A number of these warm weather stage fairs began this week, the oldest and most famous being the Williamstown Theatre Festival, which is now into its second year of artistic director Roger Rees' reign. He directed the Mainstage opener, a new rendering of Cole Porter's Anything Goes, which began on July 5. Sharon Lawrence stars as Reno Sweeney, and her compatriots in mischief include Malcolm Gets, Matt Cavenaugh and Remy Auberjonois. Future weeks in bucolic Williamstown will see Margaret Colin as Princess Kosmonopolis in Tennessee Williams' Sweet Bird of Youth, and Gregg Edelman, Kaitlin Hopkins, Kerry Butler and David Burtka in the Festival’s production of the new musical The Opposite of Sex, by Douglas J. Cohen and Robert Jess Roth. If the latter doesn't find its way to Gotham soon after, the creative folk behind just aren't trying hard enough.
Beginning on July 6 was the 2006 line-up at the Cape Cod Theatre Project of Falmouth, MA, whose profile has risen in recent years due to Falmouth-nurtured Off-Broadway productions like Manuscript by Paul Grellong, Almost, Maine by John Cariani and BFE by Julia Cho. The new season begins with a fairly loud bang. Adam Rapp will direct his latest, Essential Self-Defense, with a cast including Paul Sparks, Guy Boyd and Michael Cullen. (Playwrights Horizons has already booked the play for its coming season.)
The next attraction is even more headline-grabbing. Lois Smith, the The Trip to Bountiful star who spent her spring adding extra shelves to her trophy case, and Rip Torn will star Jimmy Breslin's Love Lasts on Myrtle Avenue, which is described as a love story based on true events.
The 2006 summer season of New York Stage and Film, located at the Powerhouse Theatre on the grounds of Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, got underway in late June with a new piece by Daisy Foote called Bhutan . It was quickly followed by Prairie, a musical by the all-female team of composer Rachel Portman, lyricist Donna DiNovelli and librettist Beth Henley. Francesca Zambello directs the show based on the "Little House on the Prairie" books about a pioneer family in the Dakotas.
Meanwhile, up at Barrington Stage Company —the folks that gave you The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee — William Finn (who wrote said Bee) has been busy curating the very first Musical Theater Lab series. Three musical workshops comprise the summer season. The starter was The Burnt Part Boys , which features a book by Mariana Elder , music by Chris Miller and lyrics by Nathan Tysen, and is set in Virginia's coal country. Next will be Travels With My Discontent, a revue featuring music by Deborah Abramson and starring Katie Clarke, Megan Lawrence, Chip Zien and Charlie Brady. ***
Lloyd Richards died on June 29. If the man had only been the director of the original Broadway production of Lorraine Hansberry's seminal and historic play A Raisin in the Sun , he would have been assured a place in theatre history. But Richards' career was one with many acts, almost all of them historic. He was dean of the Yale School of Drama and artistic director of Yale Rep in the 1980s. He also served as the artistic director of the National Playwrights Conference — the O'Neill Center's founding program — for 32 years, and thus had a hand in forming the careers of playwrights such as Athol Fugard, John Guare, Lee Blessing, John Patrick Shanley, Derek Wolcott, Wendy Wasserstein and August Wilson. He would play an even greater part in the life of Wilson, directing the Broadway productions of Wilson's Fences, Seven Guitars, Joe Turner's Come and Gone, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Two Trains Running and The Piano Lesson. His influence was often overlooked because he was a quiet man, not given to flashy direction or personal grandstanding. He did well enough in his long career. But those around him often did even better.