Jean Cocteau Rep to Merge With EgoPo to Form New, Multi-City Company

News   Jean Cocteau Rep to Merge With EgoPo to Form New, Multi-City Company Rumors of the death of longtime Off-Broadway theatre company Jean Cocteau Rep have been very much exaggerated.

However, a newly emerged Cocteau—which never ventured far from its tiny Bouwerie Lane Theatre, or a repertory of classic titles—will resemble the old troupe in little more than name. The 35-year-old, Bowery-based outfit has joined forces with EgoPo, an experimental 15-year-old company that, prior to Hurricane Katrina, was based in New Orleans. The theatre's new name is EgoPo/Cocteau.

Together, they will present plays in a "multi-city repertory," with different shows being presented on both The Bowery and Philadelphia at the same time. The collaborations will be supported by a third group, the Catskill Mountain Foundation, which will provide summer workshop performance space, as well as an annual residency with Julia Hansen's Theater Masters in Aspen, Colorado.

Stephen A. Brown and Peter Finn were recently appointed the Cocteau executive director and board chairman, and made the announcement. Lane Savadove, EgoPo's founder, is the new joint company's new artistic director. The Cocteau lost two artistic directors—Ernest Johns and, before him, David Fuller—in the past year.

Hurricane Katrina left EgoPo without a theatre. Additionally, many of its members became homeless. The Philadelphia Academy of Music stepped forward with a performing space.

Brown, company manager for the Metropolitan Opera, orchestrated the merger, according to press materials. EgoPo/Cocteau will continue to perform in Cocteau's Bouwerie Lane Theater as well as a performance venue within the Philadelphia Academy of Music. Savadore's first production at the Bouwerie Lane will be his version of Jean Genet's The Maids, called The Maid x 2. It was seen in New Orleans and at the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival (where Brown saw it, thus getting the idea of merging the two outfits). It will open March 31. The company said a full 2006-07 season will feature at least one world premiere and a production of Nigerian playwright and Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka's Camwood on the Leaves.

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After serving only a six-month term, artistic director Ernest Johns resigned in recent weeks, leaving the classics company temporarily leaderless. Johns replaced David Fuller, whose tenure was undermined in August 2004 when longtime Jean Cocteau ensemble members Craig Smith and Elise Stone resigned from the company. Also tendering their resignations at that time were fellow ensemble performers Angela Madden and Michael Surabian and five members of the 11-person Jean Cocteau board.

According to EgoPo/Cocteau spokespersons, the company also bore financial difficulties bordering on bankruptcy, due to a 100 percent jump in its monthly rent, from $6,500 to $12,500, a dwindling subscriber base, and expanding production costs. As a result, two scheduled shows were canceled: Miss Julie and Anna Christie.

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EgoPo's curious name is derived from the French term “The Physical Self” and "describes a training technique that leads actors to a physically and vocally dynamic performances, as well a creating a deep sense of vulnerability and spontaneity that reinvigorates classic texts."