Every day is opening night.


Press Contact:
Rick Miramontez / Alana Karpoff
rick@omdkc.com / alana@omdkc.com






New York, NY (August 14, 2018) – Epic Theatre Ensemble (James Wallert, Ron Russell, Melissa Friedman, Co-Founders) returns off-Broadway with the world premiere of The Winning Side, a new play by James Wallert, The Winning Side will begin previews on Wednesday, October 3, 2018 and officially open on Monday, October 8, 2018 at Theatre Row (410 West 42nd St.), a program Building for the Arts NY, Inc. The Winning Side will play a limited run through Sunday, October 28, 2018.

Based on the true story of Wernher von Braun, Chief Rocket Engineer for the Third Reich and one of the fathers of the United States space program, The Winning Side explores the hidden history behind America’s 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing.

The Winning Side will star Sullivan Jones (“The Looming Tower”) as Wernher von Braun, Melissa Friedman (Hannah and Martin) as Margot, Godfrey L. Simmons, Jr. (Einstein’s Gift) as Major Taggert and Devin E. Haqq (MacbethBorn with Teeth) in multiple roles. It will be directed by Ron Russell (Epic co-founder and executive director)

As the preeminent face and voice of space exploration on television during the 1950’s and 60’s, von Braun was one of the most famous men in the world.  But because of his complicated legacy, he’s largely been left out of the history books. With The Winning Side, Wallert creates an accessible theatrical experience for audiences of all ages that re-examines this forgotten figure of the space race, and asks challenging questions about our contemporary views of science, technology, politics, and ethics.

The creative team includes: Chika Shimizu (set/projections designer), Cat Tate Starmer (lighting designer), Betsy Rugg-Hinds (costume designer) and Ron Russell (sound designer).

“As long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by the American space program,” Wallert said. “The moon landing was presented as an awesome feat of American engineering genius and political will.  It wasn’t until much later that I began to become aware of just how much moral compromise and human sacrifice was marshaled to propel America toward that ‘one small step’.”

Wallert was inspired by the biography, Von Braun: Dreamer of Space, Engineer of War by Michael J. Neufeld, Senior Curator, Space History Department at The National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution. Neufeld will be the post-show talk back guest on Saturday, October 13 at 8 pm.  And Neufeld, who had a chance to read the play and see an early workshop said: “The Winning Side” takes the facts of Wernher von Braun’s life in Nazi Germany and the United States and artfully mixes them with fiction to produce a stimulating theatrical experience that asks fundamental moral questions about his Nazi past and the American decision to bring him over.  It will be a valuable experience for students and adults, provoking debates and morality and history.”

Tickets are $20 for all preview performances (October 3-7), $35 for the first week (October 10-14) and $45 thereafter.  Tickets can be purchased at http://www.epictheatreensemble.org/the-winning-side/.  There will be post-show talkbacks following every performance with experts in the fields of history, science, politics, engineering and technology. Audience members are invited to stay for these lively and fascinating discussions that will revolve around the play’s subject matter.

Epic Theatre Ensemble, founded in 2001, is dedicated to creating bold work with and for diverse communities that promotes vital discourse and change.   Epic builds thoughtful citizenship in communities throughout NYC by producing award-winning, socially minded plays and connecting these plays to schools via curriculum-integrated in-school and elective beyond-school program.

Epic makes theatre that empowers.  Epic’s artists are equal parts cyphers and mentors: they create and amaze; they teach and inspire; they translate the struggles of history into lessons for our future; they fight their way into the center of the civic dialogue.  We value youth voice deeply, because we share a youthful passion for justice; we believe that theatre that embraces this passion transforms audiences from passive bystanders into active participants forging a more inclusive and collaborative vision of America.

Off-Broadway, Epic has commissioned and developed 39 new works of socially-minded theatre, including 10 U.S. premieres and 13 world premieres such as nationally-known plays like Kate Fodor’s Hannah and Martin and Nilaja Sun’s No Child… and in 2015, Nilaja’s next solo piece PIKE ST., now on tour across the nation and even the world, winning numerous awards at Edinburgh in summer 2017. They’ve presented this new work alongside engaging productions of classics from Shakespeare, Ibsen, and Shaw, and New York premieres of acclaimed work from around the country and world, such as Sarah Ruhl’s Passion Play in Brooklyn and Vern Thiessen’s Einstein’s Gift. Epic is the recipient of OBIE, Lucille Lortel, Drama Desk, Drama League, and OTTO Awards, among many other honors.

The Winning Side is a wonderful example of a stage production that brings together the history of the space program, entertainment and education into a single unified experience,” said Asif Siddiqi, Professor at the Department of History at Fordham University and another post-show talkback guest on a date to be announced. “The value of this play is not only that it is consistently enjoyable, but that it doesn’t avoid the hard historical questions.  This is a one-of-a-kind experience, bringing a deeply controversial episode of our space program to the stage.”

