The 40-year-old play has been revised, and this staging, directed by Warner Shook, is being billed as a world premiere. The company at the Reynolds Theatre on the Duke University campus will include Chris Noth ("Law & Order," "Sex and the City," Broadway's Gore Vidal's The Best Man), Charles Durning (Broadway's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1990, and Gore Vidal's The Best Man), Richard Easton (Lincoln Center Theater's The Invention of Love, The Rivals), Michael Learned ("The Waltons," Gore Vidal's The Best Man), Harris Yulin (Broadway's recent Hedda Gabler), Isabel Keating (The Boy From Oz), David Turner, Corey Brill and John Feltch.
"We couldn’t be more thrilled with the cast," said Zannie Giraud Voss, producing director at Duke. "These artists will bring a wealth of talent to the Duke community, Triangle audiences and beyond. Gore Vidal has written an astonishing work and we could not hope for a more impressive caliber of talent to bring it to life."
According to the announcement, "One of our nation's most respected authors delivers a ripping new tale set during one of America's darkest hours. At the height of the Civil War, Hinks, a Southern opportunist, christens his palatial new home and sends his sons off to war. But when the Union soldiers commandeer his estate, Hinks must choose between duty to his friends and the Confederacy or protecting his legacy."
Noth will play Union officer Col. Thayer, "a complex character who is conflicted in his role in the Civil War as he participates in Sherman's march toward the sea," according to Theater Previews. "He alternately shows humanity and insensitivity toward his Southern hosts as his regiment commandeers their greatest source of pride and accomplishment — their home."
Billed by Theater Previews as something new, On the March to the Sea actually has a long history, according to Harry Kloman, a journalism teacher at the University of Pittsburgh and the author of The Gore Vidal Index, an internet site about the author. Kloman told Playbill.com the play began as an hour-long television drama called "Honor" in the 1950s. Then, in 1961 Vidal expanded it to a full-length play and it was produced for the stage in Hyde Park, NY, with an eye toward Broadway. Negative reviews quashed the planned Broadway production, Kloman said.
The play's first publication came in 1962 in a book called "Three Plays," issued by Heinemann, Vidal's U.K. publisher at the time, Kloman said. The play was also produced in Germany in the 1960s in a German translation (Flammen zum Meer, which means "flames to the sea").
To explore Kloman's Vidal site, visit http://www.pitt.edu/~kloman/vidalframe.html.
Gore Vidal is the prolific American novelist, playwright, screenwriter, historian and essayist. His 22 novels include his historical series "The American Chronicle," comprised of seven novels, including "Burr," "Lincoln," "1876," "Hollywood," "Empire," "Washington, D.C." and "The Golden Age." Among his other major works are "Julian," "Myra Breckenridge" and "Duluth." His plays include Visit to a Small Planet, The Best Man, Romulus, Weekend and An Evening with Richard Nixon. His film works include "The Catered Affair," "Suddenly, Last Summer," "Ben-Hur," "The Best Man" (Best Screenplay, Cannes Film Festival) and "Is Paris Burning?"
On the March to the Sea received a developmental reading in fall 2004 at Hartford Stage Company.
Theater Previews at Duke's mission "is to serve as a breeding ground for professional, innovative and high quality new plays and musicals, and to offer audiences the opportunity to engage in productions in a variety of stages of development. The presence of the playwright is an essential part of the program. Theater Previews provides the personnel, space, time and support required to bring his or her vision to fruition in the course of producing work that makes a contribution to the field on a national scale."
Voss said in a statement, "We seek to serve playwrights by nurturing their works, which in turn serves the American theatre by contributing to our generation's body of expression and legacy and provides audiences with engaging, stimulating and high caliber art."
For ticket information, call the Duke University box office at (919) 684-4444.
Theater Previews hosted the tryout of the new musical Little Women in fall 2004, prior to its Broadway opening earlier this year.