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December 15, 2005

Ford's Theatre - presents "Trying" - January 20-Feb 26, 2006 - with James Whitmore

From: Ford's Theatre - Dec 15, 2005

December 15, 2005
Contact: Joyce M. Patterson



written by
Joanna McClelland Glass
directed by
Gus Kaikkonen

January 20 – February 26, 2006
(Historian Arthur J. Schlesinger, Jr. to attend press night: Wed., Jan.,25, 7:30 p.m.)

Washington, DC--Theatre and film legend James Whitmore returns to Ford’s Theatre (January 20 – February 26, 2006) in the regional premiere of Trying by Joanna McClelland Glass. Whitmore, a long-time friend of Ford’s, will star as Judge Francis Biddle, the Washington bureaucrat and Philadelphia patrician, who served as FDR’s attorney general and the Truman-appointed chief U.S. judge at the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. Karron Graves will co-star and Gus Kaikkonen will direct.

(Press Night: Wednesday, January 25, 2006, 7:30 p.m.: Judge Biddle’s friend and eulogizer, the noted historian Arthur J. Schlesinger, Jr., and playwright Joanna McClelland Glass will attend the press night performance at Ford’s, along with Biddle’s daughter-in-law Mrs. Frances Biddle and his nephew Schuyler Chapin, the former dean of the School of the Arts, Columbia University.)

James Whitmore’s extensive career includes Academy Award nominations for Battleground and for his virtuoso performance as Harry S. Truman in Give ’em Hell, Harry! He toured nationally as Teddy Roosevelt in Bully!, as Harry S. Truman in Give ’em Hell, Harry! and in the title role of the acclaimed Will Rogers’ USA. Whitmore returns to Ford’s Theatre, where he has appeared in twelve productions, including in his signature role as Will Rogers, and most recently in Inherit the Wind in 2000.

Mr. Whitmore’s co-star, Karron Graves, appeared last season in Intimations for Saxophone at Arena Stage. Other credits include Construction at Mint Theatre and Nine Armenians.
Playwright Joanna McClelland Glass served as Judge Biddle’s secretary during the final year of his life (1967-1968) and based Trying on her real-life experience as the assistant for this once powerful bureaucrat. In 1967, as a young woman from the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, Glass signed on to help the elderly Biddle, then in failing mental and physical health, put his papers and, in effect, his life in order.

Despite the awe inspiring trappings of power that surrounded Biddle, Glass focuses her play on the private man, and his personal, yet universal struggle to maintain dignity, authority and self-respect in the face of declining health. And in a poignant, penetrating manner, she reveals the emotional wounds Biddle inflicted as he tried to stave off the ravages of age and illness.

At the height of his career, Francis Biddle lived in Georgetown and was counted among Washington’s powerful elite. As a young man fresh out of Harvard Law School, he served as a secretary to Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Later in life, almost successively, Biddle served as FDR’s first chairman of the National Labor Relations Board, on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and as U.S. solicitor general and U.S. attorney general. At the end of World War II, President Truman sent Biddle to Germany as the chief U.S. judge at the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. As a private citizen, Biddle served as chair of the Americans for Democratic Action and as president of the American Civil Liberties Union. However, despite many accomplishments, his reluctant involvement in the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II troubled Biddle throughout his life.

Judge Biddle died on October 4, 1968, at his summer home on Cape Cod in Hyannis, Massachusetts. At a public memorial service at the Washington National Cathedral, eulogizers included the poet Allen Tate; James Rowe, a technical advisor during the Nuremberg Trials; and the famous historian Arthur J. Schlesinger, Jr.

This production of Trying is made possible by the generous support of Lockheed Martin Corporation, Southern Company. Home Depot is a sponsor of the entire 2005-2006 season at Ford’s.

