Real life illuminates the Mark Taper stage in Los Angeles in the theatre's 2000-01 season. The company's two world premieres -- Peter Parnell's examination of physicist Richard Feynman, Tuva or Bust!, set to star Alan Alda, and John Belluso's The Body of Bourne, based on the life and philosophy of turn-of-the-century intellectual Randolph Bourne -- both draw their subject matters from real life, as does Marc Wolf's Another American: Asking and Telling (in its West Coast premiere) and Charlayne Woodard's In Real Life.
In fact, the only true fiction in the season comes from established playwrights -- August Wilson, opening the season with King Hedley II; 1999 Tony Award winner Warren Leight, whose return to the world of jazz in Glimmer, Glimmer and Shine; and Patrick Marber's 1999 play, Closer (another West Coast debut).
Hedley, set in 1985, continues Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning playwright Wilson's chronicle of black experience through the 20th Century. Following up last season's Taper hit, Jitney, King Hedley is an ex-convict who struggles with those surrounding him from his mother and friends to his second wife and her ex-lover. Marion McClinton (Jitney) directs the run, beginning Sept. 2 and continuing through Oct. 22. Opening night is Sept. 14.
Closer continues the season with a run Oct. 29-Dec. 10. This dark comedy takes place in London where a quartet of lovers get caught up in a web of love, lust, sex and betrayal, weaving in and out of each other's love lives. Robert Egan, who directed the Taper's production of Marber's Dealer's Choice, directs the 1998 Olivier Award winner.
Christmas, Channukah and Kwanzaa are at the heart of the Taper's Christmas presentation, the world premiere of Cornerstone Theater Companu's For Here or To Go?, playing Dec. 15-24. This musical tale, taking its name from the familiar fast food call, features lost love, fighting families and all the other things that make up the holiday season. Like other Cornerstone productions with the community, For Here will have Equity actors working alongside members of various Los Angeles communities from Watts to Beverly Hills. After winning the 1999 Tony Award for Best Play for Side Man, Leight returned to jazz for his Glimmer, Glimmer and Shine, making its west coast premiere Jan. 13-March 4. The story of twin brothers Martin and Danny Glimmer, Shine brings the two estranged jazzmen back together as a romance between Danny's daughter and the son of the Martin's old band leader blossoms. Evan Yionoulis directs.
Alan Alda will star as Nobel Prize-winning professor of physics, Richard Feynman in Tuva or Bust!, premiering March 11-May 6. Based by Parnell on the writings of both Feynman and Ralph Leighton, Tuva traces the two men's friendship from the first discovery of a mutual passion for drumming to Feynman's many wild tales of safe-cracking at Los Alamos, sharing gambling tips with Nick the Greek, joking with Einstein and finding the frozen "O Rings," the cause of the Challenger disaster. Gordon Davidson directs.
Next, May 20-July 15, Belluso's The Body of Bourne follows the history of a strong and passionate hunchback whose essays and three books had a lasting effect on America's counterculture. Although he died at 32 in the 1918 flu epidemic, Bourne's influence could still be felt even into the Vietnam War protests. Lisa Peterson directs Bourne, a Taper New Works Festival project in 1998 and 1999 as a part of the Other Voices Project, a program for disabled playwrights and others working in the American theatre.
The Taper season ends with a repertory pairing of two solo shows, Woodard's In Real Life and Wolf's Another American: Asking and Telling, running July 21-Sept. 16. Real Life continues the Woodard's autobiography, now bringing the young drama student to New York City where she lives with her high school sweetheart and begins her quest for Broadway stardom. Dan Sullivan directs the work, which will premiere at Seattle Repertory Theatre in Nov., 2000. Wolf's Asking and Telling is based on interviews with straight, gay and lesbian members of the military services whose careers span World War II to the current armed forces, as well as civil rights lawyers, judges, professors and politicians. Among the characters are civilian Charles Moskos, Northwestern sociology professor and author of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, a lesbian activist desperate to be reinstated, "Mary Ann," a gay Vietnam veteran who remembers cutting his fatigues into hot pants, and a soldier testifying against lifting the ban on gays before the Senate. Joe Mantello directs.
Tickets to Taper season 2000-20001 are only available through subscription. For information, call (213) 628-2772. Single tickets go on sale in Sept.
-- By Christine Ehren