Hail and farewell to artistic directors. Doug Hughes takes over at New Haven's Long Wharf Theatre, while Mark Lamos ankles Hartford Stage Company after an 18-year tenure.
"I'd like to organize this theatre around a cadre of writers who are trying to explicate these maddening times," Hughes said in a recent interview. "The image we exude should not be dusty in the least. The theatre is about the present moment."
Although he kicks off with the 18th-century She Stoops to Conquer (Oct. 3-Nov. 2), Hughes leaps ahead with Wit (Oct. 31-Nov. 30), Margaret Edson's play about a woman fighting cancer, Keith Glover's funky In Walks Ed (Nov. 14-Dec. 14), and Douglas Carter Beane's satirical The Country Club (Jan. 2-Feb. 1). Being given its world premiere is Paul Selig's one-person Mystery School (Dec. 16-Jan. 25), in which Tyne Daly plays five women seeking spirituality.
Lamos winds up with Albee's enigmatic Tiny Alice (May 16-June 2), the director's fourth collaboration with actor Richard Thomas. Lamos also revisits Cymbeline (Nov. 8-Dec. 13), the first Shakespeare he directed in our capital city.
New Haven's Yale Repertory Theatre has a provocative duo in Ralph Lemon's theatre/dance culture clash, Geography (Oct. 23-Nov. 8), and Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney's adaptation of Sophocles' Philoctetes, retitled The Cure at Troy (March 26-April 18).
New musicals go for the occult: Dracula at Candlewood Playhouse in New Fairfield (Oct. 29-Nov. 9), Houdini at Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam (through Dec. 14).
Other premieres are My Father's House at Waterbury's Seven Angels (Nov. 13-30) and Petersburg at Yale (April 30-May 23), both about father-son clashes. Women cope in another pair of newcomers. In Last Lists of My Mad Mother at Hartford's Theater/Works (Jan. 16-Feb. 15), daughter faces mother's Alzheimer's; in Expectations, at Seven Angels (March 12-29), three ladies face suburbia.
--DAVID A. ROSENBERG
Touring companies and tryout productions are all very well, but the real strength of the Boston area's theatre scene lies in its regional theatres. The Huntington Theatre Company's elegant and deeply moving production of Pierre Marivaux's The Game of Love and Chance, which ran through Oct. 5, is already one of the highlights of 1997-98 theatre season. Here are a few more possibilities:
At the American Repertory Theatre (Cambridge, Mass.), Artistic Director Robert Brustein offers his own new play Nobody Dies on Friday. Running in repertory from late March 1998, it dramatizes the impact of Marilyn Monroe on the Lee Strasberg family during one day in the life.
The Pilgrim Theatre, one of four small companies to have been awarded a three-year residency at the Boston Center for the Arts, collaborates with avant-gardist Jean-Claude van Italie in the spring of '98 on The Tibetan Book of the Dead.
The pseudonymous Jane Martin's latest play, Jack and Jill, receives its Boston premiere at the New Repertory Theatre (Newton, Mass). The recipient of the American Theatre Critics Award for Best New American Play, and the hit of the 1996 Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville, it runs from May 6 through June 7.
The Spingold Theater Center at Brandeis University (Waltham, Mass.) offers a real rarity: Sophie Treadwell's Machinal, an Expressionist play that caused a stir when it was first produced in 1928 and has been almost ignored ever since. It runs from Feb. 17 through March 1.
Moving a little farther away from Boston and its immediate environs, Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, R.I., offers Henrik Ibsen's seldom-performed early masterpiece Peer Gynt, newly adapted by Tony-winner David Henry Hwang, who also serves as Trinity Rep's artist-in-residence. And the Worcester Foothills Theatre Company (Worcester, Mass.) has two offerings of more than usual interest: The Story of Dr. Faust, adapted by Marc P. Smith from various sources (March 5-29), and Berlin to Broadway With Kurt Weill (April 2-26).
UPSTATE NEW YORK
Predicting which shows will emerge among the season's best is close to impossible. However, clues exist. Look for challenging unhackneyed works that stimulate audience involvement and imagination, provocative pieces--new or old--that will fit a company's potential. Important, too, are directors, actors, and playwrights, and a troupe's potential for quality production.
Here are selections that intrigue me, from five Upstate New York companies:
Albany--Capital Repertory Company: A Little Night Music, April 28-May 24. The state capital's only not-for-profit professional theatre, under Artistic Director Maggie Mancinelli Cahill, is about to attempt its first fully mounted, full-scale musical.
