Former Rent siren Daphne Rubin-Vega will star in the Oct. 6 New York premiere of Karen Hartman's Gum, the first of three productions announced for the 1999-2000 season of Women's Project & Productions.
Official opening for Gum is Oct. 17 at Women's Project & Productions Theatre (formerly Theater Four), 424 W. 55th Street.
Rubin-Vega will play a veiled woman in a walled garden who discovers the "forbidden and deadly pleasures" of gum-chewing and pays the price in an "unforgiving culture," according to a production statement.
A 1996 news item in The New York Times inspired Hartman to write the play. The article was about two veiled women -- presumably Islamic -- who chew gum and realize their passion and power in a male-ruled world.
Loretta Greco directs Gum. She staged the WPP/INTAR production of Under a Western Sky, Mercy for Vineyard, Having Our Say in La Jolla, Cincinnati, St. Louis and South Africa, and Dogeaters in regional productions. The Gum cast includes Firdous Bamji (subUrbia for Lincoln Center), Angel Desai (Stop Kiss), Lizan Mitchell (Having Our Say) and Juan Rivera-Lebron.
Designers are Myung Hee Cho (set), Frances Aronson (lighting) and Elizabeth Hope Clancy (costumes).
Gum had previous productions at Baltimore's Center Stage in March 1999 and San Francisco's Magic Theatre in April 1999.
Playwright Hartman wrote Alice: Tales of a Curious Girl (Dallas Theatre Center) and Girl Under Grain and Leah's Train. At Yale School of Drama, where she studied in the graduate playwriting program, students embraced her serious and sometimes funny, idea-rich works, including Mary Kay Medea, Wanting a Woman of Valour and Troy Women (an adaptation of The Trojan Women).
Rubin-Vega played Mimi in Broadway's Rent, earning a Tony Award nomination. She returned to the role for six weeks in the national tour in San Francisco in early 1999. She appeared in the film, "Wild Things."
The Women's Project & Productions season also includes:
• Two-Headed, Utah playwright Julie Jensen's tragicomic story of a friendship on the Utah frontier, a land of "bigamy and bloodshed" where "men had the power of the Word, while their women only had each other," according to the press announcement. January-February 2000 dates will be announced. The cast and creative team have not been announced.
• The world premiere of Leaving Queens, a new Irish-flavored musical by Kate Moira Ryan (book and lyrics) and Kim D. Sherman (music). The show concerns a young mother who reconnects with her estranged child and rediscovers her Irish heritage. Under the guidance of WPP artistic director Julia Miles, the musical was presented in July 1999 as a workshop in conjunction with Carnegie Mellon Drama's Summer New Plays Project. April-May dates will be announced. No word of creative team to casting.
For ticket information, call (212) 239 6200.
WPP had a hit with the Frances Sternhagen starrer, Exact Center of the Universe, which earned solid notices in April 1999 and was extended. It is now playing an open commercial run at Off-Broadway's Century Theatre. John Tillinger recreates his WPP staging direction at the Century.
-- By Kenneth Jones