Broadway may be booming this season, but lets not forget the broad scope of prime premieres and rich revivals happening on stages across the nation. There are many treasures to look forward to this season, from the houses that cherish well known playwrights while allowing fresh voices to speak out before they're situated on New York stages. Here's a selection of what you can expect from the 1996-97 season on some of America's inspiring professional stages:
Whereas many new plays are born in regional theatres and then move to New York, Sylvia, by A.R. Gurney is taking the opposite route. This two-person, one-dog comedy which premiered last season with Sarah Jessica Parker at the Manhattan Theatre Club, is hottest show of the season. Some theatres including Sylvia in their season are: the Old Globe in San Diego, closing Oct. 12; The Alley Theatre in Houston, Nov. 1 24; The George Street Playhouse in New Jersey, Feb. 8-Mar 2; and Seattle Repertory Theatre, Apr. 5-May 4.
Other noteworthy productions that are part of Seattle Rep's well-balanced season, is the musical The Royal Family . . . Of Broadway based on the play by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber, adapted by Richard Greenberg, with a score by William (Falsettos) Finn, directed and choreographed by Tommy Tune, running Nov. 23-Dec. 22. On the new, smaller stage, last season's critically acclaimed workshop of John Irving's novel Cider House Rules, Part II adapted for the stage by Peter Parnell, has been expanded into a full-blown production running Jan. 4-Feb. 2.
Speaking of adaptations, Chicago's Goodman Theatre explodes into its hot season with a devilish start, staging Randy Newman's Faust. The new pop musical, in which Lucifer and the Lord in Heaven make a bet to see who can win the soul of a highly unmotivated Notre Dame football star, runs Sept. 20-Nov. 2. On the mainstage, Goodman will also host the 1995 Pulitzer-Prize Winning Drama, The Young Man From Atlanta Jan. 10 Feb. 16.
There are no young men in Atlanta's Alliance Theatre's world premiere of Pearl Cleage's Bourbon at the Border, Apr. 30-June 8. The play features two women who toast to a friendship strong since the Civil Rights movement. An unexpected windfall forces them to confront the power to transform their dreams into realities. The Mark Taper Forum of Los Angeles will celebrate its 30th anniversary season with a festival of new plays, running Apr. 27 to June 29, collectively titled New Theatre For Now On The Mainstage. In the tradition of the Forum's celebration of new artists, the festival hopes to present the best and most stimulating voices to emerge in the last decade.
Also celebrating their 30th anniversary is Arizona Theatre Company. Carlos Morton's La Malinche which won the 1995 National Hispanic Playwriting Contest, plays Jan. 11-Feb. 1 in Tucson, and Feb. 7-22 in Phoenix. The play is an adaptation of Euripides' Medea, set during the Cortez conquest of Mexico. Marina is Cortez' Mayan mistress, who kills their son to prevent him from denouncing his heritage and living under Spanish rule.
The Greek classics certainly are making a comeback. The Alley Theatre, celebrating it's 50th birthday , will present the most ambitious project in the theatre's history. Artistic Director Gregory Boyd has adapted and will direct The Greeks, An Epic in Two Parts. This two-evening experience of gods and heroes, adventure, love, murder, revenge and rescue are drawn from the great classical tales of the Trojan War and The Fall of the House of Atreus. A large company will perform this massive physical production, Feb. 28-May 4.
It could be Greek, but it's actually French. Indiscretions, Jeremy Sam's translation of Jean Cocteau's Les Parents Terrible which hailed two seasons ago on Broadway, opens the season at Coconut Grove Playhouse in Miami. TV stars Joan Van Ark and Linda Gray will star in the drama of the love triangles existing within a closely knit family. Indiscretions runs Oct. 29-Nov. 24.
What about musicals? Utah's Pioneer Theatre Company kicks off its season with the professional premiere of The Pirated Penzance, a musical about 1930's Hollywood attempt to turn Gilbert and Sullivan's classic operetta, The Pirates of Penzance into a movie musical. The show won national recognition as an American College Theatre Festival entrant and was staged at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.
Lots of exciting work is being presented in DC this season. One of the most exciting productions is a revival of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Pulitzer-Prize winning Sunday In the Park With George at the Arena Stage, April 12-June 15. On Baltimore's Center stage, audiences will witness the premiere of the musical Triumph of Love book by James Magruder, music by Jeffrey Stock, lyrics by Susan Birkenhead, from Nov. 21-Dec 21. Adapted from Marivaux's classic farce, the musical portrays a woman who has everything except the man she desires, and will do anything to get him. This premiere is being shared in a co-production with Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven, Jan 16-Feb 8.
Sharing world premieres is this season's regional fad. Baltimore's Center Stage will also host the world premiere of Thunder Knocking On the Door: A Blusical Tale of Rhythm and the Blues by Keith Glover, Dec. 13 Jan. 26. The production, shared by Alabama Shakespeare Festival (ASF) and Dallas Theatre Center, actually premieres at ASF, where the Bessemer, AL, native playwright is currently in residence. The musical tells the story of Marvel Thunder, a blues guitarist who is back to challenge the talented twin offspring of the only man ever to outplay him on the delta blues guitar. The mystical, musical duel kicks off the season at ASF, Oct. 1-Nov. 3, and the play also receives a world premiere at Dallas Theatre Center, Feb. 13-Mar. 9.
Golden Child, the new play by David Henry Hwang, has been commissioned and scheduled to premiere at both California's South Coast Repertory (SCR) in Costa Mesa, and at the Public Theatre in New York, where it will run first. The production, produced by George C. Wolfe and directed by James Lapine, runs in New York from Oct. 29 - Dec. 1, and in Costa Mesa Jan. 3 to Feb. 9. Golden Child is about a young Chinese American who is inspired to remember the funny, poignant and touching tales his grandmother told him about growing up with her father, who labeled her a "golden child."
Singer's Boy by Leslie Ayvazian has it's world premiere at American Repertory Theatre in San Francisco, May 1-June 1. Oscar-winner Olympia Dukakis stars as the older woman cooped up in her family's home, who is inspired by the 40-year-old vocal teacher who is having an affair with her 19-year-old student.
The world premiere of David Mamet's The Old Neighborhood will be staged at Harvard's American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, MA, April 4-27, at the Hasty Pudding Theatre. Three tightly knit one-act plays form a quilt of remembered experience, as middle age characters revisit their traumatic childhood. The plays reflect some autobiographical elements as they are set in Mamet's old stomping grounds in and around Chicago.
Continuing on the theme of neighborhoods, Arden Theatre Company in Philadelphia has just opened it's new theatre space in Old City. Third and Indiana by Steve Lopez, a popular columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, is a very local world premiere. In a troubled Philly neighborhood, a mother searches for her 14-year-old son, who has been seduced by the lure of the lucrative local drug trade, Mar. 20-April 27. These shows reflect just a slice of the regional selections this season. Remember to refer to the regional theatre listings to stay tuned to stages across the nation on Playbill On-Line.
-- By Blair Glaser