Nurturing playwrights' talents at Center Stage


October 18, 2001|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

Three commissioned scripts will receive readings in Center Stage's new series of play workshops called "First Look." The playwrights participating in this debut effort are Tony Award-winner Warren Leight, actor/writer/solo performer Danny Hoch and award-winning playwright Lynn Nottage.

Each work-in-progress will be cast with professional actors, who will rehearse for four days before presenting two staged readings in the Head Theater. The playwrights will be in residence and can revise their scripts before the second reading, according to artistic director Irene Lewis, who hopes to include post-play discussions with the authors.

Here's the lineup (final titles are not yet available):

Dec. 13 and 14: Co-commissioned by South Coast Repertory, Nottage's new play is set in the boudoirs of New York in the 1900s. She is the author of Crumbs from the Table of Joy, Mud, River, Stone, and Poof! (which was honored by the Actors Theatre of Louisville in 1993).

Jan. 31 and Feb. 1: Under the working title No Foreigners Beyond This Point, Leight's new play is about his experiences in China. Leight won the 1999 Tony Award for Side Man. He also wrote the libretto for Mayor: The Musical and is screenwriter and director of The Night We Never Met, starring Matthew Broderick.

March 7 and 8: Hoch's new work will be a multi-actor play, unlike two of his previous works performed in Baltimore. Those one-man shows were Jails, Hospitals & Hip Hop at Center Stage's 1998 Off Center Festival and Some People at the Theatre Project in 1994.

Tickets to "First Look" will cost $10 ($5 for Center Stage subscribers) and go on sale later this month.

That's not the only ticket bargain at Center Stage. The theater's current production, The Pajama Game, focuses on labor unrest. Members of any labor union who show their union cards will receive a $5 discount for evening performances, Sundays-Thursdays, through Nov. 25.

In addition, theatergoers who performed in a high school, college or community theater production of this classic musical can get a $3 discount to Sunday evening performances through Nov. 25. Bring a copy of your production's program to the box office. (Only one discount per ticket; no double dipping for union members who have acted in the show.)

And one more Pajama Game gimmick - theatergoers are encouraged to wear pajamas to the 8 p.m. Halloween performance. Each patron in pj's will receive a bag of sweets and be entered in a drawing for a $100 gift certificate to a local retailer. The theater cautions, however, "As The Pajama Game is a production suitable for the entire family, please be sure that sleepwear covers all of the expected body parts." Tickets to the Oct. 31 performance cost $30. For information, call 410-332-0033.

Hambleton in Hall of Fame

Baltimorean T. Edward Hambleton, a pioneer of off-Broadway theater, will be inducted into New York's Theater Hall of Fame in January. Two seasons ago, Hambleton, 90, received a Tony Award for lifetime achievement.

With Norris Houghton (who died Oct. 9), Hambleton co-founded New York's legendary Phoenix Theatre in 1953. The Phoenix was one of the first off-Broadway venues; alums include Helen Hayes, Arthur Kopit, Harold Prince, Meryl Streep and Wendy Wasserstein. Hambleton remained at the helm until the Phoenix closed in 1982.

Locally, Hambleton was a founding board member of Center Stage and was an instrumental consultant when the Baltimore Center for the Performing Arts was established to run the Mechanic Theatre in the mid-1970s.

Reached at Broadmead, the Cockeysville retirement community where he lives with his wife, Hambleton pointed out that he had sponsored the late director Ellis Rabb for induction in 1998. "I always felt a part of the Theater Hall of Fame," he said, "but this is a more personal tribute."

Hambleton is one of eight Hall of Fame inductees this year. The list includes: producer/director/critic Robert Brustein, the late choreographer Peter Gennaro, actor George Grizzard and composer Charles Strouse. Selected by 400 theater critics and Hall of Fame members, honorees must have a Broadway career of at least 25 years and a minimum of five major theater credits.

New at Olney

Olney Theatre Center broke ground on its new $6.2 million theater and announced its 2002 season in one fell swoop last week. The new building, which is due to open in 2003, will seat 450 and be located to the west of the current main stage. "We're going to use both spaces so we'll have the capability of extending popular shows," said Bill Snyder, general manager.

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