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by Roger Calderon

april 2009

volume XVII No. 8

A quartet of theatrical titans -- music icon Sir Elton John (Billy Elliot), actress Angela Lansbury (Blithe Spirit), writer/director Arthur Laurents (West Side Story), and producer/philanthropist Herbert Blodgett (Talk Radio) -- will be on hand to receive Special Awards of Distinction at the 75th Annual Drama League Awards, to be held on May 15 at the Marriott Marquis’ Broadway Ballroom in the heart of Times Square. To reserve seats for this extraordinary afternoon, which includes a pre-event cocktail reception and the awards ceremony luncheon, use the enclosed order form or call (212) 244-9494 ext. 5. One of the few global music superstars of this century, Sir Elton John will be presented with The Drama League’s Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theatre Award. Spanning a four-decade career that includes 56 Top 40 hits and five Grammys, Sir Elton was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. Sir Elton’s score for the Disney’s The Lion King garnered him an Academy Award for the song “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.” When Julie Taymor adapted the hit film into a Broadway musical, he provided additional songs for the production. Since then, The Lion King has become one of Broadway’s longest-running shows.

by Rebecca Panfile

The acclaimed star of Broadway’s 33 Variations, Academy Award winner Jane Fonda (Klute), will mix and mingle with Drama League members at the Members Cocktail Reception preceding the 75th Annual Drama League Awards on May 15. Fonda will serve as an Honorary Co-Chair of the event alongside Raul Esparza (Speed-The-Plow), David Hyde Pierce (Accent on Youth), Tovah Feldshuh (Irena’s Vow), Matt Cavenaugh (West Side Story) Allison Janney (9 To 5), and four still-to-be-named stars of the theatre season. Additional Co-Chairs will be announced later this month at www.dramaleague.org. On April 21, Cheyenne Jackson (Xanadu), Rosie Perez (The Ritz), and Bobby Cannavale (The Gingerbread House) will reveal the 2009 Nominations for The 75th Drama League Awards in a live ceremony at Broadway’s famed Sardi’s Restaurant. Beginning at 10am E.D.T., the nomi33 Variations’ Jane Fonda, nations in each of the one of the Honorary Cocompetitive categories Chairs of the 75th Annual will be announced, Drama League Awards. broadcast to thousands of viewers worldwide via the internet portal Broadway World (broadwayworld.com). The Nomination Announcement will kick off The Drama League’s month-long award celebration, which culminates at the Awards Luncheon on May 15, 2009, where the 2009 winners will be revealed for the first time. For more information, please call the Members Hotline (212) 564-1142.
Rebecca Panfile is the Audience Project Director.

Sir Elton John, the 2009 recipient of The Drama League Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theatre Award.

John’s next Broadway musical, Aida, opened in 2000 at the Palace Theatre. Featuring an eclectic pop-influenced score, Sir Elton and lyricist/collaborator Tim Rice took home the Tony Award for Best Original Score. Sir Elton’s most recent musical Broadway efforts were 2006’s Lestat and this season’s smash hit Billy Elliot, based on the film by Stephen Daldry (who also directed the stage musical). While primarily known to millions as Jessica Fletcher from the television series Murder, She Wrote, New Yorkers revere Angela Lansbury as a living theatrical legend. The 2009 recipient of The Drama League’s Unique Contribution to Theatre Award, the four-time Tony-winning actress has created many unforgettable characters, including the conniving Cora in Anyone Can Whistle, madcap Mame Dennis in Mame, the ambitious Mama Rose of Gypsy, and Sweeney Todd’s malevolent Mrs. Lovett. Lansbury was awarded the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her roles in Mame, Dear World, Gypsy, and Sweeney Todd. Equally adept on the silver screen, Lansbury’s film credits include The Manchurian Candidate, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and Beauty and the Beast. After 25 years, Lansbury returned to the Broadway stage in 2007, in Terrence McNally’s Deuce co-starring Marian Seldes (a
continued on page 5

