Though rumors that Stonewall Jackson's House had a good shot at the Pulitzer Prize this year turned out to be untrue, the show is managing nicely without it. Scheduled to close April 27 -- after a previous extension to April 16 -- Stonewall Jackson's House has now extended into an open run at Off-Broadway's American Place Theatre. "Critical acclaim and sold-out houses" were the reasons given for previous extensions of the satirical comedy.
In other Stonewall news, original star Lisa Louise Langford just won an Encore magazine "Taking Off" Award for her performance in the show. On March 26, Starla Benford took over for Langford as the African American docent guiding tourists through Stonewall Jackson's abode. Benford and Langford were classmates together at Harvard, and Benford also studied at ART's Institute for Advanced Theatre Training. She also appeared in Denial at the Long Wharf. Langford left due to "prior commitments."
Stonewall Jackson's House, "an incendiary new comedy about a young woman who violates the ultimate racial taboo," opened the American Place Theatre season, Feb. 16 and was initially scheduled to run through April 9. Developed by artistic director Wynn Handman and television producer Norman Lear, Stonewall is by Jonathan Reynolds, whose Yanks 3 Detroit 0 Top Of The Seventh and Rubbers both opened at the American Place in 1975. His other plays include Tunnel Fever or The Sheep Is Out and Geniuses. Stonewall is the first full production of the Lear/Handman program "Humor Hatchery," which provided $75,000 seed money to search for plays "that cut into the fabric of American life."
One interesting historical sidenote: On March 1, Henry F. Schaffner attended a performance of Stonewall Jackson's House. Schaffner is the great-great-great-great-grandson of Stonewall Jackson. According to playwright Reynolds, Schaffner wore a "Stonewall Jackson" baseball cap and brought with him extensive background material for the theatre to use. Reynolds later said that Schaffner's "piercing blue eyes made him think he was looking right into the eyes of the title character."
Appearing with Benford in Stonewall Jackson's House are Mimi Bensinger, Ron Faber, Katherine Leask and R.E. Rodgers. Designers include Henry S. Dunn (set), Chad McArver (lighting), Kurt Kellenberger (sound) and Barbara A. Bell (costumes). Finishing the American Place season will be Nobody Says Baby Like A Black Man, compiled by Lindsay Patterson and adapted/directed by Hope Clarke. Opening May 25, Nobody is a unique theatrical collage of African American love poems, which Ruby Dee called "rhythms and counter rhythms -- beautiful, vulnerable, strong, gloriously, shamefully human -- bite-sized bits of love." Starring will be Jerome Preston Bates, Peter J. Fernandez, Adrienne Lennox and Kim Yancey.
For tickets ($35/show) and information on the American Place season, call (212) 840-3074.
--By David Lefkowitz