Williamstown Theatre Festival, home to starry revivals of classics with well-known leads like Eric Stoltz, Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow playing Shakespeare, Williams and O'Neill, had a new idea in 2000—to dedicate Fridays at 3 PM to the unknown or the just-about-to-be discovered. They named this reading series, which in its inaugural year read three new plays, "Fridays @ 3."
In 2001, Williamstown's "Fridays @ 3" looks at four new plays - Robert Simonson's Kicker, Samuel Feld's Revisiting Emerson's Rose, Jennifer Gibb's Sweater Girl and Carson Becker's The Erotic Life of Property, as well as Jenny Giering and Beth Blatt's new musical The Mistress Cycle.
Kicker (appropriately) kicks off the series June 29. This dark comedy, which pits artists against arts journalists, brings a world weary and respected feature writer Michael Gray together with Jack Finch Telsey, a novelist he greatly admires. When Gray pursues a spiritual and artistic connection with Telsey that only he feels, his professional life and mental well being begin to fall apart. Dennis Boutsikaris (Sight Unseen) stars as Gray with Philip Goodwin (Troilus and Cressida) as Telsey. Also in the cast are Brad Bellemy, Thomas Lyons, Geneva Carr and Diane LaMarr. Jamie Richards (Stonewall Jackson's House, District of Columbia) directs. [Full disclosure: Robert Simonson is an editor at Playbill On-Line.]
July 13, Revisiting Emerson's Rose is another play about writers and writing. Billed as a "delightfully witty play about, among other things, delight and wit," the comedy looks at a writer's relationship with his characters, his wife and himself.
Jacqueline Brogan directs Gibb's Sweater Girl, read July 27. A young Midwestern girl's vision of her grandmother is destroyed by a chance meeting with a stranger in a local bar. The local war hero wasn't all he appeared to be and neither was the woman who raised her mother. Carson Becker's The Erotic Life of Property features a put upon prostitute named Olivia whose already tough existence only worsens with the antics of her surrogate family, Ish and Luce. Ish is in trouble with the police and Luce just lost all of Olivia's savings. It will take alcoholic writer Julian to show her the difference between what is property and what is proper. The Erotic Life of Property is the final "Fridays @ 3" presentation, Aug. 10.
The Mistress Cycle tells the story of many of the world's most famous and infamous mistresses through history. Audra McDonald, whose name has been bandied about as a star for the piece, recorded Giering's "I Follow" on her debut CD, "Way Back to Paradise." Jonathan Bernstein directs the musical Aug. 3.
Not in the new department, but still enlightening, "Fridays @ 3" will also feature a reading of scenes from Pulitzer Prize-winning plays (July 6) and a behind-the-scenes look at The Man Who Had All the Luck through a panel discussion with the cast and crew (July 20).
Tickets are, logically, $3. For reservations, call (413) 597-3400. The Williamstown Theatre Festival is on the web at http://www.WTFestival.org.
— By Christine Ehren