Troy--New York State Theatre Institute: The Snow Queen, Oct. 19-Nov. 1. With a five-year $450,000 grant from Time Warner Music, the 22-year-old, state-supported institute is commissioned to produce five new family musicals. Third is 1997's Snow Queen, now revised and rewritten by playwright Adrian Mitchell and composer Richard Peasley, also playing in London's West End Unicorn Theatre, Jan. 23-Feb. 14.
Syracuse--Syracuse Stage: Angels in America, Jan. 15-Feb. 8. A big challenge for the company and Artistic Director Robert Moss, who stages this difficult show. Part One will be fully mounted, Part Two, a staged reading.
Rochester--Geva Theatre: The Old Settler, Oct. 14-Nov. 16. In its 25th year, Geva highlights John Henry Redwood's new play, winner of the American Theatre Critics Association's 1997 Best Play award. Leslie Uggams is the 50-year-old protagonist in a bittersweet tale of a mismatched love affair in Harlem.
Buffalo: Studio Arena Theatre: Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First Hundred Years, Jan. 18-March 8. Upstate's first look at Emily Mann's portrait of American life through the true story of two remarkable African-American centenarians.
A chilly tale, works by Brad Fraser and George F. Walker, a revisionist look at the Duchess of Windsor, and a farce set at a summer festival highlight Toronto's new theatre year.
Necessary Angel began the season on Sept. 18, with an imaginative adventure, David Young's Inexpressible Island. Its six characters--three officers and three enlisted men--are members of Robert F. Scott's 1912 Antarctic expedition, forced to burrow into the ice and into themselves during seven months of cutting winds and subzero temperatures.
Brad Fraser--whose Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love and Poor Super Man have played to packed houses--writes and directs Martin Yesterday, whose central character is an openly gay city councillor whose public face and private needs aren't always compatible.
It opens Oct. 18, at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, the city's foremost lesbian and gay company.
One of Canada's most exported playwrights, George Walker shores up the financially beleaguered Factory Theatre with Suburban Motel, six full-length plays set in the same motel room. Three of the plays run in the fall, beginning Oct. 25, and the final trio opens in the spring.
Linda Griffiths writes and plays the title figure--the tenacious and sensual Wallis Simpson--in The Duchess, opening Jan. 31, at Theatre Passe Muraille. Presenting the fascinating figure who toyed with the British royal family before running off with the jewel in the crown won't be hard for Griffiths--she's already played both Pierre Elliott Trudeau and wife Margaret.
Marvelous farceur Tom Wood, the author of the farcical B Movie: The Play, lampoons summer threatre festivals in Claptrap's mythical Ibsen Summer Festival, set in Oslo, Ontario. Opening on April 9, at Canadian Stage, the show draws on Wood's own experience--he's performed at both the Stratford and Shaw Festivals.
With a bias for plays of ideas, my pick of the season starts with Tony Kushner's Angels in America (Part One): Millennium Approaches, at Dobama Theatre, April 24-May 17. In its epic sweep about fin-de-sicle America, including AIDS, homosexuality, Reaganism, and social responsibility, Kushner's award-winning "fantasia" is clearly one of the most important works to emerge in the past decade.
If last year's hit satiric comedy, Sound Biting, by Cleveland playwright Eric Coble, is any indication, then his new piece, Virtual Devotion, which also explores the effects of technology on our lives, should be equally worthy of anticipation. It's also at Dobama Theatre, Jan. 16-Feb. 8.
Ensemble Theatre opens with Jason Miller's That Championship Season, Oct. 3-19, a modern American classic about four former teammates who meet with their old coach for a reunion. Miller's 1972 play continues to reverberate in its unflinching exposure of American dreams gone awry.
St. Louis-based Steven Woolf directs Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Edward Albee's no-holds-barred look at a barren marriage, at the Great Lakes Theater Festival, May 7-24. Winner of the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, (it was denied the Pulitzer because of vulgar language), Albee's 1962 drama focuses on George, a college professor, and his frustrated, foul-mouthed wife, Martha. In the course of one evening they let it all hang out before an unsuspecting young couple, Nick and Honey.
Following a successful staged reading in 1996, playwright and actor Murphy Guyer returns to The Cleveland Play House with the world premiere of his new comedy A Russian Romance, Dec. 30-Jan. 25. Also of note at the Playhouse is the rarely produced Yerma, by Federico Garcia Lorca, March 3-29, the tragic story of a woman who yearns for a child but is unable to conceive because of her husband's refusal to have children.
