Fri & Sat 8:00 pm
Wed 7:30 pm
Sun 7:00 pm
Matinees: Every Sun 2:00 pm | Sat 10/11 & 10/25, 2:00 pm | Thu 10/16, 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 

The bigger the heart, the bigger the heartbreak.

Weighing in at almost 600 pounds, Charlie is a gentle but grieving giant, beached on a couch in Northern Idaho. Following a cardiac episode, he decides to reach out, after years of estrangement, to his troubled teenage daughter. This big-hearted drama won MTC’s 2011 Sky Cooper New Play Prize.

“Beautifully devastating, remarkably eloquent [and] frequently very funny… one of the very best plays of 2012” – Chicago Tribune

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

Ticket Prices:
All Previews: $30
Opening Night (10/7): $53 side | $58 center
Tues, Wed, Thu Evenings: $35| $40
Fri: $43 | $48
Sat Evenings: $48 | $53
Sun Evenings & All Matinees: $40 | $45

All prices subject to change.

Discounts available:
RUSH tickets: $20, available beginning one hour prior to show, subject to 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

MTC Loves Our Schools
Teen tickets: $10, all performances
Teacher tickets: $10, limit 2 per order; contact Education Department at 415.338.5200 x3310 to learn more

For group sales, contact Margot Manburg, (415) 388-5208.


Q&A discussion, hosted by a member of MTC’s artistic staff (often with one or more members of the cast), follows every performance, except Saturdays and Opening and Closing Nights.

New Play Reading Series: Lewiston and Clarkston by Samuel D. Hunter – Free public reading followed by Q&A with playwright: Mon 10/13, 7:00 p.m.; Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley

MTC Engaged Special Events:

  • Community Lectures, 7:30 p.m.
    • Belvedere-Tiburon Library: Tue 9/23, 1501 Tiburon Blvd, Tiburon
    • Mill Valley Public Library: Thu 9/25, 375 Throckmorton Ave, Mill Valley
  • Perspectives pre-show topical lecture: Thu 10/16, 12:00 p.m.

For visually impaired patrons, Large Print playbills are available with one week’s advance notice, and Braille playbills are available with two-weeks advance notice through partnership with LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired. To request a Large Print or 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 |



Samuel D. Hunter makes his MTC debut with The Whale, which won the company’s 2011 Sky Cooper New American Play Prize. His other plays include A Bright New Boise (Obie Award, Drama Desk nomination for Best Play), The FewA Great WildernessRest and Pocatello. He is the recipient of a 2014 MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship, a 2012 Whiting Writers Award, a Drama Desk Award, the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play, a GLAAD Media Award, the 2013 Otis Guernsey New Voices Award and the 2008 PONY/Lark Fellowship. His plays have been produced in New York at Playwrights Horizons, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, Clubbed Thumb and Page 73, and around the country at such theaters as Seattle Rep, Victory Gardens, South Coast Rep, Williamstown Theater Festival, The Old Globe, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Denver Center Theatre Company and elsewhere. His work has been developed at the O’Neill Playwrights Conference, the Ojai Playwrights Conference, Seven Devils and PlayPenn. A published anthology of his work, including The Whale and A Bright New Boise, is available from TCG books. He is a member of New Dramatists, an Ensemble Playwright at Victory Gardens, a member of Partial Comfort Productions and was a 2013 Resident Playwright at Arena Stage. A native of northern Idaho, Sam lives in NYC. He holds degrees in playwriting from NYU, The Iowa Playwrights Workshop and Juilliard.