“Historians usually believe that their research finding cannot be fictionalized without losing analytical precision and critical clarity,” said Alexander Geppert, Associate Professor of History and European Studies at NYU. “Jim Wallert proves us wrong. The Winning Side tells a fascinating story of technological ambition, political opportunism and personal betrayal in the name of humanity.”


SULLIVAN JONES (Wernher von Braun) was born and raised in the Bay Area, and is an alumnus of Brown University and UCLA’s School of Theater. On stage, Sullivan has appeared with The Denver Center (Frankenstein), Berkeley Repertory Theater (Head of Passes), Baltimore Center Stage (One Night in Miami…), The Long Wharf Theater (Smart People), TheaterWorks (Clementine in the Lower 9), The African American Shakespeare Company (Twelfth Night), among others. On screen, Sullivan has appeared in “The Good Fight” (CBS), “NCIS: New Orleans” (CBS), “Parks and Recreation” (NBC), “House of Cards” (Netflix), and was most recently a series regular on the Hulu Limited Series, “The Looming Tower”. Sullivan is a recipient of the 2012 Princess Grace Award in Theater.

MELISSA FRIEDMAN (Margot) is co-Artistic Director of Epic Theatre Ensemble and has performed in numerous Epic Off-Broadway productions including Hannah and Martin with David Strathairn, Einstein’s Gift with Aasif Mandvi, A Hard Heart with Kathleen Chalfant as well as Habitat, A More Perfect Union, Time and The Conways, Othello, Little Eyolf, Macbeth, and Born with Teeth. Other Off-Broadway & Regional credits include An Ideal Husband (Tennessee Rep), Last Night of Ballyhoo (Fulton Theatre), Much Ado About Nothing and Degenerate Art (Irondale), and Substance of Fire, Macbeth, and Henry IV directed by Jack O’Brien (Old Globe). MFA in Acting from the University of San Diego.

GODFREY L. SIMMONS, JR. (Major Taggert) is an Artistic Director of Civic Ensemble, a regional theatre in Ithaca, NY, along with Sarah K. Chalmers.  For Civic, he directed Eugene O’Neill’s All God’s Chillun Got Wings and appeared in Judy Tate’s Fast Blood and Athol Fugard’s My Children! My Africa! .Godfrey was a Producing Artist for Off-Broadway’s Epic Theatre Ensemble for four years, appearing in A More Perfect UnionWidowers’ Houses(which Godfrey co-adapted with Ron Russell), Measure for Measure, , and A Hard Heart, among other playsFor Epic, he also co-wrote and starred in a documentary play about the election of President Barack Obama, Dispatches From (A)mended America. He won the 1999 Audelco Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in John Henry Redwood’s Old Settler opposite Leslie Uggams at Primary Stages. He appeared in award-winning productions at Playwrights Horizons (Betty’s Summer Vacation, Obie Award-Best Play) and Round House Theatre (Home, Helen Hayes Award-Best Production). Other Off-Broadway and Regional Theatre appearances include Arena Stage, Olney Theatre, Syracuse Stage, People’s Light, Working Theatre, and Melting Pot Theatre among others. He has directed for Civic Ensemble, Cincinnati Playhouse, Cornell University, and Binghamton University. Godfrey was a 2012 TCG/Fox Fellow and a participant in the SPARK Leadership Program, funded by American Express, The Joyce Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by Theatre Communications Group. He is a lifetime member of Ensemble Studio Theatre. He has taught acting at Marymount Manhattan College and Binghamton University, and is currently Senior Lecturer in Cornell University’s Department of Performing and Media Arts.

DEVIN E. HAQQ (Multiple roles), a native of Nashville, Tennessee, has performed in numerous stage productions around the regional United States and New York City, most recently appearing Off-Broadway in the New York premiere of David Harrower’s Knives in Hens at 59E59 Theatres. Other Off-Broadway: MacbethBorn with Teeth, and Measure for Measure (Epic Theatre Ensemble), Singing Beach (HERE Arts Center), Much Ado About Nothing (NYSX), The Champion (BRIC Arts Media), All God’s Chillun’ Got Wings (JACK/Civic Ensemble). Regional: As You Like It (The Arden Theatre), Camp Logan (Boston Center for the Arts) Film: The AssassinFrancis of BrooklynAmbition’s DebtAll The Little Things We KillFor Entertainment Purposes Only. MFA, University of Alabama/Alabama Shakespeare Festival.  As an independent filmmaker, Devin made his feature film directorial debut with The Assassin, which he co-wrote and produced with Josh Wick. The Assassin was an official selection of the IFP-NY Rough Cut Lab 2006 and played in several film festivals around the country, including the 2007 Urbanworld Film Festival, the 2008 Pan African Film Festival, and the 2008 Nashville Film Festival. In 2012, Josh and Devin collaborated again to make Francis of Brooklyn, which won several awards during the 2012 – 2013 festival season, including Best Feature at the 2013 DIY Film Festival in Los Angeles. His latest feature project, Ambition’s Debt, recently won the Grand Jury Award for Best Narrative Feature at the 2017 ABFF and the Paul Robeson Award – Honorable Mention at the 2018 Newark Black Film Festival.

