As is now widely known, playwright Warren Leight's Tony winning Side Man drew heavily on his own family life as the son of a wayward jazz trumpeter. Leight is again mining personal experiences for his latest work, No Foreigners Beyond This Point, which will debut at Baltimore's Center Stage this fall.
In the story, two American teachers find themselves in a remote Chinese village where "the Beatles are as unknown as personal privacy."
Leight himself taught English in Canton in 1980 and 1981, when he was 23. "I had the chance so I took it," Leight told Playbill On-Line. He added: "Also, I had a crush on someone I knew would be teaching over there.
"Like in Side Man, I'm trying to capture a world I knew well. Of course, one of the points of the play is how hard a world it is to know. The other teachers, students and one other foreigner, are my usual composites."
His work on the play technically began 20 years ago. During his tenure as a foreign instructor, he kept diaries and wrote letters, which he then packed away until Irene Lewis, the artistic director of the Maryland not-for-profit theatre, offered him a commission to write what became No Foreigners Beyond This Point. The show was workshopped in January and scheduled for the 2002-03 season soon after. "I knew of Center Stage because two of my close friends, Eric Bogosian and Michael Mayer, had had productions down there," said Leight, "and a third friend, Jill Rachel Morris, was their dramaturg. I liked the theatre on both trips down, and liked the city. Jill introduced me to Irene.
"Irene has begun to commission new plays. And as you know, not many places do that these days. I had two plays I was interested in writing, and she responded to this one. She said she hasn't seen that world on stage before. And she liked the themes that I said I'd be working with. She has strong interest in China, because her father spent time there during World War II."
Leight said that there is interest in making the show a co production with another theatre company, and that there is a possibility No Foreigners may come to New York. At this time, however, there are no definite plans.
No Foreigners Beyond This Point, will run Nov. 21 Dec. 22 at Center Stage's Pearlstone Theater.
The complete 2002-03 Center Stage season runs as follows:
- Peter Pan, Oct. 4-Dec. 1, Head Theater
- No Foreigners Beyond This Point, Nov. 21-Dec. 22, Pearlstone Theater
- Ain't Misbehavin', Jan. 10-Feb. 23, 2003, Pearlstone Theater
- Intimate Apparel, Feb. 14-March 23, 2003, Head Theater
- Mary Stuart, April 4-May 4, 2003, Pearlstone Theater
- The Rainmaker, May 16-June 15, 2003, Pearlstone Theater
For ticket information, call (410) 332-0033. —By Robert Simonson