The upcoming 34th season at the Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum at the Music Center/Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles will feature seven plays and a special holiday event, according to artistic director Gordon Davidson. The Taper's subscription season runs September 2000 - September 2001 and will feature two world premieres, two West Coast premieres and the latest works from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson and 1999 Tony Award-winning playwright Warren Leight.
In a prepared statement, Davidson said Taper had found a "compelling collection of plays that are deeply rooted in real events and experience," with four of the works "explicitly drawn from real life."
The plays in the Taper season include the latest autobiographical piece by Charlayne Woodard and works based on the lives of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman and turn-of-the-last-century radical thinker, Randolph Bourne. Also featured is a 'documentary' about the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy recently adopted by the U.S. military, from first-time playwright Marc Wolf. Veterans Warren Leight and August Wilson draw on their respective worlds to create their new plays, which include Wilson's King Hedley II, a 2000 Pulitzer Prize-nominated finalist. Finally, the examination of desire in playwright Patrick Marber's Closer is expected to move audiences with its powerful, shocking immediacy.
The Taper will also host the award-winning Cornerstone Theater's special holiday show celebrating two milestones in the company's unique, community-building theatre and their residency in Los Angeles. Davidson predicts that the "special force, texture and authenticity that come from true stories and lived experience [will ensure an] especially provocative season."
As a work in progress, August Wilson's King Hedley II was a 2000 Pulitzer Prize nominated finalist. Taper opens its season with Wilson's King Hedley, which marks the playwright's first representation on the Taper stage since the Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning bard's Jitney ran there. Set in 1985 in the backyards of two tenements in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, King Hedley II extends the scope of Wilson's extraordinary cycle of plays by tracing the triumphs and trials of a community facing issues of family, unemployment and crime. The titular character is an "ex-convict who is at war with both his past and his present. His struggles with his life, along with his relationships with his second wife, his mother, her ex-lover, and friends and neighbors, all carry the foreshadowings of an epic tragedy." Directed by Marion McClinton, who also directed the Taper production of Jitney, the Taper production of King Hedley II had its world premiere at the Pittsburgh Public Theater in Dec. 1999. King Hedley II starts previews Sept. 2, opens Sept. 14 and is scheduled to run through Oct. 22. Patrick Marber's Closer, Tapers second production of the season is described as a "corrosively funny play about sex and longing." Set in contemporary London, two men and two women are thrown together by chance and proceed to connect, disconnect and reconnect in a bewildering love quadrangle as they move "closer" to finding new levels of intimacy. Marber's work won the 1998 Olivier Award for Best Play in London, where it premiered. On Broadway it was nominated for the 1999 Tony Award for Best Play and won the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Play and the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Foreign Play. Closer will be helmed by Robert Egan, Taper's producing director, who directed Marber's Dealer's Choice in the Taper's 1997-98 season. The show begins previews Oct. 29, opens Nov. 9 and runs through Dec. 10.
Returning to the world of jazz after his 1999 Tony Award-winning play Side Man, Warren Leight's new play, Glimmer, Glimmer and Shine, will have its West Coast premiere as Taper's third production. Glimmer, Glimmer and Shine is the story of Martin and Danny Glimmer, twin brothers torn apart by the music and hard-living lifestyles that once made them close. The brothers Glimmer form Eddie Shine's all electric trumpet section in the big band jazz days of the '50s but, at Danny's wife's insistence, he turns his back on music and thus initiates a 40-year estrangement with his brother. Things finally lighten up, a generation later, with a romance between Shine's son and Danny's daughter, all of which Leight chronicles with "playful, intermingling, funny and touching riffs." The show starts previews Jan. 13, 2001, opens Jan. 25 and runs through March 4.
