The Signature Theatre Company will dedicate its 2002-03 season to Lanford Wilson. Wilson will be the Off-Broadway's troupe first resident playwright after the current two-season-long celebration of new plays by dramatists the company has honored in the past.
Wilson's work began being produced in New York in 1963, at places like Caffe Cino and La MaMa, where he and Sam Shephard (a Signature playwright of several seasons back) were contemporaries. Early plays included Rimers of Eldritch and Balm in Gilead, which Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company revived to great acclaim in the early '80s. Wilson's fortunes rose with the '70s, a time which saw the success of such works as Lemon Sky, The Hot l Baltimore and the first two part of his "Talley Trilogy," 5th of July and Talley's Folly. The latter won the Pulitzer Prize.
Many of these works were presented at Circle Repertory Company, a landmark Off-Broadway troupe Wilson co-founded.
The last decade, however, has seen a slow falling off in Wilson's commercial and critical stock. The last play of his to reach Broadway was 1993's Redwood Curtain, which quickly closed to great financial loss and by some accounts helped speed the subsequent demise of Circle Rep. Many of Wilson's most recent efforts—including The Rain Dance, Book of Days and A Sense of Place, or Virgil Is Still the Frog Boy—haven't been seen in New York, debuting instead at such places as the Bay Street Theatre in Long Island and the Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea, MI.
Wilson said Book of Days and Rain Dance were possibilities for the Signature season. —By Robert Simonson