When the curtain goes up on August Wilson's King Hedley II in Chicago on Nov. 30, it will also go up on the Goodman Theatre's new Albert Ivar Goodman Theatre space. The long-standing Windy City theatre makes the first step toward that great day Oct. 31, when the Wilson drama begins rehearsals.
Hedley began L.A. performances Sept. 2 with an opening Sept. 14. Marion McClinton directs. A New York City run may follow the Chicago performances, but the Jujamcyns, the interested producers, have announced no further plans at press time.
Continuing his decade-by-decade examination of African American life in the United States, Wilson sets King Hedley II in 1985 in the black ghetto of Pittsburgh and deals with the triumphs and trials of a community torn apart as King Hedley rages against his past and present and his pregnant wife Tonya fears to bring a child into their world. A two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner, Wilson also wrote Fences, The Piano Lesson and Seven Guitars.
Jerome Butler replaces Harry Lennix as King Hedley for the final week of performances. Charles Brown (Elmore), Lou Myers (Stool Pigeon), Juanita Jennings (Rosa), Monte Russell (Mister) and Mone Walton (Tonya) also star.
The Goodman Theatre will celebrate the birth of its new North Loop home with two weeks of festivities, beginning Nov. 4 and leading up to a round- the-clock party on Nov. 18. The complex, the theatre's first new facility since 1925, is located on Dearborn Street between Randolph and Lake, the historic site of the Garrick and Woods theatres and the landmark Harris and Selwyn theatres.
The Albert Ivar Goodman Theatre will be a tradition proscenium stage, slightly largely than the current mainstage, and equipped with a full fly tower and improved acoustics. The Owen Butler Goodman Theatre, meanwhile, has a timber-frame construction (with exposed fir beams) and can take any number of forms, including end stage, thrust, arena and runway.
Both theatres will be fully soundproofed, to shield performances from the noise of the rumbling elevated trains of the Loop area.
The November festivities will run as follows:
• Builder's Day, Nov. 4: The Goodman will open its doors to builders, trade people and their families.
• Press Preview, Nov. 8.
• Official Dedication, Nov. 9, featuring dedication luncheon for major contributors.
• Inaugural Gala, Nov. 11: A black-tie event complete with food and entertainment. Bernadette Peters will provide entertainment.
• Subscriber Days, Nov. 12-15: Subscribers may look at the theatre and preview their new comfortable seats.
• Theatre Community Party: Members of the League of Chicago Theatres are invited to the theatre.
• City of Chicago Day, Nov. 16: The Goodman expresses its thanks to Windy City officials.
• 26-Hour Celebration, Nov. 17-18: More than a day of activities, free and open to the public.
Recently, there was a major shuffle in the 2000-01 schedule at Chicago's Goodman Theatre, affecting three of the five mainstage slots and one of the second-stage selections. The most remarkable change was the jettisoning of a projected production of Edward Albee's monumental drama, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, which would have run Jan. 19-Feb. 24, 2001. Though the show was never officially announced, reports had Robert Falls directing and courting stars such as Patti LuPone and Stockard Channing.
Woolf is nowhere on the roster now, replaced by the U.S. premiere of Alan Ayckbourn's duet of plays, House and Garden, a hit in London. Falls will direct the connected works, about Teddy Platt, a philandering lord who has hopes for a seat in Parliament. House, which takes place in the Platt manor house, will run Jan. 19-Feb. 24 at the Goodman's new Albert Ivar Theatre. Garden, meanwhile, will run simultaneously at the smaller Owen Bruner Theatre. The plays will open on Jan. 29.
It was unclear why Falls forsook his plans to stage Woolf, though the unavailability of the desired cast may have influenced the decision. Also, Minneapolis' Guthrie Theatre has scheduled a production of the Albee play at almost exactly the same time (Feb. 24-April 15), directed by David Esbjornson. The Guthrie is also reportedly seeking big stars for the mounting.
The until-now-unannounced fifth mainstage production will be Margaret Edson's Wit—an unusual choice, since by now much of the country has seen the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, which debuted in New York in the fall of 1998.
A couple of previously announced plays have shifted position. Rebecca Gilman's latest, The Great Baseball Strike of 1994, will now fill the final mainstage slot, June 29-Aug. 4, instead of bowing in May. The play was to have been directed by Michael Maggio, who recently died. The Goodman is currently searching for a new director.
Gilman is currently the playwright of the moment. Her controversial play about political correctness at a small Vermont college, Spinning Into Butter, recently opened at Lincoln Center Theater, marking her New York debut. Another play, Boy Gets Girl, is due to play at Manhattan Theatre Club this coming season. (MTC is also looking for a director to replace Maggio.)
Finally, a new work by theatrical auteur and Goodman associate Mary Zimmerman, planned for the Bruner Theatre, has been postponed. The theatre cited "the unavailability of rights."
The 2000-2001 schedule now runs as follows:
The Albert Ivar Goodman Theatre:
• As previously reported, the season will get underway with August Wilson's latest, King Hedley II, a sequel of sorts to Seven Guitars, which will fill the Albert Ivar Goodman Theatre, Nov. 30-Jan. 6, 2001 (opening Dec. 11).
• House by Alan Ayckbourn, directed by Robert Falls, Jan. 19-Feb. 24, 2001 (opening Jan. 29).
• James Baldwin's The Amen Corner, March 16-April 21 (opening March 26). Chuck Smith directs the 1954 work about Sister Margaret Alexander, who risks losing her Harlem church and her son when her vagabond, jazz musician husband returns home.
• Wit by Margaret Edson, directed by Steve Scott, May 11-June 16 (opening May 21).
• The Great Baseball Strike of 1994 by Rebecca Gilman, director TBA, June 29-Aug. 4 (July 9).
The Owen Bruner Goodman Theatre:
• Garden by Alan Ayckbourn, directed by Robert Falls, Jan. 19-Feb. 24, 2001 (opening Jan. 29).
• Chekhov won't know what hit him when Regina Taylor's new adaptation of The Seagull premieres, April 27-May 27 (opening May 7). Actress-playwright Taylor has relocated the drama to the historic Gullah Islands off the coast of modern-day South Carolina. The family is now African-American and Konstantin is a performance artist. No director has been named.