CINCINNATI, COLUMBUS, DAYTON
Veteran producer Robert Tolan's Metro Music Theatre, Columbus' musical-oriented Equity troupe, will present the first production--and the first revised version--of Kwamina since the 1961 Broadway run of composer-lyricist Richard Adler's musical drama about African colonialism and interracial romance. Adler (Damn Yankees, The Pajama Game) has added eight songs in the hope of giving the show new life and a future, with Susan Ivory revising Robert Alan Arthur's original book and Tolan staging the piece concert style. Kwamina runs Oct. 22-26, at the Riffe Center's Capitol Theatre.
The Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati presents Medea (Jan. 4-10), Cincinnati writer Michael Blankenship's update of Euripides' tragedy to the Cajun society of 1850s New Orleans.
Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park will present the world premiere of Bruce Graham's Coyote on a Fence (Jan. 27-Feb. 22, in the Shelterhouse Theatre). The 10th winner of the Playhouse's Lois and Richard Rosenthal New Play Prize, Graham's chilling drama centers on an arrogant writer and a white supremacist, exploring the contradictions of life on death row. If the success of such past winners as Keith Glover's In Walks Ed and Jeffrey Hatcher's Scotland Road are any indication, then Coyote should go places.
Dayton's leading The Human Race Theatre Company will present the Ohio premiere of Stonewall Jackson's House , Jonathan Reynolds' controversial Off-Broadway satire about racism and political correctness (Feb. 11-22, in the Loft Theatre). Adding to local interest is Reynolds' Ohio connection--he graduated from central Ohio's Denison University--which makes this a homecoming for the playwright-screenwriter.
Columbus' leading Contemporary American Theatre Company ends its season with Below the Belt (May 21-June 14, in its Park Street Theatre), Richard Dresser's paranoid corporate comedy about male bonding. Artistic Director Geoffrey Nelson and resident actor Jonathan Putnam will co-star in the Humana Festival hit, one of many Festival favorites that CATCO has restaged.
Several Equity troupes in the Detroit area are reviving past hits this season, rather than introducing audiences to new works. You can't blame the artistic directors. Why take a risk when you've got a sure thing like, say, A Christmas Carol?
Scrooge and company return to our major LORT house, suburban Meadow Brook Theatre, for the 15th year, Nov. 28-Dec. 28. Meadow Brook opened with the regional hit Over the Tavern, a Catholic coming-of-age comedy-drama. It will also stage the Detroit-area premieres of Three Tall Women (Oct. 22-Nov. 16) and Keith Glover's critically acclaimed Thunder Knocking on the Door: A Bluesical Tale of Rhythm and the Blues (Jan. 7-Feb. 1).
The 40-year-old Detroit Repertory Theatre remounts In the Sweet Bye and Bye (Nov. 6-Dec. 31) and Fences (Jan. 15-March 22), two past smashes for the urban company devoted to nontraditional casting.
Entering its eighth year, The Purple Rose Theatre Company in rural Chelsea is relying on the past, even if that past is recent: Playwright Jeff Daniels' 1995 hit, Escanaba in da Moonlight, opened Sept. 25, for a 10-week run that is already sold out. The comedy, about a family of flatulent deerhunters in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, moves to Lansing's Boarshead: Michigan Public Theater, in January.
Purple Rose promises a new play by Lanford Wilson (postponed from last season), plus Steven Dietz's showfolk comedy, Private Eyes (June 18-Aug. 9).
Downtown, the African-American Plowshares Theatre Company moves into the Museum of African American History with Laurence Holder's Zora Neale Hurston (Nov. 6-30), A Raisin in the Sun (March 12-April 5), and the midwest premiere of Shay Youngblood's comedy-drama Talkin' Bones (Jan. 29-Feb. 22).
In Ann Arbor, the new SPT 2 Equity contract at Performance Network offers three world premieres: Inverted Pyramid (Feb. 12-March 1), Refused (March 26-April 12), and White Picket Fence (May 14-31).
Milwaukee theatre companies frontloaded their seasons this year, opening major productions in September. The largest and most important of these is an unusual collaboration on a staging of Angels in America. For the first time, two companies will split the seven-hour epic, with each producing a half of the play using different directors, actors, designers and venues. The Milwaukee Repertory Theater has opened Millennium Approaches, directed by Eric Simonson, in its Powerhouse Theater, for a run through Oct. 19. The Milwaukee Chamber Theatre will open Perestroika, directed by Montgomery Davis, in the Cabot Theatre at the Broadway Theatre Center, for a run from Oct. 18 through Nov. 9. The collaboration occurred because the Milwaukee Rep didn't want to devote a third of its six-show mainstage season to one play, and the smaller Chamber Theatre doubted it had the resources to mount the entire Angels.
