The next production at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, running Feb. 7 to March 31, is Maria Arndt, which the theatre describes as "a lost classic by writer Elsa Bernstein."
Lost is right. Though the daughter of a famous father and a well-known dramaturg and playwright in her native Germany, Bernstein is almost completely forgotten today. Her father was Heinrich Porges, a conductor for Richard Wagner. Bernstein wrote under the pen name of Ernst Rosmer, creating Maria Ernst in 1908. Though her father converted from Judaism to Christianity to fully assimilate into German culture, it did the family little good. Bernstein was sent to the Nazi concentration camp Terezin in 1942 when she was well past 70. She emerged alive, but almost blind.
Maria Arndt was translated by Curt Columbus with Tina Landau, who will direct the production. The play tells of a mother who is forced to abandon her dreams so that her daughter may live a free life.
The cast is headed by Steppenwolf ensemble member Molly Regan, who is joined by Bradley Armacost, Marilynn Bogetich, Greta Sidwll Honold, Christopher Innvar, Brad Eric Johnson, Brett Korn and Courtney Shaughnessy.
Landau last directed The Ballad of Little Jo at Steppenwolf—the company's first foray into musical theatre. Other Steppenwolf credits include The Berlin Circle and Space. Columbus also translated Uncle Vanya in a version that appeared at the Chicago theatre in 2001.
Tickets are $35-$50. Call (312) 335-1650.
The Steppenwolf Theatre Company will begin its 2002-03 mainstage season in the 1930's and end at the close of World War I, with a couple of racially tinged modern dramas tossed in in between.
The season commences on Sept. 12 with a new revival of William Saroyan's cozy classic, The Time of Your Life—continued Steppenwolf's long tradition of unearthing hoary, big cast American chestnuts, such as Harvey, You Can't Take It With You and the current season's The Royal Family. Tina Landau will direct the play, which takes place in a waterfront bar patronized by the benevolent oddball Joe, who from his bar stool watches life pass by and sagely comments on the goings-on in his small world, as well as the world at large. The play was made into a movie starring James Cagney. Time will run through Nov. 3.
I Just Stopped by to See the Man, running Nov. 14-Jan. 12, 2003, will follow. Marion McClinton (Jitney, Breath, Boom) will direct this piece by Stephen Jeffreys, which follows an English rock band in search of legendary Delta blues singer Jesse Davidson. As the story goes, Davidson sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his skills as a musician. But other stories say that Davidson is not dead at all. The plot is drawn from the well known rumors and folklore surrounding Robert Johnson, a guitarist who influenced the likes of Eric Clapton. Johnson's story has been the basis of several movies, including 1986's "Crossroads."
Breathe by Javon Johnson, which take the third slot of Jan. 30 March 23, 2003. Ron OJ Person directs the tale of two sons from different families and of different skin color, and the consequences they face after committing separate acts of violence.
The fifth and final slot, running July 10-Aug. 31, 2003, is reserved for Richard Greenberg's The Violet Hour, which will have its premiere at South Coast Rep Nov. 5, 2002. The Violet Hour takes place in the small New York City office of John Seaverings Pace, a writer who, having made it through World War I, is ready to get on with the future. Unfortunately, he can't find his theatre tickets, and his decisions during the day will impact the lives of four others: his employee, two budding writers and his friend's fiance. Evan Yionoulis will direct.
A fifth play, to run April 17-June 15, is yet to be selected.
—By Robert Simonson