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Watchful Eyes

TCG Observerships, the Roundabout’s new space, and comings and goings nationwide.

Eight theatre artists received Theatre Communications Group Observerships in the second half of the 1984-85 season, enabling them to see the work of their colleagues around the country. The grants totaled $10,250.

Affiliated artists receiving awards were Gregory Boyd, currently artistic director of PlayMakers Repertory Company, and scheduled to assume a similar post at Stage West in Springfield, Mass.; Peter Clough, co-producing director of Capital Repertory Company of Albany; Max Ferra, artistic director of New York’s INTAR; Susan Marsden, resident director at San Francisco’s Eureka Theatre Company; Kerry McKenny, artistic co-director of Hippodrome State Theatre in Gainesville, Fla.; and Rose and James Pickering, resident actors at Milwaukee Repertory Theater.

Freelance artist Moe Meyer, a performance artist nominated by Theatre X in Milwaukee, received an award; and a Rehearsal Observership went to composer Tom Tierney to be in residence during the rehearsal period of PCPA Theatrefest’s production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

The Observership committee, chaired by TCG Artist Services director Paul Cooper, included board members John Jensen, Stanley Silverman and Michael Weller.

Smiles & Scissors

The 20-year-old Roundabout Theatre Company cut the ribbon Feb. 19 on its new home on Manhattan’s East 17th Street, with a distinguished array of house-warmers on hand to offer congratulations. Actor Jim Dale (whose acclaimed performance in the theatre’s recent production of Peter Nichols’ Joe Egg is now on view on Broadway) wielded a saber carried by Alfred Lunt in Molar’s The Guardsman back in 1924. But scissors proved more effective for, from left, artistic director Gene Feist, actress Marsha Mason, city cultural affairs commissioner Bess Myerson, managing director Todd Haimes and New York State Council on the Arts chairman Kitty Carlisle Hart. The 499-seat space opened with a production of Synge’s Playboy of the Western World, directed by the Abbey Theatre’s Joe Dowling and featuring Kate Burton.

Briefly Noted

In 1954, a young upstart producer named Harold Prince charged onto the scene with The Pajama Game, and followed that achievement in rapid succession with Damn Yankees (1955) and New Girl in Town (1957). He learned his lessons well from the seasoned director of all three productions, George Abbott, and on April 22 Prince will be the first recipient of “The Mr. Abbott” award, to be presented by the Stage Directors and Choreographers Workshop Foundation. The annual award has been instituted as a fundraiser to subsidize work space for theatrical projects devised by its membership. The first award benefit dinner will be chaired by Carol Burnett at the St. Regis Roof in New York, with entertainment courtesy of cast members from past Prince productions. The presentation coincides with the opening of Prince’s latest show, Grind, on April 11.

The gravel-throated balladeer and songwriter Tom Waits has drifted into some unlikely alliances in the past, including a duet recording with Bette Midler and a movie with Sylvester Stallone. His next collaboration should stretch his laconic style to new limits, as he writes the lyrics and music for a new show to be directed by Robert Wilson. The results will be heard in a workshop production in New York this month.

That timeless proscenium theme, cuckolding, combines with this year’s cultural passion, India, as the set-up for Rex Harrison and Claudette Colbert’s stage reunion, Aren’t We All, due for an April 28 opening on Broadway. Harrison and Colbert last teamed up for The Kingfisher in 1978. Their newest vehicle is not so new at all: the Frederick Lonsdale comedy had its premiere in May 1923 at the Gaiety Theatre starring Leslie Howard. The 52nd anniversary production also features Lynn Redgrave and George Rose, under Clifford Williams’ direction.

Texas-born Judith Ivey has very effectively persuaded audiences that she was a British steambath denizen (Steaming), a California balloon dancer (Hurlyburly) and a Parisian chanteuse (Piaf). When Ivey moves to Philco Blues, she’ll be flexing her vocal chords once again, albeit in less exotic locales. The new play, written by Ronn Robinson and Jan Warner, moves Ivey closer to home, as she impersonates a Nebraska housewife who falls in love with a soap opera star. At press time, the production was headed for New York.

Actors’ Equity Associations’ Paul Robeson Award is an 11-year-old tradition, and has honored such performers and writers as Robeson, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, Lillian Hellman, Studs Terkel, Alice Childress, Edward Asner, Pete Seeger, Sam Jaffe, John Henry Falk and Harry Belafonte. Lena Horne was this year’s recipient of the citation, presented annually by Equity to an individual who embodies the spirit of Robeson.

