The 33rd season of the Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum at the Music Center of Los Angeles County will feature three world premieres and three West Coast premieres, including works of playwrights Robert Glaudini, Tina Landau, Lisa Loomer, Peter Parnell, Neil Simon and August Wilson.
“It is more important than ever to find artists and plays that will hold a mirror up to our society,” says Gordon Davidson, Taper artistic director. “I’m proud to have found an abundance of compelling works in our own backyard that will do just that. Four of this season’s writers were raised in or reside in Los Angeles. We commissioned three of the plays and two were developed in our New Work Festival."
Tina Landau's adventure into the universe,Space opens Taper’s 1999-2000 Season. Landau's story involves a neuro-psychiatrist who has suddenly become a magnet for patients claiming to be alien abductees, drawing him into the strangely overlapping worlds of extraterrestrials and hard science.
Directed by Landau and produced in association with Steppenwolf Theatre Company, the West Coast premiere of Space began previews Sept. 26 and opens Oct. 7. The show runs through Nov. 14.
Neil Simon’s The Dinner Party is the Taper's second production of the season. Simon's West Coast premiere also marks the playwright's 15th presentation of his works by the Center Theatre Group at the Ahmanson Theatre and the Mark Taper. America’s master of comedy offers up an unorthodox dinner party in a private dining room in Paris where six guests arrive unaware of who the other guests are or the purpose of their gathering. Each guest is greeted by a surprise from the past and begins to sort through the mystery of this unusual gathering, as it becomes apparent that this dinner party will forever change their lives. The Dinner Party opens Dec. 2 and runs through Jan. 16. Previews begin Nov. 21.
Third in line at the Mark Taper this season is the West Coast premiere of August Wilson's Jitney, which opens Feb. 3. This is the first time that Wilson's work has been presented on the Taper stage. Center Theatre Group has had a long relationship with the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning playwright, most recently producing Seven Guitars at the Ahmanson in 1996. Jitney will be directed by Marion McClinton. Previews begin Jan. 23, 2000, and the play runs through Mar. 19.
Jitney wheels back to the late '70s, exploring the lives of a group of black men scraping out a living at a gypsy cab company (or jitney station) in Pittsburgh.
The fourth show of the season, Peter Parnell's, Tuva or Bust stars Alan Alda in a world premiere that was adapted from Ralph Leighton’s “Tuva or Bust!” as well as other writings by Richard Feynman and Ralph Leighton. Richard Feynman was the eccentric, world-renowned professor of physics and Nobel Prize-winner who realized that frozen “O-rings” casue the Challenger disaster.
“For years I’ve been hooked on tales from the life of Richard Feynman and when Alan Alda brought me the book ‘Tuva or Bust!,’ I saw the dramatic possibilities for a unique stage piece about this charismatic scientist with an irreverent zest for life,” said Davidson.
Feynman was once referenced in the London Guardian as a “bongo-playing, safecracking, raconteur and genius of quantum electrodynamics.” He and Leighton became friends, and during the course of their friendship Feynman described himself to Leighton as a “curious character,” while recounting his adventures, from safecracking at Los Alamos where he was a member of the Manhattan Project to trading gambling secrets with Nick the Greek or atomic physics tips with Einstein. Leighton later collected these tales into “Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman!” and “What do You Care What Other People Think?”
“Tuva or Bust!” recounts an off-handed joke by Feynman that sparked an odyssey of research and detective work aimed at reaching Tannu Tuva, a small republic in the former Soviet Union. Tuva begins previews March 26 and opens April 6. The show will run through May 14.
Taper's fifth play of the season is the world premiere of Robert Glaudini’s The Poison Tree, which was originally commissioned and developed by the Taper Writers’ Workshop before going on to be included in the New Work Festival 1998-99. A story of poetry and seduction, Poison echoes real events in Southern California, and is helmed by director Robert Egan. Previews begin May 28, 2000. The show opens June 8 and plays through July 16.
Expecting Isabel , Taper's sixth production of the year, was written by Lisa Loomer, who penned an earlier Taper production, The Waiting Room.
Expecting Isabel will be directed by Douglas C. Wager.
Having won the American Theatre Critics Association Award for Best Play, Expecting is about a couple who decide to have a baby and so find themselves embarked on an adventure with "dozens of manic eggs, millions of weak sperm, obstetricians, support groups, psychiatrists, adoption facilitators, and fertility specialists with their drugs, on the long, bumpy road toward new life. What shines through is the human issue -- the very touching faith in love and the family unit.
The West Coast premiere of Expecting at the Taper begins previews July 23, 2000, with an opening Aug. 3. The show will run through Aug. 27.
For information and to charge subscriptions by phone, call Audience Services at (213) 628-2772. For information regarding project D.A.T.E. and sign language interpreted performances and discount subscriptions (up to 58%) for the deaf and hard of hearing, call TDD/Voice (213) 680 4017.
-- By Murdoch McBride