Four years ago, it took a new playwright to warn us that the Millennium is Approaching. In two more years, Millennium will be here -- and what better way to herald the next hundred years than with the words of famous playwrights?
After a heyday in the 1950s, network television has not been particularly kind to theatre, but for one week, at least, that will change. Neil Simon, Arthur Miller, Wendy Wasserstein, David Mamet and August Wilson have all been tapped to write new plays -- for ABC-TV's special "Millennium Project," running an entire week in November,1999. Wasserstein told Playbill On-Line (Mar. 19) her one-act was titled Shopping On Mars.
The project was inaugurated by Hallmark Entertainment, which is executive producing the works. Hallmark Entertainment chairman Robert Halmi told the New York Times the idea for the project came from thinking about "how all the major media was preparing for the millennium, from books to poetry to painting. I thought the best way to get a presence was to get the very best playwrights in America to write what they think the year 2,000 means." Halmi said he told the playwrights, "We're not going to tell you what to do; we're not going to edit you."
For its part, ABC and producer David Picker are expecting the project to attract major actors, directors and producers. Arthur Miller is the author of Death Of A Salesman, The Price and All My Sons, which is receiving a 50th anniversary staging this season at the Roundabout Theatre. August Wilson's plays include Seven Guitars and the upcoming Jitney. David Mamet's works include Glengarry Glen Ross, Speed-the-Plow, Sexual Perversity In Chicago and the current The Old Neighborhood. Wendy Wasserstein's An American Daughter opened on Broadway in 1997. Neil Simon's plays include The Odd Couple, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Lost in Yonkers and the libretto for Promises, Promises. Larry Gelbart wrote the book for A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. John Guare's works include Four Baboons Adoring The Sun and Six Degrees Of Separation. Terrence McNally's plays include Master Class, Love! Valour! Compassion! and the libretto to Ragtime. Steve Martin wrote Picasso At The Lapin Agile; Elaine May is the author of Mr. Gogol And Mr. Preen.
-- By David Lefkowitz