Press Release March 2017


Gratiela Brancusi



Harlequino: On to Freedom U.S. Premiere Production previews March 16 and opens March 25 at The Actors’ Gang Written and Directed by Tim Robbins

A Musical Celebration of the Rebel Slave

Harlequino: On to Freedom is dedicated to the Nobel prize-winning playwright Dario Fo, who mentored Robbins through the process of creating the play

Culver City, March 14, 2017 – The Actors’ Gang’s new musical production of Harlequino: On to Freedom will have its U.S. Premiere on March 25, as part of the theater’s 2017 Spring Season of Justice. Written and directed by Tim Robbins, Harlequino: On to Freedom is a raucous celebration of the rebel slave, Harlequino.

A combination of  low brow and sophisticated comedy, social satire and musical  Harlequino: On to Freedom tells a story of love and resistance in an authoritarian world as the actors performing it must do so at the risk of their freedom. The musical had its European Premiere at the Spoleto Festival, in Italy, and it subsequently toured to Shanghai and Beijing where it was censored by government officials. 

Harlequino: On to Freedom begins previews Thursday, March 16, opens on Saturday, March 25 and runs through May 6, 2017, at The Actors’ Gang Theatre, in Culver City. 

Harlequino: On to Freedom looks with a fresh eye at a style of theater created by Italians 500 years ago, the Commedia dell’Arte. The new musical explores what obstacles of oppression and censorship the 16th century actors had to face as they performed their plays for audiences in public squares. As the story evolves, the conflict between a group of rogue actors and two Commedia dell’Arte experts becomes a battle for the soul of the Commedia, questioning the purpose of art, what is funny and who writes history. Ultimately the musical asks the question: What must the artist risk to live freely in today’s world?

In researching Harlequino: On to Freedom, Robbins discovered an account from the 16th century that tells of a Duke Gonzaga of Mantua who, after watching a Commedia play, ordered three of the actors to be executed. Although no text survives, this incident raises questions about the nature of the relationship between power and society’s truth tellers. We began to see a connection between those 16th century performers and artists in today’s world. From threats of eliminating the NEA to the radical suppression of art by Caliphates and fundamentalists, these questions have a deep resonance in today’s environment.” says Robbins.

“Censorship of art has always existed in all senses, at all times, during every era.  Commedia dell’Arte’s jesters were talking newspapers. People couldn’t read or write and, through jesters, they would also listen to reviews and comments about the news.  And they learnt about what was happening elsewhere. And above all, the jesters’ reports helped raise people’s awareness. They were liked by the poor, by the common people, but they were hated, feared and despised by those in power.” – Dario Fo

Nobel Prize winning playwright Dario Fo became a mentor to Tim Robbins as he developed Harlequino: On to Freedom. Dario Fo, together with his wife, Franca Rame, and their theater company, La Comune, staged shows all over Italy, breaking away from traditional theater venues and bringing theater into poor areas, town squares, occupied factories, engaging their audiences in discussions about the socio-political themes approached in their productions. Their plays always had a political edge, with constant digs made at power and its representatives. His theatrical weapon was contradiction, the absurd and the uncontrollable laughter of truth.  

“During the Counter-Reformation, all art forms were massacred, not just theater. Blind violence was used, and we can say that the Commedia dell’Arte genre was created outside of the theater and it greatly enriched it.  So you see, sometimes, even violence against theater develops creativity. And thanks to the repression at the hands of the Counter-Reformation, a completely new and innovative kind of theater was created. Sometimes priests are useful in theater.” – Dario Fo.

Dario Fo’s mentorship continued through the summer of 2016, in Cesanatico, Italy when Robbins and Fo discussed the play shortly before Fo’s death at age 90.

The Actors’ Gang has throughout its history developed theater that reflects the concerns of our community, attempting to shine a light on the nature of those in power while celebrating the stories of the anonymous and marginalized. The Actors’ Gang Iraq war satire Embedded opened in Los Angeles in July 2003, two months after President Bush landed on an aircraft carrier and declared ‘Mission Accomplished.” It was the first American play to call to question the atrocities of that war and the mainstream press’ compliance with the Bush administration agenda. Embedded played to sold out audiences in L.A., in New York and London, and subsequently toured throughout the United States. In 2007, Le Petit Théâtre de Pain, under the direction of Georges Bigot toured Embedded for a year throughout France.

In 2006, The Actors’ Gang produced Michael Gene Sullivan’s adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984. This production has, for the last 10 years, toured throughout the United States and on 5 continents, most recently in Spoleto, Italy, in the summer of 2016. 

In 2010, The Actors’ Gang produced Break the Whip, written and directed by Tim Robbins, a play that explored the class divisions of the English settlers and the early bonds between indentured Europeans, African slaves and indigenous people in the Jamestown Colony in the years 1609-1623. Inspired by Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States,” the play told the story of “the anonymous, the indentured and enslaved, the muted voices, the vanquished.” Break the Whip played to sold out audiences for 10 weeks in Los Angeles at The Actors’ Gang Theater. 