by Jeffery A. Lewonczyk

T There’s been a surge of interest over the past few years in the Old English epic poem Beowulf – the best-selling modern adaptation and the Hollywood film about the monster-slaying warrior are now being joined by an avant-garde rock musical. Subtitled “A Thousand Years of Baggage,” this “SongPlay” is a joint venture of San Francisco’s Shotgun Players and Banana Bag & Bodice, a bicoastal troupe that specializes in raucous deconstruction. To wit, this production – which was a big hit in its West Coast premiere last year – features not only swordplay and vengeance, but also a critique of the academic traditions that have built up around the poem during its millennium or so of existence. Presented by P.S. 122 at the Abrons Art Center, the show runs from March 31 to April 18. (866-811-4111/beowulfnyc.org) For ten years, theater group Dzieci has filled a very specialized niche in the bustling pageant of New York theater: among Jano Herbosch President other projects, they have made numerous Gabriel J. Shanks Executive Director Roger T. Danforth Deputy and Artistic Director public appearances as the city’s village Rebecca Panfile Audience Project Director idiots. Their signature show is called Fool’s Roger Calderon Events Director Mass, and it features a passel of medieval, Jeffrey James Keyes, Jeff Lewonczyk, well, fools who are compelled to enact a Charles Nelson Contributors Catholic mass when their faithful pastor turns up dead. Smearing dirt on their faces and showing off an impressive array of goofy false teeth, the performers endeavor to combine the sacred and the profane by engaging in choral singing interlaced with slapstick buffoonery. Their limited engagement at LaMaMa runs from April 16-19. (718-638-6037/dziecitheatre.org) Continuing the medieval theme is a new play by Nick Jones (co-creator of last year’s hit pirate-puppet musical, Jollyship the Whiz-Bang) and Rachel Shukert (author of the acclaimed memoir Have You No Shame?). Entitled The Nosemaker’s Apprentice: Confessions Olympia Dukakis, currently starring in of a Medieval Plastic Surgeon, it follows the adventures of a young boy rescued from an Craig Lucas’ The Singing Forest at the Public Theatre. orphanage by a quack physician who crafts fake proboscises for the duel-happy, syphilitic population of Vienna. The inaugural production of Terrible Baby Theater Company, which is dedicated to staging sophisticated comedy with subversive overtones, the play runs in rep with The Colonists, a family-oriented puppet show devised by Jones that depicts a society of bees. Nosemaker opens April 24 (with The Colonists following on April 26) at Brooklyn’s Brick Theater. (Full disclosure: the writer is an Associate Director of The Brick.) (212-352-3101/bricktheater.com) At the Public, Mark Wing-Davey directs a new play by Craig Lucas (Reckless, The Light in the Piazza), a multi-generational epic that straddles the Holocaust in its depiction of a family battered by the 20th-century. In presenting the travails of the Rieman family, The Singing Forest jumps in time from the Vienna of Sigmund Freud to today’s fast-paced American landscape, stopping in between for a visit to post-WWII Paris. Combining elements of drama and slapstick on a broad historical canvas, the play, which begins previews on April 7, is headlined by veteran actress Olympia Dukakis and starring Jonathan Groff. (212-967-7555/publictheater.org. For discounted Member tickets, please see the Order Form enclosed in this newsletter.) Rounding out this selection of history-themed productions is a new play by Jon Marans, author of Old Wicked Songs, at the Barrow Group Studio Theater. The Temperamentals tells the story of the Mattachine Society, America’s first gay-rights organization. Founded in the 1950s by the communist Harry Hay and the fashion designer Rudi Gernreich (who went on to design the topless bathing suit and star in an episode of the Batman TV series), this group predated the Stonewall riots and represented a little-known chapter in gay history. The Barrow Group production, directed by Directors Project Alum Jonathan Silverstein, begins previews on April 30. (212-868-4444/barrowgroup.org)
Jeffrey A. Lewonczyk is Artistic Director of Piper McKenzie and Associate Director of The Brick Theater.