The world premiere of Peter Parnell's "Tuva or Bust!" was inspired by Ralph Leighton’s book and the writings of Richard Feynman. Alan Alda stars as Richard Feynman, the eccentric, Nobel Prize-winner and world renowned professor of physics who worked on the Manhattan Project. Taper's Gordon Davidson directs Alda as the man who was once referred to in the London Guardian as a "bongo-playing, safecracking, raconteur and genius of quantum electrodynamics" and by the New York Times as "the most brilliant, iconoclastic and influential of the postwar generation of theoretical physicists." Tuva or Bust! begins previews March 11, opens March 22 and runs through May 6.
The world premiere of John Bellusco's The Body of Bourne tells the story of American intellectual Randolph Bourne, who became a voice of "youth, idealism and progressive ideas during the cultural renaissance of the early 1900s." Though disfigured and hunchbacked, essayist, orator, poet and playwright Bourne never let self-pity or bitterness diminish his compassion for humanity. By the time he died in 1918 at the age of 32, Bourne had completed three books and many stirring essays with themes that are still relevant. His book "Youth and Life" remains a counterculture manifesto, and his moral protest against American involvement in World War I resonated 50 years later with war protesters opposing the Vietnam War. Lisa Peterson, an associate artist at the Taper, directs The Body of Bourne, which was developed in the Taper's New Work Festival in 1998 and 1999. [Playwright Belluso is on staff at the Taper as co director (with Victoria Ann Lewis) of The Other Voices Project, a program dedicated to "the empowerment of the disability community in the American theatre," and which includes the only professional playwriting program for writers with disabilities.] Taper's fifth production of the season, The Body of Bourne starts previews May 20, opens May 31 and runs through July 15.
As a season finale, Taper will present two plays in repertory, Charlayne Woodard's In Real Life and the West Coast Premiere of Marc Wolf's Another American: Asking and Telling. The productions will play on separate evenings and rotate performances throughout each week from July 21 through September 16, 2001.
In Real Life is the latest autobiographical work by actress/singer/playwright Charlayne Woodard, who previously won a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for Pretty Fire and whose poignant Neat was featured in Taper's 1997-98 season. In Real Life, a young drama student full of hope and dreams begins her quest to become a Broadway star in New York City: She arrives with two suitcases, a violin, and five audition monologues and moves in to a tiny sixth-floor walk-up with lots of sunlight -- and a bathtub in the kitchen. Dan Sullivan directs the play, which was commissioned by the Taper and Seattle Repertory Theatre.
Marc Wolf's Another American: Asking and Telling assays the military's recently adopted "don't ask, don’t tell" policy for gays. Playwright/actor Wolf spent three years interviewing some 150 current and former servicemen, military officials, attorneys, family members of slain servicemen, politicians and academics. The one-man show dramatizes 18 of these stories and demonstrates that the risks in the barracks can rival those on the battlefield. Another American: Asking and Telling received its off-Broadway premiere at The New Group in 1999. Joe Mantello will direct.
The world premiere of Cornerstone Theater Company's For Here or To Go? is Taper's special holiday event on the mainstage, where Alison Carey's play will be directed by Bill Rauch. The show runs Dec.15-Dec. 24. For Here or To Go?is described as a "wildly comic, musical tale of lost love, feuding families and fast food set against a backdrop of Channukah, Kwanzaa and Christmas. " For Here or To Go? will feature Equity actors playing alongside community members from Watts, Beverly Hills, Boyle Heights, Pacoima and Chinatown as well as employees of the Central Library, the Post Office, the MTA and the LAPD.
Tickets for the Taper’s 34th season are available on subscription only. Discounts of up to 46% are available to subscribers in specific locations. Discount subscriptions are as low as $87 for the general public, with student subscriptions priced at just $72. Single tickets will go on sale to the general public in early September 2000.
For information and to charge subscriptions call Audience Services at (213) 628-2772. For information regarding Project D.A.T.E. and sign language interpreted performances and discount subscriptions (up to 53 percent ) for the deaf and hard of hearing, call TDD/Voice (213) 680 4017.
-- By Murdoch McBride