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To Begin the World Over Again: The Life of Thomas Paine

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Thomas Paine was often referred to as “a corset-maker by trade, a journalist by profession, and a propagandist by inclination.” Born and raised in England, Paine emigrated to the British American colonies in 1774 – when he was 37 years-old. That, however, didn’t stop him from becoming a virulent proponent of colonial America’s independence from the monarchy of Great Britain. Indeed, Paine made an indelible mark as a pamphleteer; the most popular of his published agitprops was titled Common Sense.

Now actor and dramatist Ian Ruskin is conveying the story of Thomas Paine’s remarkable lifetime in his one-man play, To Begin the World Over Again: The Life of Thomas Paine. Sturdily directed by Shanga Parker, with meticulous costuming by designer Sarah Nash Gates and costumiere Deborah Skorstad (along with an authentic 18th century-like wig design by Joyce Degenfelder, impressive props provided June Stoddard, and period appropriate music composed and performed by Joe Romano), Paine’s pivotal role in the struggle for American independence, though largely forgotten in today’s reflections on the country’s past, was extraordinary as well as indispensible to the nation’s formation.

Known for his associations with Benjamin Franklin and Irish statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke, Paine arrived in the New World in time to help foment the American independence movement. Without Paine’s popular pamphlet Common Sense, and then – between 1776 and 1783 – the provocative revolutionary pamphlet series, The American Crisis, John Adams proclaimed “the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain.”

Truth to oneself and the courage to stand behind one’s convictions were the credos that Paine professed and exemplified throughout his lifetime. An early abolitionist and an advocate of universal suffrage, Paine also was an innovator in terms of social and economic policies. Paine articulated and endorsed progressive tax measures and social programs to address the issue of poverty among commoners – including a set-up stipend for all citizens once they reached the age of 21, as well as a retirement fund to which all 50 year-old Americans would be entitled.

But Ruskin’s Paine provides more than a mere history lesson; it’s a sort of performance art. Not only do we learn of a largely untold slice of the American story, we also get to see an actor in top form. So nuanced and layered is Ruskin’s performance, and so enlightening is his script, it’s as if Paine has been brought to back life just to speak to us. Filled with gentle humor, pleasant musicality, and much eye-opening political and economic radicalism, we not only become acquainted with Paine’s public persona we also get a hint of Paine’s difficulty with personal relationships and intimacy. For history buffs and all who are interested in the seminal American philosopher and activist, who once declaimed “The world is my country. All mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion, To Begin the World Over Again: The Life of Thomas Paine is the show to see.

To Begin the World Over Again: The Life of Thomas Paine continues at the Electric Lodge in Venice through June 30. Evening performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sunday (June 23) at 7 p.m. (pay what you can on that date). A matinee will be performed on Sunday (June 30) at 3 p.m. For reservations, call (800)838-3006. For online ticketing, visit The show is also available for bookings. To get further details, visit



Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”


Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.