Gordon Edelstein Tapped For Head Slot At Seattle's ACT

News   Gordon Edelstein Tapped For Head Slot At Seattle's ACT He directed The Homecoming on Broadway and the world premiere of Arthur Miller's The Last Yankee. He served as associate artistic director of both New Haven CT's Long Wharf Theatre and MA's Berkshire Theatre Festival. He's Gordon Edelstein, and now he's the permanent artistic director of Seattle, WA's A Contemporary Theatre (ACT).

He directed The Homecoming on Broadway and the world premiere of Arthur Miller's The Last Yankee. He served as associate artistic director of both New Haven CT's Long Wharf Theatre and MA's Berkshire Theatre Festival. He's Gordon Edelstein, and now he's the permanent artistic director of Seattle, WA's A Contemporary Theatre (ACT).

In a statement, Edelstein said he hopes to maintain ACT's "proud legacy" and to present "provocative and important contemporary works." ACT board president David Skinner said Edelstein was "the unanimous choice of the search committee."

Said interim artistic director Leslie Swackhamer, "Gordon's work with playwrights such as Donald Margulies, Constance Congdon, Mac Wellman and Joyce Carol Oates shows a level of vision and style that will be invigorating to ACT and to the Seattle community." Swackhamer will stay on at ACT in a different creative capacity.

Edelstein's first challenge as artistic director will be to choose six plays for the 1998 season, beginning in April. The last three shows of the 1996-97 A Contemporary Theatre season (under Swackhamer) are Blues For An Alabama Sky, Old Wicked Songs and The Big Slam..

* Pearl Cleage's Blues for an Alabama Sky opened at (ACT) Aug. 12. and runs through Sept. 14. It recently extended a week past its Sept. 7 announced closing date. Said marketing director Teri Mumme, "Sell-out crowds are so excited about the show, they have given it a standing ovation every night and have even come back for seconds."

Blues originally premiered at the Alliance Theatre, as part of the Olympic Theatre Festival in the summer of 1996, starring Phylicia Rashad. Rashad starred in subsequent productions at Hartford Stage, the Arena Stage in Washington D.C. and Boston's Huntington Theatre Company.

Set in 1930s Harlem, the play follows the journeys of five characters who struggle to attain their dreams in the face of the Great Depression -- while Josephine Baker is living her dream in Paris. The play juxtaposes the lives of ordinary people during the Jazz Age and the celebrities of that time.

Cleage's Flyin' West won critical acclaim when it premiered in 1994. Her latest play, Bourbon at the Border, premiered in Atlanta past April. Other plays include Chain and Late Bus To Mecca.

Cleage currently resides in Atlanta, where in addition to writing plays, she also writes short stories, novels, columns, and is a performance artist. Her first novel, "Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day," will be published in December.

Following Blues will be Jon Marans' Old Wicked Songs, which begins previews Sept. 11, opens Sept. 16 and runs to Oct. 12. The play looks at the spikey relationship between an eccentric Austrian music teacher and the even more eccentric piano prodigy who arrives for lessons.

The sixth and final show of Seattle's A Contemporary Theatre's 1996-97 season is The Big Slam, directed by Woolly Mammoth company artistic director, Howard Shalwitz. A satirical look at get-rich-quick schemes, Slam follows four yuppies joining forces to market a bizarre new product. Bill Corbett's comedy premiered in 1995 as a production by the Eye of the Storm company at the Loring Playhouse. (The show also played at Woolly Mammoth in January, though it was directed by Casey Stangl there, rather than Shalwitz.)

Satire is something of a Corbett specialty; he's a contributing writer on cable TV's "Mystery Science Theatre 3000." Said Corbett in a statement about the play, "I was interested in doing something about how the world of business has developed its own vocabulary to make naked ambition seem morally virtuous. Pure greed packaged in the language of self-help and spiritual renewal." The Big Slam begins previews Oct. 16, opens Oct. 21, and ends Nov. 16.

Founded in 1965 by Gregory A. Falls, ACT dedicates itself to producing new works. Having recently moved downtown, ACT now produces plays on two different stages. Blues will play in the Falls Theatre.

For tickets and information on productions at A Contemporary Theatre on Union Street in Seattle, call (206) 292-7676 or visit A Contempory Theatre at the regional listings of Playbill On-Line. Each of the final shows in ACT's line-up has one "pay what you will performance": Wicked Songs on Sept. 18; and Slam on Oct. 22.

--By Sean McGrath, Blair Glaser and David Lefkowitz

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