Life Is a Cabaret for Boston, Fuller, Gardner, Kleinbort at O'Neill Conference Aug. 1-11

By Kenneth Jones
August 1, 2007

The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's Cabaret & Performance Conference returns to the Dina Merrill Theater Aug. 1-11 in Waterford, CT.

The conference, artistic-directed by Michael Bush and including classes and performances, will welcome Rita Gardner (The Fantasticks), Penny Fuller (Applause), composer-director-lyricist Barry Kleinbort and Tony Award winner Gretha Boston (Show Boat), among others.

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The conference "develops and presents performances and new projects by some of this country's most renowned established theatrical and musical performance artists as well as up-and-coming new performance artists who come to the O'Neill to perfect their work," according to O'Neill notes.

The conference is an arm of the respected Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, founded in 1964 for the development of new works and new voices for the American theatre.

The cabaret conference begins on Aug. 1 with a free open house/preview billed as "a thank you to our audience for their support over the past two years." This special evening, hosted by artistic director and master of ceremonies Michael Bush, will include a master class taught by artistic associates Penny Fuller and Barry Kleinbort (offering examples of the techniques and philosophy taught at the conference). Preview performances from guest artists Penny Fuller, Rita Gardner and Marcus Hummon will follow. Reservations are required.

Among conference highlights:

  • A new musical, American Duet, featuring songs by Grammy Award winner Marcus Hummon, will be presented during the conference. The Aug. 8 show is "about an African American country singer's journey to South Africa."

  • Last year's popular The Kleinbort Collection an evening of songs by Barry Kleinbort, the conference's master teacher and artistic associate returns Aug. 5. It will feature Kleinbort with Penny Fuller, Rita Gardner, Robin Skye, Jay Rogers and Cole Burden.

  • Jeremy Lawrence, a veteran performer of stage and screen, and renowned interpreter of the work of Tennessee Williams, will appear in the solo show Everyone Expects Me to Write Another Streetcar, a "vivid first-person encounter with one of America's greatest playwrights." The Aug. 10 performance is part of a day-long celebration of the late Tennessee Williams, which will culminate in an evening performance of a new musical, Becoming Tennessee, by Michael Aman and Clint Edwards (featuring Gretha Boston, Brian Charles Rooney and Dathan Williams).

  • Penny Fuller gets her own evening, celebrating the songs of Charles Strouse, Aug. 3. Rita Gardner's night to shine is Aug. 2, when she sings Try to Remember: A Look Back at Off Broadway. Gretha Boston goes it solo Aug. 7.

  • The conference culminates in an end-of-season Grand Finale performance, which features "the best of everything in the conference" performed by conference participants and guest artists in "a one-night only spectacular showcase of musical talent."

    Most performances are followed by an "Open Mic," featuring performances by conference participants, special guest artists, O'Neill artistic and production staff and the O'Neill Intern Company.

    Schedule and artists subject to change. All performances are in the Dina Merrill Theater.

    Tickets to Cabaret performances are $25/$20 for members (bleacher seating) and $35, or two for $60 (table seating, including one bottle of wine per table); Grand Finale tickets (Aug. 12) are $35/$30 for members (bleacher seating) and $50, or two for $90 (table seating, including one bottle of wine per table) and include a post-show reception. For reservations, call the O'Neill box office at (860) 443-1238.

    For more information, visit www.theoneill.org.