How do playwrights love the Mark Taper Forum's annual New Work Festival? Just count the names: Marga Gomez, Maria Irene Fornes, Holly Hughes, Chay Yew, Marion McClinton, Jose Rivera, Mac Wellman, Tony Kushner, David Henry Hwang, Eduardo Machado, Lisa Loomer, etc. etc. etc.!
All those notables are taking part in the tenth annual festival, Nov. 13 to Dec. 20, which develops new works for the stage. Said producing director and Festival founder Robert Egan, "The diversity of the artists and the subject matter have invigorated us and kept us in touch with the important social, political and personal issues of our time."
Here's the remaining line-up:
Dec. 17 & 18: The Square Project, a collaboration by 16 different playwrights: Ping Chong, Constance Congdon, Tony Kushner, Kia Corthron, Maria Irene Fornes, Marion McClinton, Philip Kan Gotanda, Jessica Hagedorn, Holly Hughes, David Henry Hwang, Han Ong, Jose Rivera, Diana Son, Mac Wellman, Alice Tuan and Chay Yew.
A small-scale, workshop reading commissioned by the Asian Theatre Workshop of the Mark Taper Forum, The Square Project had all the playwrights working separately to come up with pieces. Chay Yew, head of the Asian Theatre Workshop, commissioned the 16 dramatists and is working with director Lisa Peterson on organizing the show and meshing its various elements.
Said Taper literary associate Pier Carlo Talenti (Dec. 17), "The playwrights had to follow certain stipulations. Each play has to take place during one of three pre-determined time periods; and it has to concern the interactions of Asians and non-Asians." Dec. 19: Public reading of Expecting Isabel by Lisa Loomer.
Dec. 20: Public reading of Eduardo Machado's Cuba And The Night.
Timed to coincide with the Festival, Roger Arturo Durling's The American Bullfighter will run at the California Institute of the Arts, Dec. 4-6. The drama, directed by Lisa Peterson, was part of last year's New Work Festival.
Plays that started in previous festivals include Stand-Up Tragedy, The Kentucky Cycle, Jelly's Last Jam and Angels In America -- all of which wound up on Broadway.
Presented by the Taper in association with A.S.K. Theatre Projects, DreamWorks SKG and the Falcon Theatre, the Festival takes place at the Falcon space on Riverside Drive in Burbank. Free tickets are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis one hour before events. For information on the New Work Festival call (213) 972-7389.
As for the Taper's 31st season itself, the line-up includes recent plays by Anna Deavere Smith, David Hare, Charlayne Woodard, Peter Parnell and Moises Kaufman plus a comedy classic starring the Flying Karamazov Brothers. (Kaufman's Gross Indecency replaces Clarvoe's Ambition Facing West, which itself replaced Ellen McLaughlin's Tongue of a Bird, which has been moved to 1998-99.)
"This is a season that I'm particularly proud to say goes to the very root of the dramatic impulse and truly celebrates the art of storytelling," said artistic director Gordon Davidson. "These playwrights and performers spin fantastic yarns and cast those spells that only a good story can do."
David Hare's Skylight opened the season Sept. 7-Oct. 26, and now the Flying Karamazov Brothers are taking the stage with Room Service. This engagement follows a stint at Seattle's A Contemporary Theatre and D.C.'s Arena Stage. A new-vaudeville quartet, The Flying Karamazov Brothers are serving up a new rendition of the old farce by John Murray and Allen Boretz , Nov. 14-Dec 21.
Adapted by The Flying Karamazov Brothers and directed by Robert Woodruff, the four Brothers will perform all 14 characters who are engaged in the plotline, which follows a corrupt and indebted Broadway producer as he escapes eviction from his Broadway hotel to raise money for a new show.
Best known as the vehicle for a comparatively restrained 1938 Marx Brothers film, the 1937 Broadway comedy also later served as a touring stage show for the siblings. This version will allow the Karamazov quartet to incorporate their legendary juggling skills.
Said Karamazov Brother Dmitri (Paul Magid), "The plot of Room Service, about four guys trying to put on a show with no money and lots of intrigue, seemed a lot like the real life of the Flying Karamazov Brothers, so why not hold the mirror up to nature?"
Appearing with Magid are his other "brothers," Smerdyakov (Sam Williams), Rakitin (Michael Preston) and Ivan (Howard Jay Patterson). Designers for the show are Greco [sic] (set and costumes), Rick Paulsen (sound), with Doug Elkins providing choreography.
The Brothers appeared Off-Broadway, winter 1996, in Sharps, Flats & Accidentals. Previous outings have included Juggle And Hyde and Club Sandwich, both seen at Seattle's A Contemporary Theatre. They've also starred in a specially adapted version of A Comedy Of Errors, directed by Woodruff at NY's Lincoln Center.
After the Karamazovs will come Charlayne Woodard in her one-woman show, Neat, Jan. 11-Feb. 1, which originally premiered at Seattle Repertory Theatre, opening their new theatre last season. In Neat Woodard shares her formative years, focusing on the pillar of strength and wisdom she found in her beloved Aunt Neat, whose strength and clarity pervaded Woodard's upbringing, despite the brain damage Neat suffered as a child.
*Gross Indecency: The Three Trials Of Oscar Wilde has been a major Off-Broadway hit since the summer. It ran to May 4 at the Greenwich House Theatre space and then transferred to its current home, the Minetta Lane. The biographical drama follows "the arrest, judgment and sentencing of the most celebrated playwright of his time," Oscar Wilde. (Runs Feb. 19-March 29.)
* In a co-production with Chicago's Goodman Theatre and Washington DC's Arena Stage, Anna Deveare Smith will perform her long awaited new piece, House Arrest: First Edition, about the U.S. Presidency. (The show was previously titled, "The Press And The Presidency.") The new piece by the acclaimed playwright and performer, is scheduled to run at the Taper April 5-May 31, 1998.
Smith's Tony Award-nominated Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 was commissioned by the Taper and had its world premiere on the mainstage in 1993. The currently untitled work in her series of plays On the Road: A Search for American Character, defining the heart of the American experience, exposes the conduct and ways within the nation's capital city, collected from interviews with elected officials, political operatives and journalists. Unlike her other plays, Smith's new play features a cast of eight actors, who, true to the Smith's style, cross gender, race and culture to portray their characters.
* The season finale, The Cider House Rules adapted from John Irving's 1985 best-selling novel by Peter Parnell, conceived and directed by Tom Hulce and Jane Jones, and will run in two parts June 13 through Sept. 27.
"When I saw each of its parts in development at Seattle Repertory Theatre, Part One in the spring of 1995 in the theatre's former second space, and Part Two in January 1997 in their new second stage, I'm proud that the completed version of this big-hearted, Dickensian piece will have its premiere at the Taper mainstage, and will include the ever-popular marathon weekends," Davidson said.
Seven generations of rich characters in and surrounding the St. Cloud's Orphanage in rural Maine affect each other, and grapple with serious issues such as abortion, domestic violence, incest, racism and poverty, and other family-related and politically charged topics. This seems in keeping with the heart of the Taper's successes, as Davidson concludes, "The Cider House Rules uses imaginative storytelling techniques to create a deeply moving and compelling event, in the tradition of the Taper's Angels in America and The Kentucky Cycle".
For subscription tickets or more information, call (213) 365-3500.or refer to the Mark Taper Forum regional listing on Playbill On-Line.