Genre: Drama
By Patrick Link Directed By William Carden

  The Ensemble Studio Theatre/Alfred P. Sloan Project for New Plays on Science and Technology will tackle Post-Concussion Syndrome when it presents the world premiere of 27-year-old playwright Patrick Link's Headstrong.  The play, directed by Ensemble Studio Theatre Artistic Director William Carden, begins previews April 18 for an opening April 29 at The Ensemble Studio Theatre.

                  Headstrong is the story of a long-retired NFL linebacker who played with the greats and tackled them to the ground.  When his son-in-law, a Pro Bowler himself, dies under strange circumstances, he and his widowed daughter struggle with their own culpability, and whether the brain trauma he suffered in life was the price of football greatness.

                  Headstrong features Ron Canada, Tim Cain, Alexander Gemignani and Nedra McClyde. Sets are by Jason Simms, lighting by Chris Dallos, sound by Jannie Bullard, video by David Tennent and costumes by Suzanne Chesney.

                 Mr. Link's play is inspired by the ongoing struggles of professional athletes with head-related injuries, including, among others, Hall of Fame Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster, who suffered from amnesia, dementia and depression before his death at the age of 50; and Philadelphia Eagles defensive back Andre Waters, who sustained numerous concussions as a player before committing suicide at age 44.

                 "If you’re an NFL player," Mr. Link says, "what do you do when the one thing you’re qualified to do­that can generate income for your family, the thing you’ve loved your whole life, that you feel you are designed to do­might destroy your brain?"

                 "Science tells us these men put their lives at risk when they go out on that field," says Mr. Carden. "But there is a deep need in our culture for heroes, and these men answer that need. So this play is asking, 'do we lose our heroes if we heed our science?' It's a conflict."
                 The research linking the brain damage suffered by Webster and Waters, and the injuries sustained during their playing days has been led by the former pro wrestler Chris Nowinski www.chrisnowinski.com (a.k.a. Chris Harvard www.chrisharvard.net), and neuropathologist Bennet Omalu www.braininjuryresearchinstitute.org/about-us.
                 Both have been involved in the study of post-concussion syndrome, especially through the study of retired or deceased pro football players that continues to generate front page headlines around the country < www.nytimes.com/2012/03/22/sports/football/nfl-delivers-harsh-punishment-to-saints-over - bounty-program.html>. Two characters in Headstrong are loosely based on Nowinski and Omalu.
                 Playwright Patrick Link has been a football fan his whole life.  e read Mr. Nowinski's book Head Games: Football's Concussion Crisisand says it speaks to the conflict at the center of the sport he loves.

                 "In the interest of player safety, football has to change drastically, and that's a change that no true fan of the sport wants to see," Mr. Link says.  "When science tells us that our traditions, our passions are flawed, how do we change?  What consequence is severe enough to bring about change? If brain damage isn't enough…what is?"

About the Company: Ensemble Studio Theatre

The Ensemble Studio Theatre is a not-for-profit developmental theatre founded by Curt Dempster and a loose-knit group of fellow theater artists during a fertile period Off Broadway between 1968 and 1972. EST’s founders had two primary goals in creating the company: to nurture individual theatre artists and to develop new American plays.

EST nurtures individual artists through its free membership program, which offers lifetime membership in the company to diverse theater artists selected via a competitive application process. Demonstrated talent and keen interest in collaboration and contributing to EST’s community are the criteria for admission. The emphasis is on talent. EST currently lists more than 500 theatre artists on its membership roster. Collectively the group has won every major prize or award in theater, film and television, including Pulitzer Prizes, Oscars, Tony Awards, Emmy Awards, Obie Awards and Susan Smith Blackburn Awards.

EST’s goal to develop new American plays has resulted in a record of achievement that rivals any theater in the U.S. in terms of quantity and quality of output, with a total of more than 6,000 plays developed and produced since 1972 featuring many of the finest playwrights, directors and performers working in the theater. Each year, EST produces over 150 projects, including readings and workshops of new works-in-progress and fully produced Mainstage productions, including many U.S. and world premieres.

Plays that originated at EST have been produced at more than 360 theatres across the United States. The company has been recognized with Village Voice Obie Awards, NY Outer Critic Circle Awards and numerous American Theater Wing Awards for excellence in theater.

Preview:   04/22/12
Open:   04/29/12
Close:   05/13/12

Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Monday evenings at 7:00pm, with matinees Saturday at 2:00pm and early curtains on Sundays at 5:00pm
Theater:   Ensemble Studio Theatre
Address:   549 West 52nd Street
New York, NY 10019
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Buy Tickets Online or Call: Ovation Tickets at 866-811-4111
Company: Ensemble Studio Theatre         Official Web Site: www.ensemblestudiotheatre.org