La Jolla Playhouse artistic director Des McAnuff, in an attempt to quell the controversy by clarifying the work, has issued a statement in response to the negative reaction the work has drawn.
"In 2004, Jessica Hagedorn, Mark Bennett and former La Jolla Playhouse Artistic Director Michael Greif will create a new music theatre piece, Disposable, a play loosely inspired by the life of Andrew Cunanan, the serial killer who achieved notoriety for the murder of fashion designer Gianni Versace," McAnuff said, citing the company's application to the National Endowment for the Arts — which has already endowed the respected stage with a grant for the piece. "The authors intend Disposable to be a metaphor for the repercussions of a culture obsessed with money, power and fame."
The artistic director then went on to explain that the hope is for the work to address the Cunanan subject matter as significantly as did The Laramie Project the tragic murder of Matthew Shepard. Citing past La Jolla shows (The Collected Works of Billy The Kid, I Think I Like Girls, I Am My Own Wife), Broadway fare (The Who's Tommy, Stephen Sondheim's Assassins) and even Shakespeare (Macbeth, Richard III), McAnuff asserts that "theatre has historically been a forum where difficult subjects are explored."
He concluded, "Disposable will only become a part of the Playhouse mainstage season if and when it is ready to be produced. In the meantime, we’re concentrating on doing our best to see that it goes through a fruitful and rigorous developmental process. That is a significant part of the Playhouse’s mission — it’s why we’re here and what we do. "
Playbill On-Line first reported Dec. 22, 2003 that director Michael Greif (Rent, Never Gonna Dance), writer Jessica Hagedorn (Dogeaters) and composer Mark Bennett (Golda's Balcony) would team up to develop the new musical described as "a long-term project in the very early stages of development" and "not a traditional musical theatre project," according to a La Jolla spokesperson. In 1997, Andrew Cunanan went on a cross-country killing spree that lasted three months — garnering more and more media attention along the way. Most of his five victims were gay, as was the murderer himself. His final murder was that of legendary fashion designer Gianni Versace. Cunanan was found dead in a Florida houseboat eight days later.
Greif, who recently directed Never Gonna Dance on Broadway, is next slated to direct the MCC Theatre staging of Neil LaBute's The Distance From Here beginning at The Duke on 42nd Street, April 14, 2004. His other credits include Machinal, A Bright Room Called Day, Casanova, Marisol, Pericles, Dogeaters and Fuckin' A — all at the Public Theatre. The former La Jolla Playhouse artistic director also helmed Bright Lights Big City (NYTW), Monster (Classic Stage Company), A Few Stout Individuals (Signature Theatre), Betty Rules (Zipper Theatre) and Cavedweller (NYTW).
La Jolla Playhouse is located on the corner of La Jolla Village Drive and Torrey Pines Road in La Jolla, CA. For more information on the company, visit www.lajollaplayhouse.com.