SECOND FLOOR OF SARDI'S: A Drink With Douglas Carter Beane

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21 Feb 2013

Tony Award-nominated playwright and librettist Douglas Carter Beane muses on his new Broadway projects, Cinderella and The Nance, savoring opportunities and pushing to be more than glib.

Douglas Carter Beane
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN


What on Earth has become of Douglas Carter Beane?

It seems only yesterday he was the wisecracking author of satiric comedies, and the artistic director of a scrappy, upstart Off-Broadway theatre troupe.

These days, it seems he has a production on Broadway every year. This spring alone, he has a new play, The Nance, opening at the Lyceum Theatre — his first play for the tony Lincoln Center Theater. And the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization has entrusted him with the Broadway debut of the songwriters' Cinderella. Douglas Carter Beane has become a distinguished theatre personage.

"My younger self would come back and slap me," laughed Beane, who, too, saw the humor in his professional transformation. "I'm sure I'll ruin it all next season. I've got next season to bring myself back to normal. I mean, you just have to look at the chat rooms and it brings you right back down to Earth. As Tina Fey said, 'If your head gets too big, there's this thing called the Internet.'"

Beane relaxed with a Maker's Mark old-fashioned and feasted on Ritz crackers and a pot of Sardi's classically unfunny spread cheese in our booth on the second floor of Sardi's. It had been a long day. First, he went to Cinderella — which is now in previews at the Broadway Theatre — to put in a new scene. After that, he took a cab to Lincoln Center to attend a rehearsal of The Nance, which stars Nathan Lane and begins previews March 21.

Of the two projects, the play has been gestating longer. "Long-aborning!" said Beane, relishing the term so often deployed in theatre journalism. The play takes place in New York City from January to May of 1937, when Mayor LaGuardia was attempted to stamp out the city's still-thriving burlesque business.

"Burlesque was a huge industry," explained Beane, "but LaGuardia — it comes off that I hate him in this play. He was kind of an OK guy. But he did have this prudishness to him. He was a little messed up, as many Catholics are. He was very messed up about sex. So burlesque freaked him out and he wanted to get rid of it because the World's Fair was coming to town."

Lane plays Chauncey Miles, the "nance" of the title — a stock player common at the time who made a specialty of playing campy homosexual characters.

Beane wrote the role with Lane in mind. "Why lie?" said Beane. "I often write with specific actors in mind." He sent it to Lane, who read it in one night and immediately expressed interest in doing it. "He said, 'I don't want to do this commercially in New York,'" told Beane. "I said, 'Do you want to do it in London?' He said, 'Let me think about that.'" They did a reading, after which Lane resolved to do it in New York because the play is a New York story. Lane showed the play to LCT's artistic director Andre Bishop, who agreed to produce.


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