'The Skin of Our Teeth' to be a musical

October 09, 1994|By Joseph C. Koenenn | Joseph C. Koenenn,Newsday

John Kander and Fred Ebb, the songwriting team that put us inside a South American prison ("Kiss of the Spider Woman") and a Nazi-era night club ("Cabaret"), are setting Thornton Wilder's absurdist comedy "The Skin of Our Teeth" to music. Joseph Stein is writing the book and director Jerry Zaks is involved. Given Mr. Zaks' connections with the Jujamcyn theaters, that organization would presumably be part of the project.

"It's certainly something I'd be very interested in, but we don't have any formal arrangement at the moment," Jujamcyn's creative director, Jack Viertel, said. A reading, probably in December, will determine the next step. Mr. Zaks, by the way, has a Nov. 7 date to receive this year's "Mr. Abbott" Award. The award, named for the legendary George Abbott, will be presented by the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation at a benefit at the Copacabana.

Waiting for Carol

Carol Burnett wants you to know that, yes, she'd like to do a Broadway show, or even something Off-Broadway, but it's got to be a new work, not a revival. She sent word to that effect after printed speculation three weeks ago that she might appear in "Call Me Madam" for City Center's "Encores" series. She won't be doing that, but she is "actively looking" for a new play or musical that will put her on a New York stage, her publicist said.

A New York trio

Three Manhattan companies are among five theaters sharing this year's grants from the Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays:

Circle Repertory Company receives $50,000 to support its production of "Riga" next fall. William M. Hoffman's play draws parallels between the Holocaust and the AIDS plague.

A grant of $68,000 will support Mabou Mines' production next June of "The Epidog," a Lee Breuer epic using music, storytelling, dance and Japanese puppetry.

"The Venus Hottentot," Suzan-Lori Parks' play based on a 19th-century African woman whose figure inspired the bustle, will be produced by the New York Shakespeare Festival next season with a $40,000 grant.

Other awards are $70,000 to Hartford (Conn.) Stage for Edwin Sanchez's "Clean," and $26,000 to Lorraine Hansberry Theater, San Francisco, for Ifa Bayeza's "Homer G & The Rhapsodies in the Fall of Detroit." The five authors also receive $10,000 each.

A Sherman trio

Jonathan Marc Sherman works best when he's got about five things to do. "If I'm working on just one, I lie in bed a lot like Ann-Margret in 'Carnal Knowledge,' " the actor-author said this week. Right now, he's got at least three things going, most immediately the lead in Israel Horovitz' "Unexpected Tenderness." Mr. Sherman, a youthful-looking almost-26-year-old, plays a teen-ager preparing for an oratory contest while his family is disintegrating.

Mr. Sherman's play-writing came out of his career as a child actor. "I was going to auditions and reading horrible scripts," he said. "The only way to deal with a cocky 13-year-old -- my father gave me a typewriter so I could write my own."

A revised version of one of his earlier plays, "Veins and Thumbtacks," will have its New York premiere this weekend at Theater Row Theater. The saga of a failed stand-up comic will be produced by the Malaparte Theater, which Mr. Sherman co-founded two years ago.

Mr. Sherman has also completed another play, "Evolution," about a Darwin scholar at Harvard who ends up in California creating a sitcom about Adam and Eve. It was commissioned by Manhattan Theater Club and will have a reading Oct. 13 "to see what they think of it."

Mixed bill

Circle Rep doesn't open the season in its new home, Circle in the Square Downtown, until Nov. 2, but it's having a kind of housewarming Saturday. A daylong street festival on Bleecker Street between Thompson and MacDougal will feature performances, chats with company founders Tanya Berezin and Lanford Wilson, food, raffles and more.

Unlike everyone else's, the Ensemble Studio Theater's Octoberfest is nonalcoholic: a four-week marathon of more than 50 new plays. Among the authors are Mark O'Donnell, John Christoper Jones, Romulus Linney, Laura Maria Censabella, Leslie Lyles, Keith Reddin, David Margolies, Bill Bozzone and Meir Ribalow. The festival began this week with Toni Ann Johnson's "Gramercy Park Is Closed to the Public," starring James DuMont and Frances Foster.

All shows are free.

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