Center Stage honors sports equipment inventor in naming new theater

October 30, 1990|By J. Wynn Rousuck

A name usually associated with skis now will be associated with theater as well.

Center Stage has named its new upstairs theater -- scheduled to open in February -- the Head Theater, in honor of longtime board member and sports equipment innovator Howard Head and his wife, Martha.

The Head Theater's debut production -- the world premiere of Eric Overmyer's "The Heliotrope Bouquet by Scott Joplin and Louis Chauvin" (Feb. 16-April 7) -- will be assisted by $40,000 from the AT&T: OnStage program, AT&T announced at a press conference in New York yesterday.

Mr. Head -- who is best known as the inventor of the metal ski and the oversized tennis racket -- joined Center Stage's board of directors in 1964 and served as its chairman in 1966 and 1974. Six years ago, he donated more than $600,000 to the $3.5 million endowment fund. More recently, the 76-year-old businessman and his wife pledged $1 million to the theater's ongoing $13 million campaign.

"Howard Head is a shining example of someone whose continuity of philanthropy has allowed Center Stage to make very important steps at crucial moments in its history," said Stan Wojewodski Jr., Center Stage's artistic director, in a phone interview from New York.

Scheduled to be dedicated at ceremonies on Feb. 14 and 15, the Head Theater will feature movable seating towers that can be arranged in various configurations, allowing the theater to seat between 100 and 350 people.

Mr. Head, whose life has been devoted to innovation, said yesterday that he is particularly pleased to have his name on a theater "whose objective is to try out an almost infinite number of interface situations between the audience and the players."

Characterizing his interest in theater as "powerful" and "deep-rooted," Mr. Head added, "I know that [managing director] ZTC Peter Culman and his crew are going to do a marvelous job of using that space to its maximum value."

The first use to which the space will be put, "The Heliotrope Bouquet," will be the fourth play by Mr. Overmyer to premiere at Center Stage. Besides the AT&T funds, it previously received a $150,000 New American Plays grant from the W. Alton Jones Foundation of Charlottesville, Va.

Described by Mr. Wojewodski as "a play about immortality and . . . how art is a window on that issue," "The Heliotrope Bouquet" will be produced in cooperation with California's La Jolla Playhouse, where it have a subsequent production in August, supported by $40,000 from AT&T. Both productions will be directed by Mr. Wojewodski.

Center Stage received previous AT&T funds of $30,000 in 1986 in support of its production of "Roza." Besides the outright funds, AT&T: OnStage also provides productions with advertising, marketing and public relations support.

"In addition to supplying the grants, they put the full weight of their marketing department and public relations behind the efforts that are made," explained Mr. Wojewodski, "to alert the American theater constituency about the kind of work that's being accomplished throughout the country."

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