The estate of the late Pulitzer Prize-winner Wilder (The Skin of Our Teeth, Our Town) contacted Tony Award-nominated playwright Ludwig (Crazy for You, Lend Me a Tenor) and asked him to complete a half-finished adaptation that Wilder had set aside more than 50 years ago, Ludwig told Playbill.com. Famed producer Cheryl Crawford originally asked Wilder to adapt it in the late 1930s.
Ludwig completed the Wilder version and (with the estate's permission) went back to make changes in Wilder's first half, as well. He then sent the script to Kahn, artistic director of The Shakespeare Theatre Company in D.C.; Ludwig is a D.C. resident. Readings and revisions followed, and another reading will happen prior to the fall staging. The script will be published by TCG in the coming year.
Ludwig said no new characters were added, and the setting is still 1707 England, but speeches were created by both writers. Wilder had cut some stock characters (the Irishman, the Frenchman), and those excisions remain.
The new script will have its world premiere at The Shakespeare Theatre Company Nov. 7-Dec. 31.
Restoration dramatist Farquhar (1678-1707) also wrote Love and a Bottle; The Constant Couple, or A Trip to the Jubilee; and The Recruiting Officer. Here's how The Shakespeare Theatre Company bills the work: "With The Beaux' Stratagem, George Farquhar used his gift for wit and character to make a bold critique of class, marriage and English society. After squandering their fortunes on drink and gambling, Tom Aimwell and Jack Archer seek refuge in the countryside. They hope to seduce two ladies of status and fortune, but true love and a band of thieves soon complicate their scheming. For more than a century, The Beaux' Stratagem was one of the most frequently performed English comedies, enjoying constant revivals. The Shakespeare Theatre Company rediscovers this classic with a world premiere adaptation, begun by Thornton Wilder in 1939 and finished 65 years later by Tony Award-nominated playwright Ken Ludwig. Together, Wilder and Ludwig's work sheds new light on Farquhar's spirited dialogue and hilarious characters."
The 2006-007 season of The Shakespeare Theatre Company also includes Nicholas Rudall's world premiere adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's An Enemy of the People (directed by Kjetil Bang-Hansen), Geraint Wyn Davies as Richard III (directed by Michael Kahn), the troupe's first stab at Titus Andronicus (directed by Gale Edwards), Hamlet starring Jeffrey Carlson (directed by Michael Kahn).
The three Shakespeare plays will be featured as part of Shakespeare in Washington, a six-month, citywide festival conceived by Michael Kaiser (president of The Kennedy Center) and curated by Michael Kahn.
The Shakespeare Theatre Company annually produces five plays in its 451-seat theatre in Washington, D.C.'s Pennsylvania Quarter and one free play in Rock Creek Park's 3,700-seat Carter Barron Amphitheatre. Artistic director Michael Kahn has led the organization for 20 years.
For subscription information, visit www.ShakespeareTheatre.org.