HOUSTON – It's fundraising time at the Alley Theatre. The 1998 Spring Ball takes place on Saturday, May 2, and it takes big bucks to get in. Individual tickets to this annual buffo fundraiser for the Tony Award-winning regional company are $300, $600, and $1,000, depending, of course, upon where, and next to whom, you'd like to sit. Tables cost $3,000, $6,000, $10,000, and $25,000. At those prices, rest assured that the food spans many courses of gourmet tastes; the spread is catered by the chi-chi firm Jackson Hicks.
The theme of this year's Spring Ball is "Reserved for Royalty." The intention is to honor the upcoming collaboration among the Alley, Corin and Vanessa Redgrave's Moving Theatre of London, and the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain; the trio will soon present at the Alley the American debut of an early rarity by Tennessee Williams, Not About Nightingales. Previews begin June 5. The opening is June 10. The limited run ends July 3.
Not About Nightingales, a prison drama, had its world premiere March 5 at the Royal National's Cottelsoe Theatre in London, under the direction of Royal National artistic director Trevor Nunn. It featured an international cast of 18, led by Corin Redgrave as the tyrannical warden and Alley actor James Black as the prison leader (with two other Alley members in supporting roles). Still playing there, it has received critical and general acclaim and quickly was SRO.
Not About Nightingales was written in 1938 when Williams was in his late twenties and a playwrighting student at University of Iowa, and when he still went by his given first name, Tom. It is based on actual events in a Philadelphia jail involving rebellious inmates, a hunger strike, and sadistic punishment, and it argues against inhumane conditions. It was discovered by Vanessa Redgrave at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin; the Ransom Center houses extensive Williams archives, including manuscripts from approximately 1,000 works. Redgrave came across it in 1996 while in Houston during the first collaboration between the Alley and Moving Theatres: repertory productions of Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra. Because the companies' first partnership celebrated an great English playwright, it was deemed right and proper that the next should highlight an American master. Not About Nightingales marks the Alley's initial relationship with the Royal National.
The honorary chairs for the Spring Ball, "Reserved for Royalty," are, accordingly, her Majesty's Counsel General, The Honorable Peter J. and Valerie Bacon. As part of the regalement, Alley resident company actors will present a special comedic and musical performance in tribute to British theater. Playing for one's food, indeed. The Alley Theatre's 1998 Spring Ball, "Reserved for Royalty," occurs May 2 at the Ariel Theater at Bayou Place. For tickets, which are too expensive for your blood if you have to ask how much, call (713) 228-9341 (ext. 370)
By Peter Szatmary