The 2002-03 Public Theater season is taking on a more definite shape. The delayed new play by Suzan-Lori Parks, Fuckin' A, now has a director: Michael Greif. Performances begin in February 2003, jut after the late January bow of Radiant Baby, the new musical inspired by the life of artist Keith Haring.
The season will kick off Aug. 23 with the first preview of Richard Greenberg's highly anticipated play about a famous baseball player holding a press conference and telling the world he's gay, Take Me Out. Previews begin Aug. 23. The staging is a co-production with the Donmar Warehouse.
According to the Donmar Warehouse website, the following dialogue may sum up the new work: "If I'm gonna have sex — and I am because I'm young and rich and famous and talented and handsome so it's a law — I'd rather do it with a guy, but, when all is said and done, Kippy? I'd rather just play ball."
In the play, "Darren Leeming is a young iconic baseball star, living life large, male as can be, envied by everyone. He calls a press conference and, without telling anyone what he is about to do, he comes out to the waiting media." The play, about sports, race, and sexual politics, "chronicles the fall-out as the ripples of his actions spread through the team, the media and across the nation."
Official opening at The Public's Anspacher Theater, following the summer run in London, which played June 20-Aug. 3, is Sept. 5. Joe Mantello directs a cast that includes Kevin Carroll (45 Seconds From Broadway, Angels in America), Dominic Fumusa (Tape and [sic]), Gene Gabriel, Neal Huff (The Public's Tempest and Troilus and Cressida), Robert M. Jimenez (The Public's Richard II, Marisol, Othello), Stephen Mendillo (Broadway's Wild Honey, Orpheus Descending, A View from the Bridge), Denis O'Hare (Cabaret, Ten Unknowns), Kohl Sudduth, Daniel Sunjata (a Lincoln Center Twelfth Night and Williamstown Theatre vet, playing the ballplayer who outs himself), Frederick Weller (The Shape of Things) and James Yaegashi (an Alabama Shakespeare Festival vet).
American producers Anita Waxman and Elizabeth Williams team with the Public Theater to present David Mamet's latest work, Boston Marriage, in November. Karen Kohlhaas will direct. No cast has been announced.
Waxman and Williams grabbed the U.S. rights to the play after seeing Marriage debut at the Donmar Warehouse last year. Waxman said she hoped to retain much of the London cast of Boston Marriage. It is not certain whether star Zoe Wanamaker will repeat her role in the U.S. "The lady has so many commitments," Waxman told Playbill On-Line. The UK cast also included Anna Chancellor and Lyndsey Marshal.
Boston Marriage, which had its 1999 U.S. debut in Boston (appropriately), is an odd departure for man's man Mamet. The play is about the prickly and arch relationship between two Victorian era women, Clare and Anna, who live together. Mamet's wife, Rebecca Pidgeon, starred in the Boston staging.
Wanamaker has been seen in New York in Loot and Electra, the latter a Donmar affair.
Radiant Baby, which takes its name from one of Haring's most famous drawings, is composed by Jonathan Larson Award winner Debra Barsha with book by Stuart Ross (Forever Plaid) and lyrics by Ira Gasner (The Life), Barsha and Ross.
Based on the 1993 John Gruen bio of the artist — who rose out of the subway and into fame before dying of AIDS in 1990 — the musical follows the final years of the artist's evolution to acclaim and his death at the age of 31. No cast has been announced. George C. Wolfe will direct.
Suzan-Lori Parks gave the Public one of its hits of last season in Broadway's Topdog/Underdog. The success of that project and Parks' busy schedule was one of the reasons Fuckin' A, once set for the 2001-02 season, was bumped to 2003.
The play is yet another of Parks' dramatic variations of Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter." No cast has been announced. Greif's recent directing credits include Dogeaters at the Public and Once in a Lifetime at the Williamstown Theatre Festival.
The Public is also considering productions of King Lear, Henry IV, Two Noble Kinsmen and Edward II.
What's the Louisiana-set Caroline or Change about?
Tesori previously told Playbill On-Line: "It's a very personal story by Tony, the libretto is by him, about a young Jewish boy and his relationship to the black maid in the household — a household that's in the process of great change. It's set in 1963 and it's a fantastic libretto. It has gone through its shifts as we've worked through the first act and into the second act, and I'm gonna finish it this summer with him. I think his work is absolutely extraordinary on it. It's the first collaboration I've had with George. It's kind of like a dream. It's not an easy time, only because I think all of us are very challenging in the room. We're all strong and we all have a lot to say. All of that energy in one room, there's a lot of bouncing that goes around: ideas and thoughts and comments. But it's a joyous place to be."
Is it autobiographical for Southern-Jewish Kushner?
"It's semi-," Tesori said. "This is really for him to say, but there are certainly parts that he's taken from his life and his knowledge of Lake Charles [Louisiana]. We are approaching it as a complete narrative that's somewhat divorced from his experience. It helps that I don't know him — I know him well now, but I didn't at the start, so I've brought a kind of new eye to it and a new way of storytelling that I have not done at all, or come close to. [The sounds] are so rich: It's Southern and it's '63 in the pop world and the world of black women and the Jewish household and the world of the boy. It's an embarrassment of riches [musically]."
Caroline is the name of the maid who has an impact on the boy's life, as his parental forces shift. Tesori said Tonya Pinkins was heard in a previous reading of it, and the composer hopes the actress plays it. "I hear her voice," Tesori said.
Tickets to Public Theater productions are available at The Public Theater box office, 425 Lafayette Street, or by calling (212( 239-6200.
—By Robert Simonson
and Kenneth Jones