I-CAPTION Assistive Technology
This season, throughout the run of Trying, Ford’s is proud to announce that it will provide I-Caption devices that will allow Deaf and hard of hearing patrons to follow the dialogue on stage. I-Caption technology is the latest innovation in assistive technology from Sound Associates, Inc. I-Caption technology features a proprietary handheld unit that displays the text of the entire show verbatim, in real time from any seat in the house. The text is automated and synchronized with sound and lighting cues to accommodate pacing variations from performance to performance. A polarized screen keeps nearby patrons from being distracted by light or moving text. The system made its debut in Deaf West’s production of Big River on Broadway and was available for all performances of the national touring companies as well as during the production at Ford’s Theatre.

Ford’s Theatre Society
Ford’s Theatre Society is a not-for-profit corporation created to produce live entertainment on Ford’s historic stage. Paul R. Tetreault is Producing Director. It is the mission of the Ford’s Theatre Society to honor President Lincoln and his love for the theatre by producing plays and musicals that celebrate and explore the American experience as revealed by America’s greatest theatre artists.

Performance Schedule
Running: January 20 – February 26
Tues. – Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Sat. – Jan. 21; Feb. 4, 11, 25 – 7:30 p.m.
Sat. – Jan. 28; Feb. 18 – 2:30 p.m.
Sun. – Jan. 22, 7:30
Sun. - Jan. 29, Feb. 5, 19, 26 – 2:30 p.m.
Weekday matinees – Feb. 9, 16 – 12:00 p.m.
Exception: Sun. , Feb. 12 – Dark [Lincoln’s birthday]; Tues. , Feb. 14 - Dark

Sign interpreted performances
Wed., Feb.1, 7:30 p.m.
Sun, Feb. 5, 2:30 p.m.

Audio described performances
Sun., Jan. 29, 2:30 p.m.
Tue., Feb. 7, 7:30 p.m.

For more information on Ford’s Theatre, please call (202) 347-4833 or visit Ford’s at

Single Ticket prices - $25-$52 (Discounts are available for groups of 20 or more.)
Ticketmaster: 1.800.551.SEAT; 202.397.7328
Box Office: 202.347.4833 or in person
Group Sales: 202.638.2367
TTY: 202.347.5599
Available at Hecht’s Department Stores
Gift certificates in any denomination may be purchased at the Ford’s Theatre Box Office or by calling 202.347.4833.


BIOGRAPHY - Judge Francis Biddle

Best known to Americans as the attorney general under Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and as the primary American judge during the Nuremberg Trials, Francis Biddle was born in Paris, 1886 into a wealthy, well-established family. Biddle took great pride in his family history, tracing his lineage on both sides of his family well beyond early colonial America: his mother's side came from a long line of influential English aristocrats that included Thomas Randolph, covert diplomatic agent reporting to Queen Elizabeth, and a younger Thomas Randolph, successful writer of English and Latin verse mentored by Ben Jonson. On his father's side, the first Biddle to set foot in America was William, a captain in Cromwell's army, who purchased land directly from William Penn. Both families flourished in America becoming noted in law, politics and society. Biddle's great, great-grandfather, Edmund Randolph, served as the nation's first attorney general, and his grandfather was the influential businessman and engineer Moncure Robinson whose improvement on the steam engine revolutionized early railroading.

Francis Biddle graduated from the rigorous, newly-founded Groton School, where he was a solid student and novice boxer. Earning degrees from Harvard, B.A. cum laude, (1909) and L.L.B. cum laude, (1911), he worked for a year as a private secretary to Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Biddle then spent the next twenty-seven years engaged with trial work and corporate practice in Philadelphia. In 1927, he published his only novel, The Llanfear Pattern, a biting commentary of high-brow Philadelphia society. The novel centers around the character of Carl, an idealistic young man who becomes indecisive about political reform and romantic attachment. Carl gives into convention, accepting an appointment as district attorney from the same political machine he was once impassioned to destroy.

At the onset of the Great Depression, Francis Biddle was consumed with the plight of Pennsylvania coal miners and became politically active around the issue of labor relations. In 1934, President Roosevelt nominated him to be chairman of the National Labor Relations Board, serving in that capacity for a year. He was then asked to serve as legal counsel for the Tennessee Valley Authority, which was being investigated for corruption charges by a special congressional committee. Biddle won the case for the TVA. In 1939, he became a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, but left after one year to become the United States solicitor general. This was also a short-lived position; Roosevelt nominated him to the position of attorney general of the United States in 1941. Biddle served as attorney general through the majority of World War II.

