You only have to look as far as Arena Stage's current revival of The Great White Hope to see proof -- time-tested proof -- that what happens beyond New York has impact and can reverberate back in Manhattan and around the world. In 1967, Howard Sackler's play sent ripples through the theatre industry by becoming the first new work to transfer from the not-for-profit resident sector, the Arena in Washington DC, to commercial success on Broadway and beyond. The racially- and socially-charged drama also won the Pulitzer Prize. What new works premiering in non-profits in the 2000-2001 season will cause the ground to shake? With due respect to reported high-profile revivals such as Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf in Chicago (starring Patti LuPone), here's a selected sampling of new works dawning beyond New York.
Actors Theatre of Louisville, Louisville, KY: The 25th Humana Festival of New American Plays (Feb. 27-April 7, 2001), featuring about a dozen full-length and/or short plays on all three stages of ATL. The season is announced in late 2000, but this is ground zero for new works, the spawning place for dozens of works that went on to have further life.
Alley Theatre, Houston, TX: Expect two world premieres at the Alley's Neuhaus Arena Stage, Keith Reddin's Synergy (Feb. 2-March 4, 2001), a darkly funny comedy about collecting souls for the devil; and the commission of Horton Foote's The Carpetbagger's Children (June 1-July 1, 2001), the story of a man who came to Confederate Texas with the Union army and returned to make it his home (as told by three of his daughters, whose monologues weave together).
Arena Stage, Washington, DC: Tom Walker (Jan. 26 March 4, 2001), a comic, moving world premiere by DC playwright John Strand, about one colonist's "journey to hell and back" as he seeks help from the Devil to improve his life as the country is being born. Kyle Donnelly directs in the Fichandler.
Denver Center Theatre Company, Denver, CO: Lucky subscribers see new works throughout the season at DCTC, a troupe devoted to mixing new voices in with revivals and Denver premieres. Tantalus, a mammoth collaboration between DCTC and Royal Shakespeare Company, retelling the story of The Trojan War (John Barton penned the epic drawing on ancient tales and myths), directed by Peter Hall (Sept. 15-Dec. 17). The two-parter plays about 10 hours. Also expect the world premiere of 1933 (Jan. 10-March 3, 2001), adapted by director Randal Myler and Brockman Seawell, about the eldest son of Italian immigrants (in Boulder, CO), who has a choice between laying bricks and baseball glory; Inna Beginning (March 28-May 19, 2001), by Gary Leon Hill, a tale of a man who cannot keep pace with corporate pressure; Pork Pie (May 17-June 16, 2001), a new "jazz fable" by Michael Genet, directed by Israel Hicks, about jazz musicians in 1955 so dedicated to their music, they dance with devil. The Goodman Theatre, Chicago, IL: Opening new digs this season, the troupe will premiere favorite Rebecca Gilman's play about the great baseball strike of 1994, appropriately dubbed The Great Baseball Strike of 1994 (May 11-June 16, 2001); Michael Maggio, who was slated to direct, died in August.
Magic Theatre, San Francisco, CA: Sam Shepard's new play, The Late Henry Moss (Nov. 7-Dec. 17) at Theatre on the Square will feature Nick Nolte, Woody Harrelson, Cheech Marin and Sean Penn.
Meadow Brook Theatre, Rochester, MI: Resident playwright Karim Alrawi explores the issue of assisted suicide (in the same county where Dr. Jack Kevorkian helped patients die) with Killing Time (Feb. 14-March 11, 2001).
Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Milwaukee, WI: Jeffrey Hatcher and Eric Simonson's new portrait of Frank Lloyd Wright, Work Song, continues to Oct. 8; and Edward Morgan's Sounding the River: Huck Finn Revisited (Feb. 21-April 1, 2001) conjures Old Huck and Old Jim, as they relive their journey down the river.
Northlight Theatre, Skokie, IL: Tony Award winning composer Jason Robert Brown unveils his semi autobiographical relationships musical, The Last Five Years (May 16-June 24, 2001), about the coupling of a nice Jewish boy and an Irish Catholic girl.
Signature Theatre, Arlington, VA: The unlikely 136-seat theatre has at least three world premieres this season, including the current musical, The Rhythm Club (to Oct. 22), expected on Broadway under the direction of Eric Schaeffer; Joe Calarco's In the Absence of Spring (Oct. 31-Dec. 17) in which the R&J conceiver tells the story of survivors of plane crash struggling with sex, death and intimacy over a 24-hour period, five years after the accident; Norman Allen's In the Garden (March 13-April 29, 2001), described as a modern-day fable of urban sophisticates whose world is rocked by the arrival of a homeless boy who isn't what he seems.
South Coast Repertory Theatre, Costa Mesa, CA: Playwright Richard Greenberg's Everett Beekin continues to Oct. 8, and Fuddy Meers author David Lindsay-Abaire's Kimberly Akimbo has its premiere on the theatre's mainstage (April 6-May 13, 2001).
-- By Kenneth Jones