Recent plays by Anna Deavere Smith, David Hare, Charlayne Woodard, Peter Parnell and Anthony Clarvoe -- plus a comedy classic starring the Flying Karamazov Brothers -- are highlights of the Mark Taper Forum's 31st season, announced May 5.
Clarvoe's Ambition Facing West replaces Ellen McLaughlin's Tongue of a Bird, which has been moved to 1998-99.
The 1997-98 season will tell six new stories, although all of them will have premiered elsewhere, mostly in Seattle theatres, by the time they arrive at one of Los Angeles' foremost theatres.
"This is a season that I'm particularly proud to say goes to the very root of the dramatic impulse and truly celebrates the art of storytelling," said artistic director Gordon Davidson. "These playwrights and performers spin fantastic yarns and cast those spells that only a good story can do."
* David Hare's Skylight, opening the season Sept. 7, weaves a tale of two lovers who reunite after several years, and spend an evening trying to reconcile their philosophical differences. Skylight will run through Oct. 26. * Following a stint at Seattle's A Contemporary Theatre and D.C.'s Arena Stage, the new-vaudeville quartet The Flying Karamazov Brothers will hover over the Taper stage, serving up a new rendition of the old farce, Room Service by John Murray and Allen Boretz , running Nov. 14-Dec 21. Adapted by The Flying Karamazov Brothers and directed by Robert Woodruff, the four Brothers will perform all 14 characters who are engaged in the plotline, which follows a corrupt and indebted Broadway producer as he escapes eviction from his Broadway hotel to raise money for a new show.
* Next will be Charlayne Woodard in her one-woman show, Neat, Jan. 11-Feb. 1, which originally premiered at Seattle Repertory Theatre, opening their new theatre last season. In Neat Woodard shares her formative years, focusing on the pillar of strength and wisdom she found in her beloved Aunt Neat, whose strength and clarity pervaded Woodard's upbringing, despite the brain damage Neat suffered as a child.
*Ambition Facing West, a sweeping tale of Croatian immigrants to the U.S., by Anthony Clarvoe, begins previews Feb. 8, 1998. The drama charts the struggles of a 1910 young man who moves to Wyoming, and then his daughter (in 1980), who leaves Japan to blaze economic trails in Yugoslavia, bringing the familial story full circle. Opening Feb. 19, 1998 and running to March 29, 1998, Ambition Facing West replaces Ellen McLaughlin's Tongue of a Bird, which will now play in fall 1998 so that Cherry Jones can star. (Tongue, which premiered at Seattle's Intiman, concerns a search and rescue pilot hunting for an abducted 12 year-old girl.) Ambition had its world premiere at Rhode Island's Trinity Repertory Company.
* Although the L.A. Times reported uncertainty that Anna Deveare Smith would perform in her long awaited piece on the U.S. presidency, the Taper is co-producing the production with Chicago's Goodman, as well as D.C.'s Arena Stage, which commissioned and will premiere the work. The new piece by the acclaimed playwright and performer, is scheduled to run at the Taper April 5-May 31.
Smith's Tony Award-nominated Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 was commissioned by the Taper and had its world premiere on the mainstage in 1993. The currently untitled work in her series of plays On the Road: A Search for American Character, defining the heart of the American experience, exposes the conduct and ways within the nation's capital city, collected from interviews with elected officials, political operatives and journalists. Unlike her other plays, Smith's new play features a cast of eight actors, who, true to the Smith's style, cross gender, race and culture to portray their characters.
* The season finale, The Cider House Rules adapted from John Irving's 1985 best-selling novel by Peter Parnell, conceived and directed by Tom Hulce and Jane Jones, and will run in two parts June 13 through Sept. 27.
"When I saw each of its parts in development at Seattle Repertory Theatre, Part One in the spring of 1995 in the theatre's former second space, and Part Two in January 1997 in their new second stage, I'm proud that the completed version of this big-hearted, Dickensian piece will have its premiere at the Taper mainstage, and will include the ever-popular marathon weekends," Davidson said.
Seven generations of rich characters in and surrounding the St. Cloud's Orphanage in rural Maine affect each other, and grapple with serious issues such as abortion, domestic violence, incest, racism and poverty, and other family-related and politically charged topics. The play seems in keeping with the heart of the Taper's successes, as Davidson concludes, "The Cider House Rules uses imaginative storytelling techniques to create a deeply moving and compelling event, in the tradition of the Taper's Angels in America and The Kentucky Cycle".
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