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When serious minded New York choreographer Anna (Jessica Clarke) and hothead restaurant
manager Pale (Mark Diaco) are brought together by a mysterious death, their connection sparks a
chemistry too explosive to ignore in Lanford Wilson’s landmark play Burn This.
Set in the summer of 1983 against the backdrop of lower Manhattan and the raging AIDS
epidemic, Burn This was Wilson’s attempt to create a psychic map of panic after experiencing a
panic attack walking down a street in NY. Looking to understand what was going on around him,
he sat down to write and remembered a guy he’d met seven years earlier from New Jersey who
became the inspiration for Pale.
Directed by Green Room and Sydney Theatre Award winner Iain Sinclair (MTC’s A View from the
Bridge) and produced by 16th Street Actors Studio, this production of Burn This has been a long
time in the making.
“I think the beginning of the story for me was when we brought Academy Award winning actress
Ellen Burstyn to Australia nearly 10 years ago to conduct a masterclass,” says 16th Street’s Artistic
Director, Kim Krejus. “Mark Diaco did a scene playing Pale. I remember when I drove Ellen home
that night, she said – ‘That actor is a star’. The rights to this play are rarely available and Mark has
doggedly stayed on the case until they finally said yes. This is the third attempt to stage the show,
the last being in May this year. He has faced every obstacle and has never given up.” “It’s not lost on me that the world outside is changing into something new,” says Diaco.
“Sometimes it’s felt as if we were living in an actual movie and the drama has superseded anything
Netflix has to offer. This enforced time to take stock, stop, rest and reflect has had its silver linings
though, and I think it’s something that the theatre is going to benefit from as people look to leave
their comfort zones. Burn This is a play about connection when we have all experienced a kind of
forced disconnection.”
With a reputation as one of the best directors of contemporary American plays following his
acclaimed productions of A View From the Bridge in Sydney and Melbourne, and Who’s Afraid of
Virginia Woolf at Sydney’s Ensemble Theatre, Iain Sinclair says Burn This is, “Theatre for theatre
lovers. It is not post-modern; it is visceral and it is a play that you burn to do.”
Burn This also marks 16th Street Actors Studio’s first foray into producing, with a mission to
empower actors to shine. “Our studio is all about the actor and the play,” says Krejus. “Our focus
has been on training for over ten years, and the next horizon (while still continuing training) is to
create work opportunities for actors in both theatre and film. We are so delighted to be doing this
at fortyfivedownstairs with this wonderful cast.


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