The Chamber Theatre staged the North American premiere of Christopher Fry's One Thing More in Milwaukee's St. John's Cathedral, in a production that closed Sept. 21. Fry is the 90-year-old British playwright who has written such plays as Venus Observed and The Lady's Not for Burning. Later in the season, the Chamber Theatre will mount Albee's Three Tall Women, April 18 to May 3.
Steven Dietz's Private Eyes, the comedy that was well received at Louisville's Humana new play festival earlier this year, will be opened by the Milwaukee Rep on its second stage Oct. 31, for an engagement through Nov. 23. The Rep will produce the American premiere of Richard Nelson's The General From America, a drama about the capture of Benedict Arnold, on its mainstage, March 4-April 5. The Brecht-Weill theatre-music-dance piece The Seven Deadly Sins is a part of Theatre X's ambitious season. Produced in collaboration with the Wild Space Dance Company, it will be staged Feb. 19 to March 1, in the Studio Theatre at the Broadway Theatre Center.
MINNEAPOLIS, ST. PAUL
Joe Dowling, artistic director of The Guthrie Theater, flew off to London recently and brought back a wonderful Christmas present: Sir John Gielgud--on tape, that is. Thanks to a day-long recording session, Gielgud will appear as narrator in this year's annual Guthrie production of A Christmas Carol (Nov. 21-Dec. 28).
Meanwhile the Jungle Theater will celebrate the holiday season with a Dec. 10-Jan. 4 presentation of two one-person shows. Kevin Kling, one of this area's most popular storytellers, will recall boyhood memories in his own play Tales From the Charred Underbelly of the Yule Log; Bain Boehlke, the Jungle's artistic director, will complete the program with his interpretation of Dylan Thomas' sensitive recollections of A Child's Christmas in Wales.
Members of the Eye-of-the-Storm theatre company will bring their production of "Santa Land Diaries" to the Loring Playhouse (Dec. 6-Dec. 27), and in early '98 will return with How I Learned to Drive (Feb. 27-March 29). Meanwhile, the Playhouse's resident company presents Anna Christie (Oct. 31-Nov. 22) and As You Like It (Jan. 23-Feb. 24).
A recent Loring Playhouse hit, Craig Johnson's imaginative and skillful re-creation of The Diary of Samuel Pepys, will be reprised by Johnson at the One-Person Play Festival in the Bryant Lake Bowl. Later, Johnson, a graduate of the University of Minnesota's Theatre Department, will bring Mr. Pepys back to the U. in a special symposium for U. of M. students of acting and theatre history.
Summer will find the University's Showboat back on the Mississippi after extensive repairs and refurbishing. The l998 Showboat opening takes place 40 years to the day after the original opening of the vessel (then called the Centennial Showboat), on which hundreds of theatre students have doubled as performers and maintenance-workers.
Elsewhere in Minnesota, summertime learning of a different kind will be offered at famous vacation resorts, when cast members of How to Talk Minnesotan, the Musical leave the Plymouth Playhouse to spread the word(s) to visitors from all over the United States. The need and the demand for such education are reportedly very great, indeed.
--LUCILLE JOHNSEN STELLING
Big authors and big directors dominate Chicago's not-for-profit stages this season, beginning with Euripides' Iphigenia Cycle, staged by JoAnn Akalaitis at Court Theatre. In a new translation by Nicholas Rudall, it was the first hit of the season (closed Oct. 12). Another auteurist director-writer, Tina Landau, is at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Nov. 28-Jan. 24, with the world premiere of her Space. Then Artistic Director Robert Falls gives Eric Bogosian's Griller a mainstage world premiere at Goodman Theatre, Jan. 9-Feb. 21.
Also in the new year, Organic/Touchstone Company Artistic Director Ina Marlowe will stage the regional premiere of Moonlight, Harold Pinter's first full-length play since 1978. The Next Theatre Company offers an April 3-May 2 costume curiosity, the anonymous early Jacobean revenge tragedy Cardenio, ascribed by some scholars to Shakespeare and John Fletcher. Shakespeare expert Kate Buckley will direct. In the spring, Victory Gardens Theater brings home-town actor William Petersen back to the stage in the world premiere of Flyovers, by Jeffrey Sweet, May 15-June 23. Finally, it's bursting bodices as Lifeline Theatre offers what should be a summer delight, the June 12-Aug. 30 world premiere of Cotillion, adapted by Christina Calvit from the swashbuckling romance novel by Georgette Heyer.
