London's National Theatre Signs Three-Year Deal with American Producers

News   London's National Theatre Signs Three-Year Deal with American Producers
New York audiences may soon be treated to more plays that originated in London than ever.

The New York Times reported that the Royal National Theatre of London has just signed a three-year, $1.35 million deal with two American producers — Bob Boyett and Ostar Productions' Bill Haber — that would give them the first opportunity to import National productions to the United States.

Nicholas Hytner, who recently replaced Trevor Nunn as the National's artistic director, told the Times, "We thought it was a good idea that when we had a show for American audiences that we had a quick, direct and well-trodden path. We liked Bob and Bill because, to be blunt, we couldn't find anyone on Broadway with a bad word to say about them."

The 2003-04 National season, Hytner's first, has been a roaring success. Two shows, Jerry Springer: The Opera and Tom Stoppard's Jumpers, have transferred or will transfer to the West End. Springer is already slated for New York. Michael Frayn's Democracy is also a candidate for the West End and Broadway. (Jerry Springer: The Opera is not part of the three-year agreement. That production has already lined up American producers.)

Producer Boyett told the New York daily, "After seeing their season, which is really exciting, we could bring three plays a year."

Last season, only one National Theatre production made its way to Broadway: the Tony-nominated Nicholas Wright play Vincent in Brixton, which concerned a possibly fictitious romance between a young Vincent van Gogh and his older landlady. Hytner said that the American producers would not be part of his programming decisions. "We are the National Theatre of Britain," Hytner added, "and it is our job to reflect our nation. It's Bill and Bob's job to use their intuition to choose which of these shows will be of interest in America."

Such deals between American producers and London companies are becoming more and more common. Anita Waxman and Elizabeth Williams, for instance, have a pact with the esteemed Donmar Warehouse.

It was not immediately clear what role the playwrights would play in such transfers, though one would assume that writers of the stature of Stoppard and Frayn would have some say about which producers would represent them on Broadway. Stoppard's new plays, in particular, have almost always had their New York premieres at Lincoln Center Theater. Frayn, meanwhile, has a standing relationship with the Nederlander Organization.

Bob Boyett's Broadway producing credits include Topdog/Underdog and the Tony-winning The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? Bill Haber was a co producer of The Scarlet Pimpernel and another Tony-winning Best Play, Proof.

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