The Harlequin Studies, actor-writer Bill Irwin's world premiere exploration of the classic harlequin character from theatre history, begins performances Sept. 3 at Off-Broadway's Peter Norton Space, home of Signature Theatre Company, which devotes 2003-04 to Irwin's works.
"Bill Irwin takes on the historic Harlequin character, the lewd and lazy rogue of commedia dell'arte," according to Signature. "With acrobats and live music, the play is a series of sketches that will parade the many shapes and forms of Harlequin before you with a nod and wink to tradition transformed with contemporary flair."
The work also features Irwin's longtime collaborator Doug Skinner and Marin Ireland, John Oyzon, Andrew Pacho, Rocco Sisto, Paxton Whitehead and Steven Williams.
In addition to composing the show's music, Skinner will serve as musical director. Designers are Doug Stein (set), Catherine Zuber (costumes), James Vermeulen (lights) and Brett R. Jarvis (sound). David Gold and Sean McMorris are the show's musicians.
Opening is Sept. 21, with performances continuing to Oct. 26.
The remainder of the 2003-04 Signature season includes the following shows. Some of the dates below are different than previously announced. What's unique about Irwin being the "signature" playwright this season is that he's the first non-traditional playwright represented by the company. That is, the average audience might not think of his movement and clown work as "texts" along the lines of the scripts of Arthur Miller, Romulus Linney and Lanford Wilson (who all have been Signature writers).
The Regard Evening (a world premiere), Dec. 4-Jan. 15, 2004, opening Dec. 16. "A revival of the acclaimed The Regard of Flight, plus a sequel that flashes forward 20 years to today to reunite the original performers. Bill Irwin plays an Everyman, an actor armed only with a trunk full of quick changes, whose worst nightmare comes to life as he awakens to find himself onstage. Rejoining him are Doug Skinner as musical director, and Michael O'Connor as the questioning, challenging Critic and Director. This update celebrates the craft of theatre, while poking fun at theatrical conventions."
Mr. Fox: A Rumination (a world premiere), March 10-May 2, 2004, opening March 28. "A reflection on the life and work of America's first celebrity clown,
George L. Fox (1825-1877). Fox delighted audiences from the Bowery to Broadway with his raucous and ribald performances, but he could not escape his greatest success, the white-face role of 'Humpty Dumpty.' The play is one clown's rumination on another: On the life of a performer, and on the act of performance itself."
Playwright, clown and actor Irwin's work began with San
Francisco's famed Pickle Family Circus. His comic antics and physical theatre are now well known through his many original works including the Broadway productions of the Tony Award-winning Fool Moon, and The Regard of Flight and Largely/New York. He is also renowned for his original takes as performer and director of Texts for Nothing (CSC and NYSF) and Scapin at the Roundabout Theater Company, where he also directed and helped adapt A Flea in Her Ear.
He appeared on Broadway in Edward Albee's The Goat and in Waiting for Godot for Lincoln
Center Theater and played Mr. Noodle on "Sesame Street."
Signature's Peter Norton Space is at 555 W. 42nd St. between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues. James Houghton is artistic director of Signature. For information, call (212) 244-PLAY. For additional information, visit www.signaturetheatre.org.