Austin Pendleton, David Cale and Dael Orlandersmith are some of the better-known performers appearing in solos as part of Watermark Theatre's annual Wordfire Festival, running Feb. 21-March 16.
The Festival begins with a bikini -- Linda Mancini's Bikini, that is, as directed by Michael Mackenzie. Mancini's satirical solo commemorates the 50th anniversary of both the first atomic bomb test in the Bikini islands, and the creation, in France, of the smallest bathing suit in the world." Bikini plays Feb. 21, 22, 26 & March 1, 7, 13 & 15.
A fictional account of the last night in Martin Luther King Jr.'s life, The Man In Room 304 shows us "King the man, who loved practical jokes, opera, baseball and soul food." Cheryl Katz directs Craig Allen Edward's solo performance, Feb. 28 & March 2, 6, 8, 14 and 16.
Next up will be Five Letters From A Portuguese Nun, about a nun's torrid affair with a soldier, based on authentic 17th century Portuguese correspondence. Nela Wagman directs Myriam Cyr's piece, March 2, 4 & 9.
Busy appearing in Richard III for New Perspectives Theatre Company and rumored to be set to direct James Earl Jones, Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne in a Broadway Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, Austin Pendleton will take one night, Feb. 24, to play poet John Keats, in David A. Shepard's drama, Keats. Covered will be the Romantic poet's refusal to accept his illness and his last journey to Rome. David Cale, currently appearing on Broadway in Present Laughter, will workshop his Lillian March 3 & 10. Lillian is a married English woman in her 30s who has a brief affair with a reckless young man in his teens.
Feb. 27 and March 5 will bring he latest from Dael Orlandersmith, of Beauty's Daughter fame. New Voices, New Dreamswill combine poetry and characterizations. Orlandersmith appeared at the first Wordfire Festival, in 1993, with her Characters In Motion.
Excuse My Dust: The Life Of Dorothy Parker goes up Feb. 23 and March 9. Linda Ames Key, who recently staged Elmer Rice's The Adding Machine Off-Off-Broadway, will direct Barbara Pitts' solo about the writer's characters, poems and "Parkerisms."
In Jodie's Body, Feb. 21 & March 8, Jodie (Aviva Jane Carlin) is an artist's model who chats with the audience about art, art students, and her childhood in South Africa. In Crisis Of Confidence, Feb. 22, 28 & March 12, performance artist Anita Liberty takes the stage.
Last up is Leonara Champagne's Wants, about a woman who wishes for a child and then finds one in the woods. Robert Lyons directs the show, March 7 & 14.
Appearing at the Festival's "Later That Night" series will be Toni Schlesinger, Amy Sohn and Jill Brewer (March 1), and Schlesinger, Sohn and Karl Herlinger (March 15).
Watermark works out of the Vineyard Theatre's 26th Street space on New York's East Side. For individual tickets ($15) and more information on the Festival, call (212) 353-3784.
--By David Lefkowitz