Before commencing its Off-Broadway season, Theatre for a New Audience will jump across the pond. The company will take the world premiere of Bartlett Sher's staging of Cymbeline to the UK's Royal Shakespeare Company Nov. 22 in their first trip outside of the United States. Afterwards, the production will return to America to play Off-Broadway in January 2002, preceding TFANA's revival of Mac Frisch's Andorra and the New York premiere of the Robert Chandler translation of The Last Letter.
TFANA has the honor of offering the first American production of William Shakespeare performed on the RSC's stages. Cymbeline, which will be cast with American actors and rehearse in New York prior to arrival in London, will play the Other Place studio space in Shakespeare's birthplace, Stratford-Upon-Avon.
Theatre for a New Audience and the Royal Shakespeare Company have recently entered a sort of international exchange program. Sher attended the RSC's American Directors Project, where the company's voice director Cicely Berry gave instruction on developing directors' skills in the areas of text, language and voice. The New York company also welcomed the Royal Shakespeare Company's founder Sir Peter Hall (Tantalus, Amadeus) to their home base Off-Broadway to direct Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida.
Sher recently staged Cymbeline at Seattle's Intiman Theatre, where he is artistic director, March 9-April 7. The cast featured Julyana Soelistyo, a Tony nominee for Golden Child, as Imogen. For TFNA, Sher helmed the hit U.S. premiere of Harley Granville Barker's 1907 drama Waste.
Andorra, directed by Romanian Liviu Ciulei, has not been seen in New York City since its Broadway bow in 1963. Extremely popular in its native Germany, the drama takes place in a mythical country where a young boy, adopted by a school teacher, faces prejudice because he is Jewish. Or so the populace and the boy himself believe. Even after it is revealed that he is nothing more exotic than the schoolteacher's blood son, it is too late to save him. Over the last twenty-five years, Ciulei has helmed many productions for the Arena Stage in Washington, DC. Past credits have included Ibsen's Ghosts and the Lyric Opera of Chicago's recent staging of Mourning Becomes Electra.
Frederick Wiseman will direct and adapt The Last Letter, based on a chapter from Russian novelist Vasily Grossman's "Life and Fate." Wiseman helmed the French version which briefly traveled the United States under the auspices of The Comédie Française. In the piece, a Russian Jewish doctor emerges from the shadows to pen a final letter to her son, who is safe and sound. At the end of the monologue, she disappears back into the dark to face her death by the Nazis.
Final dates for all three productions have not yet been announced. The American Place Theatre is located at 111 West 46th Street. For reservations, call (212) 239 6200. Theatre for a New Audience is on the web at http://www.tfana.org.
— By Christine Ehren