520 8th Avenue, Suite 320, New York, NY 10018 212.564.1142 212.244.9191 fax www.dramaleague.org

Jonathan Groff, currently starring with Olympia Dukakis in Craig Lucas’ The Singing Forest.

by Charles Nelson

by Jeffrey James Keyes

HANKS FOR THE MEMORY: A bicoastal divided Tom Hanks dutifully stayed on The Other Coast for a star-studded salute to his wife, Rita Wilson, thrown by David Geffen—and, thus, missed his first-born’s debut on Broadway in 33 Variations. But he has seen the show, Colin Hanks insisted the night Moises Kaufman’s “whydunit” was officially installed at the Eugene O’Neill, and Hanks fils promised to be in attendance Monday, April 27, when his dad gets a black-tie tribute from The Film Society of Lincoln Center. That should be no problem: Monday is a dark night for 33 Variations. Kaufman’s play ponders the bizarre reasoning that drove Beethoven to spend four of his last years writing variations on a mediocre waltz, and the star seeking an answer to this 186-year-old question is Hank’s daughter (as in Hank Fonda)—Jane Fonda, who drew rhapsodic raves as the comparably obsessed musicologist--her first Broadway performance in 46 years! . . . Most conspicuous of the many celebs who came out for Fonda’s theatrical homecoming was one of her original 9 to 5 co-stars, Dolly Parton, who is now busy musicalizing their 29-year-old movie team-effort for a Broadway opening (at the Marquis) on April 30. . . . Parton, who showed up just to support her pal, was completely clueless about the play’s content but found herself grooving to it. The day after the opening, she faxed Fonda her congratulations. “I said I was really inspired by the play,” she relayed. “In fact, I got up in the wee hours of the morning and wrote a song. I’m not Beethoven or deaf,” she laughed, “but I was half-blind that time of the morning.” STILL WAITING: The absolute last person you’d expect to find hanging ‘round Studio 54 would have to be Samuel Beckett, but he’ll start haunting the joint April 30 when a new revival of his classic antic, Waiting for Godot, takes up residence there— and prominent among its performers is a repeater, Bill Irwin. Twenty years ago, it was director Mike Nichols’ whimsical notion to have the mime play the endlessly loquacious Lucky in a Mitzi Newhouse staging that starred Robin Williams as Estragon and Steve Martin as Vladimir. Having found his voice (and, in time, a Tony for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?), the once-mute Irwin returns to Beckett’s bleak and barren turf to play Vladimir to Nathan Lane’s Estragon; this time, it’s John Glover who talks your arm off as Lucky. . . . Not that Irwin doesn’t still advocate a little silent clowning-around. He was there at the opening of Humor Abuse, Lorenzo Pisoni’s autobiographical one-man show running at Manhattan Theatre Club’s City Center Stage II at least through April 12 and, likely, beyond. It turns out – surprisingly – that he is the star’s godfather and was even in the room when he was born— this, from the star’s birth father, Larry Pisoni, who headed up the San Francisco-based Pickle Family Circus. That kind of background explains how Lorenzo came by the great sense of timing which marks all his performances (most recently, the horse that Daniel Radcliffe took such a shine to in this season’s resurrection of Equus).
Charles Nelson has contributed theatre commentary to Playbill, BackStage, Theatremania, and works for People Magazine.

