By Kenneth Jones
15 Feb 2010
Roundabout artistic director Todd Haimes said on Feb. 15 that his company would welcome Bedford's production for a limited engagement at the American Airlines Theatre in winter 2011.
Additional cast members and the creative team will be announced shortly. Bedford, the English-born North American actor, has called Stratford an artistic home for decades, but is known to New York City audiences for his work as Orgon in Tartuffe, Sir Harcourt Courtly in London Assurance and Sganarelle in The Molière Comedies, all for Roundabout. He won the 1971 Tony as Best Actor in a Play for The School for Wives.
The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), according to Roundabout, "is a glorious comedy of mistaken identity, which ridicules codes of propriety and etiquette. Dashing men-about-town John Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff pursue fair ladies Gwendolen Fairfax and Cecily Cardew. Matters are complicated by the imaginary characters invented by both men to cover their on-the-sly activities — not to mention the disapproval of Gwendolen's mother, the formidable Lady Bracknell."
Roundabout has a history of bringing regional productions, or elements of productions, to Broadway and Off-Broadway. Roundabout's current Broadway production of Present Laughter and the 2008 Off-Broadway run of Streamers, for example, had their roots in earlier productions at Huntington Theatre Company in Boston.
In 2004, Lincoln Center Theater borrowed elements from Stratford's King Lear starring Christopher Plummer, and presented the play at the Vivian Beaumont on Broadway.
"There's fantastic work being done at not-for-profit theatres all around the country, and very frequently that work is being done by artists with whom Roundabout has long-standing relationships," Haimes said in a statement Roundabout subscribers. "So when I go to see great work at a not-for-profit institution, it feels like a natural extension of the kind of work we do. There's something really wonderful about being a part of that network of theatres and knowing that we're all trying to give our audiences a consistently high-quality theatrical experience. I want to share those productions with the Roundabout audience.
"The Stratford Shakespeare Festival is obviously a prestigious company, and I've had great respect for their work over the years. So in the particular case of Earnest, it's exciting to me to be able to collaborate with that institution and give our audience the opportunity to see great work that they otherwise would not have access to."
In tough economic times, it's easy to see that there is a financial benefit to bringing in elements of an existing production.
"The design will certainly be adjusted to fit the American Airlines Theatre, but we plan to keep it largely intact," Haimes said of the Stratford production. "Many of the cast members, though not all, will remain from the production at Stratford."
Bedford studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where his classmates included Peter O'Toole, Albert Finney and Alan Bates. At age 21, he played Hamlet for the Liverpool Repertory Company, which led to successful performances in London's West End and at Stratford-upon-Avon, working with, among others, Sir John Gielgud and Peter Brook. Gielgud's productions of Peter Shaffer’s first play, Five Finger Exercise, brought him to Broadway, where he has subsequently starred in over 20 productions, receiving six Tony nominations for Best Actor and winning the award for Moliére's The School for Wives. Other honors include the Obie, Outer Critics Circle Award, New York Drama Desk Award and the L.A. Drama Critics Award. Bedford has directed and acted at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater and, for over 27 seasons, at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival of Canada. His one-man Shakespeare show The Lunatic, the Lover and the Poet and his Oscar Wilde evening Ever Yours, Oscar have taken him around the world. A resident of North America for the past 50 years, in 1997 he was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.
For more information, visit www.roundabouttheatre.org.