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Lyubimov in Exile

Comings and goings at theatres nationwide and globally.

For the past several months, the attention of the world arts community has been turned to the plight of Yuri Lyubimov, the highly regarded Soviet director who was dismissed from his post as head of Moscow’s Taganka Theatre last March. Although his dismissal was precipitated by his failure to return to Russia after an eight-month trip to the West, Lyubimov, one of the country’s most politically daring theatre artists, had been living on the edge of official tolerance for years.

It is likely that Lyubimov, his wife and son will settle in London, although he has had offers of directing assignments from major theatre and opera companies worldwide. He has in fact just directed Rigoletto for the Maggio Musicale in Florence.

Responding to his dismissal, Lyubimov told The New York Times that he would not ask political asylum from another country while he had any choice, but would attempt to rely on sympathetic governments to extend his temporary residence visas. “They have thrown me out of the theatre I created.” he added. “No foreign enemy, no matter how much he hated Russia, could possibly do the damage to our culture that these stupid little men have done.”

A successor to Lyubimov has alreaDY been named. Director/producer Anatoly V. Efros, former director of the Malava Bronnaya Theatre, has taken over responsibility for the Taganka, although he too once lost a theatre job for producing too many avant-garde plays.

Fletcher to Head Conservatory

Ellen Fletcher has been appointed director of the newly created National Theatre Conservatory at the Denver Center Theatre Company. Fletcher comes to the position from the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, where he has been conservatory director since 1970 and a principal resident director since ACT’s inception in 1965.

“The vision is clear, the plan is a good one, and the facility and the financial resources exist to allow its implementation,” Fletcher noted in response to his appointment. The new conservatory is an affiliate of the American National Theatre and Academy, and is scheduled to begin classes in October under the administration of the Denver Center’s incoming artistic director Donovan Marley.

A first-year class of 20 highly qualified theatre students will be selected to attend the conservatory on the basis of auditions conducted last month in 10 U.S. cities.

Fletcher, a distinguished director for such theatres as the American Shakespeare Festival, Seattle Repertory Theatre and the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts, will continue his association with ACT—he expects to direct two productions there next season and will a continue to conduct master classes in the ACT conservatory.

For information on the National Theatre Conservatory and its programs, contact the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, 1050 13th St., Denver, CO 80204; (303) 893-4200.

TCG Observerships Awarded to 10

Five directors, four writers and a composer have been awarded 1983-84 TCG Observerships, in the second round of travel grants designed to promote artistic “research and development,” and to encourage residencies for writers and composers.

The five Artistic Director/Associate Artistic Director Observerships, totalling almost $10,000, provide funds for transportation and expenses so that the selected artists can see the work of their peers and meet with other theatre professionals; the five Writer Observerships pay the intercity transportation costs involved in making it possible for writers to participate in rehearsals of their plays.

Amie Brockway, associate artistic director of New York’s Theater of the Open Eye, plans to observe work at theatres in Chicago and on the West Coast. Jill Charles, artistic director of Vermont’s Dorset Theatre Festival, will visit nine theatres which have undergone recent construction or reconstruction. Dudley Cocke, artistic director of Roadside Theater of Whitesburg, Ky., will include stops at a Zuni pueblo and a Navajo reservation in his trip to the West.

Nick Faust, resident director at Milwaukee Repertory Theater, has scheduled stays of several days at theatres on both coasts. Fontaine Syer, artistic director of Theatre Project Company in St. Louis, will visit five theatres in Oregon.

Writer Observerships went to New York’s American Place Theatre for Lavonne Mueller, The Only Woman General; Cincinnati Plavhouse in the Park for Stephen Metcalfe, The Loves & Hours; L.A. Theatre Works for Richard Zvonar, composer, Agamemnon; Pennsylvania Stage Company in Allentown for Russell Davis, Further Adventures of Sally; and Chicago’s Wisdom Bridge Theatre for Keith Reddin, Life and Limb.

The Observerships, funded in part by a matching grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, were selected by a committee of TCG board members Spalding Gray, Richard Nelson and Michael Weller. TCG had earlier awarded 11 other Observerships under the 1983-84 program—four went to playwrights and seven went to artistic or associate directors.

Reach Out

Actress Ronnie Gilbert, best known as a member of the folk group The Weavers, last month became the first woman to perform in Sam Shepard and Joseph Chaikin’s Tongues and Savage/Love. The two pieces, described by critic Mel Gussow as “abstract essays in emotion, words, music and body language,” played to critical acclaim at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis under Larry Lillo’s direction. Gilbert has been associated with Chaikin (who originally performed the twin bill in 1979) since she made her acting debut in Viet-Rock and America Hurrah!, two seminal productions of his Open Theatre, in 1963.