Jasson Minadakis (director) is in his ninth season as artistic director of MTC, where he has directed Failure: A Love Story, the world premiere of Lasso of TruthThe Whipping Man (San Francisco Bay Area Critics Circle Awards for best production and best acting ensemble), Waiting for GodotOthello, the Moor of VeniceThe Glass Menagerie, Edward Albee’s Tiny Alice, the world premiere of SeagullHappy Now?Equivocation (SFBATCC Award for best director), the world premiere of SunlightLydiaThe SeafarerFrankie and Johnny in the Clair de LuneA Streetcar Named Desiresaid SaïdLove Song and The Subject Tonight is Love. As artistic director of Actor’s Express Theatre Company, he directed The PillowmanBugThe Love Song of J. Robert OppenheimerEchoes of Another ManKiller JoeBurn ThisThe Goat or, Who is Sylvia?Blue/Orange and Bel Canto. As producing artistic director of Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival, he directed Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ TrainChagrin Falls (2002 Cincinnati Entertainment Award for Best Production) and numerous others, including 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.

Adam Magill (Elder Thomas) makes his MTC debut in The Whale. He is a graduate of the Foothill Theater Conservatory and has received additional training at Seydways Studios in San Francisco. Recent credits include Shiner at FaultLine Theater, The Tempest at Do It Live and All's Well That Ends Well at Marin Shakespeare Company. He is also a contributor and company performer for the Play On Words literary performance series.

Michelle Maxson (Mary) makes her MTC debut in The Whale. Originally from the Bay Area, she lived for many years in New York, where she performed at venues including Cherry Lane Theatre, Culture Project, INTAR, Ensemble Studio Theatre, 78th St. Theatre Lab and Bleecker Street Theater. She has created original works at HERE Arts Center and Richard Foreman’s Ontological-Hysteric Theatre, as well as acted in developmental workshops and readings with New York Theatre Workshop, Lark Play Development Center and American Repertory Theatre. In the Bay Area, Maxson was a resident artist at the Climate Theater and received a Theatre Bay Area CA$H Grant to develop the original piece They Are Bad People. Upcoming projects include the independent film The Fixer, starring Melissa Leo and James Franco, directed by her longtime collaborator Ian Olds. She is an adjunct professor of acting at the University of San Francisco.

Cristina Oeschger (Ellie) makes her MTC debut in The Whale. A Bay Area native and high school senior at Laurel Springs School, she has performed in numerous musicals around the Bay Area, including Side Show and Shrek at Children's Musical Theater San Jose and the lead in Carrie the Musical at Ray of Light Theatre, for which she was nominated for the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award for Best Principal Actress in a Musical. Cristina plans to major in musical theater when she goes to college next fall.

Nicholas Pelczar (Charlie) has appeared at MTC in Jacob Marley's Christmas CarolThe Whipping ManOthello, the Moor of VeniceThe Glass Menagerie and boom. His Bay Area credits include Major BarbaraArcadiaWar MusicRock ‘n’ Roll and A Christmas Carol at A.C.T.; A Midsummer Night's DreamPygmalionHamletThe TempestMuch Ado About NothingMacbethThe Life and Adventures of Nicholas NicklebyOthelloTitus AndronicusTaming of the ShrewAll’s Well That Ends Well and The Importance of Being Earnest at Cal Shakes; The Pitmen Painters at TheatreWorks; 4 Adverbs with Word for Word; Hamlet and As You Like It at Pacific Repertory Theatre; A Midsummer Night’s Dream at San Francisco Shakespeare Festival; and Marius and Dublin Carol at Aurora Theatre Company. Nationally, he has appeared in The Whipping Man at Virginia Stage Company. Pelczar is a graduate of the A.C.T. MFA acting program.

Liz Sklar (Liz) has appeared at MTC in the world premieres of Lasso of TruthBellwether and Seagull, as well as Failure: A Love StoryOthello, the Moor of Venice and public readings of Bill Cain’s play-in-development 33. She has also been an MTC teacher in residence at Martin Luther King, Jr. Academy in Marin City. Sklar 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.

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 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 8,500 students from over 50 Bay Area schools each year. MTC is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Sasha Hnatkovich, Communications Director
(415) 388-5200, ext. 3313 | Email

– ####