by Vern Thiessen
directed by RJ Tolan
The Julie Harris Stage | August 9 – 31, 2019 | Previews August 7 and 8
When two biochemists are recruited by Josef Stalin to embalm the late Soviet leader, both men are pushed to their limits. Driven by fear and fame, both men attempt to achieve the impossible, but discover a dark secret. If they should succeed the rewards will be boundless, but failure can bring only one outcome.
“Lenin’s Embalmers is a happy success, combining self-aware humor, obscure science facts and a humane but irreverent attitude toward both the winners and losers of the Russian Revolution. ” – Time Out NY



Lacy Allen

Lacy Allen is thrilled to be returning to WHAT for her second time! Last summer she was seen in Five Times In One Night by Chiara Atik. She is currently a Universal Swing for Puffs at New World Stages in NY. Recent New York credits include: Lead in the NY Times Critics Pick: Inanimate at The Flea. Also at The Flea: Locked Up B******, B.B.’s Inferno (Serials at The Flea/ The PIT), Grandma Got BRUNCHed Over By A Reindeer (EST: Ensemble Studio Theatre). Lacy has performed and continues to develop her solo show Cindy is Right Now (SoloCom at The PIT, Flea Friday’s). Favorite regional roles: Lauren in Circle Mirror Transformation (Oregon Contemporary Theatre), Phil’s Girl in Bobrauschenbergamerica, and Irina in Three Sisters. She was born and raised in Mill Valley, California, Lacy is a founding member of the collaborative theater company, The Revel Yell, based in Humboldt, CA. She studied at American Conservatory Theater (ACT), Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB), Bay Area Theatresports Improv (under Keith Johnstone), The People’s Improv Theater (The PIT), Tres Artis and The Growing Studio. Lacy is a graduate of University of Oregon. www.thelacyallen.com


Robin Bloodworth

Robin Bloodworth is glad to be back at WHAT, having enjoyed
working on In the next room, or The Vibrator Play, and Boeing, Boeing.
Selected theater credits: Nick’s Flamingo Grill, Night of the Iguana,
Macbeth, The Time of Your Life. Time Stands Still, Clybourne
Park, (Suzi Award winners), Artist Descending A Staircase, Everything
is Established, Equivocation, A Doll’s House, Ah, Wilderness!(75th
anniversary revival), Fiction, Art, Girl Science (EST), Cloud 9 (20th
anniversary NY revival), Much Ado About Nothing (OOBR winner).
Proud Equity member. TV/Film: Those Who Deserve to Die, Anatomy of the Throat, Halt and Catch Fire, Your Worst Nightmare, Swamp Murders, Necessary Roughness, The Game, House of Payne, The View, In the Heat of the Night, The Client, Midnight Edition, Talk Show.


Will Dagger

Will Dagger has helped develop new work at EST, Primary Stages, Playwrights Horizons, Clubbed Thumb, The Civilians, The Actors Studio, and The New Group. Recent stage credits: Among the Dead (Ma-Yi), The Convent of Pleasure (Cherry Lane), Trees in their Youth (Signature Center), Latter Days (Ars Nova), Wood Calls out to Wood (Brooklyn College Weasel Festival at The Public), Verano Place (FringeNYC Outstanding Ensemble), Pucker Up and Blow (FringeNYC Best Overall Play), and Napoleon in Exile (59E59). His performance in a short film adaptation of the latter earned him Best Actor Award from the 30under30 Festival. TV: Law & Order: SVU (NBC), I Know This Much Is True (HBO), and Deception (ABC). Will is a co-founder and director of Calliope, a theatre company that devises large-ensemble hyperrealistic plays through long-form improvisation loosely inspired by classic works of literature and poetry. He is an alum of Kenyon College, and also writes songs.


David Fraioli

David Fraioli is happy to be back at WHAT for their 35th anniversary season. Previous WHAT credits include Mickey in Mojo, Ariel in The Pillowman, Leo in The Vibrator Play, Barry in Jihad Jones and the Kalashnikov Babes, Tony in Danny Casolaro Died for You. Los Angeles Theatre: The Homosexuals, Celebration Theatre; The Baby Dance, Lounge Theatre, Endgame, Sacred Fools Theatre New York Theatre: The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, La MaMa, Estelle Parsons, dir.; Trojan Women, En Garde Arts, Tina Landau dir. Television: Dexter, House, Criminal Minds, The Last Ship
MFA University of Washington.


Robin Haynes

Robin Haynes has appeared on Broadway in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and the original cast of Blood Brothers; in the National Tours of My Fair Lady, Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, and Jekyll & Hyde; and off-Broadway in Perfect Crime, Twelfth Night, Minor Demons, She Loves Me, Romeo and Juliet, Billy Bishop Goes To War, and others. His work in feature films includes Mel Brooks’s To Be Or Not To Be, the classic Hot Dog! The Movie, and the recent independent features Homecoming and Soldier’s Heart; and he has made guest appearances on television, in such shows as Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Third Watch, Cosby, M*A*S*H, Dallas, House Calls, Quincy, M.E., and Guiding Light. Robin has worked regionally at The Goodspeed Opera House, Actors Theatre of Louisville, The Cincinnati Playhouse In The Park, The Hartford Stage Company, and the Seattle Repertory Theatre, among others; and at stock theatres across the country. www.robinhaynes.com


Joe Pietropaolo

Joe Pietropaolo is an actor based in NYC. He previously appeared at WHAT in The Turn of the Screw, Moby Dick, and Around the World in 80 Days. New York credits include Larvae (Alchemical Studio Theater), Hedda Gabler (HEREarts Center), and Completeness (West of 10th). Regional credits include Elemeno Pea (Shadowland Stages), Love’s Labour’s Lost (Ithaca Shakespeare Co.), The Taming of the Shrew (Cornerstone Theater), and Twelfth Night (Illustrious Theatre). Joe has studied acting at the Moscow Art Theatre Center, and Ithaca College.


