Four U.S. resident theatre groups have changed their names with the start of the new season: Chicago’s American Blues Theatre Company becomes the American Theatre Company; Rochester, New York’s GeVa Theatre loses the middle capital V and becomes just Geva; Florida's Pope Theatre Company becomes Florida Stage, and the Performing Arts League of Philadelphia becomes the Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia.
First, the American Blues Theatre Company, now the American Theatre Company. The name change is intended to clarify any confusion that the venue is a showcase for blues music. It was originally named for the blue-collar theatre experience. The change is the result of six years of discussion among the company and board of directors.
The American Theater Company opened its season Sept. 8 with William Mastrosimone’s A Stone Carver. Scapin by Moliere follows Dec. 1, with William Inge’s Bus Stop March 9 and The Million Bells of Ocean by Edward Mast, April 27.
Founded in 1985, the renamed American Theater Company, “is committed to producing works that speak directly to the human experience with an emphasis on American playwrights.”
For subscriptions and more information, call (773) 929-1031. GeVa, short for Genesee Valley Arts Foundation, Inc., will now be spelled Geva. The upper case “V” was originally intended to reflect the first letter of the word “Valley.” Geva Theatre Artistic Director Mark Cuddy said, “The spelling was simply confusing, so we decided to go with the spelling that was more easily understood.”
Theatre officials decided to downsize the “Big V” in conjunction with the theatre’s 25th Anniversary Season. The season opened Sept. 2 with Steve Martin’s Picasso at the Lapin Agile, a meeting between young Einstein and Picasso in a 1904 Parisian cafe, directed by Cuddy. It runs through Oct. 5.
John Henry Redwood’s The Old Settler follows, Oct. 14-Nov.16. Benny Sato Ambush directs the story an unmarried, middle-aged woman in 1943 Harlem who falls in love with her much younger boarder.
Geva remounts its successful adaptation of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Nov. 28-Dec. 28. Richard Hellesen’s adaptation will feature music by David de Barry.
Radio Gals ring in the New Year, Jan. 6 - Feb. 8, 1998, with music and lyrics by Mike Craver and Mark Hardwick, the team behind Pump Boys and Dinettes and Oil City Symphony. Pamela Hunt directs and choreographs the story of retired music teacher Hazel C. Hunt and her former students, the “Hazelnuts,” who illegally broadcast WGAL out of her living room in 1928 Arkansas.
Tim Ocel directs Corneille’s The Illusion, freely adapted by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner Tony Kushner (Angels in America), Feb. 17 - March 22, 1998. An aging lawyer seeks news of his son, who he drove from home 15 years ago, from a sorcerer who conjures three visions of the love-seeking son.
Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar editor Diana Vreeland lives life at a Full Gallop in this one woman show written by Mark Hampton and Mary Louise Wilson. Nicholas Martin reprises his role as director of this Off Broadway hit.
The Geva season closes with the world premiere of Oyamo’s Famous Orpheus, directed by Mark Cuddy and choreographed by Garth Fagan (The Lion King), May 26 - June 28, 1998. The Greek myth is retold with the color, music and dance of Trinidad during Carnival.
For subscription or ticket information, call (716) 232-1363.
Spokesperson Caroline Breder calls it, "The only South Florida theatre dedicated to producing new American plays." The Pope Theatre will continue its mission -- though without its religious-sounding moniker. "[The name] `Florida Stage' reflects the growth, the scope and the stability of our company as we prepare to enter the new millennium," said producing director Louis Tyrrell in a statement. "I look forward to building on our proud ten year history."
Asked about the name change, spokesperson Caroline Breder told Playbill On-Line, "We were called "Pope" because we had an arrangement with our benefactor, Lois Pope. Recently, we concluded our agreement with her, so we chose a new name to reflect the scope we're hoping our work aspires to."
The newly rechristened Florida Stage will begin its season Oct. 24 with William Mastrosimone's Benedict Arnold. This world premiere, about a "hero/traitor of the U.S. Revolution," runs to Nov. 30. Incorruptible by Michael Hollinger follows, Dec. 12-Jan. 18, 1998. It's a dark comedy about a failing monastery in the Middle Ages. Private Eyes, Steven Dietz's "intellectual comedy of lust and suspicion," runs Jan. 30-March 8, 1998. Nilo Cruz's A Park In Our House, about a family caught in Castro's Cuba, runs March 20-April 26, 1998. Last up for the season will be The Garden Of Hannah List, a world premiere by Michael McKeever, May 8-June 14, 1998. Garden explores how individuals react when faced with true evil: the Third Reich. For information call (800) 514-3837.
The Performing Arts League of Philadelphia (PALP) voted unanimously to change its name to the Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia. The change is a result of the 7-year-old organization’s decision to concentrate its efforts on improving services to theatre groups. Theatre Alliance chair Teresa Eyring said, “Although we have seen the unfortunate demise of a few theatres over the past few seasons, the theatre community has experienced tremendous growth. The new Theatre Alliance is not only a result of that growth but a tangible sign of what’s good and exciting in contemporary Philadelphia theatre: mutual support and a passionate commitment to quality theatre.” Those wishing to join the Alliance should contact Christine Barbush at (215) 413-7150.