It's standard operating procedure for NY's Ensemble Studio Theatre: lay low for awhile, then put together a jam-packed festival with an eye popping array of writers, directors and stars. They do it annually with their one-act fest and OctoberFest workshops.
Running March 3-22, E.S.T. will present staged readings of classics from the first 25 years of its existence, featuring plays by Leslie Ayvazian, Michael Brady, Vincent Canby, Christopher Durang, Horton Foote, Frank D. Gilroy, Arthur Giron, Richard Greenberg, John Guare, Albert Innaurato, Susan Kim, Shirley Lauro, Romulus Linney, Eduardo Machado, David Mamet, Cassandra Medley, Arthur Miller, John Ford Noonan, Miguel Pinero, Keith Reddin, Jose Rivera, Will Scheffer, Murray Schisgal, John Patrick Shanley and Michael Weller.
Among the works selected are Miller's The Last Yankee, Innaurato's The Transfiguration of Benno Blimpie and Durang's Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You.
Already scheduled to appear in the series are Mary Alice (Having Our Say), Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick, Lois Smith (Buried Child), Lewis Black, Elizabeth Franz, Thomas McHugh and Harris Yulin (The Diary of Anne Frank). Though previously announced, Sarah Jessica Parker will not appear in the series.
Here's the reading schedule (as of Feb. 18). There are usually two or three different shows each night:
March 3: Lewis Black & Rusty Magee ("Live On Stage" comedy) & Mama Drama (by Leslie Ayvazian & other playwrights)
March 4: Vivien by Percy Granger & The Transfiguration of Benno Blimpie by Albert Innaurato. Also End of the War by Vincent Canby
March 5: Ariel Bright by Kate Long & Pushcart Peddlers by Murray Schisgal. Also Welfare by Marcia Haufrecht.
March 6: After School Special by Keith Reddin & Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You by Christopher Durang.
March 7: To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday by Michael Brady.
March 8: April Snow by Romulus Linney & The Shortchanged Review by Michael Moody.
March 10: The Contest by Shirley Lauro
March 11: Split by Michael Weller & Been Taken by Roger Hedden. Also Ma Rose by Cassandra Medley.
March 12: Eulogy for a Small-Time Thief by Miguel Pinero.
March 13: Slam! by Jane Willis & The Last Outpost at the Edge of the World by Stuart Spencer. Also All The Sad Protestants (Goodbye and Keep Cold by John Ford Noonan.
March 14: New York Actor by John Guare & No One Will Be Immune by David Mamet. Also The House of Ramon Iglesia by Jose Rivera.
March 15: Two Hot Dogs With Everything by Bill Wise & A Way With Words by Frank D. Gilroy.
March 17: The Most Dangerous Play You Will See This Evening by Willie Reale and Big Al by Brian Goluboff. Also Innocent Pleasures by Arthur Giron.
March 18: Welcome to the Moon by John Patrick Shanley & Modern Ladies of Guanabacoa by Eduardo Machado.
March 19: Road to the Graveyard by Horton Foote & Soft Touch by Neil Cuthbert.
March 20: Death and the Maiden by Susan Kim & The Author's Voice by Richard Greenberg. Also Prairie Avenue by Edward Allen Baker.
March 21: Falling Man by Will Scheffer & The Last Yankee by Arthur Miller. Also Korea by Bill Bozzone.
March 22: Lost and Found by Peter Maloney & Iron Tommy by James Ryan. Also Dream of a Blacklisted Actor by Conrad Bromberg. *
Founder Curt Dempster serves as artistic director of E.S.T., which started in 1971 as a theatre home for playwrights, directors, actors and designers.
As a special event to honor E.S.T.'s anniversary, the company will offer "A Salute to Curt Dempster & Jerry Zaks," March 16 at the Supper Club. Faith Prince and Nathan Lane, who starred on Broadway in the Zaks'-directed Guys & Dolls, will sing a tune from that Frank Loesser show. Also, Elizabeth Franz will read a scene from Durang's Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You. Macauley Culkin, Richard Dreyfuss and John Turturro will also appear at the E.S.T. benefit, to be hosted by Anne Meara and Jerry Stiller. Tickets to the benefit are $150, available by calling (212) 398-7166.
For tickets ($10) and information on the E.S.T. Classics series, call (212) 247-4982.
--By David Lefkowitz