Gone But Not Forgotten Theatres and Theatre Companies Part 3
In part one we discussed The Pearl Co., then WPA and Circle Rep.
The Hudson Guild Theatre Co. performed in an auditorium in the community service center of what were basically low-income housing projects in W. 26th St. It was founded by playwright PJ Barry, who turned it over to Craig Anderson, who ran it for several years before moving out to Los Angeles to become a successful TV producer. For a few years, the Hudson Guild was an Off Broadway powerhouse. It was here that On Golden Pond and the American premiere of DA started, both of which later had successful Broadway runs. They also did a political farce by Lee Kalcheim, Win With Wheeler, which was directed by none other than George Abbott, over 100 years old at the time but still going strong. After Anderson’s departure, though, the company went slowly downhill, petering out several years ago. Now, it’s basically a community theatre.
Circle in the Square was the Granddaddy of the Off Broadway movement. Founded by Theodore Mann in 1951, in a small space in Sheridan Square, they hit the jackpot early on with an acclaimed production of a pretty much forgotten play by Tennessee Williams, Summer And Smoke, which made a star of its Alma Winemiller, Geraldine Page, and a few years later, an equally acclaimed production of another forgotten play, this one by Eugene O’Neill, called The Iceman Cometh, which made a star of its Hickey, Jason Robards, Jr. In 1960, Mann relocated to a new space in Bleecker Street, a long, jutting stage with seating on three sides. In 1970 he relocated again, to a new space just below the ground floor of a skyscraper between W. 50th and W. 51st Streets, where he produced memorable star-driven revivals of classics such as Uncle Vanya, directed by Mike Nichols and starring Nicole Williamson as Vanya, Julie Christie as Yelena, Barnard Hughes as Serebryakov and George C. Scott as Astrov. Lillian Gish played the nurse. This played before I got to New York so I didn’t see it. But I saw another fine production of Uncle Vanya later there, with Tom Courtenay as Vanya. Scott was a brilliant Willy in Death Of A Salesman there. Once In A Lifetime, directed by Tom Moore, the first revival of this comedy classic since its original production (detailed memorably by Moss Hart in his classic autobiography, Act I) starred John Lithgow, Treat Williams and Deborah May. George S. Irving was hilarious as Glogauer, based on Samuel L. Goldwyn, and Max Wright equally hilarious as flustered, flabbergasted playwright Lawrence Vail, which the playwright and director George S. Kaufman had played in the original production. Another hit was a transfer from the Long Wharf Theatre of O’Neill’s AH, WILDERNESS, directed by Long Wharf’s Artistic Director, with a wonderful cast which included Richard Backus, Swoozie Kurtz, William Swetland and Theresa Wright. Occasionally, they did a new play or musical, such as Michael Weller’s Loose Ends, directed by Alan Schneider, starring Kevin Kline and Roxanne Hart, and a musical version of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina starring Ann Crumb, directed rather ineptly by Mann himself. Sadly, the theatre company went bankrupt in 1997 and CITS is now a commercial rental house. While it has housed some memorable productions such as revivals of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Once On This Island, I miss the good old days when Mann was running the show.
As is the way of the march of time the WPA, Circle Rep and Hudson Guild Theatres died out, but in their place have sprung numerous Off Broadway companies, many of which have done terrific productions; but I miss the old days when I could see a new play by Larry Ketron at the WPA, Wilson’s latest at Circle Rep and an Irish import by the likes of Hugh Leonard at the Hudson Guild.
Stay tuned for part 4
*Mark Returns To The Magis Theatre Company
Magis Theatre Company will present a revival of their critically acclaimed production of *mark, a solo performance of the Gospel of Mark. Originally produced at La MaMa ETC and directed by Luann Purcell Jennings in 2014, it features original music composed by internationally acclaimed, award-winning composer Elizabeth Swados. Actor George Drance will again perform the role of the storyteller. *mark will be performed at Theatre 315 located at 315 W. 47th St. New York, NY. The show dates are as follows: Wednesdays, April 12 and 19 at 7PM; Thursdays, April 6, 13 and 20 at 7pm; Friday April 7, 14 and 21 at 8PM; Saturday April 8, 15 and 22 at 2PM. Tickets are available at Eventbrite: tinyurl.com/36h7rzdt. The production is directed by Jackie Lucid.
The Gospel of Mark, the oldest of the four gospels, had an early tradition of being performed aloud from start to finish. It was finally written down during Nero’s brutal persecution of the followers of “the Way.” Recited in its entirety to give courage to this community of quiet rebels, their radical compassion put them in danger because their inclusivity threatened the Empire’s status quo. Today it is rare for an audience to hear this gospel performed in its totality, or to experience it with the immediacy of that dangerous period of oppression. In his contemporary solo performance, Drance, reclaims the urgency of the words as when they were first spoken. He examines the message of commitment and love through the eyes of a street artist, using drawings to illustrate and illuminate the text.
Magis Theatre Company, founded in 2003, is an ensemble of actors and teaching artists who came together out of desire: desire to teach, desire to train, and desire to act. The company has produced a variety of actor driven, physically based theatre productions that explore the human condition. Recent productions include: Thornton Wilder’s The Alcestiad performed at FDR Four Freedoms Park; Calderon’s Two Dreams, presenting both the 1636 comedia and the 1677 auto sacramental of Life is a Dream; Leslie Lewis’ Miracle in Rwanda, testifying to the transformative power of prayer and forgiveness. Their adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s fantastical spiritual tale The Great Divorce was hailed by the New York Times as “thought provoking… long on theatrical skill and remarkably short on preachiness.”
