Everyman plans season of `friendship, love'


May 13, 2004|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

The 2004-2005 season at Everyman Theatre will include two Baltimore premieres and a production of Lillian Hellman's The Children's Hour that is a collaborative effort by three institutions.

"I always look for collaborations where the sum is much greater than the parts, and I think this is just a natural fit all the way around," artistic director Vincent M. Lancisi says of the venture that involves Everyman, Columbia's Rep Stage and the Baltimore School for the Arts.

Reflecting on the nature of the season as a whole, Lancisi cites "friendship and love" as recurring themes, along with the small and interpersonal scale of several of the plays.

"In this very shaky, small world that we live in, so many things seem to be out of our control. So many things are cataclysmic and shocking - from what's going on in Iraq to terrorism rearing its ugly head in every phase of our life - and I think it's very interesting that these plays get back to the very fundamental, elemental needs we have in life of environments that we can control, of relationships that are crucial to us, of intimacy and trust."

In addition, after playing to an average of 92 percent capacity for the last two seasons, Everyman is adding a sixth week to the run of each show. This will also allow the theater's education program to bring a sixth city high school to its weekly student matinees.

Here's the season lineup:

Uncle Vanya, by Anton Chekhov; translated by Brian Friel (Sept. 9-Oct. 17). Everyman's first Chekhov production will star four of the theater company's members: Deborah Hazlett, Rosemary Knower, Vivienne Shub and Stan Weiman. Lancisi directs the Russian classic about an elderly professor who disrupts life at his country estate when he arrives with his beautiful, young second wife.

The Drawer Boy, by Michael Healy (Nov. 11-Dec. 19). One of the two local premieres, this Canadian play focuses on two middle-aged bachelor farmers who are studied by a young actor working on a play about farm life. Lancisi calls it "touching and upsetting," but also "hilariously funny" at times. Company member Frederick Strother will play one of the farmers.

The Children's Hour, by Hellman (Jan. 14-Feb. 20). Two female teachers' lives are destroyed by a student's malicious rumor in this 1934 drama. The cast will feature company members Megan Anderson, Hazlett and Tana Hicken along with 10 students from the Baltimore School for the Arts, under the direction of Donald Hicken, head of the school's theater department. After Everyman, the production will move to Rep Stage in Columbia.

Yellowman, by Dael Orlandersmith (March 18-April 24). The season's other Baltimore premiere, Orlandersmith's searing drama concerns the relationship between a light-skinned blackyoung man and his darker-skinned girlfriend. Lancisi calls it "one of the most gripping, instructive, transforming stories I've ever read. ... Two actors on a blank stage telling a riveting story."

Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, by Terrence McNally (May 20-June 26). "Probably the most intimate play we have ever done at Everyman," is the way Lancisi describes this account of a waitress and a short-order cook whose one-night stand could turn into something more. Directed by Lancisi and starring Hazlett, the production will feature Everyman's first nude scenes. However, the director says, these will be "glimpses. This is not about showing nudity. It's about showing intimacy and vulnerability and realism."

Subscriptions to the five-play season cost $50-$130 and are on sale now. Call 410-752-2208 or visit www.everymantheatre.org.

Hippodrome on screen

Audiences at the Maryland Film Festival last Friday got a sneak peak at the documentary that director William Whiteford and his producing partner, Susan Hadary, are making about the Hippodrome Theatre. Titled Showtime at the Hippodrome, the film chronicles the process of restoring the historic vaudeville house, so it seemed especially fitting to see a screening that was itself a work in progress.

Introducing the rough-cut, festival director Jed Dietz said this is the first time the festival has included works in progress (two others were also screened). It wasn't the first time Whiteford and Hadary were represented at the festival, however. Their Academy Award-winning film King Gimp opened the 2000 festival, and another documentary, Love, Josh, was screened in 2002.

Friday's audiences saw 37 minutes - a little more than half - of Showtime at the Hippodrome, which Whiteford hopes will air on Maryland Public Television. The film combines historic footage (of entertainers ranging from Cab Calloway and Baby Rose Marie to Frank Sinatra), interviews (with former audience members, performers and construction workers) and shots of the demolition and construction that went into the restoration.

The footage of the construction workers and artisans is particularly illuminating, with one plasterer waxing on in an almost spiritual vein about the meaning of his work. But the words of local historian, author and retired public-relations executive Gilbert Sandler are what perhaps best sum up the magical aura of the Hippodrome. "If these walls could talk," says Sandler, catching his breath and adding, "Oh ... if they could sing!"

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