Over the past two decades, New York's Ensemble Studio Theater has fostered the creation of more than 5,000 new plays. Now twelve more are on view at E.S.T.'s annual festival of one-acts, "Marathon `99," which runs in three series May 5-June 13.
Among the noted writers contributing new works to this 22nd annual event are Frank D. Gilroy, Romulus Linney, Leslie Ayvazian, Susan Kim, Edward Allan Baker, Bill Bozzone, Christine Farrell, Cassandra Medley, Jaime Richards & Kevin Harris, Stuart Spencer, Cherie Vogelstein and Michael Louis Wells.
Actors appearing in this year's series include Rob Morrow ("Northern Exposure," filmdom's "Quiz Show"), former Broadway Belle Kerry Butler, and Sound of Music castmember Dashiell Eaves.
Here's the rundown for Series A, B and C at E.S.T.:
Series A (May 5-16)
Deaf Day written and directed by Leslie Ayvazian, has Kaitlyn Kelley playing a deaf mother coping with teaching her son to live in a hearing world. The play will be presented both in English and in sign language. Ayvazian is the author of Nine Armenians, Footlights, Singer's Son and Practice. Goodbye Oscar by Romulus Linney, directed by Peter Maloney, is about the final hours of Oscar Wilde as he relives moments from his life. Jack Gilpin plays the author of Importance of Being Earnest, while Dashiell Eaves plays the various young men in Wilde's life. Linney is the author of numerous plays including 2, Ambrosio, The Sorrows of Frederick, and Holy Ghosts. Linney, a Marathon staple, is the recipient of two OBIE awards, including one for Sustained Excellence in Playwriting.
Maiden Lane by Cassandra Medley, directed by Irving Vincent, tells of a successful African-American couple attempting to buy their dream house in a wealthy white suburb. The cast features Johnny Lee Davenport, Judith Roberts, Petie Trigg Seale and Judy Tate. Other plays include: Ms. Mae (part of A...My Name is Alice), Ma Rose, Waking Women, By the Still Waters, and Terrain.
All About Al by Cherie Vogelstein, directed by Jamie Richards, has downtrodden Lenny surprising his friend Gil as Gil waits in a coffee shop to break up with his girlfriend, Allison or "Al." When Lenny jumps at the chance to ask Al out, Gil reconsiders his reasons for breaking up. The cast includes: Jennifer Carta, Mark Feuerstein and Mark Giordano. Vogelstein is the recipient of this year's inaugural Hammerstein Fellowship for Best Emerging Playwright, an award named after James Hammerstein, chairman of the board of directors for E.S.T. He died in January.
Series B (May 19 - 30)
The Golf Ball by Frank D. Gilroy, directed by Chris Smith, is about a rich, retired and restless George Powell (Tom Ligon), who makes a bet on a golf game which escalates into an obsession. The cast also includes Mimi Bensinger and Baxter Harris. Other plays by Gilroy include: The Subject Was Roses, The Only Game in Town, and That Summer - That Fall.
Dreamtime for Alice by Susan Kim, directed by Richard Lichte, has a forty-something American (Cecilia DeWolf) on vacation in Australia and finding herself left behind by her tour group in the great big outback. With little on-hand but time, she reflects on everything from the local lizards to the husband she left behind. Kim's adaptation of Amy Tan's novel The Joy Luck Club is currently enjoying an Off-Broadway run at Pan Asian Rep.
In the Western Garden by Stuart Spencer, directed by Judy Minor, gives us famous, cantankerous painter Gene Kapp (Robert Hogan), who rose to fame in the Sixties. Like de Kooning and Pollock he lived in the Hamptons, and there he has remained in virtual seclusion with his wife Sally (Peggity Price). That is, until he's visited by his broke art dealer (David Margulies) and a hot young conceptual artist (Rob Morrow) with an agenda. Spencer is the author of several plays including Resident Alien, Water and Wine, Blue Stars and Go to Ground.
The 'I' Word: Interns by Michael Louis Wells, directed by Jaime Richards. It's September 16, 1998: the evening Vaclav Havel speaks at the White House and the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal ensues. Three young interns wrestle with their feelings about the American political system. The cast includes: Kerry Butler (Beauty and the Beast), Ian Kessler, Katherine Leask, and Sarah Rose. Other Wells plays include: Real Real Gone, District of Columbia, Fourth Time Around, and Seven Pages Unsigned.
Series C (June 2-June 13)
Up, Down, Strange Charmed Beauty and Truth by Edward Allan Baker
War by Bill Bozzone
The Once Attractive Woman by Christine Farrell
Roman Fever by Jaime Richards & Kevin Harris
For tickets ($15 per series, $35 for all three evenings) and information on Marathon `99 at Ensemble Studio Theatre call (212) 247-4982. Casting is usually announced at the last minute, so expect actors and directors for Series B and C to be added in the weeks to come.
-- By Sean McGrath