Plug Pulled on NY's Stupid Kids Oct. 4, But Whodunnit?

News   Plug Pulled on NY's Stupid Kids Oct. 4, But Whodunnit?
 
Stupid Kids , the late John C. Russell's Off-Broadway satire of teen peer pressure, closed suddenly Oct. 4 after 48 performances at the Century Theatre, where the play had moved Aug. 25 after a summer run at the WPA Theatre.

Stupid Kids , the late John C. Russell's Off-Broadway satire of teen peer pressure, closed suddenly Oct. 4 after 48 performances at the Century Theatre, where the play had moved Aug. 25 after a summer run at the WPA Theatre.

The reason for the shuttering depends on the source. The show's general manager Albert Poland told Playbill On-Line (Oct. 5) the producers "were unable to reach an agreement with the theatre for the show to continue."

Century Theatre founder and artistic director J.C. Compton said, "I guess they didn't want to continue throwing money at it." She denied invoking a "stop clause," the contractual "out" which allows a landlord to terminate a run that isn't lucrative for the landlord.

Compton said (Oct. 5) she loved the play and hoped it would finish its contract of four more weeks, through Nov. 1. "They gave notice on Friday (Oct. 2)," said Compton. "I was really sorry to see the producers didn't want to keep it running."

For the first 8 weeks of the run, Compton said she was charging the producers half rent, and that agreement was entering its final week Oct. 5. Full rent would have begun Oct. 12, said Compton. She said there are a handful of other productions she is considering for the Century. Both Compton and publicist Tom D'Ambrosio said the play had been "building" an audience through word of mouth. "Ticket sales were growing," D'Ambrosio said.

An 18-to-30-year-old crowd made up the play's most fervent supporters.

Compton said the young cast pled with her over the weekend to keep the show open, but she told them it was up to their producers. Poland said there are no plans to move the staging elsewhere.

Produced by WPA Theatre, The Shubert Organization, ABC, Inc., Scott Rudin and Roger Berlin & Robert Fox, Stupid Kids began previews June 2, opened June 13 and ran through July 18, 1998 at the WPA. It extended first from June 28, then from July 5.

The WPA cast -- Shannon Burkett, James Carpinello, Keith Nobbs and Mandy Siegfried -- transferred to the Century.

*

The staging of Stupid Kids fulfilled a deathbed promise director Michael Mayer made to author John C. Russell, who grew up on Long Island.

"John was a friend of mine and a member of New Dramatists," Mayer said. "I knew him at Brown University when he was in Paula Vogel's playwriting program. He died at age 31 in 1994, three years after he wrote this play. This production is actually the result of a promise that I made to him when he was in the hospital. We were doing a reading of it, and I told him, 'I will do this play. Don't worry. I will make sure it's done.' It's a really beautiful and important play about four Long Island high school kids -- sorta 'Rebel Without a Cause' Meets 'Clueless'." The teens in question walk a fine line between "hipster-conformists" and "rebel-queers" until the "in" crowd forces them to choose..

The production continued director Michael Mayer's hot streak. Not only is his Side Man a critically acclaimed hit for the Roundabout Theatre, his staging of A View From The Bridge, which was supposed to close July 19, got a new lease on life when Tony Danza agreed to join the Broadway cast. It closed Aug. 29, a week earlier than announced, in anticipation of a national tour.

In June, Mayer had three shows running in Manhattan, when Stupid Kids played at the WPA.

Director Mayer won the New York Outer Critics' nod as 1997-1998's Outstanding Director for Bridge and Side Man; he also took a Tony nomination for Bridge.

Designing Stupid Kids were David Gallo (set), Kevin Adams (lighting), Michael Krass (costumes) and Laura Grace Brown (sound). Ken Roberson served as choreographer.

-- By Kenneth Jones
and
Harry Haun and
David Lefkowitz

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