Expect more 'new and weird' Lineup: The Theatre Project plans nine plays for the coming season, including 'Furlough,' 'Danceteria' and 'Transformations.'

August 10, 1998|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

The 1998-1999 Theatre Project season will continue the theater's "reputation for doing the new and weird pieces that everybody loves to see us do," promises Robert P. Mrozek, executive director.

The seven shows that Mrozek has announced range from a play about one of the four American churchwomen killed in El Salvador in 1980 to two pieces based on Grimm's fairy tales -- one from Budapest and another from Baltimore. Mrozek is also negotiating for two more shows.

The nine-play season features fewer offerings than Theatre Project's recent years (last season had 13 shows). The theater has deliberately chosen to substitute longer runs for quantity, Mrozek said. "In terms of the number of weeks, the season is substantially the same," he said.

Last season, he explained, two shows sold out, and he heard from a number of potential patrons who were unable to make it to some of the shorter engagements. "Last year was sort of a landmark year," he said. "Now the pressure's on to keep it up."

Here's the lineup so far:

"Points of Arrival" (Still Point Theatre Collective), Oct. 21-24. Based on the life of Jean Donovan, the 27-year-old laywoman who was murdered along with three Catholic nuns in El Salvador, this new work is written by Paul Amandes and produced by a theater troupe based at a Lutheran church in Chicago.

"Furlough" (The Women's Project), Dec. 4-20. The production with this working title will feature a group of interwoven plays, written by local female playwrights and co-directed by Linda Chambers and Binnie Ritchie Holum. It's set in a Baltimore bus terminal two days before Christmas.

"A Voice I Will Send" (Medusa Theatre Company), Feb. 19-March 6. Subtitled, "Sisters talk about a new millennium," this new work will incorporate the poetry, prose and dance of area African-American women and will be produced in partnership with the Artistic Connection, a Washington-based organization of women in the arts.

"Danceteria," March 26-28. A new anthology of works by independent dancers and dance troupes. Last season's program sold out.

"Transformations" (Peabody Chamber Opera), April 23-May 2. Composer Conrad Susa sets nine Anne Sexton poems to music in this examination of Grimm's fairy tales from a modern perspective.

"A Grimm Story" (Studio K), spring. This imaginative company from Budapest also explores the tales of the Brothers Grimm, in this case using puppetry and spoken text as well as music.

"Queer Cafe" (PussyCat Theatre Company), June 10-26. The third annual evening of short gay and lesbian plays will feature a new selection of works by such playwrights as David Drake, James Magruder and Linda Eisenstein.

Subscriptions to the seven-play season are $70; a five-show flex package is $50. Call 410-752-8558.

Off with the circus

Brian Liddicoat, general manager of the Mechanic Theatre, is leaving that post to run off and join the circus. Liddicoat, who has been with the Mechanic since 1993 -- first as theater manager and, since 1996, as general manager as well -- is going to work for Feld Entertainment as the general manager of what he described as "a yet-unnamed project that involves a very upscale, one-ring touring circus. It's going to be the most gorgeous thing you've ever seen."

This won't be the first circus job for Liddicoat; he held the same position with another one-ring touring circus, the Big Apple Circus, from 1988 to 1991. His varied career has also included touring as company manager of shows ranging from "A Chorus Line" to "Cats" to the Bolshoi Ballet.

Liddicoat will continue to live in Timonium, commuting to Feld headquarters in Vienna, Va., and to Florida, where the new circus will be created and rehearsed, before a March opening. "It's a wonderful challenge," he said. "I'm very excited about it."

Michael J. Brand, executive director of Jujamcyn Productions, which books and manages the Mechanic, said that Liddicoat's move took him by surprise, but that he can understand the attraction of an opportunity that probably involves more hands-on and creative responsibilities. "I think he's done a great job," Brand said. "We're hoping the best for him."

Brand added that a new general manager will be chosen by the Theatre Management Group, the Houston-based company that is part of Jujamcyn's overall management team.

Big changes for Olney

Olney Theatre turned 60 last month. In the theater's early years, Helen Hayes, Lillian Gish and Basil Rathbone performed on its stage. Designated the Official State Summer Theatre in 1978, the theater -- renamed Olney Theatre Center -- began operating year-round a decade later.

Now it is about to experience another growth spurt.

The Montgomery County theater is more than halfway toward its initial $5.5 million goal to fund the first phase of a three-phase expansion plan.

Highlights of this phase, scheduled to be completed by the end of the year 2000, include construction of a new $4 million, 450-seat theater, as well as renovation of the existing theater.

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