Although the Theatre Lab at Utah's Sundance Institute is meant as a place where writers and directors can work on a piece without worrying about its commercial future, that doesn't mean a show can't seek a life outside the idyllic woods of Park City.
Proving the point is Mystery School, a play by Doug Hughes workshopped at Sundance this past July. Five monologues comprise the piece, which is designed as a one-woman show. At Sundance, that woman turned out to be Tyne Daly, who came down for a week to work on the monologues. Later that month, Selig told a conference of the American Theatre Critics Association, "I did the piece in New York last year, with myself acting all the roles. It was such a revelation when Tyne came down and already knew the script and was ready to work."
Well, now Daly is ready to work in front of paying crowds in both New York and Connecticut. Mystery School will play at the Long Wharf Theatre (Stage II) Dec. 16-Jan. 25, 1998 in a pre-Off-Broadway run. This co-production with En Garde Arts will then come to Manhattan Feb. 28 April 19, 1998.
Long Wharf artistic director Doug Hughes, who directed the Sundance Institute workshop, will also direct the upcoming mounting. "Those ten days spent working with Tyne and Paul Selig at Sundance was a great gift," he said in a statement. "It always starts with the writing, and Paul Selig's talent as a writer is prodigious."
Anne Hamburger, executive producer of En Garde Arts, also praised the playwright. "Paul wrote the very second show En Garde produced: Terminal Bar, in 1986." Other Selig works include the chamber opera trilogy, Three Visitations, and the plays Never Enough and The Pompeii Traveling Show. Daly will make few costume or make-up changes in the show yet will play five distinct women hungry "for a rich spiritual life." Characters include a Christian fundamentalist, an alcoholic, a hostess of a cable TV public access call-in show, an idealistic speaker at a college graduation, and a widow narrating a slide show "filled with signs and symbols pointing to the end of the world and the birth of the next."
A Tony winner for the 1990 Broadway revival of Gypsy, Daly has recently been involved in a series of radio plays for L.A. Theatre Works. She's best known for her work in the television series, "Cagney And Lacey."
This is Hughes' first year with the 33-year-old Long Wharf in New Haven. He's chosen eight plays, including one he directed at Manhattan Class Company in 1996, The Grey Zone. Also on the bill are plays by Douglas Carter Beane and Keith Glover, and a revival of the rarely staged John Guare work, Bosoms And Neglect.
En Garde Arts, now 11 years old, has staged more than 25 new plays and musicals, including works by Tina Landau, Jeffrey Jones, Mac Wellman and Jonathan Larson (J.P. Morgan Saves The Nation).
--By David Lefkowitz