Although No for an Answer, Marc Bliztstein's follow up to Cradle Will Rock, was given several concert stagings, the politically-charged opera never received the full production it had been seeking in 1941. Fifty years later, the Masters of Fine Arts students at San Francisco's American Conservatory Theatre program presented the world premiere of the music theatre work, ending Nov. 10 at the Zeum Theater, ACT's newest space. Performances began Oct. 26.
No for an Answer uses Russian Jewish folk music, blues, vaudeville and Broadway styles to tell the story of a group of young Greek and Jewish immigrants struggling to make ends meet during the winter season at a summer resort. As they threaten to unionize, the town's managers fight back, creating violent confrontations between the workers. The original three concert performances of No for an Answer, highly praised by legendary New York Times critic Brooks Atkinson, starred Carol Channing in her New York debut. Songs from the score include "The Purest Kind of Guy," "In the Clear," "Fraught" and "Penny Candy."
Bliztstein has recently come back en vogue with a major motion picture "Cradle Will Rock" and Off-Broadway revivals of his adaptation of The Threepenny Opera and Cradle Will Rock. His other operas and stage musicals include Regina, Reuben, Reuben and Juno, which starred Shirley Booth on Broadway.
ACT artistic director Carey Perloff directs with musical direction by Peter Maleitzke. The cast is filled by the MFA students graduating class of 2002.
After the opening performance, a special panel will discuss the work and Blitzstein's work, care of the San Francisco Performing Arts Library and Museum. Blitzstein biographer Eric A. Gordon, directo Perloff and musical director Maleitzke with San Francisco Bay Guardian theatre critic Brad Rosenstein as moderator. Gordon is the author of the only full-scale biography of Blitzstein, "Mark the Music." Tickets are $15. The Zeum Theater at Yerba Buena Gardens is at the corner of Howard and Fourth Streets. For reservations, call (415) 749-2228.
The 210-seat Zeum Theatre in the Yerba Buena Gardens recently became the second of the American Conservatory Theatre's performance spaces, joining the 1000-seat main house, the Geary Theatre. ACT will remain at the Zeum for three years, producing the company's MFA student productions in the theatre (including two Shakespeare productions and Peer Gynt in the spring), while creating weekend theatre programs designed to attract children and families.
ACT's Young Conservatory will also produce four works at the Zeum. They include a Horton Foote short play in January, 2002 and a new full-length work by British playwright Sarah Daniels, to premiere in August, 2002.
— By Christine Ehren