The bloom of Jeff Daniels' Purple Rose Theatre Company will go dormant in fall 1999 while physical improvements are made on the troupe's Garage Theatre in Chelsea, MI.
Theatregoers hungry for the world premieres and comedies that have been the staple there since Daniels founded the troupe in 1991, will have to wait until early 2000, when $1.4 million in construction renovations are hoped to be complete.
The debut of two Purple Rose commissions by playwrights Stephen Dietz and Lanford Wilson are expected in the new space in the next two years, but until 2000, Purple Rose won't have a presence in Michigan's small professional theatre community.
Wilson's Book of Days, which won the American Theatre Critics Association 1999 New Play Award, premiered in 1998 at Purple Rose and is expected to be staged in St. Louis and Hartford, CT, in the coming season. Wilson's next commission for Purple Rose is called The Rain Dance.
Purple Rose managing director Alan Ribant told Playbill On-Line May 27 no staff is being cut or laid off during the down time. He added that the company is mulling a revival of the Michigan-themed hit comedy, Escanaba in da Moonlight, by Daniels, for a fall 1999 run at the Gem Theatre in Detroit, where Daniels' The Vast Difference had a commercial run several years ago. Details about a Gem run were yet to be ironed out, however. The nonprofit Purple Rose, which is not bound by a subscription audience, will present a "half season" in spring 2000, Ribant said.
Before that, however, improvements to the 119-seat space will include:
€ New roof and roof insulation to prevent the sound of rain.
€ New back wall behind center section of three-quarter-configured audience, and the addition of a stage manager's booth there.
€ Adding about 40 new seats, taking capacity to 160-165.
€ Expanding lobby and office areas.
€ Improving air conditioning units.
Daniels has used the PRTC as a canvas for regional acting, directing and playwriting talent. Daniels emerged as a playwright there, seeing the stagings of Apartment 3A, The Tropical Pickle, Shoe Man, Boom Town and Thy Kingdom's Coming, which opens an Off-Broadway staging May 27, presented by the Barrrow Group. Daniels directed his own work at PRTC but has not yet acted there.
The 80-year-old space, in Daniels' boyhood hometown (where he still lives), has served as a bus and truck repair shop, a pizza joint, a fruit and vegetable market, a car storage garage and a plumbing parts store.
The Purple Rose's summer production, George F. Walker's Criminal Genius, plays there July 1-Aug. 29.
Semi-rural Chelsea, MI, home of Jiffy baking mixes, is 60 miles west of Detroit. Call (734) 475-7902 for information.
-- By Kenneth Jones