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Ensemble Studio Theatre presents

by Joe Gilford*

Directed by Giovanna Sardelli*
Choreography by Greg Graham

March 28 - May 5, 2013

When the moment came to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) some artists chose to name names, others chose to risk their careers rather than betray their friends. Finks is the real life story of young entertainers on the brink of success, who find themselves playing roles they never dreamed they’d have to play.

Do you know who your friends are?

Featuring Michael Cullen*, Ned Eisenberg*, Leo Ash Evens, Kenney M. Green, Jason Liebman*,Thomas Lyons*, Aaron Serotsky & Miriam Silverman 

Production Stage Manager - Jillian Anderson
Scenic Designer - Jason Simms
Lighting Designer - Gina Scherr
Sound Designer - Jill BC duBoff
Costume Designer - Sydney Maresca
Props Master - Kate Lundell
Technical Director - Derek Dickinson

*EST Member | All actors AEA Members



"A bracing play about McCarthyism by Joe Gilford. Aaron Serotsky is terrific. Miriam Silverman is giving an attention-getting turn in the kind of role actresses live for." - The New York Times

"Forget blue jokes; the humor in Finks, Joe Gilford’s farsighted yet tender tribute to his blacklisted parents, is distinctly red. But it’s part of what makes this play, directed with vitality by Giovanna Sardelli, a nifty bit of theater. The eight-person ensemble is uniformly strong and as Gilford tries to understand why some of the accused betrayed friends to keep their livelihoods, he demonstrates a pluck similar to that of his parents." - Time Out New York

"Joe Gilford's impassioned, autobiographical FINKS directed with concomitant fervor by Giovanna Sardelli and dressed with period accuracy by Sydney Maresca, is a testament to the parents who managed to maintain their indomitable spirit throughout the ordeal." - Huffington Post



Do you know who your friends are?

N.Y. Premiere
Based on the True Experiences of
Jack Gilford and Madeline Lee Gilford and the Blacklist of the 1950s


A Play of Show Biz and Subversion

By Joe Gilford
Directed by Giovanna Sardelli
Choreohraphy by Greg Graham

Previews Wednesday, March 28; Opens Saturday, April 6

NEW YORK -- Finks is playwright Joe Gilford's fictionalized account of his parents, Jack Gilford andMadeline Lee Gilford, and their real life experience of the blacklist.  It is a tale of a scoundrel time, a time of paranoia, loyalty and betrayal, show business and show trials, told from the life of two young entertainers who, at the birth of their careers, had to confront the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).  This play is about names, the naming of names, career-determining choices and finks.

            He was the gentle man with the kind face we knew from the Cracker Jack commercials, but in the early 1950s, when on the verge of stardom and his own TV series, somebody spoke his name.  She was a TV and radio actress until somebody spoke her name.  Both played roles they never thought they'd play in one the darkest times in American history when they were given top billing by finks.

            Directed Giovanna Sardelli, Finks featuring Michael Cullen, Ned Eisenberg, Leo Ash Evans, Kenney M. Green, Jason Liebman, Thomas Lyons, Aaron Serotsky and Miriam Silverman begins previews at the Ensemble Studio Theatre, 549 West 52nd Street, Wednesday, March 28, at 7:00pm for an opening Saturday, April 6, at 7:00pm. 

            "Joe Gilford has done a great job of capturing the fast paced spirit and humor of those times by writing a play that takes place at Cafe Society, the integrated Greenwich Village nightclub, and the HUAC hearings," said the Ensemble Studio Theatre's Artistic Director William Carden.  "The result is a well-crafted and compelling play about choices that resonate powerfully today."

Two backlisted actors, Zero Mostel and Jack Gilford, in the film A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966).  Jack originated his role in the 1962 Broadway musical for which he was nominated for a Tony.

            Jack Gilford is most famous for bringing his inimitable pantomime to the 1960s TV ads for Cracker Jacks. Born in Brooklyn, NY, he began as a club comic and went on to the stage. He was a starring actor in dozens of TV shows, films and Broadway, earning two Tony nominations and an Oscar nomination.  Madeline Lee Gilford was born in the Bronx.  She was a child actress, a teenage activist and a radio and stage performer. She later became a theater producer and continued acting throughout her life. The Gilfords had three children, Lisa, Joe and Sam.

