The rich and famous are just lying around, but fabulously, in Ed Dixon's new play, Pere Lachaise, set in the Paris cemetery where Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Sarah Bernhardt and other celebrities are buried.
Producer Pete Herber (The Molly Maguires, Fanny Hill) is presenting a July 29 industry reading in New York City with some not unfamous theatre folk, including Bebe Neuwirth as Bernhardt. The proposed one-set show concerns restless egos and their exchanges about "fame, immortality, and the importance of life and death," according to Dixon. The premise has all the characters except Wilde fighting to be reborn.
A non-famous Waiter (played by Larry Paulson), who caters to them, offers surprises. The waiter's pregnant granddaughter (Nancy Anderson, playing the only living character) visits the cemetery with flowers, and the departed yearn to inhabit the unborn child's soul.
Dixon got the seed of the idea from Ted Pappas, artistic director of Pittsburgh Public Theatre, who pointed out how many famous people were lodged in the cemetery. "I have some sort of personal relationship with each of these people in my own psychology," Dixon told Playbill On-Line, adding that "it's a marvelous opportunity to discuss art and music."
Dixon, an actor and writer who will appear on Broadway in The Best Man this season, has credits ranging from Les Miserables to The Iceman Cometh. He said he didn't want a piece with characters sitting on tombstones, so he imagined an old-world hotel with a harried waiter catering to the dead. The reading cast includes Dixon as Wilde, Mary Stout as Isadora Duncan, Jim Newman as Jim Morrison, Paul Giamatti as Rossini, James Stephens as Victor Hugo, with George Connolly and Paul Shoeffler.
Dixon is an actor, librettist, playwright, lyricist and composer whose previous writing includes Shylock, Fanny Hill and Cather County, among other pieces.
For information about the private reading, call (212) 957-4072.
-- By Kenneth Jones