Tim Robbins ( Actor, Writer and Director )

For the past 35 years, Tim Robbins has served as Artistic Director for The Actors’ Gang, a theater company formed in 1982 that has over 150 productions and more than 100 awards to their credit. Past productions with The Actors’ Gang include: As DirectorA Midsummer Night’s Dream (2012-16), Orwells’ 1984 (2006-16), Mephisto (2001), The Good Woman of Setzuan (1991), Methusalem, the Eternal Bourgeois (1985), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1984), Ubu the King (1982); As Writer/DirectorBreak the Whip (2010-11), Embedded (2003-4), Mayhem, the Invasion (1992), Carnage, A Comedy (1988-89), Violence, The Misadventures of Spike Spangle Farmer (1987) and Alagazam (1986). Tim is also the Artistic Director of The Actors’ Gang and works as a Director and Teaching Artist with the Prison Project. In addition to producing live theater throughout the year, The Actors’ Gang provides arts education to thousands of Elementary, Middle and High School students working in 12 LA USD schools and in underserved communities in the L.A. area. Since 2006, The Actors’ Gang’s groundbreaking Prison Project provides theatrical workshops to incarcerated men and women in 10 California prisons. In 2014, Robbins and Prison Project director Sabra Williams have been instrumental in reinstating 6 million dollars into the California State budget for Arts in Corrections. 

As Actor, credits include Mystic River, Shawshank Redemption, The Player, Bull Durham and Jacob’s Ladder and as a Writer/Director, Dead Man Walking, Cradle Will Rock and Bob Roberts. Robbins has won the Academy Award, Golden Globe, Sag Award + Prix d’Interprétation masculine at Cannes

The Cast for Harlequino: On to Freedom will feature (in alphabetical order): Pierre Adeli, Adam Bennett, Julia Finch, Lee Margaret Hanson, Adam Jefferis, Dora Kiss, Joshua R. Lamont, Will McFadden, Mary Eileen O’Donnell, Stephanie Pinnock, Cihan Sahin, Bob Turton, Guebri VanOver, Miroslav Vejnovic, Sabra Williams, Paulette Zubata.

The Creative Team includes: Jason Lovett (Production Design), Bosco Flanagan (Lighting Design), Erhard Stiefel (Mask Design), Olivia Courtin (Costume Design), Cihan Sahin (Projection Design), David Silverman (Poster Design), Tim Robbins (Original Music), Ken Palmer, David Robbins and Lee Margaret Hanson (Additional Music), David Robbins (Musical Direction and Design) with music performed by David Robbins (Guitar, percussion, marimba), Aaron Guzzo (Keyboards), Ara Dabanjian (Accordion, Mandolin), Pedro Shanahan (Bass), David Haines (Percussion), and Austin Brown (Stage Manager).

About The Actors’ Gang

Since 1981, The Actors’ Gang has created and presented over 150 bold, original works and reinterpretations of the classics that address the human condition from an uncompromising and fresh perspective. Over the past 35 years, The Actors’ Gang has performed for audiences throughout the world, on five continents and in 40 U.S. States.

Our groundbreaking Prison Project is currently in ten California prisons serving incarcerated women, men and children with rehabilitation programs that reduce tensions in prisons and significantly reduce the recidivism rate. 

Hundreds of children in Los Angeles public schools discover confidence and creativity with our Education Department through in school immersion and after school programs. Our classes encourage acceptance, respect and team building in a fun and effective way. For more information, please visit us in our theater or online at

Ticketing information

Harlequino: On to Freedom previews begin Thursday, March 16, opens Saturday, March 25 and runs through Saturday, May 6, 2017. Performances are Thursdays at 8 pm; Fridays at 9 pm & Saturdays at 8 pm at The Actors’ Gang Theatre, 9070 Venice Blvd, Culver City, CA, 90232

General tickets are available for $34,99. Seniors and students may purchase $30.00 tickets. Thursday evenings are “Pay-What-You-Can.” For tickets, please call 310-838-4264 or visit to purchase tickets online or to view the complete schedule. The Actors’ Gang Theatre is located at 9070 Venice Blvd, Culver City, CA, 90232.



The U.S. Premiere of

Harlequino: On to Freedom

A Musical Celebration of the Rebel Slave


Written and Directed by Tim Robbins


Saturday, March 18 – Saturday, May 6, 2017


Thursday, March 16 – Friday, March 24


Opening night: Saturday, March 25 at 8:00 pm


Thursdays at 8:00 pm

Fridays at 9:00 pm

Saturdays at 8:00 pm


The Actors’ Gang Theatre | 9070 Venice Blvd | Culver City, CA  90232


General Tickets: $34.99

Students/Seniors: $30.00

Thursday Evenings – “Pay What You Can”

Tickets are available online at or by phone at 310-838-4264