Theaters across the country are bringing out their guns this spring. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival* (osfashland. org) is taking a mighty stab at Bill Cain’s Equivocation from April 15 through the summer and early fall. This high-stakes political thriller is directed by OSF Artistic director Bill Rauch and joins Macbeth, Paradise Lost, and regional theater favorite Sarah Ruhl’s Dead Man’s Cell Phone. Down in Pasadena, Theresa Rebeck’s Mauritius is up and running through April 26th at Pasadena Playhouse* (pasadenaplayhouse.org). Jessica Kubzansky directs this double-crossing mystery that I adored at Manhattan Theatre Club* last season. If you’re in Pasadena, it’s a must see! Up in the Rockies, the force of nature that is The Denver Center for the Performing Arts* (denvercenter.org) ventures into the glamour and impact of women in the Tang Dynasty with Tang Concubines (April 7-19). In Missouri, Kyle Hatley seamlessly transitions from Chicago director to Kansas City favorite with his production of Jim Grimsley’s The Borderland at Kansas City Repertory Theatre* (kcrep.org). This thriller runs at their Copaken Stage from April 3-26 and promises to have audiences at the edge of their seats. Past Chicago and out East New Hampshire is reacquainting itself with Neil Simon’s Rumors, playing at Seacoast Rep* (seacostrep.org) through April 26th. I heard recently that Neil Simon is one of the most popular playwrights produced in Russia. We rarely get to see one of his plays in New York these days, so I’m a bit envious of what’s going on in New Hampshire. I can only hope for a resurrection of this master of mirth across the country. On that same funny bone, and down in Delaware, Anne Marie Cammarato is presenting Reed Martin & Austin Tichenor’s All the Great Books (abridged) at the Delaware Theatre Company* (delawaretheatre.org). This hilarious comedy opens April 1 and runs for only a few weeks, so make a reservation today! One quick reminder that you can still catch two weeks of the Actors Theatre of Louisville’s* Humana Festival of New Plays (actorstheatre.org/humana). Playwrights Charles L. Mee, Jr., Naomi Wallace, Allison Moore, Gamal Abdel Chasten, Mildred Ruiz, Ninja, Steven Sapp, and Zoe Kazan (crossing over for the first time!) complete the lineup for an exciting festival of new works that runs through April 11. Spring has sprung. Support your local artists by taking in the fabulous regional theater nearest you!
* Discounts are available at these theatres’ box offices to Drama League members with a valid membership card. For more discounts, see “Theatre Excellence” in the Members Area of www. dramaleague.org.

Jeffrey James Keyes is a playwright and travel writer. He contributes to Metrosource Magazine, GayWired, and PINK Magazine.


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Member Name _________________________________________ _________________________________________ _________________________________________ Daytime Phone _________________________________________

Return By Mail: c/o The Drama League, 520 8th Avenue, Suite 320, New York, NY 10018 Return By Fax: (212) 244-9191 ANGEL MEMBERS & ABOVE may also order directly: (212) 564-1142 (Press “0” for a Representative) BENEFACTOR MEMBERS & ABOVE may reserve House, Premium & Anytime Seats by calling (212) 564-1142 ext. 25
Join Hosts Jeremy Irons (Impressionism) and Cynthia Nixon (Distracted), honorees Sir Elton John (Billy Elliot), Angela Lansbury (Blithe Spirit), Arthur Laurents (West Side Story), Herbert Blodgett (Talk Radio), Honorary Co-Chairs Jane Fonda (33 Variations), Raul Esparza (Speed-The-Plow), Tovah Feldshuh (Irena’s Vow), David Hyde Pierce (Accent on Youth), Allison Janney (9 to 5), Matt Cavanaugh (West Side Story) and FIFTY of the season’s best for this starry celebration of the theatre season! In the heart of Times Square, enjoy a sumptuous afternoon lucheon honoring the plays and musicals voted by Drama League members as the year’s best.

