The 4th International Festival of the Arts & Ideas will take place in New Haven, Connecticut, June 18-July 3. A highlight of the festival will be the appearance of Great Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company, performing Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida and Turgenev's A Month in the Country, in rotating repertory at the Long Wharf Theatre.
Michael Boyd directs Troilus, resetting the production into the 20th Century. Michael Attenborough helms Country, adapted by Brian Friel (Dancing at Lughnasa). Both productions opened in the UK in December 1998, to critical success.
Also appearing at The Festival will be a "work-in-progress" showing of The Good Person of New Haven. Doug Hughes, artistic director of that city's Long Wharf Theatre, together with Cornerstone Theater Company founders Bill Rauch and Alison Carey, have begun a collaboration, dubbed "The New Haven Project." NHP is described as a community-based collaboration which will eventually result in a modern adaptation of the Brecht classic, The Good Woman of Szechwan, titled The Good Person of New Haven. The production will not only be transported to present-day Connecticut, the production will involve everyday New Haven citizens.
The project has been long in development and will not see its final manifestation until spring 2000. Work toward that goal began in October 1997, when Hughes discussed the idea with Rauch and Carey. The Cornerstone, based in L.A., was formed upon the notion that society flourishes only when its disparate members come to know and respect each other. The company has since executed community-based theatre projects in New York and Washington, D.C.
Over the past summer, the Long Wharf held a series of community meetings to select a play. After pouring over several works, those involved chose the Brecht piece, seeing many aspects of New Haven life in its themes. The Good Woman of Szechwan concerns Shen Te, a good hearted prostitute who becomes unexpectedly wealthy, but finds the only way she can avoid bankruptcy at the hands of a rapacious community is to invent a ruthless alter-ego, Shui Ta.
Long Wharf began conducting four weeks of acting and writing workshops on Oct. 10, 1998, which generated material for the adapted version. New Haven residents over age 12 were invited, no experience necessary.
For more information about the festival, call (203) 498-1212.
-- By Sean McGrath