But the show I anticipate with the greatest relish is Steppenwolf's April 17-June 14 revival of The Man Who Came to Dinner. With ensemble member John Mahoney (on hiatus from Frasier) as star and veteran TV director James Burrows (Cheers, Frasier) directing, it should be raucous heaven.
Most Chicago NFPs, by the way, utilize the Chicago Area Theatre (CAT) contract rather than LORT.
ST. LOUIS-KANSAS CITY
Regional theatres are in the midst of several complex mazes. They are trying to find funds in an era of downsized generosity and, at the same time, to expand audiences in an era of splintering interest. The way out isn't always clear, but some imaginative routes are being explored in the Midwest.
In St. Louis, where the Fox is home to the major touring musical extravaganzas and city fathers falter on promises of more theatres, the The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis is looking to challenging contemporary drama, much of it not long Off-Broadway--or, more properly, not long Off-Off-Broadway.
Artistic Director Steven Woolf will stage two of them: David Rabe's A Question of Mercy, the Rep's Studio Theatre opener (Oct. 31-Nov. 16), and David Hare's Skylight, on the Mainstage (Feb.13-March 13).
The New Theatre begins its 1997-98 schedule at the Grandel Theatre with John Patrick Shanley's Psychopathia Sexualis, Oct. 24-Nov. 8. Joe Hanrahan, who directed Sylvia last season, will direct Shanley's comedy.
Across the state, Kansas City's The Unicorn Theatre goes into its 24th season with a record ticket sale. Artistic Director Cynthia Levin, who calls her theatre "a way of looking at the world with an open mind," is directing Brian Friel's Molly Sweeney, but a season high spot may come from Larry Larson and Levi Lee, with music by Phillip DePoy. It's called The Salvation of Iggy Scrooge, Iggy being an aging rock star, and is a takeoff on A Christmas Carol. Larson and Lee have a good track record of raucous, leg-pulling comedy.
And the newest professional theatre in the area, Stage One, in Wichita, Kan., opens its first season in November with Paper Moon, based on the movie of the same name--much of it set in Kansas. The theatre hopes to develop new musicals and to support new composers. Megan Drew will be Addie Pray, and Wayne Bryan will portray her father. The theatre's first original show, Urban Myths, is scheduled for February.
The Salt Lake Acting Company's season is off to a strong start with the regional premiere of Julie Jensen's Last Lists of My Mad Mother (Oct. 1-Nov. 9). The endless lists are the demented mother's "way of keeping the holes in her mind from showing." Jensen is a native Utahn now living in Las Vegas. This personal play examines the particular mid-life crisis when roles reverse and the daughter must become the protector: "My mother's been eating the same three things for over a year now. Ice cream, Hershey bars, and Honey Bunches of Oats."
And down the street at the Pioneer Theatre Company, Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Sept. 17-Oct.4) cooks up entirely different culinary delicacies--"the best meat pies in London"--made from Sweeney's prey. Director Charles Morey and Musical Director James Prigmore have boldly pressed Sondheim's truculent musical into a thrilling Gothic form. Michael Medeiros is the throat-slitting Sweeney, and Mary Ellen Ashley is the pie-baking Mrs. Lovett.
Meanwhile, the Denver Center Theatre Company is staging an 18th-century food fight. In a new translation and adaptation by former theatre critic Sylvie Drake, Carlo Goldoni's The Servant of Two Masters (Sept. 24-Nov. 15) hilariously coats the Ricketson Theatre stage with an edible feast. Carving away at the long speeches of the original, Drake succeeds, as she intended, delivering "the essence of Truffaldino [the servant], with his native shrewdness, his Beavis-and-Butthead density, his infinite capacity for inadvertent, optimistic bungling--and his uncanny ability to land on his feet."
Arizona audiences will have to wait for their buffet until spring, when the Arizona Theatre Company stages Molire's Scapin (Tucson, April 11-May 2; Phoenix, May 9-23). Yet another wily servant, reminiscent of Goldoni's, makes funny fodder of the fathers as he arranges the weddings of the four young lovers. This zany new adaptation by Bill Irwin and Mark O'Donnell takes foolishness to new lows.
