Workshopped since April 1997, The First Picture Show is already preparing for its big moment a year from now -- a world premiere at L.A.'s Mark Taper Forum, Aug. 1-Sept. 19, 1999 opening Aug. 12, 1999.
Father and son David and Ain Gordon are collaborating on Picture Show, which had a work-in-progress staging Oct. 2-5, 1997 at NY's Theatre At St. Clement's. Estelle Parsons (Grace & Glorie, The Shadow Box, Miss Margarida's Way) played the central character in that mounting, though the CA company has yet to be announced.
In recent weeks, Jeanine Tesori, who composed the score for Off Broadway's lauded Violet, was brought into the production team. She'll add music to what is billed as "a silent movie dance comedy drama musical history." No dates have been given for the next step in the development process.
Commissioned by the Taper and closing the Forums' 32nd season, Picture Show is still considered a work in progress. Formerly titled, Who's Anne First?, the piece was developed at CA's Mark Taper Forum in April 1997 and concerns Anne First, an unheralded (fictional) women who broke barriers and ran studios during the silent movie era. It also looks at rise of silent films and, concurrently, the rise in censorship of them.
Ain Gordon's Birdseed Bundles played in June at NYC's Soho Rep. His Wally's Ghost won an OBIE Award. David Gordon penned the performance piece, The Mysteries And What's So Funny?. In 1978, David Gordon founded the Pick Up Performance Company to incorporate theatre and media work into his work as a choreographer. Son Ain joined the company in 1994 to help create The Family Business, which featured Valda Setterfield -- David's wife and Ain's mom.
. "We work together," wrote David Gordon of his familial creative partnership with Ain. "We have the benefit of knowing each other but not being the same. Sometimes we are interested in each other's ideas and opinions. Sometimes we don't know what we're doing in the same room. We do not hesitate to criticize. We are willing to be foolish and foolhardy, loving and sentimental, acerbic and harsh, lost and stubborn in front of each other. We fight like dogs. "One of us is in his fifties, the other in his thirties," continued David Gordon. "One of us is married to a woman and has a son. The other is in a committed relationship with another man and calls himself married even though the government doesn't. Working together challenges our generational perspectives and biases. We perversely enjoy the battle."
About Silent Movie, Gordon says, "We are interested in how fast `today' becomes history, history gets distorted and lost, and today's treasure is transformed into tomorrow's flea market oddity."
True to form, the Pick Up Performance Company is working on another project simultaneously. Illustrated Radio Shows, a movement theatre piece by David & Ain Gordon, looks back at the company's work over the past thirty years.
The Taper's 1998-99 season begins with the Stephen Sondheim revue Putting It Together (Oct. 4-Nov. 29), newly revised and featuring Carol (Moon Over Buffalo) Burnett. Ellen McLaughlin's Tongue of a Bird follows, starring Cherry Jones (Jan. 3-Feb. 7, 1999). Then it's the Pulitzer-winning How I Learned To Drive by Paula Vogel (Feb. 13 Apr. 4, 1999), followed by Anna Deavere Smith's re-worked look at the presidency, House Arrest (Apr. 18-June 13, 1999). Athol Fugard's latest, The Captain's Tiger, is scheduled the season's fifth production (June 20-July 25, 1999), though that may change due to Fugard's schedule, since he appears in the show.
For tickets to shows at the Mark Taper Forum call (213) 628-2772.
-- By David Lefkowitz