More than two years ago, plans were afoot to bring Mark Victor Olsen's play, Cornelia, about the life of governor George Wallace's second wife, to Broadway. The show remains in limbo, however, unlikely to see a production unless a suitable, star-worthy lead actress can be found and convinced to commit to the project.
Olsen's agent at the Tantleff Office, John Santoianni, told Playbill On-Line (Sept. 14) any theatrical plans for the play are "primarily contingent on finding an actress for the starring role. Until then, it's in some limbo." Santoianni noted that Barry and Fran Weissler still hold the theatrical producing rights to the property, rights previously held by the Dodgers. At the same time, film rights are held by Barwood Films, Barbra Streisand's production company at the Columbia Studios. Olsen has yet to work on the screenplay, however, as he's busy working on an HBO series about the diaries of Mary Chestnut, the wife of a Confederate politician.
In previous months, director Christopher Ashley was attached to the project, which was originally to be staged by Jerry Zaks. Ashley's early assignments included Buzzsaw Berkeley and Bella, Belle of Byelorussia, while more recent gigs have been the cartoony biography of Gilda Radner, Bunny Bunny, and the cartoon-based Encores! revival of Li'l Abner His breakthrough was Jeffrey by playwright Paul Rudnick.
Previously, Elizabeth Ashley had been mentioned for the role of Ruby, Cornelia Wallace's mother in Cornelia. Ashley received a 1962 Tony Award for her performance with Art Carney in Take Her, She's Mine. Her other Broadway credits include The Highest Tree, Barefoot in the Park, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Agnes of God.
Olsen's play is based on George Wallace's relationship with his second wife during his unsuccessful presidential bid. Agent Santoianni told PBOL Ashley is still interested in the project. George Wallace passed away in 1998. One of America's most colorful, if infamous governors, he is remembered for instigating the historic confrontation over school desegregation in which the National Guard was called in by the White House to keep the doors of the University of Alabama open for black students. Wallace was shot in an assassination attempt during the early '70s while running for president, and was bound to a wheelchair for the remainder of his life.
-- By David Lefkowitz
and Murdoch McBride