As the Actors Theatre Of Louisville moves halfway through its Flying Solo And Friends Festival of one-person performances, the theatre is also launching its 1997-98 mainstage season, featuring seven shows.
Previews began Sept. 17 for an opening Sept. 18, of The Wizard Of Oz, an adaptation by the UK's Royal Shakespeare Company of Frank Baum's Oz stories -- by way of the legendary MGM film, of course. The classic songs by Harold Arlen & E.Y. Harburg will be part of the mix, though this is not the same production/adaptation done in New York in May 1997 ago and due back at Madison Square Garden in April 1998 with Eartha Kitt as the Wicked Witch. "The Jitterbug," a song cut from the MGM film, will be returned to the story, and movie's "Poppy Scene" will also be turned into a production number.
ATL producing director Jon Jory directs, with Pam Sousa choreographing and Robert Webb serving as conductor/musical director.
Danielle Ferland, who originated the role of Little Red Riding Hood in Into The Woods, plays Dorothy . Adale O'Brien plays Auntie Em and Glinda the Good Witch; Fred Major plays the Wizard of Oz.
You may remember Stephen Mo Hanan playing Captain Hook in the Cathy Rigby Peter Pan on Broadway, but you sure won't recognize him here. In Oz he plays the Wicked Witch of the West. Also in the cast are Robert Levine, Clent Bowers (Cowardly Lion), Dan Sharkey (Tin Man), Don Goodspeed (Scarecrow), Derrick McGinty, Vic DiMonda, John Leffert, Tim Santos, Caesar Samayoa.
Desiging the show are Kendra Ullyart (set), Delmar L. Rinehart (costumes), Amy Appleyard (lighting) and Martin R. Desjardins (sound). "Certainly by ATL's standards," said Jory in a statement, "[the show is] a very large undertaking, but it's going to be a lot of fun." Wizard Of Oz runs to Oct. 25 at the 637-seat Pamela Brown auditorium.
Next up in the season will be four hitherto undiscovered plays by Thornton Wilder, Oct. 22-Nov. 22. The plays, recently found at Yale University's Thornton Wilder Archives at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, will serve as the centerpiece of ATL's 13th annual Brown-Forman Classics In Context Festival.
Tazewell Thompson will direct the one-acts: A Ringing Of Doorbells, In Shakespeare And The Bible, Youth and The Rivers Under The Earth. Ringing follows a mother-daughter con-artist team trying to scam an army widow. The suspenseful Shakespeare shows a young couple meeting up with a mysterious aunt. Rivers is a philosophical comedy set on an ancient ceremonial campground. Youth serves as a satirical sequel to "Gulliver's Travels," with the adventurer landing in a society composed entire of people under age 30.
Wilder's longtime friend and creative associate F.J. O'Neil [sic] found the 1956 scripts when looking over the Wilder Archives. The works were part of two uncompleted series, "The Seven Deadly Sins" (including Doorbells and Shakespeare) and "The Seven Ages Of Man" (including Youth and Rivers). O'Neil then contacted Tappan Wilder, executor of Thornton's estate (and the playwright's nephew). "Actors Theatre of Louisville was the first choice," the nephew said. "It's the top of the heap as far as we're concerned."
Says O'Neil, "I think these plays should be seen...they're wonderful comments about the human condition and the clash of culture."
The timing of this rediscovery coincides with Wilder's Centennial; he was born April 17, 1897 in Madison, WI. At ATL, a "Festival Focus" weekend (Nov. 14-16) will offer films, lectures and readings that examine Wilder's life and work.
The two lectures will be "Thornton Wilder At 100: Wilder's Literary Legacy," a talk given by Jackson R. Bryer, English Professor at the University of Maryland; and "Signposts, Footprints, Clues: Thornton Wilder In His Work," by Penelope Niven, who's penned biographies of Carl Sandburg and Edward Steichen. She's currently working on Wilder bio.
Wilder's more famous, full-length works include The Matchmaker, Our Town and The Skin Of Our Teeth. Wilder's one-acts also made news earlier in the decade when Off-Off-Broadway's Willow Cabin theatre company linked three one-acts as Wilder Wilder Wilder, a production that eventually came to Broadway's Circle In The Square Theatre.
[Steven Samuels, senior editor & director of online services for Theatre Communications Group contacted Playbill On-Line to add that Rivers Under The Earth was first published in American Theatre magazine's March 1997 issue, and that all four one-acts at ATL will appear in "The Collected Short Plays of Thornton Wilder, Vol. 1," to be published by TCG in late June 1997. The volume will also include all the long-out-of-print one-acts from "The Long Christmas Dinner and Other Plays," as well as all the existing material towards the two cycles, "The Seven Deadly Sins" and "The Seven Ages of Man," also known as "Plays for Bleecker Street." Playwright John Guare (The House Of Blue Leaves) has penned an introduction for the volume.]
After the "Wilder Rediscovered" fest comes Anne Bogart's staging of Noel Coward's comedy Private Lives, about mixed-up couples honeymooning in the South of France. Coward penned the play in 1930 for himself and Gertrude Lawrence. Private Lives runs Jan. 1-24, 1998.
Ali, a biographical drama about boxer Muhammad Ali runs Jan. 29 Feb. 28, 1998, followed by the annual Humana Festival of New Plays (March 5-April 4, 1998).
Then comes the revue Radio Gals, which played briefly at the John Houseman Theatre Off-Broadway. The show follows the daily broadcast of Hazel Hunt and her Hazelnuts at a tiny, no-frills radio station in Arkanasas. Radio Gals (April 9-May 31, 1998), features book, music and lyrics by Mike Craver and Mark Hardwick, who previously collaborated on Oil City Symphony. Songs in Radio Gals include Buster, He's A Hot Dog Now, Faeries In My Mother's Garden, When It's Sweetpea Time In Georgia and Edna Jones,The Elephant Girl.
Othello finishes the mainstage season, May 7-31, 1998. William Shakespeare's tragedy tells of a jealous Moor following bad advice about his marriage to Desdemona.
For tickets and information on shows at the Actors Theatre of Louisville call (502) 585-1210.
Off the mainstage, the fifth annual Flying Solo And Friends Festival continues to Sept. 28 in the Victor Jory Theatre.
Here's the remaining Festival line-up:
Alligator Tales (Sept. 16-21), by Anne Galjour, follows eight characters in a tight Cajun community battling hurricanes, floods and oil speculators. Galjour's solo comes to Manhattan Theatre Club at the end of September.
Old Man In A Baseball Cap (Sept. 23-29), Nicknamed "Rockets," Fred Rochlin remembers his years as a World War II flier -- and the dichotomy between air force discipline and the people he'd meet in war-torn Europe.
For tickets and information on the Festival, call (502)584-1205.
--By David Lefkowitz