Taper's 2009 Slate Has Donmar's Parade, Deaf West Pippin, Chekhov, Culture Clash

News   Taper's 2009 Slate Has Donmar's Parade, Deaf West Pippin, Chekhov, Culture Clash The 2009 season of Mark Taper Forum will include a Culture Clash world premiere, an acclaimed London production of Parade, a Pippin collaboration with Deaf West Theatre and more, Michael Ritchie, artistic director of Center Theatre Group, announced Aug. 14.
Jason Robert Brown
Jason Robert Brown

Newly renovated (at a cost of $30 million) and re-opening in August (with two more 2007-08 season shows to play there before the new year), the Taper will offer six 2009 productions, from Jan. 15, 2009-Jan. 24, 2010.

Octavio Solis' Lydia, Chekhov's Uncle Vanya and Martin McDonagh's The Lieutenant of Inishmore will also find a home at the Taper, within the Los Angeles Music Center.

The end of the season will see the world premiere of Palestine, New Mexico, a new drama written by Richard Montoya for Culture Clash, in which "modern military spin and ancient mysticism collide." Directed by Lisa Peterson, it will run Dec. 3, 2009-Jan. 24, 2010.

According to CTG, "Set on an American Indian reservation in the Southwest, Palestine, New Mexico follows the fate of Army Captain Siler who has returned from Iraq with a secret she just can't keep. Determined to set the record straight about the 'friendly-fire' death of the tribal chief's son, she discovers she is considered a dangerous outsider rather than a messenger of truth. In the battle to tell her story she unleashes far more history than anyone wanted to hear, or tell. Palestine, New Mexico weaves comedy and pathos into a poetic tale of loss and discovery that spans centuries and explores the meaning of right, wrong, fact, fiction, religion, family, tribes and homeland."

Palestine, New Mexico is the fifth Culture Clash (Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas and Herbert Siguenza) project produced by Center Theatre Group after Water & Power (world premiere), Chavez Ravine (world premiere), Carpa Clash and Culture Clash in Bordertown. Musical theatre and sign language merge in CTG and Deaf West Theatre's production of Pippin, the opening production of the Taper's 2009 season, Jan. 15-March 15, 2009.

With book by Roger O. Hirson and music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, Pippin will be directed and choreographed by Jeff Calhoun, who was at the helm of two previous, highly successful CTG and Deaf West co-productions, Big River (which moved to Broadway, went to Japan and toured the U.S.) and Sleeping Beauty Wakes.

According to CTG, "Pippin is the captivating coming of age story about a young man's search for meaning in his life, as told by a lively band of troubadors in the Roman empire. The episodic quest of Pippin, the son of the powerful Charlemagne, takes him through battlefields, orgies, revolution, and finally, love and domesticity, as he tries to find a place for his 'spirit to run free,' for his 'corner of the sky.' By interweaving music, voice, American Sign Language and dance, and combining powerful storytelling techniques from both hearing and deaf cultures," Deaf West has created a uniquely theatrical genre for a number of productions including Oliver!, A Streetcar Named Desire and Open Window.

San Francisco writer Solis' Lydia, which was premiered by Denver Center Theatre Company in early 2008, will play April 2-May 17, 2009. Juliette Carrillo will direct the play about "the lies and secrets that both bind a family together and create heartbreaking fissures."

According to CTG, "In the Texas border town of El Paso during the 1970s, a Mexican American family struggles with the aftermath of an accident that has injured the beloved young daughter, Ceci, and has deeply affected her mother, father and two brothers. Into this environment comes the mysterious Lydia, a sexy, confident young woman who has been hired as a caregiver."

A starry cast is expected to be announced for the May 28-July 12, 2009, production of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, the masterpiece about yearning, disappointment and working. It famously "takes place at the turn of the 20th century on a provincial Russian estate where Uncle Vanya and his niece, Sonya, have spent their lives working tirelessly. Both have lived frugally and have kept their emotions tightly reined but when they are visited by Sonya's father and his beautiful second wife, Yelena, their lives begin to implode."

"The roles of Vanya, Sonya, Yelena, Astrov and the other characters in Uncle Vanya are some of the most sought after roles in the theatre," stated Ritchie. "We will be announcing within a few months a remarkable cast for this seminal play."

The black comedy, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, by Academy Award-winning, Olivier Award-winning and Tony Award-nominated Martin McDonagh will play July 23-Sept. 6, 2009. Wilson Milam, who received a Tony Award nomination for his work on the 2006 Broadway production, will again direct the play about a violent Irish terrorist whose cat is murdered. The Irish-set satire on revenge and violence is also a love story.

The acclaimed Donmar Warehouse London production of librettist Alfred Uhry and composer-lyricist Jason Robert Brown's Parade will play Sept. 24-Nov. 15, 2009. The Tony Award-winning musical (Best Book, Best Score) was co-conceived by Harold Prince, and is directed and choreographed by Tony Award-winning choreographer Rob Ashford.

The Donmar Warehouse production, which opened in London in September 2007 with Ashford in his directorial debut, received seven 2008 Olivier Award nominations, including Best New Musical, Best Theatre Choreographer and Best Director. The Taper presentation will be the first time that the Donmar production — which includes revisions by Brown and Uhry — will be seen in America.

Parade is "the true story of the arrest, conviction and lynching of Leo Frank in post-Civil War Atlanta, Georgia. Mary Phagan, a 13-year-old factory worker, has been murdered on the day of the 1913 Confederate Memorial Day parade. Frank, the factory's superintendent and a Jewish outsider, is immediately cast as a suspect. [Frank's] wife, Lucille, passionately works for her husband's release from jail but public hatred continues to rise to a fever pitch."

The world premiere of the musical 13, for which Brown wrote the music and lyrics, was presented in the Taper's 2006-2007 season and will be seen on Broadway in the fall.

Tickets for the Taper's new season are currently available by subscription only. For information and to charge season tickets by phone, call Audience Services at (213) 972-4444 or visit www.CenterTheatreGroup.org.

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Center Theatre Group, a non-profit theatre arts organization, is one of the largest and most active theatre companies in the nation, programming seasons year-round at the 740-seat Mark Taper Forum and the 1,600 to 2,000-seat Ahmanson Theatre at the Music Center of Los Angeles, and the 317-seat Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City.

The 2009 season will be the first full subscription season in the new Taper. The Taper actually re-opens this summer with John Guare's The House of Blue Leaves, Aug. 30-Oct. 19, which is the third production of the Taper's current season (two 2007-2008 Taper season plays were presented at the CTG/Ahmanson Theatre while the Taper was closed for renovation).

The final production of the 2007-2008 season is the American premiere of a political thriller set in the 16th century, The School of Night by Peter Whelan, Oct. 30-Dec. 17.