Everyman announces first full season at new home

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It might be hard to duplicate the anticipation and publicity that greeted the inaugural season in Everyman Theatre's inviting new home on West Fayette Street, but that hasn't stopped the company from trying.

"I want next season to be even more exciting than the first one," said Vincent Lancisi, Everyman's founding artistic director. "We've got three modern classics and three newer plays. Three of the works are by women. And three are Baltimore premieres."

The 2013-2014 lineup is the first full season in the new venue, which opened in January with an acclaimed staging of Tracy Letts' "August: Osage County."

Next season will get underway Sept. 4 with the 1944 play that put Tennessee Williams on the theater world's map: "The Glass Menagerie," one of the great works of the American stage.

As usual, members of Everyman's resident acting company will be showcased throughout the season. Deborah Hazlett will portray Amanda Wingfield, the domineering mother who holds tight to her would-be poet son and insecure, figurine-collecting daughter. (Only partial casting for the season has been finalized.)

The production of Williams' classic marks a first for Everyman — the first play to be repeated in the company's 23-year history. "Menagerie" was staged during the 1999-2000 season.

"I had been thinking of doing it this season, but I held onto the rights," Lancisi said, "which was a good thing, because there's going to be a revival in New York, which will make it hard for regional theaters to get the rights. I love the idea that you won't have to go to New York to see it."

"Red," the 2010 Tony Award-winning play by John Logan about celebrated Abstract Expressionist painter Mark Rothko, will receive its first Baltimore production starting Nov. 6.

Bruce Nelson will portray the gruff artist, who has agreed to accept an unlikely commission to paint murals for an upmarket New York restaurant. Eric Berryman, the youngest member of the Everyman company, will play Ken, the assistant who begins to question Rothko's ethics and philosophy.

Beth Henley's "Crimes of the Heart," which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1981, is "already a classic, I think," Lancisi said. The play, which was adapted into a film that starred Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange and Sissy Spacek, focuses on three sisters from a dysfunctional Mississippi family who reunite after one has shot her husband.

The Everyman production, opening Jan. 8, will have a cast that includes Megan Anderson and Beth Hylton.

The season continues with a hit from the 1980 London season, Ronald Harwood's "The Dresser," opening Feb. 26.

This drama, which was made into a film starring Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay, is set in wartime Britain, where a scruffy Shakespearean troupe puts on "King Lear." The aging star player, known simply as "Sir," is a bit of a mess who owes his lines, if not his life, to his faithful dresser.

The cast features Carl Schurr as Sir, and Nelson as the dresser.

Opening April 16 will be the most recent work by Pulitzer-winning playwright Lynn Nottage, "By the Way, Meet Vera Stark," which traces the life and legacy of a former maid who breaks into Hollywood in the 1930s.

The production marks the Baltimore premiere of this 2011 work; the cast will include Dawn Ursula and Wil Love.

Closing the season will be another local premiere, Nina Raine's "Tribes," which triumphed in London in 2010 before enjoying an acclaimed off-Broadway run in 2012.

The plot concerns a young man born deaf who grows up in a hearing family where he is not allowed to learn sign language. Meeting a young woman who is going deaf, and who already knows sign language, changes everything for him. Anderson will be in the cast.

"We usually have to wait three or four years to get the rights to new plays," Lancisi said, "but we are finally making headway with the New York royalties people. [Center Stage artistic director] Kwame [Kwei-Armah] and I both have spent a lot of time making the case that we should get these plays sooner."

Lancisi planned the Everyman season with an eye on Center Stage's 2013-2014 schedule.

"Kwame and I talk a lot; there's a lot of 'I'll show you mine if you show me yours,' so we don't end up with duplication," Lancisi said. "Why have the two regional theaters in town do Shakespeare or a holiday play in the same season? I love that we have these conversations, which didn't happen with the previous management. I try to complement what Kwame is doing. They have a very exciting season, but not much in the way of recent plays from New York."

With two more productions left this season — Suzan-Lori Parks' "Topdog/Underdog" opens this week, George Farquhar's "The Beaux' Stratagem" in June — Lancisi bubbled with enthusiasm about life in the new Everyman Theatre.

"Our patrons are delighted with how smooth it is to come down here," he said. "And our audience is getting a little younger, more diverse and urbanized. 'August: Osage County' broke our records and [Yasmina Reza's] 'God of Carnage' sold 90 percent. We'll make some adjustments to the theater; we're going to shave a couple inches off the stage to provide more legroom in the first row."

Lancisi noted that the costs of operating the new space have been greater than anticipated, "but we're pushing to make sure we don't have a deficit at the end of season."

The director is especially pleased that, after 18 years at its Charles Street location, the home on Fayette is making its mark around town.

"Twice now I've heard reports of people getting into a cab and saying, 'Take me to Everyman,' " Lancisi said, "and the response was, 'Old or new?' When cab drivers know where you are, you know the word is out."

For more information on Everyman Theatre's 2013-2014 season, call 410-752-2208 or go to everymantheatre.org.

tim.smith@baltsun.com

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