Three of the five shows in Off-Broadway's New York Theatre Workshop's 1998-99 season have been chosen, according to director of audience development Randal Lichtenwalner.
Beginning the season, Aug. 28 (opening mid-September) will be Culture of Desire, a new piece conceived by Anne Bogart and written & performed by Bogart's SITI (Saratoga International Theatre Institute) company.
Rampant American consumerism and pop culture were lampooned last season in the Broadway comedy Jackie, but some of the same iconic figures will be looked at more seriously in this piece, which was workshopped in March at Maine's Portland Stage Company. Desire starts at the moment artist Andy Warhol was shot and then follows him through a "dreamlike journey" into the pop culture world. Along the way he meets Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and JFK in a piece that asks, as Bogart puts it, "When did we transform from citizens of the United States of America into consumers of the United States of Amnesia?" Lichtenwalner notes that Desire is "the second installment of a two-part examination of American culture that began with Bob." Bob, a look at avant garde director Robert Wilson, played at NYTW last season.
Bogart, an associate professor at Columbia University, has won two Obie Awards and a Bessie Award. Her directing assignments have included Hot 'n' Throbbing at American Rep, Marathon Dancing at En Garde Arts and Paula Vogel's Baltimore Waltz at the now defunct Circle Repertory Theatre in New York.
She has directed a several plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville including Miss Julie, The Adding Machine and Picnic, as well as the the 1991 world premiere of Eduardo Machado's In the Eye of the Hurricane. In addition, a salute to Bogart was held in 1995 as part of ATL's annual Brown-Forman Classics in Context Festival. In Portland, Desire was designed by Neil Patel (set), James Schuette (costumes), Mimi Jordan Sherin (lighting) and Darron L. West (sound -- here called "noize"). The cast there included Will Bond, Akika Aizawa, Jeffrey Frase, Ellen Lauren, Barney O'Hanlon, Karen June Sanchez and Stephen Webber.
After Culture will come The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, a new comedy by Paul Rudnick that recently premiered at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. There the play starred Becky Ann Baker, Jessica Hecht and Alan Tudyk, though no casting has yet been announced for NYTW. As he did at Williamstown, Christopher Ashley will direct. Rudnick's comedies include Jeffrey and I Hate Hamlet, as well as the script for the film Addams Family Values.
Its title notwithstanding, Fabulous is a fantastical retelling, not of the story of Jesus, but the tale of Adam and Eve. It tackles such large questions as the existence of God, the need for belief, and the impact of Olivia Newton-John as a religious icon. Fabulous Story is due for a Nov.-Dec. run.
Last year, Goodman told Variety, "I read the McInerney book in August 1996, and it turned me on. I mean, it's about drugs, sex, rock 'n' roll and clubs in New York." Bright Lights appears to be a natural choice for NYTW, considering the similar subject matter of such recent shows there as Rent and Shopping and Fucking.
Author of the musicals Tiny Dancer and Domestica, Goodman told Variety Bright Lights would be 95 percent through-sung and that he would appear in it as "a singing narrator." Rehearsals begin in December, with previews starting in late January for a run through early spring.
Though rumors have been pegging the musical for a Broadway transfer, Lichtenwalner told Playbill On-Line the NYTW production "isn't a Broadway tryout. Yes, it's scheduled at the same time of the season as Rent was, but there's no way to tell whether an outside producer will want to move with it."
After Lights' premiere, two slots are still open at NYTW. Two possible candidates are a new, untitled play by Tony Kushner, and a new play by Nilo "A Park In Our House" Cruz. Titled, Two Sisters and a Piano, the piece looks at siblings living under house arrest in Cuba "and their struggle for personal and political liberation."
For information on the 1997-98 New York Theatre Workshop season, call (212) 460-5475. Memberships start at $135 and include one admission to every production, free coffee, ticket exchange privileges and other perks. New York Theatre Workshop is, of course, the springboard of Broadway's Rent, as well as David Rabe's acclaimed A Question Of Mercy in early 1997. Last season's shows included Bob, Brides of the Moon, Love's Fowl and a controversial, Obie-winning production of More Stately Mansions that will play the Edinburgh Festival in late summer.
-- By David Lefkowitz