Buddy Cianci comes back to life on Trinity Rep’s stage.
By Kate Brandt
Trinity Rep has long been committed to making theater for and with its community — and next season, we’re putting Providence on stage like never before with the world premiere of The Prince of Providence — a look at one of our city’s most famous (and infamous) personalities, Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci.
The play is based on The New York Times bestseller The Prince of Providence: The Life and Times of Buddy Cianci, America’s Most Notorious Mayor, Some Wiseguys, and the Feds by Mike Stanton and adapted for the stage by playwright George Brant, whose play Into the Breeches! premiered at Trinity Rep last year. We commissioned George to write the script in early 2018, and now, after a series of drafts, workshops, and revisions, we are thrilled to include this exciting new show in the 2019-20 Season lineup.
In addition to Mike Stanton’s book, Buddy’s life has also been chronicled in his own memoir, Politics and Pasta; in the podcast Crimetown; and on stage in Buddy Cianci: The Musical, as part of the 2003 New York Fringe Festival.
Over the course of two decades, Cianci was elected mayor of Providence seven times, but removed from office twice. In 1984, he left office after pleading no contest to assault charges, and in 2002 he was convicted of racketeering conspiracy.
He eventually spent more than four years in federal prison, but ran for office again after his release in 2014, though he ultimately lost to Jorge Elorza. In addition to his time in politics, Cianci was also a local radio host between times in office and created his own line of pasta sauce.
While reviled by many for his behavior in office, he is simultaneously celebrated by many who credit him for the growth of the city under his tenure. Notably, Providence became cleaner and more welcoming to tourists and artists during his second stint as mayor, during which time the rivers were moved to create Waterplace Park and the Riverwalk, the Providence Bruins came to town, and the Providence Place Mall and downtown skating rink opened.
Whether people admire or despise him, everyone can agree that Buddy Cianci’s story is one of the most unique and interesting in modern politics. His practically-Shakespearean qualities make his life story perfect for the stage. Though his story is universally appealing, and announcement of the play commission received national attention, we at Trinity Rep are particularly excited to share his story with those who lived through it and still live with the effects of his time as mayor every day.
Artistic Director Curt Columbus sees the enormous potential to create a play uniquely suited for local audiences. “At Trinity Rep, we make it our job to investigate the mythical, the historical, and the epic. Buddy Cianci’s story is all three of those things, and it is woven into the heart muscle of Providence, RI, our home. This project is one of the most exciting that we’ve undertaken. I can’t wait to share George’s brilliant play with our audiences.”
Playwright George Brant’s first commission for Trinity Rep, Into the Breeches!, had an extremely successful debut in January 2018 and has gone on to productions at Alabama Shakespeare Festival,
Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, Chautauqua Theater, and Northlight Theater. He is also well-known for the international phenomenon Grounded, which received over 100 productions in 17 countries, including a successful off-Broadway production starring Anne Hathaway. He is the recipient of numerous national awards including the Lucille Lortel Award, the Edgerton Foundation New Play Award, the David Mark Cohen National Playwriting Award, and the Smith Prize, among many others. In addition to Grounded his works include Elephant’s Graveyard, Marie and Rosetta, Grizzly Mama, Good on Paper, The Mourner’s Bench (produced at Trinity Rep in 2012), and Salvage.
The play is slated to be directed by Taibi Magar, whose long list of impressive credits also includes today’s play, The Song of Summer. Taibi is a graduate of the Brown/Trinity Rep MFA program in Directing. Since graduating, she has taken the helm of productions around the country and internationally. Her work in New York includes Is God Is at Soho Rep, for which she won the 2018Obie Award for directing.
The original book was written by Mike Stanton, who is an author, investigative reporter, and associate professor of journalism at the University of Connecticut. He worked for years as a sports writer and investigative reporter for The Providence Journal, where he shared a Pulitzer Prize.
Buddy’s story is known throughout Rhode Island and beyond, and even to those who don’t consider themselves to be politically-minded. But how will the epic story of such a legendary character fit into the span of a single play? Which of the good parts and the not-so-good parts of his story will make the cut? And who will play this juicy role? Well…those answers and many more will come in due time.
Tickets for The Prince of Providence are currently on sale only to 2019-20 Season subscribers. The single ticket on-sale date will be announced this summer.