--CLAUDIA W. HARRIS
Theatres in the Bay Area Peninsula will be presenting a "mini-Stephen Sondheim Festival." In 1987, San Jose Civic Light Opera presented the first professional full production of Sondheim's Follies (after its Broadway and national-tour runs). It was a breathtaking, magnificent triumph starring Gretchen Wyler, Teri Ralston, and Harvey Evans. On Jan. 16, the company (now known as American Musical Theatre of San Jose) is once again mounting Follies, with Artistic Director Dianna Shuster repeating as director. The production will have a very limited run, Jan. 16 through Feb. 1. TheatreWorks, in Palo Alto, will be presenting the Bay Area premiere of the revue Putting It Together (March 4-April 5). Directed by Robert E. Kelley, it features Bay Area favorite Meg Mackay. Foothill Music Theatre will produce the rarely seen Anyone Can Whistle, directed by Jay Manely and opening in mid-February.
The American Conservatory Theater is presenting David Henry Hwang's Golden Child (Feb. 12-March 15), which will be directed by multi-Tony Award-winner James Lapine, and Berkeley Repertory Theatre stages a revival of The Heiress (Nov. 12-Feb. 2), featuring Anne Torsiglieri, Ken Ruta, and Joy Carlin.
Also, for Michael Smuin fans, there is anticipation of the 1997-98 season for Smuin Ballets/SF, which kicks off with Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, at Cowell Theatre, Nov. 5-16. Cabaret-lovers will have an opportunity to hear some of the finest singers with Have I Got a Song for You! A Tribute to Bob Grimes, at the Herbst Theatre, on Dec. 8. Pianist Peter Mintun will host the evening with scheduled appearances from Weslia Whitfield & Mike Greensill, Sharon McNight, KT Sullivan, Eric Comstock, Claibome Cary, Meg Mackay & Billy Philadelphia, and Paula West, among many others.
Every season brings another 500-plus productions to Southern California's theatres, where it's not unusual to find five concurrent productions of A Midsummer Night's Dream, three Heidi Chronicles, and six Me and My Girls! Still, it's not hard to find theatre companies with a sparkling history, loads of promise, or both. It's even easier to track down those rare productions that even seasoned theatre critics await in eager anticipation and with high expectations.
Speaking of expectations, one of California's hidden gems, Glendale's A Noise Within, has tossed out A Christmas Carol in favor of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, adapted by Barbara Field. The production will grace Glendale stages, Dec. 4-21.
Another surprise production for the holidays is the Geffen Playhouse presentation of Mabou Mines' Peter and Wendy. Adapted by Liza Lorwin from J.M. Barrie's novel, the production features Lee Breuer's direction, pop-up book sets by Julie Archer, and music by Johnny Cunningham.
Certainly, given South Coast Repertory's triumphant 1997 production of Richard Greenberg's Three Days of Rain, it's hard not to look forward to this exciting playwright's 1998 SCR world premiere, Hurrah at Last, a sophisticated urban comedy set for April 3-May 10.
If one had to pick one work from the artistically rich Mark Taper Forum season, it would definitely be Anna Deavere Smith's currently titleless exploration of "the national identity as it has been embodied by the American presidency" (set for April 16-May 31).
Finally, as much as Los Angeles audiences love area theatres which create work from scratch with many local artists, I'd be fibbing if I didn't report playgoer enthusiasm for the Ahmanson Theatre's very "Tony" season that includes Rent (Sept. 20-Nov. 16), Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk (March 7-April 26), and Chicago (May 2-June 21).
Miller, O'Neill, Wilson, Kushner, Vogel--not a bad year's work for a season. Houston's Alley Theatre promises all these playwrights and more for 1997-98, but the most-anticipated may well be Eugene O'Neill's mesmerizing Long Day's Journey Into Night, starring Oscar-winning Ellen Burstyn as Mrs. Tyrone (Feb. 13-March 14).
As it happens, the Dallas Theater Center will also do O'Neill's Journey this season (Feb. 25-March 22), but upcoming there this month is Michael Ondaatje's The Collected Works of Billy the Kid (Oct. 22-Nov. 16). Billy shares with Ondaatje's other work (The English Patient, Coming through Slaughter) a preoccupation with the boundaries between history and art, imagination and reality, and it also offers an acute examination of the romantic mythology of Texas and the West.
Musical gender-bending will have to wait until spring--back in Houston, Theatre Under the Stars' new staging of Victor/Victoria has been postponed again, from November until April of '98, due to lead Julie Andrews' continuing recovery from throat surgery. Oliver!, initially scheduled for the spring, takes its place (Dec. 4-21). In the meantime, the "new American musical" co-sponsored by TUTS, The 5th Avenue Musical Theatre (Seattle), and the Ordway Music Theatre (St. Paul), will be an all-new production of Australian choreographer David Atkins' Hot Shoe Shuffle, described as a tap-dance version of "Crocodile Dundee Meets 42nd Street," with an original score by Megan Cavaliari. Co-choreographer is Tap Dogs' Dein Perry--bring on 'da funk.
