The Oregon Shakespeare Festival's world premiere of Lillian Garrett Groag's The Magic Fire, lifted from its August 1997 festival staging, reignited on stage at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, Nov. 12, but the magic ends Dec. 6 at the Center's Eisenhower Theatre.
The John F. Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays was an original sponsor of the work, a memory play about a woman looking back at her childhood in Buenos Aires during the fascist regime of Juan Peron.
The play was commissioned by OSF in 1993, got a festival reading in 1995 and in 1996 the festival and Garrett-Groag (The White Rose) were awarded grants from the Fund for New American Plays, making a full 1997 production possible. A representative of the Kennedy Center Fund saw the August '97 production at the festival's Bowmer Theatre in Ashland, OR, and invited the company to DC.
The entire Oregon cast, including Anthony Heald, is intact for the drama about an Austrian emigre (Heald) in 1950s Argentina and how he brings opera music (Wagner's Ring is referenced) to protect his child from the encroaching, hostile world. (Heald will play Iago at the festival in February 1999.)
Director Libby Appel's cast includes Vilma Silva, Alyn McKenna Bartell & Antonina Whitmore (alternating in the role of the daughter), Demetra Pittman, Judith-Marie Bergan, Ken Albers, Dee Maaske, Eileen DeSandre, Catherine E. Coulson, Richard Howard, Michael J. Hume and Robynn Rodriguez. Heald's credits include Broadway's Love! Valour! Compassion! and Off-Broadway's Lips Together, Teeth Apart, among others. The original set by Richard L. Hay traveled to the Kennedy Center, where previews began Nov. 7. Designers Deborah M. Dryden (costumes) and Ann G. Wrightson (lighting) repeat their work in DC.
The Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis will stage a separate production of The Magic Fire, directed by Appel, Jan. 15 -Feb. 14.
For information about the Kennedy Center shows, call (202) 467-4600.
-- By Kenneth Jones