This week's news that Off-Broadway's Blue Light Theatre Company will temporarily suspend operations is not without its silver lining. Mandy Greenfield, producing manager of Blue Light who acted as co-producer of the company's 1999-2000 season, told Playbill On-Line (Feb. 9) that she is forming a new theatre company. The fledgling troupe, as-yet unnamed, will maintain what have been Blue Light's administrative offices in Midtown Manhattan and possibly perform out of the McGinn-Cazale Theatre, as Blue Light had.
Greenfield expects to mount her first production in fall 2001. Her company will focus on new plays by young authors, "risky and flawed and promising and wonderful" works, as she put it. To get an idea of the sort of fare audiences can expect to see, one might reference the two plays Greenfield and business partner Peter Manning produced with the Blue Light a season ago: Daniel Goldfarb's Adam Baum and the Jew Movie and Jessica Goldberg's The Hologram Theory. Both Greenfield and Manning were veterans of New York Stage and Film before joining Blue Note. Manning will have a role in the new company, probably as president of the board of directors. Greenfield will be artistic director, though she said she will not take that title.
The inaugural production will likely be either Texarkana Waltz by Seattle writer Louis Broome or Fortune by Deborah Laufer. Laufer, like Goldfarb and Goldberg, is a graduate of the Juilliard playwriting program.
Greenfield does not know where she will mount the plays but is considering the McGinn-Cazale.
* Greg Naughton, the actor-manager of the Blue Light Theatre Company— which has produced acclaimed revivals of Odets, as well as premieres by Daniel Goldfarb and Jessica Goldberg — told Playbill On-Line on Feb. 7 that the company has temporarily suspended operations, abandoning its current season at the halfway point. The troupe's current home base is the McGinn Cazale Theatre, former stomping group of Second Stage.
Naughton said the company had been pondering going on hiatus for a couple years. "I felt there might be a better structure to serve our goals," he stated. "This will give the opportunity to do that. That's the silver lining part of it."
As might be expected, money problems informed the decision. "Money has always been a problem" said Naughton. Two years ago, the Blue Light was saddled with a deficit of $200,000. That has now been paid off. However, the cost of producing large-cast shows—the Blue Light's forte—has proved prohibitive. "It's always going to be hard for a company who doesn't just serve the bottom line to work in this enviroment," argued Naughton. "Our mission is to give up-and-coming actors the opportunity to do large-cast plays, plays of classical scope, with veteran actors. As pricing goes up, theatres are forced to do smaller-cast shows. The apprenticeship tradition is being lost." Blue Light works on an Off-Broadway letter of agreement with Actors' Equity.
The rising cost of New York real estate in the boom economy of the Clinton years also proved a heavy burden, he added.
Naughton stressed that this was not the end of the six-year-old troupe. "We hope to come back and redouble the effort," said Naughton. "I feel optimistic that we can do that." He said the company may produce on a one-off basis in the future, but has no set plans at present.
In the meantime, Second Stage, which last year announced its intention to reclaim the McGinn-Cazale as an additional playing space, will fold Blue Light's subscription base into its own. Second Stage executive director Alexander Fraser told Playbill On-Line that two shows were yet owed to Blue Light subscribers, and that that obligation would be honored with Second Stage's productions of John Patrick Shanley's Cellini (currently running) and the upcoming revival of Beth Henley's Crimes of the Heart.
As for the McGinn-Cazale, Fraser said the space is already rented out for the spring. First up will be a limited run production by the New Federal Theatre. A commercial offering will follow. Second Stage will use the theatre in spring 2002 for a series of "developmental productions," which will be offered to subscribers.
— By Robert Simonson