PITTSBURGH, PA.: Playwright and actor Ed Dixon always knew he was destined for a career in the theatre. He has been in “15 Broadway shows or so,” he’ll tell you, “just as many national tours, and countless plays and musicals in repertory.” He has also, in days gone by, worked with names like Busby Berkeley and Ruby Keeler. His latest work, L’Hôtel, will receive a premiere at Pittsburgh Public Theater, where it is scheduled to run Nov. 13-Dec. 14.
L’Hôtel is a collaboration between Dixon and Pittsburgh Public’s producing artistic director Ted Pappas. The show takes place at a “strange and wondrous hotel” where six stars from different centuries all find themselves under the same roof. And though the plot seems innocent enough, the roots for it lie somewhere in the Paris cemetery Père-Lachaise.
“Ted Pappas and I had a meeting several years ago, and during the course of a long discussion, he said to me, ‘I’ve always thought someone should write a play about Père-Lachaise,’” Dixon said. “Then Ted handed me a list of the people who are buried there, and I went home and forgot about it until about midnight that night, when I sat upright in bed with an ‘aha!’ about what the play could be.”
The road from page to stage has been a long one for L’Hôtel. After a “frenzy” of writing, the first draft of the show was done in under a month; then came “many, many rewrites, followed by several readings with more rewrites,” Dixon said. And at first that frustrated him. But after Pappas took an interest in putting L’Hôtel in the Public’s 40th anniversary season, things fell into place.
“I could never understand why it was not being done while other projects of mine were moving to the front of the line,” Dixon said. “But now I realize, luckily, that it was never right until now, with this production, this version, this director, this theatre.”