Also in Houston, the continuing rejuvenation of Stages Repertory Theatre, under Artistic Director Rob Bundy, will include a revival of Edward Albee's All Over (March 5-29), in consultation with the playwright, who is artist-in-residence at the University of Houston. And just in time for Halloween, look for Stages' southwest premiere of Doug Wright's Quills, an intriguing and sensual study of the Marquis de Sade as "an unlikely martyr for freedom of speech" (Oct. 23-Nov. 6).
Although both Sarasota and Gainesville offer some of the finest theatre in the state, South Florida leads the area in volume by a substantial margin in total choices, with 13 Equity theatres, 28 showcases (Equity and non-Equity venues), and 12 road shows presented by the Florida Theatrical Association.
In what promises to be one of the more interesting road seasons in memory, the highlights will include the immensly revised edition of the Broadway musical flop Big, which premieres Jan. 6, at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, and the Florida premiere of the smash hit musical Rent, on April 21, at the Jackie Gleason Theatre on Miami Beach.
With 133 presentations to choose from, the most anticipated shows of the regional season appear to be two world premieres at the newly renamed Florida Stage (formerly the Pope Theatre Company): Benedict Arnold (Oct. 24-Nov. 30), in which playwright William Mastrosimone looks at the issues and complexities surrounding the hero/traitor of the American Revolution; and The Garden of Hannah List (May 8-June 14), in which Florida playwright Michael McKeever explores how individuals react when faced with true evil.
Not to be outdone, Boca Raton's Caldwell Theatre Company also features two world premieres in its lineup. First up is Himself (Jan. 4-Feb. 15), starring Len Cariou. The new work comprises a cast of four and focuses on the celebratory life of the legendary author James Joyce. Next on the docket is another Garden: The Garden of Frau Hess (Feb. 22-April 5), a drama by Milton Frederick Marcus which tells the harrowing tale of the wife of Rudolph Hess and her relationship with a Holocaust prisoner she enlists to tend to her precious flower garden.
It will be intriguing to watch what the customarily cutting-edge Actor's Express does with Leonard Bernstein's Wonderful Town (Oct. 10-Nov. 16). Artistic Director Chris Coleman revamped Oklahoma! last spring, landing in an uproar with the Rodgers and Hammerstein estate over taking artistic liberties. Oklahoma!'s sensational Ado Annie, Rebekah Baty, stars in Town with adept singer-actors Brian Barnett and Jeff McKerlecy. International theatre director Joseph Chaikin guides ethereal Atlanta actress Carol Mitchell-Leon in Adrienne Kennedy's The Owl Answers and Sun, Oct. 15-Nov. 9, at 7 Stages.
Steve Martin will make an appearance at the Alliance Theatre Company for the southeastern premiere of his Picasso at the Lapin Agile (Oct. 15-Nov. 15), sticking around for an Oct. 16 Q&A. Directed by Peggy Shannon, Picasso stars the volatile talents of Atlanta actor Derck Manson as Albert Einstein. From April 16 to May 23, the warmly maternal Cosby star Phylicia Rashad will bring fire to Medea, directed by Alliance Artistic Director Kenny Leon.
Another brass-knuckles woman will be showcased at Marietta's Theatre in the Square, when Hedda Gabler stars local director-actress-diva Jessica Phelps, March 25-May 3, concurrent with an Ibsen play festival at Emory University.
Finally there will be two major new works from leading Atlanta writers. Prolific playwright Steve Murray premieres a wake that turns into a truth-telling meltdown in Cupid's Bones, directed by gifted Rosemary Newcott, at Horizon Theatre Company, April 10-May 17. Nationally acclaimed author Jim Grimsley's southern gothic tale Dream Boy will be adapted and directed by Eric Rosen for 7 Stages, from June 17 to July 26.
The current season offers North Carolina theatregoers an interesting mix. The Charlotte Repertory Theatre is featuring works selected from its New Play festival. A stage adaptation of Clyde Edgerton's best-selling novel The Floatplane Notebooks plays Feb. 4-15. Adapted by Paul Fitzgerald and Jason Moore, the script is described as "a southern family memoir."
In Chapel Hill, The PlayMakers Repertory Company opens David Hare's widely acclaimed Skylight, on Oct. 18, starring Frank Converse and Kate Forbes and directed by John Rando. A huge success in London and on Broadway, Skylight plays through Nov. 9.