Briefly Noted

The recently renovated Playhouse on New York’s West 48th Street had to hold off plans for a dedication ceremony in honor of its new namesake—Tennessee Williams. The late playwright’s estate filed suit to prevent the use of Williams’ moniker on the marquee, but the made-over theatre’s first production, A.R. Gurney, Jr.‘s appropriately American play The Golden Age, opened on April 12 anyway. The three-character work features Irene Worth, Stockard Channing and Jeff Daniels, under John Tillinger‘s direction. At press time, the court’s decision on the use of the Williams name was still pending.

Other Places is the umbrella title for three plays by Harold Pinter, all receiving their American premieres at the Manhattan Theatre Club under the direction of Alan Schneider. The cast for the works, which run thorugh May 20, includes Dianne Wiest, Caroline Lagerfelt and Kevin Conway. For Schneider, who already has two sets of three-play programs by Samuel Beckett running at New York theatres, this brings his current tally to nine plays running simultaneous under his direction.

Though the timing is not yet set, Harold Prince has plans to stage Roza, a musical about a French prostitute and a young bov, at a West End theatre in London. Book and lyrics are by Julian More and music is by Gilbert Becaud, for the work based on the 1977 French film Madame Rosa, which starred Simone Signoret. Roza will be produced by Richard Pilbrow‘s Theatre Projects, Ltd.

Philip Glass, the innovative composer responsible for such scores as Einstein on the Beach and The Photographer, has penned a new opera, to premiere during the coming 40th anniversary season of the New York City Opera. Entitled Akhnaten, the work is based on the rivalry and intrigue of Nefertiti’s Egypt. It will be narrated in English, but sung in Accadian, Egyptian and Hebrew.

A new translation of Strindberg’s The Father is on view through May 13 at the Philadelhia Drama Guild, under the direction of William Woodman. The theatre commissioned Oliver Hailey—best known for such successful plays as Known Day and Who’s Happy Now?—to do the translating, which he accomplished working from a literal translation by Ann Weissman of the University of Pennsylvania.

Sharon Ott is the new artistic director of the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, replacing Michael Leibert and more recently, acting artistic director Joy Carlin. Ott comes from five seasons as resident director for the Milwaukee Repertory Theater where she directed more than 20 productions…After a lengthy search, the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis has appointed David Chambers artistic director, replacing Wallace Chappell, who left at the end of the 1982-83 season. Chambers has taught and directed widely…Gary Gisselman, artistic director of the Arizona Theatre Company since 1980, will step down in order to pursue other directing assignments, though he plans to stay through the development and execution of the 1984-85 season. Actor and director Ken Ruta has been appointed associate artistic director of the company, and will assist Gisselman during the transition.

Tom Dunn is taking a three-month leave-of-absence from his job as director of New York’s New Dramatists to assume the responsibility of producing director at the Kenvon Festival Theatre in Ohio…Robert Egan leaves his post as associate artistic director of the Seattle Repertory Theatre for Los Angeles this month, to take on a job at the Mark Taper Forum. He will be responsible for new play development at the Taper.

The new managing director of the Academy Theatre in Atlanta is Lisa Tunnel, who replaces John Blizzard Sylvia Traeger recentlv left the job of general manager at the Indiana Repertory Theatre to become the managing director of the American Stage Festival in Milford, N.H…The National Playwrights Conference of the O’Neill Theater Center has announced that Marion Koltun is its new administrator. She replaces Jean Passanante, who has gone on to the artistic directorship of the New York Theater Workshop.

Heiner Mueller, considered among the most important contemporary German dramatists, is teaching at Stanford University for its spring quarter, under the auspices of its department of German Studies and Drama…The People’s School of Dramatic Arts in San Francisco, dedicated to “the growth of popular theatre,” offers three 10-week terms each year, in all aspects of theatre. This year’s faculty includes playwrights Ed Bullins, David Henry Hwang and Joan Holden; dramaturg Oskar Eustis; and performers Whoopi Goldberg and Leonard Pitt.

Williamstown Theatre Festival launched its 30th anniversary season last month, with its third annual New York Cabaret. Performers at the gala event included Dick Cavett (who served as emcee), Geraldine Fitzgerald, Tammy Grimes, Celeste Holm, Ken Howard, Austin Pendleton and Betty Buckley.

Former director of the National Endowment for the Arts Inter-Arts Program from 1979 to 1982, Esther Novak has been named vice president of cultural programs for the AT&T Foundation. She has most recently served as staff manager there.

Richard Hummler has been named legitimate theatre editor of Variety, succeeding Hobe Morrison, who will remain with the paper as a consultant. Hummler has been assistant legitimate editor since 1978.

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