Ted Pappas New A.D. of Pittsburgh Public; Troupe Moves to New Digs

News   Ted Pappas New A.D. of Pittsburgh Public; Troupe Moves to New Digs Ted Pappas, the regional director-choreographer who is also president of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, will be the new artistic director of Pittsburgh Public Theater, the nonprofit's board announced.
(L-R) Ted Pappas with Karl Kenzler, Penny Balfour and Bonnie Franklin, of the cast of 1998-99's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
(L-R) Ted Pappas with Karl Kenzler, Penny Balfour and Bonnie Franklin, of the cast of 1998-99's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Photo by Photo by Suellen Fitzsimmons)

Ted Pappas, the regional director-choreographer who is also president of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, will be the new artistic director of Pittsburgh Public Theater, the nonprofit's board announced.

Following an eight-month search for a replacement for outgoing director Edward Gilbert, the appointment was made public Oct. 4. There were 46 applicants for the job of helming the artistic side of Pittsburgh's major resident company, founded in 1975.

Pappas, 46, a New Yorker, will be the troupe's fifth artistic director and will inherit a new $20 million facility, set to open in December 1999. Pappas' first season is 2000-2001, but effective immediately he begins working in tandem with managing director Stephen Klein on the planning of that season's schedule.

Among Pappas' directorial credits for the Public are Wings, Fifty Million Frenchmen, Sweeney Todd, Falsettos, A Funny Thing Happened... and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Pappas' current regional work is the Goodspeed Opera House's revival of The Apple Tree. As previously scheduled, he will stage Pittsburgh Public's The Pirates of Penzance in January 2000. The current 25th season includes the world premiere of August Wilson's King Hedley II at the new 600-seat thrust space, the O'Reilly Theater, located in the city's downtown cultural district. Pittsburgh Public offers six shows playing to 100,000 theatregoers annually.

Marion Isaac McClinton will stage the Wilson drama, a sort of sequel to Wilson's Seven Guitars (the plays share some characters). Both plays are in Wilson's ambitious cycle of 10 works representing the African-American experience in the 20th century -- one play per decade.

The staging is a co-production with Seattle Repertory Theatre, where it will play in 2000.

The 1999-2000 season -- the last for artistic director Gilbert -- begins Oct. 22 with the opening of How I Learned to Drive at the Public's current North Side thrust space, the Hazlett Theater.

Even as previews played there, the administrative staff packed boxes in preparation for the move to the new building.

The City of Pittsburgh owns the Hazlett and currently leases it to the Public for $1 a year. Smaller performing arts groups are exploring the possibility of using the facility after the Public vacates it in fall 1999.

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Also on the current 25th anniversary season slate is a new, still untitled play by Nixon's Nixon playwright Russell Lees. "Mr. Lees tell us he's been thinking about Thomas Jefferson" for the subject of the play, said press rep Tim Colbert.

On the Pittsburgh Public season:

How I Learned to Drive, the Pulitzer Prize-winning coming-of-age drama by Paula Vogel, at the Hazlett Theater, through Nov. 14.

King Hedley II, a fierce look at the breakdown of an African American family in the 1980s, at the O'Reilly Theater, Dec. 15, 1999-Jan. 15, 2000.

The Pirates of Penzance, the operetta by Gilbert & Sullivan, directed by Pappas, Jan. 27-Feb. 27, 2000.

The Weir, Conor McPherson's West End and Broadway ghost-story play, March 9-April 9, 2000.

• New play by Russell Lees, apparently about Thomas Jefferson, April 20 May 21, 2000.

The Cherry Orchard, Chekhov's classic about the end of an era, director Gilbert's swan song, June 1-July 2, 2000.

For information about Pittsburgh Public Theater's 25th season, call (412) 321-9800.

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The new 600-seat thrust-stage O'Reilly is being built by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, with the Public serving as tenant. Money for the project came from government, corporate and private sectors. The theatre is named Dr. Anthony J.F. O'Reilly, of the Pittsburgh-based Heinz Corporation.

The O'Reilly is currently under construction on Penn Avenue across from Heinz Hall, in the downtown cultural district. The architect is Michael Graves.

The O'Reilly thrust theatre will be about 200 seats larger than the current 457-seat thrust space. The rehearsal hall at the new facility will double as an intimate second space.

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August Wilson, a Pittsburgh native and Seattle resident who sets many of his plays in his Pennsylvania hometown, told The Seattle Times in 1998 that the main character in King Hedley II "is the son of Ruby, a figure in my play, Seven Guitars. This one's set in the '80s, when you have all this violence and these kids with guns running around. I'm exploring three generations trying to cope with the breakdown of civility in the black community."

The play will be number eight in a planned series of 10 works tracing the African-American experience, decade by decade, in the 20th century.

Plays in the cycle so far include Joe Turner's Come and Gone (1910s), Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (1920s), The Piano Lesson (1930s), Seven Guitars (1940s), Fences (1950s), Two Trains Running (1960s) and Jitney (1970s).

-- By Kenneth Jones