All 23 plays produced by the famed Group Theatre will pass in review again, from April 27 to May 18, as part of the Actors Studio's 50th anniversary celebration in New York.
Plays like Clifford Odets' Awake and Sing, Waiting for Lefty and Golden Boy, Sidney Kingsley's Men in White, Paul Green and Kurt Weill's Johnny Johnson and playwrights like Maxwell Anderson, William Saroyan, Irwin Shaw and Dawn Powell will be represented in this unprecedented cavalcade of readings, which will be done by a remarkable array of Actors Studio alums. Among those promises as of April 6: Shelley Winters, Cliff Robertson, Anne Jackson, Eli Wallach, Lee Grant, Ben Gazzara, Miriam Colon, Harvey Keitel, Estelle Parsons, Rip Torn, Earle Hyman, Stephen Lang, Delroy Lindo, Daniel Selznick, Ruben Blades, Michael Howard and Tom Palumbo.
"It's a Group Theatre festival," says Parsons, the Oscar-winning actress who is producing the event. "We're going to do something that has never been done: We're going to read all 23 plays that the Group did, with different directors -- Gene Saks and Archie Storch and Michael Cristofer -- then talk about how the Group did them. We have pictures and old interviews. Joanne [Woodward] is doing a night about Odets. We're going to read from the Brookfield diaries, about Harold Clurman and the first year of the Group Theatre, with some of our better actors."
The Woodwood/Odets evening, May 11, is the third of four Monday night programs exploring the history, vision and achievements of the Group Theatre. Its beginnings and philosophy will be the subject of Wendy Smith's talk on April 27; Mel Gordon and Helen Krich Chinoy will follow that on May 4 with a tribute to Lee Strasberg, whose work as actor, teacher and director revolutionized acting throughout America and Europe. Concluding the program, on May 18, will be a salute to another of the founding fathers of the Actors Studio, Elia Kazan, and will feature several actors discussing their work in Kazan films and plays.
David Amran will perform music he scored for Kazan productions on this final evening. Music written for the Group Theatre productions by Aaron Copland, Kurt Weill and Hans Eisler will be featured in the reading series. Performances are at 7 PM at the Actors Studio (432 W. 44th St.), and admission is free -- but priority seating for the entire series is available for a tax-deductible contribution of $100. For further information, call (212) 757-2467.
-- By Harry Haun