One of our most interesting venues is occupied by the Temple Theatre, in Sanford, central North Carolina. In this beautifully restored vaudeville house, the company will produce the regional premiere of The Invisible Man, by Larry Larson and Eddie Levi Lee. Based on the H.G. Wells classic, the play is set in turn-of-the-century Charleston, S.C., and features some spectacular special effects. It runs Oct. 17 through Nov. 2.
In the state capital, the Raleigh Ensemble Players got the season off to a rousing start with a highly successful production of Terrence McNally's Love! Valour! Compassion! In a state where controversial work is not always prudent, Managing Director Joedy Lister reported no negative reaction to the September production.
High Point's just-closed North Carolina Shakespeare Festival's Richard III received high critical praise, while Wilmington's Tapestry Theatre is emerging as a strong force in that port city. Tapestry offers Miss Evers' Boys, a powerful drama dealing with the infamous Tuskeegee Study, Oct. 30 through Nov. 9.
Theatre is alive and well in North Carolina!
WASHINGTON, D.C.; BALTIMORE
As the Washington theatre community gears up for the new season, one of the most significant stories is a new space. The Rosslyn Spectrum, a multi-use theatre and conference center, will host three theatre companies with very specific audiences. Le Neon theatre (French-American theatre), Classika Theatre for Youth (Russian children's classics), and Horizons Theatre (from a woman's perspective) all will utilize the new space. Horizons' first full production, opening the end of November, may be the most interesting of its season. In Good Company, developed by the theatre's artistic director, Leslie Jacobson, is a piece in which the audience can interact with famous historical women.
Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company also has a winner for a first full production. Dennis Potter's Brimstone and Treacle, opening the end of October, is completely cast within the theatre's formidable company, and includes Nancy Robinette, Mitchell Hebert, Rhea Seahorn, and Christopher Lane. The playwright himself will be on hand, lecturing about his work, at the Corcoran Gallery of Art on Nov. 3.
Across the street, the The Studio Theatre will check in with The Old Settler, from May 27-June 28, written and directed by John Henry Redwood. Also across the street and up the block, the Source Theatre Company should score big with The Cherry Orchard, directed by the classically sure-footed Joe Banno.
Chekhov seems to be the playwright de jour--in addition to Source, Round House Theatre and Arena Stage are set to have dueling Vanyas, albeit different translations, with David Mamet's Uncle Vanya at Round House and the Carol Rocamora version at Arena.
Needless to say, if Shakespeare were collecting royalties, Washington would be filling his purse: Among the Andrew Keegan Theatre Company, The Shakespeare Theatre, The Washington Shakespeare Company, The Washington Stage Guild, and the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival, over a dozen productions of the Bard are on tap.
In Philadelphia, a city starved for theatre spaces, the opening of a new venue is cause for celebration.
The much-awaited Arden Theatre Company's mainstage, joining its 180-seat Arcadia Stage, will open with A Midsummer Night's Dream (April 2-May 3). The 299-seat flexible theatre will be intimate, but provides Artistic Director Aaron Posner lots more floor space and height to romp in.
Arden's premiere of local playwright Michael Hollinger's Tiny Island (Nov. 20-Jan. 4) is co-produced by The People's Light & Theatre Company, where it runs Jan. 14-Feb. 22. In a season of large, ambitious productions, People's Light's grandest is likely to be Artistic Director Abigail Adams' mounting of George Bernard Shaw's rarely seen masterpiece Heartbreak House (June 3-28).
The Wilma Theater rarely used to produce musicals, but had great success with the a cappella Avenue X last season. Wilma's next will be typically untypical: a new translation, by Michael Feingold, of Brecht and Weill's The Threepenny Opera (Dec. 3-Jan. 4), directed by Artistic Director Jiri Zizka, that promises to be lavish and audacious.
The Philadelphia Theatre Company's season of area premieres includes David Rabe's A Question of Mercy (March 27-April 26), a drama about assisted suicide. Artistic Director Sara Garonzik always chooses substantial plays, but this one seems likely to inspire healthy controversy.
The Independent Eye is in residence--literally--at the cozy Olde City Stage Works, where Producing Directors Conrad Bishop and Elizabeth Fuller live behind their 60-seat theatre. The team will present another premiere in its prolific collaboration: Mating Cries (Jan. 9-Feb. 1). Bishop and Fuller's superbly produced Hammers was one of last season's most intriguing new works, but was completely overlooked by the Barrymore Awards. If Mating Cries doesn't bring some long-overdue recognition, their Frankenstein (April 2-19), in collaboration with Bethlehem's Touchstone Theatre, might.
NJ TK--ON SEPARATE FILE