At President Truman's request, Biddle resigned after Roosevelt's death. Shortly after, Truman appointed him as a judge at the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. Upon retirement, he served as the chairman of Americans for Democratic Action from 1950-1953, and as the president of the American Civil Liberties Union. Francis Biddle was married to the poet Katherine Garrison Chapin and had two sons, Edmund and Garrison, the latter died at an early age. Judge Biddle died in Hyannis, Massachusetts, on October 4, 1968, at the age of 82.

--Biography written by Alex Grennan

(Francis Biddle)

Mr. Whitmore’s extensive career includes Academy Award nominations for Battleground and for his virtuoso performance as Harry S. Truman in Give ’em Hell, Harry! He toured nationally as Teddy Roosevelt in Bully!, as Harry S. Truman in Give ’em Hell, Harry! and in the title role of the acclaimed Will Rogers’ USA. His costume from the latter production is housed in the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. His theatre credits include The Magnificent Yankee, The Man Who Came to Dinner, Death of a Salesman and Our Town. His first Broadway role was in Command Decision for which he won a Tony Award for best supporting actor. On screen Mr. Whitmore’s work includes The Asphalt Jungle, The Next Voice You Hear, Battle Cry, Kiss Me Kate, The Shawshank Redemption and Old Hats. His television credits include My Friend Tony, Temperatures Rising and The Law and Mrs. Jones, which he co-produced and starred in the title role. He won the Cable Ace Award for Glory, Glory (HBO), co-starring Richard Thomas and an Emmy Award for outstanding guest actor in a drama series for a three-part episode of The Practice (ABC). Recently, Mr. Whitmore starred opposite his son, Jim Jr., in Inherit the Wind, directed by Gus Kaikkonen at Peterborough Players and two years in a row received the New Hampshire Theatre Award for best actor.


Joanna McClelland Glass was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.  Her plays have been produced in many North American regional theatres, as well as in England, Ireland, Australia, and Germany.  Her one-act plays, Canadian Gothic and American Modern, were first produced at the Manhattan Theatre Club in New York City in 1972.  Artichoke, starring Colleen Dewhurst, was first produced at Long Wharf Theatre, New Haven, CT, in 1974.  To Grandmother’s House We Go, starring Eva LeGallienne, was first produced at the Alley Theatre, Houston, Texas, moving to Broadway in 1980.  Play Memory, directed by Harold Prince, was first produced at the McCarter Theatre, Princeton, New Jersey, moving to Broadway in 1984.  Play Memory won a Tony Award nomination that year.

Yesteryear was originally produced by the Canadian Stage Company in Toronto in 1989.  If We Are Women premiered in the U.S. in the summer of 1993, at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, Williamstown, MA.  The Canadian premiere was a co-production between the Vancouver Playhouse and Canadian Stage Company, Toronto, 1994.  The British premiere was in London, starring Joan Plowright, directed by Richard Olivier.

Ms. Glass has written two novels, Reflections On A Mountain Summer, published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1975, and Woman Wanted, published by St. Martin’s Press in 1984.  She has adapted both novels into screenplays, for Lorimar Studios and Warner Bros.  Woman Wanted was filmed in 1998, starring and directed by Kiefer Sutherland, also starring Holly Hunter and Michael Moriarty.

In 1984-85, Ms. Glass was awarded a Rockefeller grant.  She was playwright-in-residence at Yale Repertory Theatre. Other grants: the National Endowment for the Arts, 1980, and the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1981.  Ms. Glass was the winner of the Francesca Primus Award in 1994, and the Berrilla Kerr Award in 2000.

Trying was first presented by Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago in the spring of 2004.  It was then produced in New York City at The Promenade Theatre, in the fall of 2004.  The play won Chicago's Jefferson Award in 2004.  Trying has now enjoyed six other productions in regional theatres and is scheduled for approximately fifteen productions in the future.
Ms. Glass presently resides in suburban Chicago.