            Playwright Joe Gilford remembers the paranoia of the blacklist years as a small child. "We were always told not to discuss something called 'communism'. We didn't really know what that meant, but understood to keep our mouths shut."  Finks has been developing for many years, he adds.  "I always thought that my parents' refusal to name names was heroic.  But they always explained that they had no choice.  They could never hurt their friends."

            Jack and Madeline remained activists for their whole lives. Mr. Gilford hopes that "my play will recreate the hardships that actors experienced having to make choices that artists should never be asked to make."

Jack Gilford in one of many Cracker Jack commercials:

            Joe Gilford's plays have been produced or presented at Naked Angels, Roundabout, Circle Rep, New York Stage & Film, the Westbank Downstairs Theater, and Todd Mountain Theater Project.  His plays include KnockdownNot Tunisia, In Aisle 4The End of Our RopeThe Love Museum,No Fault and Danny's Brian, for which he received an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation grant for this play about the neuro-science of brain injuries in football.  Finks was originally presented by New York Stage and Film Company and The Powerhouse Theater at Vassar on July 23, 2008He most recently was on the writing team of Gold Fever, a four-part mini-series on the 1849 Gold Rush for Discovery Channel.  Mr. Gilford has written the documentaries The Great American Songbook, a history of American popular song hosted by Michael Feinstein for PBS’s Great Performances now on Time Warner Home Video. Also for PBS: Beyond Wiseguys: Italian Americans and the Movies hosted by John Turturro and featuring Paul Sorvino, Marisa Tomei, and many others.  He has a New York Emmy Award for his work on WNET-NY’s (PBS) documentary City Arts series.  He has also been a writer and producer at Showtime, Bravo, Court TV, F/X, and New York's MSG MetroGuide channel.  Since 1999 he has taught screenwriting at NYU’s Undergraduate Film & TV Dept., Tisch School of the Arts. He is also currently a Visiting Professional teaching screenwriting at Montclair State University’s Dept. of Film in New Jersey.

            Jason Simms is designing scenery; Gina Scherr, lighting; Sydney Maresca, costumes; and Jill duBoff, sound.  Greg Graham is choreographing. The production stage manager is Jillian Anderson.   

            Finks performs Wednesday through Sundays evenings at 7:00pm with matinees Saturday at 2:00pm and an early curtain Sundays at 5:00pm.  SPECIAL PICK YOUR PRICE PREVIEWS, depending upon seat availability, are March 28 through April 1.  ALL MATINEES FOR THE ENTIRE RUN ARE PICK YOUR OWN PRICE.  Regular tickets are $30, $20 for student/seniors. To order tickets call 866.811.4111 or click


            The Ensemble Studio Theatre (EST) was founded in the belief that extraordinary support yields extraordinary work. We are a dynamic and expanding company of artists committed to the discovery and nurturing of new voices and the continued support and growth of artists throughout their creative lives. Through our unique collaborative process we develop and produce original, provocative, and authentic new plays that engage and challenge our audience and audiences across the country.

Press Inquiries: The Bruce Cohen Group


After the Sunday, April 14 @ 5pm performance of FINKS we will host Children of the Blacklist: a converation with children of blacklisted entertainers.

Panelists include:
Kate Lardner, daughter of screenwriter Ring Lardner Jr.
Julie Garfield, daughter of actor John Garfield
Lee Grant, blacklisted actress
Joshua Mostel, son of actor Zero Mostel
Deborah Offner, daughter of writer Mortimer Offner
Joe Gilford, son of actors Jack & Madeline Gilford

The discussion will be moderated by Tony Kahn, NPR radio host and son of blacklisted screenwriter Gordan Kahn.

Please join us for a post-show conversation with playwright Joe Gilford, director Giovanna Sardelli, and the cast of FINKS following the Sunday, April 7 @ 5pm performance of FINKS.

Earlier Event: March 3
Einstein on the Brunch
Later Event: April 7
I Am Woman Hear Me Brunch