PASADENA, CA -- Sheldon Epps, the new artistic director of the Pasadena Playhouse, begins his first season July 10 with a Cowardly comedy. Present Laughter (July 10-Aug. 23, opening July 19) is directed by Richard Seyd.
Starring in Laughter are Robert Curtis Brown (as vainglorious actor, Garry Essendine), Gloria Dorson, Kaitlin Hopkins, Finola Hughes, Keith Langsdale, Charles Levin, Scott Lowell and Audrie Neenan. Designing the show are Randy Gardell (costumes), John Iacovelli (set), Monique L'Heureux (lighting) and Dominic Kramers (sound).
Also on the Pasadena roster:
If Memory Serves (Sept. 11-Oct. 25), a new play about a former TV star and her disgruntled son, by Jonathan Tolins, author of the theatre's previous hit The Twilight of the Golds; and the West Coast premiere (Nov. 6-Dec. 20) of Judith Shubow Steir's new musical about the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson, Only a Kingdom.
Leonard Foglia directs If Memory Serves. Tolins' other plays include The Unveiling, The Climate and Secrets of the Trade.
As for Kingdom, the musical has no connection (other than subject matter) with Always, the William May /Jason Sprague musical that opened in London in June 1997. Kingdom premiered Oct. 10 at Roanoke, VA's Mill Mountain Theatre, then played at Winston-Salem, NC's Stevens Center in November 1997.
Only A Kingdom tells of the king who, after 325 days on his throne, abdicated to marry American divorcee, Simpson. Called "The love affair of the century," this romance didn't sit well with the royal family, who joined with the church in condemning the union and spurring on the king's abdication. On the positive side, Edward and Wallis became world travelers and well-liked, unofficial ambassadors.
Author and composer Judith Shubow Steir has never before had a musical produced but has studied with Boston composer Henry Lasker. Producing the show with Pasadena Playhouse are Steir's daughter, Vivian Rabin and Robert T. Kuss, with Marvin A. Krauss serving as general manager. According to Mill Mountain spokesperson Michelle S. Bennett, it was Kuss' idea to do a show on the Simpsons after Steir approached him with her first, as-yet-unproduced musical.
Songs in Only A Kingdom include "The Moment," "You Can't Be Too Rich Or Too Thin," "It's So Difficult To Please A Queen" (performed by Winston Churchill(!)) and "Home Is Where The Duchess Is." Scott Schwartz (York Theatre's No Way To Treat A Lady) directs the musical, which officially opens Nov. 15. According to spokesperson Susan Schulman (July 14), Broadway is eyed for 1999.
Just announced are the winter/spring shows, including a world premiere by Los Angeles-based playwright D. Paul Thomas. Running Jan. 8-Feb. 21, 1999, opening Jan. 17, 1999, is Pearl Cleage's drama, Flyin' West, about blacks who fled the South during Reconstruction and started settling out West. The play, set in 1898, focuses specifically on a group of female pioneers in Kansas. Other works by Cleage include Bourbon at the Border and Blues For An Alabama Sky.
After Flyin' West comes The Presentiment, a new father vs. son drama by D. Paul Thomas, running Mar. 12-Apr. 25, 1999 (opening Mar. 21). Once a church outcast, now disgraced, the father of Presentiment has taken the right-wing side of the single sex marriage debate -- a position that doesn't sit well with both his kids. Other works by Thomas include Bonhoeffer 1945 and his latest, The Order of Restraint.
Closing the Pasadena season, May 7-June 20, 1999 (opening May 16, 1999) is the 1895 Oscar Wilde witfest, The Importance of Being Earnest, all about a tempest in a handbag. Other Wilde plays include An Ideal Husband and A Woman of No Importance.
The Pasadena Playhouse is at 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena. For tickets, call (800) 233-3123.