Jonathan Randell Silver

Jonathan Randell Silver is thrilled to be working here at WHAT with such a talented group. Select Off-Broadway and Regional Theatre credits include Bump, Please Continue (Ensemble Studio theatre); Red Emma & The Mad Monk (The Tank); Shear Madness! (New World Stages), Animal Crackers (Denver Center); The Fantasticks! (Long Wharf). Select Film/TV: Nevada (Sundance); Rover (Slamdance); Keeping the Faith; Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon); The Knick (Cinemax); Bored To Death (HBO). Jonathan is a proud artistic member of The Ensemble Studio Theatre. For more info about upcoming projects, please visit: www.jonathanrandellsilver.com


Gigi Watson

Gigi Watson is gratefully making her WHAT debut! Recent Boston theatre credits include Small Mouth Sounds, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime (SpeakEasy Stage), Brawler (Boston Playwrights Theatre), Hamlet, The Taming of the Shrew, Macbeth (Brown Box Theatre Project), Billy Elliot (Wheelock Family Theatre), Finish Line (Boston Theater Company), and Café Variations (ArtsEmerson/SITI Company). Gigi also works with numerous commercial video and voiceover clients, and is as an acting coach with My College Audition. Gigi holds a BFA in Musical Theatre from Emerson College and is a proud member of Actor’s Equity Association. She will be playing Daisy in WHAT’s upcoming production of Rhinoceros, opening in September. You can also catch her playing the titular role in Hamlet at Gloucester Stage this October.



Vern Thiessen

Vern Thiessen’s plays have been seen across Canada, the US , Asia, and Europe, including Shakespeare’s Will, Apple, Einstein’s Gift, Blowfish, The Resurrection Of John Frum and Vimy.
Thiessen is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Award for Outstanding New Play, The City of Edmonton Arts Achievement Award, the University of Alberta Alumni Award for Excellence, The Canadian Jewish Playwriting Competition, and the Governor General’s Literary Award, Canada’s highest honour for playwriting. He has also been shortlisted for the prestigious Siminovitch Prize in Theatre.
He has served as Playwright in Residence at Workshop West Theatre (where he founded the Playwrights Garage program), and the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton. He is a Past President of both the Playwrights Guild of Canada and the Writer’s Guild of Alberta. He is a member of both The Ensemble Studio Theatre and Epic Theatre Ensemble in New York City. Thiessen lives with his partner, horror novelist Susie Moloney, in New York City. www.vernthiessen.com


RJ Tolan

RJ Tolan – Previous at WHAT: Five Times in One Night (2018). Co-Artistic Director since 2003 of Youngblood, the company of young playwrights at New York’s Ensemble Studio Theatre. Recent credits include the premier productions of Mope by Paul Cameron Hardy, Five Times in One Night by Chiara Atik, Sweet Forgotten Flavor by Patrick Link, numerous one acts in the EST Marathon of One-Act Plays and dozens of short plays and readings in the Youngblood Sunday Brunch and other festivals.

mordantly funny
“Christopher Ostrom’s marvelous set….works perfectly
“Much credit for the show’s never-miss pacing and performances should go to director Tolan, who scored at WHAT last season with the bittersweet “Five Times in One Night.” To enjoy a dark comedy like “Lenin’s Embalmers,” you need to have the confidence to sit back and laugh at the grisly goings-on. Tolan, who co-heads Youngblood, the Ensemble Studio Theatre’s under-30 playwrights’ group, inspires that confidence and then some.”
Provincetown Banner

Lenin’s Embalmers is an engaging black comedy that will appeal to a diverse audience. Indeed, the audience last Friday night included an impressive number of immaculately attired young people in their 20’s and 30’s along with a mix of older adults and senior citizens. It is pleasing to see a younger crowd enjoying the theater.” Cape Cod Today

“WHAT shines with this production….Go for an evening of theater that’s like nothing you have — probably — seen before. Humor blends with history and drama for an inimitable experience.” Cape Cod Times

Lenin’s Embalmers is brilliantly successful at teasing out the satire inherent in the workings of the Soviet system; it’s a marvelous, heady brew combining humor and science with political maneuvering and desperation.  Ptownie

“Lenin’s Embalmers is a thoughtful, scathing comedy that, dark as it is, had the audience on opening night laughing from start to finish, even as the more serious aspects of it seeped into our brains to reflect on after the curtain fell.” Provincetown Magazine

“WHAT’s irreverent “Lenin’s Embalmers” is a unique and lively theatrical experience, and, like Lenin’s still-embalmed body, is not to be missed.”
Cape Cod Chronicle

“Proving you can make a play out of just about anything, dramatist Vern Thiessen crafted this madcap 2010 black comedy out of actual intrigues and events surrounding the 1924 preservation for posterity of Communist leader Vladimir Lenin’s corpse. And a lively corpse it is, offering droll commentary as a frenemy pair of biochemists, sloshed on vodka and dread of Stalin, work to carry out the high-stakes project. R.J. Tolan is at the helm of the piece, which mixes tragedy, farce and Soviet history.”
-WBUR, The 14 Productions To See This Summer In The Boston Area