Williamstown 2004 Festival Features McDonald and New LaChiusa, McNally, Rebeck, Nelson

News   Williamstown 2004 Festival Features McDonald and New LaChiusa, McNally, Rebeck, Nelson
In addition to a previously reported premiere by Terrence McNally, the 2004 Williamstown Theatre Festival will include premieres by playwrights Richard Nelson and Theresa Rebeck, and composer Michael John LaChiusa.
Audra McDonald
Audra McDonald Photo by Aubrey Reuben

On the revival front, there will be new productions of Noel Coward's Design for Living, starring Campbell Scott and Steven Weber, and The Cherry Orchard, as well as a Nicholas Martin-helmed version of A Midsummer Night's Dream, first reported by Playbill On-Line on Jan. 26.

The LaChiusa musical, R Shomon—which is drawn from the short stories of Ryonsuke Akutagawa (also the inspiration the classic Kurosawa film "Rashomon"), will star that composer's frequent interpreter and champion, Audra McDonald. The two collaborated on Marie Christine at Lincoln Center Theatre, and McDonald has recorded several of LaChiusa's songs. The piece is described as concerning "A park. A thief. A priest. A psychic. A murder. A miracle." WTF producer Michael Ritchie, whose last season is this summer, told Playbill On-Line the show is composed of two one-act musicals. "The first act is about perspective. The second is about faith," said Ritchie. "It's quite ambitious in its intellectual aspirations." The cast numbers five, with a five-piece orchestra on stage. Ted Sperling directs.

Rebeck's The Water's Edge will star Ritchie's wife, actress and WTF staple, Kate Burton. The work, about a man who returns to his family after a 17-year absence, explores "the mysteries of time and memory" and "the question, 'What wouldn't you do for your child?'" Will Frears, who piloted Rebeck's Omnium Gatherum, directs.

Richard Nelson's new play, Rodney's Wife, could be called Some Americans Abroad—the title of another Nelson play. Set in Rome 1962, the characters include "Rodney, a movie actor, ...filming one of the first 'Spaghetti Westerns,' his 25-year-old daughter, his recently widowed sister, his manager, and his wife of 10 years, Fay, who finds herself the center of this story of loss, disorientation, emotional confusion and very human desire." Nelson directs.

Terrence McNally — whose Stendhal Syndrome is currently having its world premiere Off-Broadway at Primary Stages — brings the festival his new play Dedication or The Stuff of Dreams. "It's a play about a couple who live in upstate New York. On the weekends, they run, manage and produce a small children's theatre which does things like Puss in Boots and Alice and Wonderland," the scribe previously told Playbill On-Line. "They are given an opportunity to take over an old abandoned, decaying theatre which was once on the vaudeville circuit," continued McNally. "It was a theatre that Sarah Bernhardt played in and Oscar Wilde gave a lecture in. It has an illustrious past and the old lady who owns it is looking for a person to pass it on to and she's willing to pay for the renovation. And these people become candidates." He added that the play is about "what price they're willing to pay to have their own theatre." Scott Ellis directs.

Dedication was once considered by Manhattan Theatre Club to open up the 2003-04 season at Broadway's Biltmore Theatre.

On the Main Stage, Nicholas Martin will direct a new production of Shakespeare's fantastical comedy, A Midsummer Night's Dream. Martin, artistic director of Boston's Huntington Theatre Company, is set to direct Match on Broadway this spring. No casting has been announced for Midsummer.

Design for Living will follow, with Gregory Boyd directing Campbell Scott and Steven Weber in Noel Coward's comedy of a witty, iconoclastic love triangle. "That was one of those situations were Campbell called me and said 'It's your last season. Let's do something,'" said Ritchie. "That particular show came from that conversation."

A season-concluding production of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard will continue WTF's time-honored devotion to the Russian master. Chekhov was a favorite of festival founder Nikos Psacharopoulos, though Ritchie noted that he had never produced Chekhov on the Main Stage during his tenure. Michael Greif directs.

The Main Stage season will open with Cabaret & Main, an extended run version of WTF's famous late-night cabarets, in which company members show off their otherwise-underused singing and comedic talents. Lewis Black, Christopher Fitzgerald, Bill Irwin, James Naughton, and Carol Woods are confirmed for the show. Black has typically hosted the cabarets.


After leaving the Williamstown Theatre Festival, producer Michael Ritchie will become the new artistic director of Los Angeles' Center Theatre Group, overseeing the Mark Taper Forum, the Ahmanson Theatre and the new Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City. He officially replaces Gordon Davidson Jan. 1, 2005.

CTG current artistic director Davidson will continue to plan and present the 2004-2005 seasons with artistic director designate Ritchie, who will commute between coasts while completing his final season with WTF. In 2005, Davidson will assume the role of Founding Artistic Director and serve as a consultant to CTG for three years.

Worcester, Massachusetts, native Ritchie started out in theatre in 1980 as a stage manager in New York, handling more than 50 shows in 15 years on and Off-Broadway at Lincoln Center Theater, Circle in the Square, Circle Rep, the New York Shakespeare Festival, Playwrights Horizons, City Center and the National Actors' Theatre.

He was appointed producer of the Williamstown Theatre Festival in 1996. Under his guidance, WTF has developed and presented new works including David Rabe's Corners, A.R. Gurney's Far East, Paul Rudnick's The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, John Guare's Chaucer in Rome, Warren Leight's The Glimmer Brothers and Kenneth Lonergan's The Waverly Gallery.

Recent Broadway productions that began at WTF include Hedda Gabler, One Mo’ Time, The Price, The Rainmaker and The Man Who Had All the Luck. The Williamstown Theatre Festival also won the 2002 Regional Theatre Tony Award.


The Festival Box Office at the Adams Memorial Theatre will open on June 15 at 11 AM. Tickets may be purchased beginning June 15 by calling (413) 597 3400, or by visiting the box office in person. Mail orders received prior to June 15 will be processed before the Box Office officially opens to the public. For the latest updates on casting and events, or to receive a season brochure by mail, patrons are encouraged to visit WTF’s official website at www.WTFestival.org.


The 2004 festival schedule runs as follows:

Main Stage:
Cabaret & Main, June 24-July 10
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, July 14-25
Design for Living, July 28-August 8
The Cherry Orchard, Aug. 11-22

Nikos Stage:
The Water’s Edge, June 23-July 4
Rodney’s Wife, July 7-18
R Shomon, July 21-Aug. 1
Dedication or The Stuff of Dreams , Aug. 11-22

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