David Henry Hwang, Tony-winning author of M. Butterfly, has tackled Henrik Ibsen's Norwegian adventure epic Peer Gynt. His adaptation has been announced to premiere at Rhode Island's Trinity Repertory Company at a date to be announced during the 1997-98 season.
The wild, picaresque tale will be part of Trinity Rep's 34th season, the fourth under artistic director Oscar Eustis. Peer Gynt is such an epic, sprawling work, few theatre companies attempt it. Recent examples have included a celebrated mounting starring Richard Thomas at Hartford Stage Company, and Ingmar Bergman's staging imported by the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Directors and casts have still to be set, but here's the line-up of productions for the rest of Trinity Rep's season:
* William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. A woodland love story of misplaced affections and meddling sprites. (Sept. 5-Oct. 19.) Director Alan McVey has really been taken by the play's romance: he concocted a recent promotion for the show, seeking out 42 couples either engaged, newlywed or celebrating an anniversary. At each performance, one couple will receive special treatment, including complimentary box seats, toasting by the cast, and being "showered with flower petals during the course of the play." 60 couples wrote brief letters to Trinity Rep to qualify for the honors. Winners will be notified by the end of July. According to a spokesperson for the theatre, McVey came up with the idea when he remembered that Dream was originally written for a royal wedding.
* Emily Mann's Having Our Say, an adaptation of Sadie & Bessie Delaney's memoir, covering the African-American sisters' hundred years together. (Oct. 3-Nov. 16) * Peer Gynt, adapted by David Henry Hwang. On a journey of self discovery, a young man travels everywhere and back again. (Jan. 30-March 8, 1998)
* Paula Vogel's How I Learned To Drive. Awards keep accruing for this tragicomic story of a young girl's unhealthy relationship with her alcoholic uncle. The play is currently (May 1997) Off-Broadway at the Century Center Theatre in a Vineyard Theatre production. (May-June 1998)
* Meredith Willson's musical, The Music Man (April 24-May 31, 1998). When salesman/con-man Harold Hill arrives at a small town, he easily dupes the citizens into buying band uniforms but doesn't count on the resistance he receives from Marian, a bookish librarian. Songs in the 1957 smash include "Till There Was You," "Seventy-Six Trombones" and "Gary, Indiana."
Said artistic director Eustis, who will stage the piece, "The Music Man is about art created without experts. From the Charleston to the Lindy Hop to break-dancing to hip-hop, from barbershop quartets to doo wop, from jazz to rock -- America's indigenous art forms have all sprung from the streets, from people without experts creating their own culture." Eustis will work with local high school bands and barbershop singing groups in developing the show.
Also on tap will be the company's 21st annual A Christmas Carol -- with a twist. This one will alternate the performers playing Scrooge. . . one male, one female. (Nov. 14-Dec. 28)
The second annual Providence New Play Festival will also bring a dimension to the season, through stagings and readings of new works.
"The coming season is an exciting blend of well-loved classics and the best and newest of the American theatre," artistic director Eustis has announced.
Another proud announcement for the organization is the return of touring shows -- for the first time since 1981. Jan.-March 1998, Trinity Rep will tour Barbara Meek and Becky London in Fires In The Mirror, Anna Deavere Smith's look at the Crown Heights riots, adapted for two actors. Designing the production will be Brian Kulick and Mark Wendland (set), Russell Champa (lighting) and William Lane (costumes).
The multi-state tour will feature Meek and London as a host of characters, from a Hasidic Jews to Korean merchants to black witnesses. Venues for the tour include Queens Theatre In The Park (NY), Washington University (St. Louis, MO) and the Flynn Theatre (Burlington, VT).
Not only is Trinity Rep excited about the upcoming year, the theatre's proud of the year gone by: Single ticket sales increased by more than 30 percent, with subscription income rising 11 percent to nearly $1 million. This helped balance the theatre's budget by the June 30 end of fiscal.
For information on Trinity Rep's 34th season (subscriptions start at $48) , call the Providence-based theatre at (401) 351-4242.
--By David Lefkowitz