Dudzick and Studio Arena helped put a fictional Buffalo watering hole on the map with his trio of Over the Tavern comedies, which have been popular in regional theatres in the last 15 years. The official opening of Don't Talk to the Actors is Sept. 15.
The new comedy "depicts the story of a young Buffalo playwright who is thrust into the high-stakes, big-money, ego-driven world of Broadway after being discovered by a big-time producer," according to Studio Arena. "Come see how the best-laid plans go awry when the people involved only think of themselves and turn to bribery, temptation and chaos to get what they want."
Thomas Caruso directs the production, which also includes Dana Powers Acheson (first national tour of Les Miz, Paper Mill's Diary of Anne Frank, Westport's The Member of the Wedding), Polly Lee (McCarter's Candide, Off-Broadway's Abigail's Party) and Peter Stadlen (Off-Broadway's Birdy and The Mystery Plays).
Tony Award nominee Denny Dillon (My One and Only) is known for her work on Saturday Night Live; Richard Kline played Larry on television's "Three's Company"; and Broadway veteran Lewis J. Stadlen played Max in The Producers on Broadway and on tour, and is a two-time Tony nominee for Candide (1974) and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1996).
How did the new play come about? The day before the first preview, Dudzick told Playbill.com, "My wife Holly asked me if I could write a play that was 'just funny,' in other words, no mention of God and the meaning of life. I bristled and said, 'Well, it has to be about something.' She said why can't it just be funny? So, I gave it some thought. "I knew the comedy would have to be about an issue that meant a great deal to me personally, otherwise it would ring false and the audience would sense it. So the thought came to me of myself back in my early theatre days, writing plays for Buffalo audiences, and I remembered how badly I wished someone would come to town and discover me. With that germ of an idea the whole story just snowballed incredibly quickly. I borrowed from different experiences I had in different productions, made some things up out of whole cloth, and within two or three months I had a first draft."
Was there a significant experience he borrowed from his past?
"The main experience I borrowed from was the time legendary producer Arthur Cantor optioned my play Greetings! for Off-Broadway," Dudzick explained. "He hired his favorite director Dennis Zacek, who helmed Beau Jest, which ran forever at the Lamb's Theatre. Dennis' main job was artistic director of the Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago, and still is. But he came to NYC for Arthur. Then Arthur hired Darren McGavin to star in the play. And all of it was my first shot at the big time. It was never actually spoken that I shouldn't talk to the actors, but boy, was it implied."
The creative team also includes Troy Hourie (set designer), Donna McCarthy (costume designer), Rick Menke (sound designer), John Saunders (lighting designer) and Marianne Montgomery (stage manager).
"We could not be more excited to have another Tom Dudzick production on our stage," stated Studio Arena Theatre's CEO and artistic director Kathleen Gaffney. "Tom has had a very close working relationship with the theatre in the past, bringing five productions to our stage, three of them being world premieres. I am looking forward to continuing to strengthen this long-standing relationship which has given us the opportunity to send terrific productions on to other regional theatres."
Performances continue to Oct. 7.
For more information about Studio Arena Theatre in Buffalo, visit www.studioarena.org or call the box office at (716) 856-5650 or (800) 77STAGE.
In 2007-08, Studio Arena Theatre will also offer David Hare's The Vertical Hour, the topical play about a woman sparring with her lover's father over the issue of the Iraq War, which played Broadway in 2006-07. A resident staging will play Studio Arena March 11-30, 2008.
The season will also include Bat Boy: The Musical, a co-production with MusicalFare Theatre (Oct. 23-Nov. 11); A.R. Gurney's "love letter to Buffalo wrapped inside a Christmas card," the 1946-set Indian Blood (Dec. 4-23); To Kill a Mockingbird (Jan. 29-Feb. 22, 2008); and Side by Side by Sondheim (April 22-May 11, 2008).