Peter Sellars announced a royal start for the New American National Theatre in Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center with Timothy Mayer‘s production of Henry IV, Part 1, opening on March 27. This inaugural production is led by John Heard as Prince Hal, Bruce MacGill as Hotspur and Patti LuPone as Lady Percy.

It was just a cameo role, but it made the Theater Authority Fund several hundred dollars richer. In the past season, Massachusetts governor Michael S. Dukakis made an appearance in a segment of TV’s St. Elsewhere, set in a Boston hospital. In what was essentially a walk-on (or in this case, jog-on) role, Dukakis played himself trying to get treatment for a jogging injury. His turn proved healthy for the fund, which received the governor’s wages for the job.

The National Institute for Music Theater honored Stephen Sondheim, James Lapine, Bob Telson, Lee Breuer, the Houston Grand Opera and the Music-Theatre Group/Lenox Arts Center with National Music Theater Awards. Sondheim and Lapine received their awards for Sunday in the Park with George, while Telson and Breuer were honored for The Gospel at Colonus. The awards were presented in Washington, D.C. at a Kennedy Center ceremony on Feb. 12, hosted by Leontyne Price, Harold Prince and Tony Randall.

John Houseman will be honored in Houston on April 21, as he receives the 1985 Alley Theatre Award. The award, which was created last year by the Alley theatre board and presented to Arthur Miller, was conceived not only to honor theatre artists, but “to underscore the interdependence of those who create and those who perpetuate the arts at regional, national and international levels.” Mariette Hartley will serve as mistress of ceremonies, and those honoring Houseman will include Virgil Thomson, Norman Lloyd, George Grizzard, James Stevens and Patti LuPone.

Eudora Welty, who has been a long-standing supporter of Jackson, Mississippi’s New Stage Theatre and whose works have graced its stage over the years, will receive annual thanks in the form of the Eudora Welty New Playwrights Series. The series, which will present new works by American playwrights, was inaugurated March 12 at the New Stage with the premiere of Reynolds Price’s Private Contentment. The endowment for the series derives from the 1982 New Stage production of The Ponder Heart, an opera based on the Welty short story.

Entrances and Exits

Vinette Carroll has teamed up with G. David Black, former managing director of the Coconut Grove Playhouse, to form the Vinette Carroll Repertory Company. The multi-racial company of 11 performers reflects the make-up of the audience the troupe hopes to attract. The company, as yet without a permanent residence, staged its first production, Trumpets of the Lord, at Miami-Dade Community College on Feb. 12 and 13..

Stuart Gordon, producing director of the Organic Theater in Chicago, leaves on July 1 for a six-month leave of absence to pursue a film project. Gordon’s first film, Re-Animator, based on an H.P. Lovecraft tale, will be released this summer. A decision on his interim successor should be reached this month.

Dixie Unruh was elected president of the board of directors of the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego. Unruh heads a slate of eight new board members….Nikos Psacharopoulos, artistic/executive director of the Williamstown Theatre Festival, announced the creation of a new staff position, that of producing/artistic associate, to be filled by Bonnie J. Monte. Monte’s appointment follows four years with the theatre company as assistant to the artistic director. Psacharopoulos explained the need for a full-time artistic associate, as the Theatre’s associate directors Austin Pendleton and Peter Hunt are often committed to film, TV and stage work elsewhere.

Mark Cuddy of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival has had his position expanded from artistic to producing director, and will now oversee all administrative functions of the Festival in addition to his artistic responsibilities. The Festival’s former managing director was Ronald Wachholtz.

William Keens has resigned his position as executive director of the American Council for the Arts. Keens’ March 1 resignation ended a five-year association with ACA, during which time he also served as editor of now-defunct American Arts magazine. ACA leadership will be assumed by Milton Rhodes, who will move from his part-time position as president of the Council to become full-time president and chief operating officer beginning May 1…Sandra Sanderson Swan succeeds Grant Brownrigg as executive director of the National Corporate Theatre Fund. Brownrigg leaves the NCTF to go into private business…Seattle’s Intiman Theatre Company has announced the departure of general manager Simon Siegl. Siegl, who has held the position since 1977, announced his need for a change in October and stayed on through January to manage the Company’s expanded fall fundraising campaign and assist with planning.

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