SITI's Anne Bogart Looks at the Culture of Warhol for NYTW, Sep. 16

News   SITI's Anne Bogart Looks at the Culture of Warhol for NYTW, Sep. 16 Andy Warhol. Silver screen. Hang him on my wall. Andy Warhol. Silver screen. Can't tell them apart at all."

Andy Warhol. Silver screen. Hang him on my wall. Andy Warhol. Silver screen. Can't tell them apart at all."

More than two decades ago, David Bowie sang that affectionate but cynical tribute to the late painter and pop artist, Andy Warhol. A decade later, Lou Reed and John Cale created the theatrical song-cycle, "Songs For Drella," in tribute to their musical and stylistic mentor.

The latest artist to be influenced by Warhol is director Anne Bogart, head of the Saratoga International Theatre Institute (SITI). Beginning the season at Off-Broadway's New York Theatre Workshop, Aug. 28 (opening Sept. 16 for a limited run) will be Culture of Desire, conceived by Bogart and written & performed by SITI company members.

Desire starts at the moment artist Warhol was shot and then follows him through a "dreamlike journey" into the pop culture world. Along the way he meets Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and JFK in a piece that asks, as Bogart puts it, "When did we transform from citizens of the United States of America into consumers of the United States of Amnesia?" NYTW director of audience development Randal Lichtenwalner notes that Desire is "the second installment of a two-part examination of American culture that began with Bob." Bob, a look at avant garde director Robert Wilson, played at NYTW last season.

SITI was founded in 1992 by Bogart and renowned Japanese director, Tadashi Suzuki, in efforts to "redefine and revitalize contemporary theatre in the United States through an emphasis on international cultural exchange and collaboration." SITI was originally envisioned as a summer training session in Saratoga Springs but has now expanded into a year-round training program, highlighting gesture and incorporating Bogart's "Viewpoints" training.

Culture of Desire was workshopped in March at Maine's Portland Stage Company. Director Bogart, an associate professor at Columbia University, has won two Obie Awards and a Bessie Award. Her directing assignments have included Hot 'n' Throbbing at American Rep, Marathon Dancing at En Garde Arts and Paula Vogel's Baltimore Waltz at the now defunct Circle Repertory Theatre in New York.

She has directed a several plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville including Miss Julie, The Adding Machine and Picnic, as well as the the 1991 world premiere of Eduardo Machado's In the Eye of the Hurricane. In addition, a salute to Bogart was held in 1995 as part of ATL's annual Brown-Forman Classics in Context Festival.

As in Portland, Desire featured Akiko Aizawa, Ellen Lauren and Stephen Webber. New to the show are J. Ed Araiza, Kelly Maurer, Jefferson Mays and Karenjune Sanchez.

As at Portland Stage, Culture will be designed by Neil Patel (set), James Schuette (costumes), and Mimi Jordan Sherin (lighting)

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In other NYTW news:

After Culture will come The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, a new comedy by Paul Rudnick that recently premiered at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. There the play starred Becky Ann Baker, Jessica Hecht and Alan Tudyk, though no casting has yet been announced for NYTW. As he did at Williamstown, Christopher Ashley will direct. Rudnick's comedies include Jeffrey and I Hate Hamlet, as well as the script for the film Addams Family Values.

Its title notwithstanding, Fabulous is a fantastical retelling, not of the story of Jesus, but the tale of Adam and Eve. It tackles such large questions as the existence of God, the need for belief, and the impact of Olivia Newton-John as a religious icon. Fabulous Story is due for a Nov.-Dec. run.

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Third up at NYTW will be the long-awaited premiere of Bright Lights Big City, a musical adaptation of Jay McInerney's 1984 novel by Paul Scott Goodman. Michael Greif (Rent) directs.

Last year, Goodman told Variety, "I read the McInerney book in August 1996, and it turned me on. I mean, it's about drugs, sex, rock 'n' roll and clubs in New York." Bright Lights appears to be a natural choice for NYTW, considering the similar subject matter of such recent shows there as Rent and Shopping and Fucking.

Author of the musicals Tiny Dancer and Domestica, Goodman told Variety Bright Lights would be 95 percent through-sung and that he would appear in it as "a singing narrator." Rehear Ýin in December, with previews starting in late January for a run through early spring.

Though rumors have been pegging the musical for a Broadway transfer, Lichtenwalner told Playbill On-Line the NYTW production "isn't a Broadway tryout. Yes, it's scheduled at the same time of the season as Rent was, but there's no way to tell whether an outside producer will want to move with it."

After Lights' premiere, two slots are still open at NYTW. Two possible candidates are a new, untitled play by Tony Kushner, and a new play by Nilo "A Park In Our House" Cruz. Titled, Two Sisters and a Piano, the piece looks at siblings living under house arrest in Cuba "and their struggle for personal and political liberation."

For information on the 1998-99 New York Theatre Workshop season, call (212) 460-5475. Memberships start at $135 and include one admission to every production, free coffee, ticket exchange privileges and other perks. New York Theatre Workshop is, of course, the springboard of Broadway's Rent, as well as David Rabe's acclaimed A Question Of Mercy in early 1997. Last season's shows included Bob, Brides of the Moon, Love's Fowl and a controversial, Obie-winning production of More Stately Mansions that will play the Edinburgh Festival in late summer.

-- By David Lefkowitz and Sean McGrath

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