The Signature Theatre Company's ambitious, two-season-long celebration of the playwrights it has nurtured over the past decade began last fall with A Lesson Before Dying by Romulus Linney — the first writer to whose work Signature dedicated a season. That was followed by The Last of the Thorntons, a new play by Horton Foote.
Adrienne Kennedy's turn on stage is next, and her entry is a bit unusual. The play, which runs at the Signature Feb. 13 to March 25 (opening Feb. 25), is not written by Kennedy, or even conceived by her. Instead, playwright and actress Regina Taylor has assembled a piece by multiple authors "in recognition of...Kennedy's contribution as a pioneer of African American women playwrights."
The piece, titled Urban Zulu Mambo, began life at Chicago's Goodman Theatre. Taylor commissioned three black female writers — Kia Corthron, Suzan-Lori Parks, and Ntozake Shange — to write a short play which she, Taylor, could perform. (Taylor also penned a text.) Taylor then shaped the contributions into what was then called Millennium Mambo and performed it at the Goodman in 2000. Since them, she and director Henry Godinez have molded the work further and renamed it.
Corthron's section is called Safe Box; Parks' is named Talking to Jupiter; and Shange's is Liliane. The evening covers everything from homelessness to healthcare to finding the perfect man.
When Mambo opens on Feb. 13, Corthron can boast of two works being staged in Manhattan; her Force Continuum is now playing at the Atlantic Theatre Company. Park's latest, Top Dog/Underdog will be unveiled at the Public Theater Off-Broadway this spring. Shange is still best known for her landmark work, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf. Taylor's plays include Oo-Bla-Dee and Escape from Paradise. She last appeared as an actress in New York in Jar the Floor at Second Stage. Tickets are $47.50. The Signature is located at 555 W. 42nd Street. For information, call (212) 244-7529, or consult www.signaturetheatre.org. Lanford Wilson has been chosen as the highlighted playwright for the 2002-03 season.
—By Robert Simonson