The Life's Chuck Cooper to Be Du Bois at Berkshire Fest, May 13-24

News   The Life's Chuck Cooper to Be Du Bois at Berkshire Fest, May 13-24 Chuck Cooper, who won a Tony Award for playing a ruthless Times Square pimp in the musical, The Life, will embody a more upright figure in The World Beyond the Hill: The Life and Times of W.E.B. Du Bois at the Berkshire Theatre Festival this summer.

The play, by Mickey Friedman and directed by John Hadden, will run on the BTF Main Stage May 13-24.

Cooper will play the famous black author and educator William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (1868-1963), who fought for and wrote about African American rights and equality. His most famous work was "The Souls of Black Folk," which was published 100 years ago, in 1903. The play will sample the man's various writings. Du Bois (pronounced "doo boyz") was born in Berkshire county.

In other news, Jessica Walter, Lois Nettleton, Keir Dullea, Jennifer Van Dyke and Robert Lunney will join Richard Chamberlain in The Stillborn Lover by Timothy Findley, running July 8-26. The play, directed by Martin Babbett, stars television and Broadway star Chamberlain as a Canadian ambassador, Harry Raymond. In the play, the diplomat's life is coming to a point, what with "a dead male prostitute in Moscow, a treacherous friend about to become the new Prime Minister and a desperate secret about to be revealed."

Scott Schwartz, currently helming Golda's Balcony at the Manhattan Ensemble Theatre Off-Broadway and due to pilot a tour of Hair this fall, staged Larry Shue's The Foreigner at BTF in 2002. This year, he will open the mainstage season with Joseph Stein's comedy Enter Laughing. The play, based on a novel by Carl Reiner, made a star out of Alan Arkin when it debuted on Broadway. No actor has yet been cast in the Arkin role of a young comedian coming of age. Dates are June 17-July 5.

The mainstage season is completed by Lanford Wilson's Talley's Folly (July 29-Aug. 9), starring Mark Nelson and directed by Anders Cato; and a new version of Peter Pan (Aug. 12-29) by John Caird and Trevor Nunn, directed by Eric Hill and starring Isadora Wolfe as the ageless flying boy. In the smaller Unicorn Theatre, the Tony-winning The Who's Tommy will get a new look a decade after its success on Broadway. The Who's "rock opera" album—about a catatonic boy who survives an abusive, loveless childhood to become a pinball-playing, guru-like celebrity—was adapted by the Who's Pete Townshend and director Des McAnuff into a stage musical. It ran for more than two years on Broadway and won Tonys for McAnuff's direction and Townsend's score, in a tie with Kander and Ebb's Kiss of the Spider Woman. The show has also become famous for the number of its many young cast members who went on to greater stage fame, including Michael Cerveris (Titanic, Hedwig and the Angry Inch), Romain Fruge (The Full Monty), Norm Lewis (Side Show, Amour), Alice Ripley (Side Show, The Rocky Horror Show), Jonathan Dokuchitz (The Boys from Syracuse, The Look of Love) and Michael McElroy (Violet, The Wild Party). Jared Coseglia will direct the new production, which runs July 16-Aug. 2.

Following Tommy on the Unicorn roster is a rare mounting of Stephen Sondheim's dark musical Assassins, Aug. 6-29. The revue like piece, which uses period musical styles to examine the psyches and fates of various successful and would-be Presidential assassins, debuted Off-Broadway in 1991 at Playwrights Horizons. A possible Broadway transfer was axed after the outbreak of the Gulf War rendered the piece inappropriate fare. A decade later, a planned Broadway revival of the piece by the Roundabout Theatre Company suffered a similar fate, as it was postponed in the wake of the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Timothy Douglas will direct the BTF version.

The Unicorn season also features American Primitive (May 23-June 7), about John and Abigail Adams, directed by Gary English; and Nijinksky's Last Dance by Norman Allen (June 11-July 12), starring Jeremy Davidson and director by Joe Calarco.