Bard Has Summer Company
Though summer was once synonymous with Shakespeare, summer theatres and festivals have long since forced the Bard to move over and make room for a roster of international classics, musicals, new plays—seasons as diverse as their audiences. This year is no exception.
California’s La Jolla Playhouse opens June 19 with Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, an adaptation of Mark Twain’s work by William Hauptman with music by Roger “King of the Road” Miller. Directed by artistic director Des McAnuff, Big River premiered this season at American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Mass. Also included in La Jolla’s season, which runs through Sept. 12, are the world premiere of Robert Coe’s War Babies, a domestic comedy set at the end of World War II, and As You Like It, also directed by McAnuff and featuring Amanda Plummer and John Vickery.
Up north, Seattle’s Intiman Theatre celebrates its 12th season with a varied blend of international productions June 12-Dec. 1. The English language premiere of Myth Weavers by Venezuelan Nobel Prize nominee Arturo Uslar-Pietri will be presented by Intiman under the direction of Carlos Gimenez, artistic director of Venezuela’s Atteneo de Caracas. In November, David Henry, Hwang’s The Dance and the Railroad will be presented under the direction of Tzi Ma, a member of the original New York company of the play. Intiman’s New Plays Onstage series this year features the English language premieres of five contemporary Latin American works presented in staged readings.
The New York Shakespeare Festival celebrates its 30th anniversary with a summer season featuring the work of two of America’s most distinctive directors. Wilford Leach, a perennial favorite at the outdoor Delacorte Theater, will tackle Shakespeare’s Henry V with Kevin Kline in the lead. As a decided contrast, Richard Foreman follows with H.
Leivick’s The Golem, featuring F. Murray Abraham as the rabbi who dabbles in magic to invoke a protector for his people. As usual, all performances in the season, which runs from June 22 through Sept. 2, are free-of-charge.
Two companies are vacationing in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. for the summer. New York City’s Circle Repertory Company moves into the Saratoga Performing Arts Center’s Little Theatre with the world premiere of George Furth’s Precious Sons July 2-21, followed by the Syracuse Stage productions of Booth Tarkington’s Clarence and Shaw’s Arms and the Man, performed in repertory Aug. 3-26. Both plays from Syracuse are directed b Arthur Storch.
Cleveland’s Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival offers an extremely varied summer season July 5-Oct. 21, highlighted by the American premiere of Thornton Wilder’s Alcestis and Apollo, or The Alcestiad. This rare Wilder work is joined by Our Town, She Stoops to Conquer and Edward Duke’s adaptation of Jeeves Takes Charge, among other plays.
Of course, such a random sampling hardly reveals the scope of this summer’s schedule. Some theatres are sticking to a strictly Shakespearean line-up; the Berkeley Shakespeare Festival offers Othello, The Merchant of Venice and Love’s Labour’s Lost July 11-Sept. 23. Others are more eclectic: The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego presents Fay and Michael Kanin’s Rashomon, Othello, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Lee Kalcheim’s Friends and Frank Dunlop and Jim Dale’s Scapino! The New Jersey Shakespeare Festival offers Othello, The Merchant of Venice, The School for Scandal, Tad Mosel’s All the Way Home, Neil Simon’s The Sunshine Boys and Arthur Miller’s The Crucible from June 27 through Sept. 23. The North Carolina Shakespeare Festival’s July-August season includes King Lear, The Merry Wives of Windsor, A Streetcar Named Desire and a stage adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, while the American Stage Festival in Milford, N.H. is producing Romeo and Juliet, The Man Who Came to Dinner, Russell Davis’ Sally’s Gone, She Left Her Name, Greater Tuna and Cole Porter’s You Never Know, from June 5 through Sept. 2.
Two theatres in Massachusetts are producing all-American summer seasons. The Dorset Theatre Festival in Vermont includes Kaufman and Hart’s George Washington Slept Here, Wilder’s The Matchmaker, Greater Tuna and the world premiere of John Nassivera’s Making a Killing, while the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Massachusetts offers Samuel Taylor’s Sabrina Fair, William Inge’s A Loss of Roses and Zona Gayle’s Miss Lulu.
Finally, there are those theatres that have avoided the classics altogether and built their seasons around the best of the modern repertoire. In the South, the Barter Theatre of Abingdon, Va. has already begun its 1984 season with Tintypes, moving into full swing June 6-Oct. 7 with Beth Henley’s Crimes of the Heart, Neil Simon’s The Good Doctor, Joanna M. Glass’ Artichoke, Bill C. Davis’ Mass Appeal, David V. Robinson’s Promenade, All! and John van Druten’s Bell, Book and Candle. The American Theater Company in Aspen, Colo. presents Taking a Chance on Love by Paul Blake, with music from Jerome Kern, Hugh Martin and others; High Spirits, a musical comedy based on Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit; and Pinter’s The Lover and A Slight Ache presented by Germinal Stage Denver, all running between July 4 and Aug. 8.
“We’re increasingly disturbed by the difficulty of getting new music theatre works onstage and keeping them there after opening night.” That collective statement by a group of leaders in opera and musical theatre—including directors Hal Prince and Gordon Davidson, Chicago Lyric Opera general manager Ardis Krainik, TCG director Peter Zeisler and others—set the tone for a May 18 colloquium in New York devoted to forging new alliances for music theatre.
