Gordon Davidson has a paper napkin on his wall, on which composer Elizabeth Swados has written: “I will come and work for you.”
She’s coming. The Mark Taper Forum’s just-announced 19th season begins Aug. 29, with Swados’ and Paul Schmidt’s “The Beautiful Lady,” a musical tribute to Russia’s poets, ca. 1910-1935. Davidson has scheduled it “because of the historical incidents it touches on and for its handling of the theme of the artist in society. Those poets were the rock stars of their time.” Swados will direct.
Next comes a mini-season of original plays presented by the Taper’s New Theater for Now program, Oct. 25 to Dec. 15.
Peter Parnell’s “Romance Language,” a look at American literary heroes during one of our richest periods, the mid- to late-19th Century, opens Jan. 23 as a co-production with the Old Globe in San Diego. The play gets under way when Walt Whitman, pondering the creation of “Leaves of Grass,” sees Huckleberry Finn at his window. Somehow they, and other familiar literary creators and creations, wind up in Montana. Sheldon Larry directs.
Marsha Norman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “ ‘night, Mother” has its West Coast premiere March 27, staged by Tom Moore. Frank Wedekind’s “Spring Awakening” follows on May 29, with Robert Egan directing. And Rep Six, the Taper’s 1986 Repertory Festival at the James A. Doolittle Theatre, begins April 2 with Shaw’s “Heartbreak House,” to play in tandem with Lillian Hellman’s “The Autumn Garden.”
“I generally look for thematic things in putting together a new season,” said Davidson. “I send out feelers for what’s appropriate at a given time. I’m concerned about what’s happening in South Africa, Central America, and with the poor. Plays about those concerns may not be available, but they’ll come up down the road.”
Davidson will have more to say about the season as it gets closer. “I like the ideas and feelings about American literature expressed in ‘Romance Language,’ and the Wedekind play is a modern classic,” he says, for starters. He will not be directing, unless he changes his mind about one of the rep plays. Davidson has directed three major productions and one opera in the past year, and may take “The Hands of Its Enemy” to London in the fall.
“I’m planning for our 20th year already,” he said. “I take ritual moments very seriously.”
“Sweet Charity” update: Last week, Stage Watch noted that Bob Fosse would not be directing the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera production of “Sweet Charity” as had been proclaimed March 10 in a full-page subscription announcement in The Times--he would “supervise” instead.
John Bowab, who is listed as director and was associate producer for the original Broadway production, explains: “I go back with the show to the night we screened the Fellini film ‘Nights of Cabiria,’ and Bob (Fosse) got the idea for the show. It was my first Broadway credit, so it has a warm spot in my heart. When the current producers approached Bobby to do the show with Debbie Allen, he said he wasn’t sure he could--he’s the kind of person who always has several projects going at once, all time-consuming.
“The first newspaper ad came out about 10 days after he’d realized he just couldn’t do a full six weeks. He didn’t want a summer stock production, so I’ll get it on its feet and he’ll come in for the first couple of days to make his changes. Gwen Verdon will be staging some of the original choreography as well. This score has held up, but Bobby definitely wants a fresh look at the show.”
Bowab has been a television director for seven years and directed “Mame,” starring Ann Miller, at the Huntington Hartford and “The Sea Horse” at the Merle Oberon. He has also directed on Broadway (“Mame,” “Broadway in Concert at Town Hall”). “Sweet Charity” looks to be in conscientious hands, then. And for Fosse, it’s two days or so on the job and major credit--nice work if you can get it.
The international soccer hooliganism that has drawn so much sociological attention will no doubt be on everyone’s mind who sees the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain/California Youth Theatre International Exchange production of “Zigger Zagger,” with its cast of 100, July 11 at the Wadsworth Theatre.
Violence isn’t the preoccupation here as much as “humor, songs, poignant and telling scenes which leave the audience with an uplifted sense of good feeling in the ultimate hope of our young for the future” (so reads the First International Youth Theatre Exchange press release). Still, one has to wonder. Liverpool and some Italian families aren’t feeling so uplifted at the moment.
The ambitious summer program gets under way June 27 with “Good Lads at Heart” (critically well received in New York when it played the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1979) and ends with the July 25 opening of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
The producers of the youth theater exchange are hoping that Gene Kelly will direct and Michael York will make an appearance in one of the summer productions. But that’s in the speculative stage right now, as is the hope that President Reagan will attend a performance of “Zigger Zagger.” Hope springs eternal, and in the theater, hope springs remarkably high.