New York's Signature Theatre has revealed the title of the Lee Blessing play which will be part of the Off-Broadway company's 2000-2001 and 2001-2002 celebration seasons, in which nine premiere plays will bow -- one from each of the dramatists the Signature has hosted over the past nine years.
The Blessing premiere will be Thief River, about two men seen at three crucial times in their lives, from adolescence to old age. Each of the play's three scenes take place in the same dilapidated farm house. The play will debut in the spring of 2001.
As previously reported, the 2000-01 season will include works by Romulus Linney, Horton Foote and a quadruple threat from Ntozake Shange, Kia Corthron, Suzan-Lori Parks and Regina Taylor (honoring Adrienne Kennedy). Linney's adaptation of A Lesson Before Dying will come first, then Foote's The Last of the Thorntons and finally Urban Zulu Mambo from the four African-American women, followed by the Blessing.
Starting in September, Lesson Before Dying, from the best-selling novel by Ernest J. Gaines, looks at the intense friendship struck between two black men in 1940's small town Louisiana -- one a convict, sentenced to die and the other, a schoolteacher, who has already given up. Kent Thompson directs this New York premiere originally commissioned and performed by the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Featured in the production will be Isiah Whitlock (The Iceman Cometh), Beatrice Winde, Jamahl Marsh and Aaron Harpold. A Lesson Before Dying runs Sept. 5-Oct. 15 with an opening Sept. 17. Academy Award winner Estelle Parsons and Obie and Drama Desk Award winner Hallie Foote star in the world premiere of Horton Foote's The Last of the Thorntons, beginning in November. Signature's founding artistic director James Houghton directs this Harrison, Texas, tale of the last of powerful clan dying off with only her memory of what was. The Last of the Thorntons runs Nov. 21-Dec. 31 with an opening on Dec. 3.
Signature Playwright-in-Residence Adrienne Kennedy will be honored in February with the New York premiere of Urban Zulu Mambo, directed by Henry Godinez, helmer of the original Goodman Theatre production of Feb. 2000. Taylor performs the one woman show, which includes the four short pieces, Safe Box by Corthron, Talking to Jupiter by Parks, Evertime [sic] My Lil World Seems Blue, I Just Haveta Look at You and Learn Eye-Hand Coordination, a selection from Shange's novel "Liliane" and Urban Zulu Mambo by Taylor.
The Signature Theatre Company is located at 555 W. 42nd Street. For information, call (212) 244-7529, or consult the theatre's website at www.signaturetheatre.org.