The meeting was a cooperative project of the National Institute for Music Theatre and Theatre Communications Group, and was part of the NIMT’s 10-day Music Theatre Celebration 84 at City Center Theatre. The program included performances of works-in-progress by Sheldon Harnick and Richard Wargo, the concert premiere of “The Italian Section” from Philip Glass’ the CIVIL warS score and a presentation of music video works by such varied artists as David Bowie, Ping Chong, Gian Carlo Menotti and Meredith Monk.
“We’re up against barriers to producing new works,” noted Zeisler. “These include the prohibitive costs of mounting them, the lack of alternatives to Broadway, securing union cooperation and a lack of informed critical reaction.” NIMT plans to publish recommendations and plays of action which were developed at the colloquium.
Shaping Arts Policy
Arts and Public Policy in the United States is the topic of the 67th session of the American Assembly, in progress in New York May 31-June 3, and featuring a host of prominent speakers and participants from the art world, the corporate sector and government.
In addition to the numerous working sessions over the four days, addresses are being delivered by Howard Johnson, director of many U.S. corporations and a trustee of various nonprofit institutions; Philip Johnson, noted architect; and Sidney R. Yates, arts champion and chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee. Howard Johnson is speaking on private and public influences on public policy; Philip Johnson tackles the subject of the impact of his art form on the shape and quality of urban life; and Yates discusses the federal government’s presence in the formation of arts policy.
The Assembly is directed by W. McNeil Lowry, former vice president for the humanities and the arts at the Ford Foundation. In conjunction with the event, Lowry has edited a comprehensive volume, The Arts and Public Policy in the United States, which will subsequently be published by Prentice-Hall. States Lowry, “For too long, leaders both within and without the field have treated the question of public policy in terms of advocacy, concentrating on increas ing financial needs. Questions of public policy are at bottom really questions of the values in American society.”
Among those scheduled to participate in the Assembly are artistic directors John Lion of San Francisco’s Magic Theatre and John Jory of Actors Theatre of Louisville, Hartford Stage managing director Bill Stewart, composer Elizabeth Swados and TCG director Peter Zeisler.
A lamb’s first cry is articulated in Animeime, a story-telling production by Tokoyo’s Kaze-No-Ko (Children of the Wind) Theatre, one of about a dozen international companies performing at the World Theatre Festival for Young Audiences at the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition this month in New Orleans. Honolulu Theatre for Youth and Children’s Theatre Company of Minneapolis will be among the U.S. participants in the Festival, which is co-produced by ASSITEJ/USA and directed by ASSITE] president Ann Shaw. A symposium entitled “Theatre and Children in Tomorrow’s World” is set in conjunction with the Festival —director Jon Jory will deliver the keynote address.
Internationalism Is Conference Theme
Theatre Communications Group’s 1984 National Conference will be held June 27-July 1 at Amherst College in Massachusetts. The biennial, by-invitation-only event will bring together more than 250 leaders of America’s nonprofit professional theatres to explore issues central to the growth of the field.
“An Examination of Process: Exploring Creative Collaboration in the Theatre” is the title of the conference. TCG director Peter Zeisler said guest speakers will include several major international theatre artists.
“Theatre professionals in the U.S. often work virtually in isolation, separated from one another by the vast size of the country and from their peers in most other countries by two oceans,” Zeisler noted. “We hope to take advantage of the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival, as well as several other festivals and events scheduled on this continent during the summer, to have a group of international artists join us to share their ideas about their craft with their American peers.”
The main focus of the conference will be on the collaborative artistic process of theatre, as well as the theatre’s role as a cultural forum reflective of both political and social issues. “This is a particularly appropriate topic in this U.S. presidential election year,” Zeisler added.
Attendance at the conference is limited to representatives of TCG Constituent and Associate theatres and invited unaffiliated theatre artists. The meeting is designed as a retreat rather than a convention, to provide a relaxed atmosphere for the exchange of ideas among artists.
Doors of Perception
Mime Daniel Stein will be among more than 20 artists and companies at Davis & Elkins College in Elkins, W.V. The festival, held in conjunction with the second National Mime Conference and the annual meeting of the National Mime Association, will turn the small Allegheny mountain town into a world capital for mimes and clowns. Robert Shields of Shields & Yarnell and Tom Leabhart of Corporeal Mime Theatre will host such groups as Czechoslovakia’s Polivka, Canada’s Mime Omnibus and Britain’s Moving Picture Mime Show.
Historic theatres in Pittsburgh, Cleveland and other cities are on the agenda of the League of Historic American Theatres’ annual conference and theatre tour June 27-30, which is open to the public for the first time. Ten theatres in all will be toured—including the boldly redesigned Cleveland Playhouse complex—with workshops and problem-solving sessions to be held in some of them. Tour information is available from LHAT, 1600 H St. N.W., Washington, DC 20006.
A summer program of four courses in the Performance Studies Department of New York University will tackle the issue of how gender conditioning and sex-role stereotyping informs and shapes performance. The graduate level courses, also open to undergraduates, have titles such as “Sexuality on Stage” and “Body Image: Performing a Look.” For registration information contact Performance Studies, 300 South Bldg., NYU, New York, NY 10012; (212) 598-2596.
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