For Immediate Release
Contact: Theresa M. MacNaughton, 860-520-7114/203-213-4102    

Hartford Stage to Present James Lecesne’s Critically-Acclaimed Solo Show The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey

Production will run March 30 through April 23

HARTFORD, CT — MARCH 14, 2017 — After a critically-acclaimed sell-out run in New York City, playwright,  performer and activist James Lecesne will bring his inspirational solo show, The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey, to Hartford Stage from Thursday, March 30, through Sunday, April 23.  The play deftly navigates the effects of bullying and the search for identity while telling an uplifting story about love, overcoming prejudices, and being true to one’s self.

This will be the second stop on a much-anticipated national tour for the production, which The New Yorker hailed as "A whodunit with a heart of gold.” The New York Times said, “Bravo! Leaves you beaming with joy” and cited Lecesne to be “among the most talented solo performers of his (or any) generation.”

The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey is based upon Lecesne’s young adult novel Absolute Brightness. Lecesne said, “It’s the story of a Jersey Shore town where a 14-year-old boy disappeared. The play is about trying to figure out what happened to him and why. I play all the people in the town to whom this boy was connected. Really, the play is about how we’re all connected to one another, the effect of one person’s life on many other people.” Lecesne portrays a tough New Jersey detective, a withdrawn teenage girl, a brusque yet gentle hairdresser, and a dozen other intriguing characters as they join forces to solve a mystery that will forever change their lives.

The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey earned the 2016 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Solo Performance and the 2016 Off-Broadway Alliance Awards’ Best Solo Performance. Lecesne previously appeared at Hartford Stage in the Pulitzer Prize-winning I Am My Own Wife; The Mystery of Irma Vep, directed by Michael Wilson; and the world premiere of Motherhood Out Loud, directed by Lisa Peterson.

Lecesne wrote the screenplay for the Academy Award-winning live action short film Trevor, which inspired the founding of The Trevor Project, the nation’s only 24-hour, toll-free confidential suicide hotline for gay and questioning youth. He is also the founder of the After The Storm Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to offering support to community centers in New Orleans that are working with youth and the arts. 

Additional writing credits include the NY Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award-winning solo show Word of Mouth, presented Off-Broadway by Mike Nichols and Elaine May and directed by Eve Ensler; the musical One Man Band, with music and lyrics by Larry Hochman and Marc Eliot; and the play The Mother of Invention, which premiered Off-Broadway at The Abingdon Theater in New York City.  Lecesne’s acting credits include the original New York City production of Caryl Churchill’s Cloud 9Extraordinary Measures, written and directed by Eve Ensler; the 30th anniversary production of Boys in the Band by Mart Crowley; and the 2013 Broadway production of The Best Man.

The creative team for The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey includes Set Designer Jo Winiarski (Off-Broadway: Love, Loss, and What I Wore; The Jewish American Princess of Comedy); Costumes by Paul Marlow (Glee The 3D Concert Movie, “Glee” television pilot). Lighting Design by Matthew Richards (Bell Book and Candle, Twelfth Night at Hartford Stage); Sound Design by Christian Frederickson (Seven Guitars, Glory of the World, The Master Builder); and Projection Design by Aaron Rhyne (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, Hartford Stage, Broadway and Anastasia, Hartford Stage, Broadway).

Tony Speciale, Artistic Director of Abingdon Theatre Company (Unnatural Acts; A Midsummer Night’s Dream, featuring Bebe Neuwirth and Christina Ricci) directs, with Original Music by the Tony Award-Winning Composer Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening, American Psycho, Because of Winn Dixie) and Original Animation and Photography by Matthew Sandager (“Letters to the Editor” video series, “The Marvels” book release trailer).

Hannah Woodward (Buyer & Cellar, Off-Broadway) will serve as Production Stage Manager.

The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey is produced by special arrangement with Daryl Roth and Darren Bagert.


The Production Sponsor is Robinson + Cole.

The 2016-17 Season also is sponsored by the Greater Hartford Arts Council and the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development.

Special Dates
Previews begin at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 30
Opening Night: 8 p.m. Friday, March 31
Closes: 2 p.m. Sunday, April 23

Tickets & Performances
Tue, Wed, Thu, Sun at 7:30 p.m.—Fri, Sat at 8 p.m.—Sat, Sun at 2 p.m.
Wed matinee at 2 p.m. on April 12 only
Weekly schedules vary. For details, visit

Tickets for all shows start at $25. Student tickets: $20. For group discounts (10 or more), contact Group Sales at 860-520-7114.

For all other tickets, please call the Hartford Stage box office at 860-527-5151 or visit

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Special Events

LGBT Night Out, April 5
In Partnership with Connecticut Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
Special Guests: True Colors
6 p.m. reception; 7:30 p.m. show

Sunday Afternoon Discussion, April 9
Enjoy a lecture from artists and scholars connected with the production immediately following the 2 p.m. matinee. Free

AfterWords Discussion
Tuesday, April 11, & Wednesdays, April 12 and 18
Join members of the cast and our Artistic staff for a free discussion, immediately following select 7:30 p.m. performances on Tuesday or the 2 p.m. Wednesday matinee.

Open Captioned Performances
Sunday, April 16, 2 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.
For patrons who are deaf or have hearing loss — free service with admission

Audio Described Performance
Saturday, April 22, 2 p.m.
For patrons who are blind or have low vision — free service with admission

The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey
James Lecesne

James Lecesne

Vanessa Butler

James Lecesne. Photo by Matthew Murphy


Now in our 53rd year, Hartford Stage is under the leadership of Artistic Director Darko Tresnjak and Managing Director Michael Stotts. One of the nation’s leading resident theatres, Hartford Stage is known for producing innovative revivals of classics and provocative new plays and musicals, including 73 world and American premieres, as well as offering a distinguished education program, which reaches close to 20,000 students annually.

Since Tresnjak’s appointment in 2011 the theatre has presented the world premieres of A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder on Broadway, winner of four 2014 Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Direction of a Musical by Tresnjak; Rear Window with Kevin Bacon; the new musical Anastasia by Terrence McNally, Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens; Quiara Alegría Hudes’ Water by the Spoonful, winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama; Breath & Imagination by Daniel Beaty; Big Dance Theatre’s Man in a Case with Mikhail Baryshnikov; and Reverberation by Matthew Lopez.

Hartford Stage has earned many of the nation’s most prestigious awards, including the 1989 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre. Other national honors include Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk, OBIE, and New York Critics Circle awards. Hartford Stage has produced nationally renowned titles, including the New York transfers of Enchanted April; The Orphans' Home Cycle; Resurrection (later retitled Through the Night); The Carpetbagger's Children; and Tea at Five.

The leading provider of theatre education programs in Connecticut, Hartford Stage’s offerings include student matinees, in-school theatre residencies, teen performance opportunities, theatre classes for students (ages 3-18) and adults, afterschool programs and professional development courses.    

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