Valerie Harper's interest in novelist Pearl S. Buck is so strong she performed one play about the Nobel Prize-winning author and has now co- written and is starring in a second piece, All Under Heaven, beginning performances Nov. 3 at Off Broadway's Century Theater Center.
Publicist David Gersten said the play, whose booking was suddenly announced in an ad in the Oct. 23 New York Times, will officially open Nov. 16 for an open run. All seats are $45.
All Under Heaven, with Harper playing numerous characters in the American author's life, is co-written by Dyke Garrison and directed by Rob Ruggiero, associate artistic director of TheatreWorks in Hartford, CT.
The play is produced by Harper's husband, Tony Cacciotti, and Randolph Macon Woman's College, where the piece was first staged. Randolph Macon, in Lynchburg, VA., is Buck's alma mater (circa 1914). Buck wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning "The Good Earth."
In 1997, Harper, best known as TV's "Rhoda," performed a one-woman Buck bio, The Dragon and the Pearl, by Marty Martin, commissioned by Cacciotti. The play workshopped at Milford, NH's American Stage Festival and was developed at Chicago's Organic Theatre. But that play's reception was not quite what the actress and producer hoped for, so Harper teamed with Garrison (whose work has been produced in San Francisco) and director Ruggiero. The play had its world premiere at Randolph-Macon Woman's College Sept. 1-13.
The Century Theatre is at 111 E. 15th St. Call (212) 239-6200 for tickets.
* In Heaven, Harper impersonates 14 male and female characters, opening with an octogenarian Buck appealing to the authorities for a visa to China to visit her mother's grave. Buck was a noted humanitarian, working on behalf of the Chinese, African-Americans and others.
Harper has received four Emmy Awards for her work in television, has appeared on Broadway (Subways Are For Sleeping) and in films, and most recently replaced Linda Lavin in Off-Broadway's Death Defying Acts. Like Buck, Harper devotes much of her time to charity. She is closely involved with The Hunger Project, an organization with the mission of ending world hunger by the turn of the century.
Off-Broadway designers are John Wade (lighting), Peggy Carbonneau (costumes) and Michael Schweikardt (sets).
Buck was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for literature and the author of more than 70 books. Buck died in 1973 at age 80. Characters in Buck's life represented onstage include a Chinese governess, a Chinese empress and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.