The Hilberry Theatre of Wayne State University in Detroit, one of the country's only graduate theatre programs to train its students in true rotating repertory, will begin its 1999-2000 season Oct. 6 with Neil Simon's Laughter on the 23rd Floor.
Simon's comic backstage portrayal of a TV variety show in the McCarthy era will be followed by the usual mix of classics and modern classics, including The Merchant of Venice, the Hilberry's first-ever production of that Shakespeare comedy.
The seven-play season also includes Richard Nelson's Some Americans Abroad, about a group of U.S. academics on a playgoing tour of England; Thornton Wilder's timeless Our Town; Hugh Whitemore's Breaking the Code, about the professional and personal obstacles in the life of gay World War II "Enigma" code-cracker Alan Turing; Five by Tenn, one-acts by Tennessee Williams; The Marriage of Figaro, the 1784 comedy by Beaumarchais that inspired Mozart to create the better-known opera.
Among graduates of the Hilberry are Max Wright (the Lincoln Center Theatre regular) and Jeffrey Tambor ("The Larry Sanders Show").
In its 49th season, the Hilberry'sundergraduate sister theatre, the Bonstelle, will feature Eugene O'Neill's Ah, Wilderness!, Romeo and Juliet, Cheryl L. West's Before It Hits Home, Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth, and the musical, Godspell. The undergraduate theatre is named after Jessie Bonstelle (1872-1932), an actress and stock company manager who produced in Rochester and Syracuse, NY, and Northampton, MA, before settling in Detroit (renting the Garrick Theatre and producing there in the first decade of the 20th century). She left Detroit, but returned to run the Detroit Civic Theatre (no longer in existence). Among her proteges were Katharine Cornell, William Powell, Melvyn Douglas and Frank Morgan.
For Wayne Stage University Theatres season ticket information, call (313) 577-2972.
-- By Kenneth Jones