The artistic collaboration between Tony-winning playwright Warren Leight and the Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati (ETC) will reach a new level in 2003 with the world premiere of the author's James and Annie. The new work will run March 12-30.
ETC scored a coup in 1999 by becoming the first regional theatre to produced Leight's Side Man following its Broadway production. The mounting was an important success for the small Ohio company, attracting record ticket sales. ETC went on to produce the playwright's Glimmer, Glimmer and Shine.
James and Annie tells the story of an interracial love affair between an African-American solider and a white woman that begins right after World War II. Though both black soldiers and female civilians enjoyed new liberties during the course of the conflict, the two groups—and James and Annie in particular—soon found that those freedoms did not necessarily extend to peacetime.
The play will be workshopped this summer at the New Harmony Festival in Indiana before opening at ETC. No director or cast have been announced.
For information, call (513) 421-3555. *
James and Annie will be Leight's second premiere in the coming season. His No Foreigners Beyond This Point will debut at Baltimore's Center Stage this fall.
In the story, two American teachers find themselves in a remote Chinese village where "the Beatles are as unknown as personal privacy."
Leight himself taught English in Canton in 1980 and 1981, when he was 23. "I had the chance so I took it," Leight told Playbill On-Line. He added: "Also, I had a crush on someone I knew would be teaching over there.
"Like in Side Man, I'm trying to capture a world I knew well. Of course, one of the points of the play is how hard a world it is to know. The other teachers, students and one other foreigner, are my usual composites."
His work on the play technically began 20 years ago. During his tenure as a foreign instructor, he kept diaries and wrote letters, which he then packed away until Irene Lewis, the artistic director of the Maryland not-for-profit theatre, offered him a commission to write what became No Foreigners Beyond This Point. The show was workshopped in January and scheduled for the 2002-03 season soon after.
"I knew of Center Stage because two of my close friends, Eric Bogosian and Michael Mayer, had had productions down there," said Leight, "and a third friend, Jill Rachel Morris, was their dramaturg. I liked the theatre on both trips down, and liked the city. Jill introduced me to Irene.
"Irene has begun to commission new plays. And as you know, not many places do that these days. I had two plays I was interested in writing, and she responded to this one. She said she hasn't seen that world on stage before. And she liked the themes that I said I'd be working with. She has strong interest in China, because her father spent time there during World War II."
Leight said that there is interest in making the show a co production with another theatre company, and that there is a possibility No Foreigners may come to New York. At this time, however, there are no definite plans.
No Foreigners Beyond This Point, will run Nov. 21 Dec. 22 at Center Stage's Pearlstone Theater.
For ticket information, call (410) 332-0033.
—By Robert Simonson