Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dramaturg's Diary: Catching up with Alumni

I have been feeling immersed in Signature alumni playwrights lately, having had the honor and pleasure connecting and re-connecting with many of them at Signature’s Annual Gala on March 1st. Or, maybe they have also been on my mind because they have been positively ubiquitous these past couple of seasons, with new and past works being produced all over the country, as well as New York and abroad. Therefore, as we wrap up the 2009-2010 Season, I thought that a suitable subject for the revival of “Dramaturg’s Diary,” would be highlighting some of the recent work of our prolific past Playwrights-in-Residence.

This season saw a wealth of brand new work from our playwrights. In January 2010, Charles Mee (2007-2008) collaborated with the SITI Company and Martha Graham Dance Company on American Document, inspired by Graham’s 1938 piece of the same name. A workshop of American Document was presented in the Under the Radar Festival at The Public Theater and will be seen in June at The Joyce Theatre.

Lee Blessing’s (1992-1993) new play, When We Go Upon the Sea, opens at Philadelphia’s InterAct Theatre Company on April 19th. Signature’s bookstore is now stocking Romulus Linney: Maverick of the American Theatre by John Fleming, a new study of Signature’s Founding Playwright-in-Residence’s (1991-1992) life and work. New York’s Abingdon Theatre Company presented the world premiere of Mr. Linney’s Love Drunk in April 2009. Next season Lincoln Center Theater will present the world premiere of John Guare’s A Free Man of Color, beginning in October in the Vivian Beaumont Theater.

And of course, Horton Foote’s (1994-1995) The Orphans’ Home Cycle continues to run at Signature’s The Peter Norton Space, in a co-production with Hartford Stage.

Many plays by our playwrights found their way to New York for the first time this season, or can be anticipated soon. Sam Shepard’s Ages of the Moon recently closed at Atlantic Theatre Company. Mr. Mee’s Fetes de la Nuit was presented at The Ohio Theatre in February, and Limonade Tous Les Jours will arrive in April. Next season, Edward Albee’s Me, Myself, and I will open Playwrights Horizons' 2010-2011 Season. Further afield, Paula Vogel’s (2004-2005) A Civil War Christmas was seen at Boston’s Huntington Theatre Company in November of 2009.

Revisits to our writers’ past work have been rampant all over the country (and abroad!) this season and next season. The California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) School of Theater celebrated Adrienne Kennedy (1995-1996) with examinations of her plays Funnyhouse of a Negro, June and Jean in Concert, and Sun: A Poem for Malcolm X Inspired by His Murder. Signature is also selling limited edition autographed hard copies of Ms. Kennedy’s People Who Led to My Plays in our lobby bookstore at The Peter Norton Space. The New Group gave another look to Sam Shepard’s A Lie of the Mind, which closed this past weekend.

This week INTAR Theatre, in association with NYU’s Department of English, will begin the 2010 New York Fornes Festival, in honor of the upcoming 80th birthday of Maria Irene Fornes (1999-2000), with presentations of Ms. Fornes’s work all over Manhattan. Plays include Fefu and Her Friends, Successful Life of 3, What of the Night?, and a screening of the film, "The Rest I Make Up": Documenting Irene.

Currently running in New York is Arthur Miller’s (1997-1998) A View from the Bridge, which can be seen on Broadway at the Cort Theatre until April 4th. After that it will make room for August Wilson’s (2006-2007) Fences, which begins on April 14th. Also in April, Charles Mee’s collage ode to collage artist Robert Raushenberg, bobrauschenbergamerica, arrives at Dance Theatre Workshop.

Signature playwrights have been active overseas as well: if you happen to be in London, John Guare’s (1998-1999) Six Degrees of Separation can currently be seen at The Old Vic and Lanford Wilson’s (2002-2003) Serenading Louie is running at The Donmar Warehouse. Mr. Wilson’s Fifth of July will be seen at Williamstown Theatre Festival this summer, The Hot L Baltimore at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company in March of 2011, and a revival of Talley’s Folly will hit Broadway next season as well.

Mr. Albee will also be honored at Washington D.C.’s Arena Stage, who will celebrate Mr. Albee over the course of three months with readings of all thirty of his plays and productions of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and At Home at the Zoo. Finally, Chicago’s Court Theatre will present Samm-Art Williams’s (NEC Season, 2008-2009) Home in November 2010.

In addition to their thriving writing careers, many of our playwrights give of themselves as teachers, mentors, producers, directors, even performers. Leslie Lee (NEC Season, 2008-2009), when he has not been attending every Signature alumni event and opening night this season, has been managing director of The Negro Ensemble Company, who presented his Sundown Names and Night Gone Things at the Castillo Theatre in May 2009. Bill Irwin (2003-2004) was featured in Roundabout Theatre Company’s revival of the musical Bye Bye Birdie, which ran from September 2009 until January 2010 at the Henry Miller Theatre on Broadway. Charles Fuller (NEC Season, 2008-2009) has been supporting new work and the rising generation of playwrights, mentoring The Belle of Belfast by Nate Rufus Edelman as part of The Cherry Lane Mentor Project.

I’m afraid this list does not even scratch the surface of our playwright’s activity this season and next. Suffice to say that it seems to have been a banner year for our writers. Congratulations to all of our past Playwrights-in-Residence on their current and future projects, and looking forward to seeing you at the theatre.

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