JAMES WALLERT (Playwright, The Winning Side; Co-Artistic Director of Epic Theatre Ensemble). In 2015, James received a Smithsonian Fellowship at the National Air and Space Museum to research his play The Winning Side. As an actor with Epic, James has appeared Off-Broadway in Richard III, Dispatches from (A)mended America, Macbeth, Mahida’s Extra Key to Heaven, A Hard Heart, Widowers’ Houses, Einstein’s Gift, Hannah and Martin, Little Eyolf, Habitat, and Time and the Conways. TV and Film credits include FOX Television’s Time of Your Life, ITV’s Future States, and Ambition’s Debt.  He has directed touring productions of Laundry City and Building Blocks for Epic NEXT as well as Macbeth, Henry VI, Twelfth Night, Henry IV, and Romeo and Juliet for Epic’s Shakespeare Remix program (winner of the 2009 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award). Since Co-Founding Epic Theatre Ensemble in 2001, James has curated and administered Epic’s Forum Series (funded by Humanities New York), serving over 35,000 audience members.

Ron Russell (Director, The Winning Side; Executive Director of Epic Theatre Ensemble) has co-founded four theatres that still produce today: the nationally-acclaimed Summer Theatre Enrichment Project at El Centro in Lorain, OH (1992); Swine Palace Productions in Louisiana, while receiving his MFA-Directing from the RSC’s Barry Kyle (1992-1994); UBI Rep Theatre in San Diego (1995); and Epic Theatre Ensemble (2001-present).  With Epic, he has directed 16 award-winning Off-Broadway productions, including Premieres of Kate Fodor’s Hannah and Martin, Vern Thiessen’s Einstein’s Gift, Shakespeare’s Richard III, Born with Teeth, and Nilaja Sun’s Pike St., which he is currently touring across the nation and world, where it has won Helen Hayes and FringeFirst Awards.  He has won an OBIE Award for Epic’s adaptation of Antigone and the International Ibsen Award for Pillars of Society. He has also designed sound for award-winning productions of Nilaja Sun’s No Child… (OBIE Award) and Judith Thompson’s Palace of The End.  His teaching experience includes over 50 public schools, reaching over 18,000 youth, and his work as an educator in NYC has been recognized by citations from the Municipal Arts Society and Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg.

 CHIKA SHIMIZU (Set/Projections Designer) is a New York based set, costume, and projection designer. Her design credits include Vietgone (TheatreSquared), Buyer and Cellar (Bucks County Playhouse), The Caucasian Chalk Circle (Yale Rep, CT Critics Circle Award Nom. for set), Romulus The Great (Yangtze Rep), False Stars (Corkscrew Theater Festival), The Seagull (Access Theatre), Assistance (Joust Theater Company), Twelfth Night; Or, What You Will, The Visit (Yale School of Drama), Don’t  Be Too Surprised, MuZeum (Yale Cabaret), Ching Chong Chinaman (Artists At Play), Romeo and Juliet, Tartuffe, and a number of dance theatre pieces (Cal State Fullerton). Chika has MFA in Design from Yale School of Drama. She is a recipient of Donald and Zorca Oenslager Fellowship Award in Design. chikashimizu.com.

 CAT TATE STARMER (Lighting Designer). Youth Theatre Festival, MacBeth, Othello (Epic Theater Ensemble); Playing with Fire (Guthrie Theatre); Hold These Truths (TheatreWorks, Guthrie Theatre, Playmakers Rep, ACT); This Beautiful City, The Great Immensity (The Civilians); White People (Ensemble Studio Theater); Himself and Nora, Kingdom (NYMF: Most Promising New Musical), American Jornalero (Working Theater), Wickets (HERE), Model (PS 122), Seven (World Premiere at 92nd St. Y), Critical Mass (with Deb Margolin). Guest Lecturer/Designer at Rutgers, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Barnard and Bard College. Architectural Design: Plaza 33 (Penn Station, NYC). Recipient of two Lumen Awards and a SOURCE Award (with Focus Lighting). MFA, Yale School of Drama.


The performance schedule for The Winning Side is as follows:


Wednesday, October 3 at 8 pm
Thursday, October 4 at 8 pm
Friday, October 5 at 8 pm
Saturday, October 6, at 8 pm
Sunday, October 7 at 3 pm
Monday, October 8 pm – opening night

Post opening:

Wednesday, October 10 at 8 pm
Thursday, October 11 at 8 pm
Friday, October 12 at 8 pm
Saturday, October 13 at 2 pm & 8 pm
Sunday, October 14 at 3 pm

Wednesday, October 17 at 8 pm
Thursday, October 18 at 8 pm
Friday, October 19 at 8 pm
Saturday, October 20 at 8 pm
Sunday, October 21 at 3 pm

Tuesday, October 23 at 7 pm
Wednesday, October 24 at 8 pm
Thursday, October 25 at 8 pm
Friday, October 26 at 8 pm
Saturday, October 27 at 8 pm
Sunday, October 28 at 3 pm

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