Joanne Woodward is wearing three faces in the professional arena these days. Aside from her acting stints, which are more frequently in television drama, Woodward is active as a director and television host. She sat in the director’s chair this winter for productions of Schnitzler’s La Ronde and John Lewter’s Nuptial Song at The Trinity School’s Morse Center Theater in New York. Her hosting chores are for a new public television series American Masters, a 20-part compendium spotlighting the lives and work of American luminaries in all of the creative arts. Theatre titans on the roster this fall include Eugene O’Neill, Agnes de Mille and Stephen Sondheim. Woodward will also act as host and interviewer for a program of her own devising which will profile the Group Theatre.
William Gibson, usually at home with more serious showdowns like The Miracle Worker, Two for the Seesaw and most recently the antinuclear Handy Dandy, decided to take on a more lightweight duo in his next effort. His book for the musical Raggedy Ann, based on the Raggedy Ann and Andy stories, had its December premiere in Albany, N.Y. at The Empire State Institute for the Performing Arts. Staged last season as a work-in-progress, Raggedy Ann was scored by Joe Raposo (You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown) and directed by the estimable Patricia Birch.
Often forgotten in the myriad showers of theatre hyperbole and awards is that much-maligned creature, the theatre critic. Two venerable critics recently given their due were Glenna Syse of The Chicago Sun-Times and Sir Harold Dobson, former critic for The London Sunday Times and The Christian Monitor. Syse was honored for her 30th year at the Sun-Times at the unveiling of the newspaper’s November gallery exhibit, dedicated to Chicago theatre. Dobson was feted at a Dorchester luncheon hosted by London book retailer Foyles to celebrate publication of his book Theater in Britain.
Sir Dobson might quibble with British Tourist Authority honcho Peter French-Hodges, who insists that “there are only three themes in the British theatre: spies, homosexuals, and any combination of the two.” Theme number one gets ample attention in Hugh Whitemore‘s Pack of Lies, which has its Broadway opening this month with Rosemary Harris and Patrick McGoohan taking the roles originated in London by Judi Dench and Michael Williams. Harris and McGoohan play a British couple who anxiously absorb the possibility that their neighbors and best friends may be Soviet spies.
The Kentucky winter just received a blast of fresh air from the cold war front of Eastern Europe, as the Actor’s Theatre of Louisville played host to distinguished guest directors Laszlo Marton (director-in-chief of the Hungarian theatre) and Alexa Visarion (stage director at the Theatre Giulesti in Bucharest, Romania). Visarion, currently in the U.S. as a Fullbright artist, staged Stark Young’s adaptation of Uncle Vanya. Marton and Budapest set designer Miklos Fehrer reunited for the ATL production they staged in Hungary and at the National Theatre of Finland. Both productions graced ATL stages last month.
Another Eastern European luminary, Poland’s peripatetic Roman Polanski, takes to the stage once again this September, in a Paris production of Peter Shaffer‘s The Royal Hunt of the Sun. Polanski will star in the Marigny Theatre production as Inca chief Atahualpa. This will mark a reunion for Polanski with the Shaffer canon; he last appeared on the Paris stage as Mozart in Amadeus. The autumn production will also be notable for coaxing French actor Claude Brasseur from retirement.
Members of the Ibsen Society of America would much rather light a candle for the 100th birthday of The Wild Duck than the 300th birthday of J.S. Bach. Instead of a cake, the organization of actors, directors, scholars and other Ibsen-philes celebrated the play’s centennial with a staged reading at New York’s American Place Theatre. Cast members Austin Pendleton, Geraldine Page, Jeffrey DeMunn, Wesley Addy, Lily Knight and Katina Cummings, under Susan Flakes‘ direction, were reported to have uncovered new levels of humor in the work. Ibsen society founder Rolf Fjelde hopes that the readings, which in the past included Ghosts and A Doll’s House, will stimulate a renaissance of public interest in the Norwegian master.
Entrances and Exits
Ellen Thurston and E. Henry Willett III were recently installed as Endowment Regional Representatives for the National Endowment for the Arts. Thurston heads the Northeast region, and Willett will cover the Southern and Gulf States…A recent Ford Foundation grant has enabled The First All Children’s Theatre in New York City to hire a general manager. Stepping into the new post is Michael Jonnes, former associate director of development for The Acting Company…Ed Sherin leaves his position as artistic director of The Hartman Theatre at the end of June. Among other projects in the works, Sherin begins shooting a film in September.
The League of Producers and Theatres of Greater Los Angeles, organized in March 1983 to promote L.A. theatre, as well as represent and lobby for their interests, formed their executive committee for 1984-85. Named as co-chairmen were Susan Dietz and Susan Loewenberg, along with Peg Yorkin as treasurer and Franklin Levy as secretary…The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego welcomes Robert Berlinger to a first-time dual position as associate director and director of the Globe’s Play Discovery Program. Berlinger comes to the Globe fresh from the Mark Taper Forum, where he directed the premiere production of Pass/Fail…INTAR Hispanic American Arts Center has recently appointed director George Ferencz to helm its newly created INTAR Hispanic American Music Theatre Laboratory. The new Lab, along with INTAR Hispanic Playwrights-in-Residence Laboratory (headed by Maria Irene Fornes), will pay playwrights and music-theatre artists to develop new works.
Gerald Freedman is the new artistic director of the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival in Cleveland. Freedman succeeds Vincent Dowling, who moves on to head the Pacific Conservatory for the Performing Arts in Santa Maria, Ca…Stephen Rothman steps into the newlv created dual position of associate executive director of the Asolo State Theater of Florida and The Theatre, Inc., in Sarasota. Rothman will have a pivotal role in the development of the $10 million complex that will house both companies…Tina Packer, formerly guest artistic director of the Boston Shakespeare Company, has decided to go the distance with the company in weathering its current hard times, and thus becomes the company’s permanent artistic director. Packer hopes for a strong alliance between Boston Shakespeare and Shakespeare & Company.
Theatre Communications Group has announced the appointment of Mark Jacobs as director of Finance and Administration, and Paul Cooper as director of Artist Services. Jacobs, stepping into a newly created position, will oversee the TCG business office, computer operations, development, sales and marketing, membership and administration. He has served as development director for Light Opera of Manhattan, operations manager for Equitable Life Assurance Society. executive producer for the Children’s Theatre Company of Minneapolis and vice president/finance for the New York City Opera. Cooper will develop and expand TCG services for directors, designers and actors, as well as maintaining current programs such as the casting service, observership program, Artist Bulletin and director/designer roundtables. He most recently served as manager of the ArtsConnection school enrichment program, following a stint as deputy commissioner of consumer affairs for the City of New York. He has directed at Playwrights Horizons, American Place Theatre and the Williamstown Theatre Festival, and is an artistic adviser to The Yard, a performing arts colony.
TCG has also expanded the staff of American Theatre with the appointment of Jan Stuart as assistant editor. An arts writer and regular film columnist for The Toronto Globe and Mail, Stuart worked most recently as a features reporter for Vogue magazine.
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