By the end of 1999, Diane Venora should be the nation's resident expert on Gertrude. This fall, Venora will play Shakespeare's duplicitous Danish mother opposite Liev Schreiber in the Public Theater's production of Hamlet. But that won't be the only place audiences will be seeing her Gertrude. The upcoming film of Hamlet, starring Ethan Hawke in the title role, and Venora as his mother, is due for release sometime this year.
Schreiber most likely got the idea to draft Venora for his stage turn after seeing her essay the role for the silver screen; Liev played Laertes in the Michael Almereyda movie.
Less that a decade ago, Venora appeared at the Public in another production of Hamlet, starring Kevin Kline. Venora played Ophelia in that mounting.
No other casting for Hamlet has been set, said a Public Spokeman.
Previously announced as part of the Public season, under the producer George C. Wolfe: • Suzan-Lori Parks' In the Blood, directed by Marcus Stern, is a freely-imagined take on Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter," about an unwed mother struggling to raise her children. Beginning Nov. 2 in the Anspacher Theater.
• Tina Landau's Space, directed by the author, is the New York premiere of Landau's 1997-98 hit that played the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago. Landau has continued to develop the work since the Windy City staging that Time magazine called one of the year's best. A psychiatrist is challenged by the stories of three patients and their otherworldy experiences. Begins Nov. 16 in Martinson Hall.
• Liev Schreiber as Hamlet, directed by Andrei Serban, reunites the actor and director of the Public's Cymbeline. Begins Nov. 23 in the Newman.
• House Arrest, Anna Deveare Smith's one-woman examination of the U.S. presidency, the public and the media. Monologuist Smith, who plays multiple characters in the new piece, which has been in development for several years, is known for her socially aware pieces, Fires in the Mirror and Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992. Jo Bonney (Stop Kiss) will direct House Arrest in the Newman Theater, beginning March 2000. Exact dates have not been announced.
• Two Sisters and a Piano, by Nilo Cruz, directed by Loretta Greco, concerns a romance writer and her sister in 1991 Cuba who speak out against Castro and are arrested. Begins Feb. 1 in the Shiva Theater.
• Composer-lyricist-librettist LaChiusa's version of The Wild Party, drawn from the Jazz Age poem about a debauched show biz and underworld party, is co-written and directed by George C. Wolfe, with choreography by Joey McKneeley. Previews begin April 6 at Broadway's Virginia Theatre.
• Joe's Pub, off the lobby of the Public Theater on Lafayette Street, opened in October 1998 and will continue to offer eclectic entertainment in the new season. Among expected performers are Toshi Reagon & Big Lovely, Ute Lemper, Ann Magnuson, Abdullah Ibrahim and Lea DeLaria.
For information about the Public Theater season, call (212) 239-6200 or (212) 260-2400.