Actor George Drance, Artist-in-residence at Fordham University, has performed and directed in over twenty countries on five continents. He has served as artistic director of Theatre YETU in Kenya and artistic associate for Teatro la Fragua in Honduras. Drance has been a guest artist and lecturer at Columbia University, Cornell University, Marquette University, Marymount Manhattan College, Hebrew Union College, and Boston College. In March, Drance, who is Ukrainian, will appear at LA Mama in Radio 477!, a new show created by Yara Arts Group and Ukrainian artists about the city of Kharkiv, its jazz history, and how it stood up to Putin today. With texts and lyrics by award-winning Ukrainian poet Serhiy Zhadan, music by Anthony Coleman, it is directed by Virlana Tkacz.
Perhaps best known for her Broadway and international smash hit Runaways, the late Elizabeth Swados (1951-2016) composed, wrote and directed issue-oriented theatre for over 30 years. Some of her works include the Obie Award winning Trilogy at La Mama, and Alice at the Palace with Meryl Streep at the New York Shakespeare Festival. Her awards include: Five Tony® nominations, three Obie® Awards, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Ford Grant, the Helen Hayes Award, a Lila Acheson Wallace Grant, PEN, and others.
Visit the Magis Theatre Company online at: https://www.magistheatre.org
Broadway’s A Doll’s House Meticulously Stunning Revival Soars Like a Birdie Above That Clumsy Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
For a revival to find its footing, it has to have a point of view or a sense of purpose far beyond an actor’s desire to perform a part, whether it suits them or not. It needs to radiate an idea that will make us want to sit up and pay attention. To feel its need to exist. And on one particular day in March, I was blessed with the opportunity to see not just one grande revival, but two. One was a detailed pulled-apart revolutionary revival of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House that astounded. The other, unfortunately, was a clumsy revival of Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof that fell lazily from that high-wired peak – not for a lack of trying, but from a formulation that never found its purpose.
Theatre News: Smash, I Need That, Good Night, Oscar, Funny Girl, This Beautiful Lady and In The Trenches: A Parenting Musical
The NBC television series Smash is coming to Broadway for the 2024-2025 season. Robert Greenblatt, Neil Meron and Steven Spielberg will produce. The musical will feature a book co-written by three-time Tony Award nominee Rick Elice and Tony winner Bob Martin. Tony and Grammy winners Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (Some Like It Hot). The team earned three Emmy nominations for their songs from the “Smash” series will pen the score, which will feature numbers from the TV show.
Five-time Tony winner Susan Stroman (New York, New York) will direct and Tony nominee and Emmy Award winner Joshua Bergasse will choreograph.
The series was created by Theresa Rebeck and Spielberg, launch the series. Spielberg is also one of the co-producers of Good Night, Oscar, which begins performances at the Belasco Theatre on April 7.
Official dates, theater, creative team and casting for the “Smash” stage musical will be announced at a later date.
Speaking of the Pulitzer Prize finalist playwright Theresa Rebeck, Danny DeVito and Lucy DeVito are set to star in her new play I Need That at the Roundabout. The new comedy will be directed by Tony nominee Moritz von Stuelpnagel which will open at the American Airlines Theatre in October. The cast will also include Ray Anthony Thomas. … Also newly announced for Roundabout’s new Broadway season is a spring 2024 revival of Samm-Art Williams’ 1980 Tony-nominated play “Home.” Tony winner Kenny Leon will direct
Speaking of Good Night, Oscar, Doug Wright’s play was named finalist for 2023 new play award by The American Theatre Critics Association. The other six finalists for the 2023 Harold and Mimi Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award include: Born With Teeth by Liz Duffy Adams, the ripple, the wave that carried me home by Christina Anderson, Sally & Tom by Suzan-Lori Parks, Spay by Madison Fiedler and
Swing State by Rebecca Gilman.
Paolo Montalban and Anne L. Nathan are joining Lea Michele in Funny Girl as Florenz Ziegfield and Mrs. Strakosh. Montalban and Nathan will replace original cast members Peter Francis James and Toni DiBuono, who take their final bows on March 26th.
Elizabeth Swados’ This Beautiful Lady will play at La MaMa this May. Previews will begin May 5 for the Off-Broadway run ahead of the May 8 press opening, with performances set through May 28 in the Ellen Stewart Theatre.
In The Trenches: A Parenting Musical, with book, music, and lyrics by Graham & Kristina Fuller, will receive industry readings on Friday, March 24th at 11am & 3pm at Ripley Grier Studios. The readings will be directed by Jen Wineman (Dog Man: The Musical) and will feature music direction by Rebekah Bruce (Mean Girls) and arrangements by Dan Graeber, Graham & Kristina Fuller.
The cast of In The Trenches features Amanda Jane Cooper (Wicked), Jelani Remy (The Lion King, Ain’t Too Proud), Christine Dwyer (Wicked), Caesar Samayoa (Come From Away), Max Crumm (Grease, Disaster!), and Vidushi Goyal.Join two bleary-eyed young parents as they trudge through the trenches and discover their new post-baby identities. In an evening of new-parent greatest hits, a foul-mouthed toddler zeroes in on “the most dangerous thing in the room”, tap dancing towards bleach, knives, and tide pods; a chronically-overlooked younger sibling sings the “second child blues”; a mom trio celebrates yoga pants in an R&B love song to the “official mom uniform”; dad discovers he’s not the “ice-cream and movie-night cool parent” but rather the “do your homework real parent” amid a kiddo sugar-crash; and mom retrieves a sticky, hair-covered pacifier from the floor of a LaGuardia bathroom while her baby screams bloody murder and her flight boards without her.
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