When director Andre Ernotte died last March, composer Polly Pen lost her ideal collaborator. Pen and Ernotte teamed on several projects, including Pen's Bed and Sofa and Christina Alberta's Father, both of which played to acclaim at the Vineyard. With her newest musical, Night Governess, due at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton next season, Pen found herself without Ernotte's services for the first time in years.
Well, Night Governess will not go rudderless. Pen has selected Lisa Peterson to fill Ernotte's shoes. Peterson has a list of extremely varied credits behind her, including Tony Kushner's Slavs, Donald Margulies' The Model Apartment and, most recently, The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek at New York Theatre Workshop.
The work, inspired by the Louisa May Alcott thriller "Behind the Mask," is the darkly comic story of a quiet young woman who comes to teach a household in the art of manipulation as she twists each family member to her own designs. Pen workshopped the musical at the McCarter in November 1998 with Judith Blazer, Alma Cuervo (Titanic ) and Emily Skinner (Side Show) in the cast.
In other McCarter news, Polly Pen will contribute incidental music to the McCarter's upcoming production of Sam Shephard's Fool for Love, starring Laila Robins.
New Jersey's McCarter Theatre has announced four of the five planned productions for its 1999-2000 season, the 10th anniversary for artistic director Emily Mann. They are: * Sam Shepard's Fool For Love, Sept. 14-Oct. 3. Fool follows the addictive love relationship between Eddie, a typical wandering cowboy, and May, his childhood sweetheart. Mann will direct this work by the author of Operation Sidewinder and Curse of the Starving Class. Star Robins was last on Broadway in The Herbal Bed.
* Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, Oct. 19-Nov. 7, directed by Daniel Fish, with incidental music by Polly Pen.
* David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross, with a director to be announced. Glengarry, a savagely funny look at small-time real estate salesmen, won the 1984 Pulitzer Prize and was made into a 1992 film with Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino and Kevin Spacey. Other Mamet plays include Oleanna, Speed The Plow and The Cryptogram.
* Southern novelist Cormac McCarthy's The Stonemason, a world premiere directed by Mann. Stonemason traces four generations of an African-American family living in Louisville, Kentucky in the 1970's as they struggle to remain tied to their land and to each other.
* Polly Pen's The Night Governess.
To subscribe to the McCarter Theatre's season ($80 and up), call the box office at (609) 258-2787. The McCarter Theatre is located at 91 University Place.
-- By Robert Simonson and Christine Ehren