Drabinsky Redux? Controversial Producer Announces Stake in Fugard's Island

News   Drabinsky Redux? Controversial Producer Announces Stake in Fugard's Island Of all the delighted parents marvelling at any number of happy births around the world today, none could have been more surprised than the collective theatre world was at the re-birth that was announced at the St. Lawrence Centre in Toronto on June 20.

Of all the delighted parents marvelling at any number of happy births around the world today, none could have been more surprised than the collective theatre world was at the re-birth that was announced at the St. Lawrence Centre in Toronto on June 20.

It was there, in the center's Bluma Appel Theatre, that former Cineplex Odeon and Livent impresario Garth Drabinksy held a 10 AM press conference to announce his return as a theatre producer.

Drabinsky's first show will be a revival of Athol Fugard's The Island scheduled for a May 1 start in Toronto next year. [See separate story.]

Drabinsky announced that he will be a co-producer for the May 2001 revival of The Island and that the play's co-authors and original Tony Award-winning stars, John Kani and Winston Ntshona, will perform in the show when it comes to Toronto next year.

Not that long ago, Drabinsky's comeback was considered an unlikely prospect -- so much so, that his resurfacing as a theatrical producer today is regarded as bona fide news. His publicity staff is managing Drabinsky's involvement carefully. Playbill On-Line was told by a show spokesperson that Drabinsky interviews are only being granted on the condition that all discussion is limited to the production of The Island, and does not include questions pertaining to the rise and fall of Livent. In a release made available by show sources immediately after the Toronto press conference, Drabinsky states: "In many ways, The Island represents a thematic strain running through many of my theatrical projects over the past decade. I have always believed that art, and specifically the theatre can act as a powerful catalyst for social change. One of the most powerful influences theatre makes in a community is its extraordinary ability to fight against intolerance and prejudice, racism and bigotry, human afflictions, and to work toward building an enlightened, broad-minded society while confining its pernicious effects as narrowly as possible. Civilization may be advancing technologically at unparalleled dimensions but, regrettably, our progress is at a much slower rate when it comes to simply living compatibly side by side."

Drabinsky was unavailable for comment and has generally been so since the collapse of Livent began in the late spring and early summer of 1998.

At this time, Canadian and American authorities are still investigating the circumstances surrounding the fall of Livent where Drabinsky and his partner, Myron Gottlieb, were alleged to have cooked the books. Drabinsky has been living in Canada, presumably to thwart outstanding efforts by the United States to have him extradited and tried.

The Toronto Star reported that while the financial arrangements behind Drabinsky's new venture were not revealed, "sources tell The Star a number of former Livent colleagues have been approached to help underwrite the project."

A Drabinsky spokesperson told Playbill On-Line that the impresario's former partner, Myron Gottlieb, was not at the June 20 press conference. Drabinsky will produce the play with the Royal National Theatre and the Market Theatre of Johannesburg.

-- By Murdoch McBride