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RWS, Point Park combine talents on ‘The Old Man and the Sea’

Candy Williams

It’s an exciting time of “firsts” for Point Park University’s new Pittsburgh Playhouse as it prepares to present its world premiere stage adaptation of “The Old Man and the Sea” Feb. 1-17.

The production based on Ernest Hemingway’s classic 1952 Pulitzer and Nobel Prize-winning novel is adapted for the stage by Hemingway’s official biographer until his death in 1961, playwright A.E. Hotchner and his son, Tim Hotchner.

The Hotchners have been working closely with the university and Pittsburgh Playhouse Artistic Director Ronald Allan-Lindblom, who is directing the stage production.

Tony Award-winning actor and Broadway veteran Anthony Crivello (“Kiss of the Spider Woman,” “Evita,” “Les Misérables”) portrays Santiago, an aging Cuban fisherman struggling to catch a giant marlin in the Gulf Stream off the coast of Cuba.

Also featured in the cast are Pittsburgh actors David Cabot as Hemingway and Gabriel Florentino as Manolin, Santiago’s assistant. Simon Cummings, a cellist from Pittsburgh progressive rock group Cello Fury, will perform original music for the show.

Artistic collaboration

“The Old Man and the Sea” also marks the initial collaboration between Point Park and RWS Entertainment Group as part of a new producing partnership, in which the university will play an integral role in launching new plays and musicals on a yearly basis.

RWS is a New York City-based entertainment production company led by Greensburg native Ryan Stana, founder and CEO, a graduate of Hempfield Area High School and Point Park University, where he earned a BFA degree in theater arts and serves on the board of trustees.

Stana and his team work with corporate clients that consist of national companies, cruise lines and theme parks, including Kennywood and Idlewild parks locally, to source talent for productions, shows and special events.

In 2018, RWS launched a commercial theater business to take on producing and co-producing professional projects that could eventually make their way to regional theaters and Broadway.

Stana said he was impressed when he visited Point Park’s new entertainment facility and, coupled with his dedication to employing and hiring Point Park students, decided that partnering with the university was a logical choice, even though he was already in negotiations with a regional theater.

A unique challenge

“I talked with Ron and thought, why don’t we make Point Park the launching pad for shows? At that point, there was no looking back,” he said.

Bringing “The Old Man and the Sea” to the stage has been a unique challenge, according to Lindblom.

“What we wanted to do rather than recite Hemingway to an audience is to have an audience experience Hemingway viscerally,” he said. “We were able to combine Tony Award-winning actors with film students, so this is a creation that spans the entire spectrum, from training to professional theater.”

The director said the production will serve as a good example for future theater projects.

Experiential learning

“We have an opportunity to show how a national artistic laboratory could work – and how we can bring all these different disciplines together to collaborate and create something new that is created in Pittsburgh and exported out to the world,” Lindblom said.

The new Pittsburgh Playhouse was designed to be a learning laboratory for all Point Park students, providing experiential learning opportunities in producing, marketing, management, ticketing and programming.

“This is a state-of-the-art theater,” Stana added. “No other university in the country has anything like this. We know we have the opportunity to bring this production to life with the eventual goal of making its way to New York City and Broadway.”

Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.


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Gabriel Florentino as Manolin, left, and Anthony Crivello as Santiago, in ”The Old Man and the Sea.”
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Cellist Simon Cummings of Cello Fury will perform original music in “The Old Man and the Sea.”
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J.Altdorfer Photography
David Cabot as Hemingway in “The Old Man and the Sea” at Point Park University’s Pittsburgh Playhouse Feb. 1-17.
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Ryan Stana, founder and CEO of RWS Entertainment Group, which is partnering with Point Park University to produce ”The Old Man and the Sea.”