Friday, May 15 • Noon • Marriott Marquis Times Square • 1535 Broadway
VIP Seats (all below, also VIP Nominees Reception Pass and Front Row Seating) Diamond Seats (includes all below and Preferred Seating) Platinum Seats (includes all below and Commemorative Souvenir) Gold Seats (includes pre-event Member Reception, Lunch, Program and Ceremony) Silver Seats (pre-event Member Reception, Lunch, Ceremony, Program, Rear Seating)
______x $450.00 = $________ ______x $375.00 = $________ ______x $300.00 = $________ ______x $250.00 = $________ ______x $175.00 = $________

Hilton Theatre • 214 West 43rd Street EXCELLENT SEATS! The most talked about musical of the decade! Tony Award Winner Julie Taymor (The Lion King) will bring the story of Orchestra Seats: $137.00 $125.00 each Peter Parker and his webcrawling Friday, January 22, 2010 • 8pm alter ego to life on Broadway. With Thursday, February 4, 2010 • 8pm music and lyrics provided by U2’s Sunday, February 7, 2010 • 3pm Bono and The Edge, Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark is a new take _______ x $125.00 = ______________ on the timeless story of a young man given extraordinary power... and responsibility. Be the first to get great seats...before they sell out!

The Public Theatre • 425 Lafayette Street Academy Award winner Olympia Dukakis (Moonstruck) and Orchestra Seats: Tony nominee Jonathan Groff $70.00 $30.00 each (Spring Awakening) lead an Wednesday, May 6 • 8pm outstanding cast of actors in the story of a fractured family _______ x $30.00 = ______________ severed by secrets buried since the Holocaust. Playwright Craig Lucas (A Prayer For My Enemy, Prelude To A Kiss) examines the varied permutations of a tragicomic, dysfunctional family dealing with Freud, World War II and, believe it or not, Starbucks!

St. James Theatre • 246 West 44th Street Straight from its acclaimed Chicago run, Eugene O’Neill’s rarely-seen 1924 Desire Under the Elms arrives on Broadway with its iconic Orchestra Seats: leading man Tony winner Brian $117.00 $70.00 each Dennehy (Death of a Salesman) Thursday, May 28 • 8pm and his Salesman director, RobSunday, June 14 • 3pm ert Falls (Long Day’s Journey Into Night). O’Neill’s story of a twisted _______ x $70.00 = ______________ love triangle between a widowed man, his new wife and his son is inspired by Greek tragedy, packed with love, deceit...and consequences!

New World Stages • 340 West 50th Street The Hilarious New [Jersey] musical, The Toxic Avenger features Orchestra Seats: book and lyrics by Joe DiPeitro $71.50 $49.00 each (I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Saturday, May 9 • 2pm Change) and music by DaMonday, June 1 • 8pm vid Bryan of Bon Jovi. Led by Broadway veteran Nancy Opel _______ x $49.00 = ______________ (Urinetown), a cast of five will reveal the story of Melvin Ferd III, an everyman whose tragic fall into a vat of radioactive goo transforms him into New Jersey’s first seven-foot-tall superhuman! A comic gem!

TO CONFIRM YOUR FAX HAS ARRIVED IN OUR OFFICES, YOU MAY CALL (212) 564-1142. TICKETS ARE FIRST-COME, FIRST-SERVED. ALL TICKET SALES ARE FINAL. Drama League Members may purchase up to six (6) tickets per performance per show. The placement and pricing of Orchestra Seats is determined by the theatre and producers, and will vary from show to show. Seats will be in the orchestra section unless otherwise specified above. Seats are assigned according to membership level. Specific seat assignments are not available until approximately two weeks prior to the performance, when tickets are mailed first-class to members.

past recipient of the Unique Contribution to the Theatre Award). Currently, she is Broadway’s sublimely kooky Madame Arcati, winning rave reviews in the revival of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit with Christine Ebersole, Rupert Everett, and Jayne Atkinson. The Julia Hansen Award for Excellence in Directing will be presented to playwright, librettist and director Arthur Laurents. As the author of the musicals West Side Story and Gypsy, Laurents’ place of prominence in theatrical history is undeniable. But his accomplishments do not stop there. As a director, he has brought three acclaimed actresses to Tony Awards as Mama Rose – Angela Lansbury (1975), Tyne Daly (1990), and last year’s Drama League Distinguished Performance Award winner, Patti LuPone. In 1983, Laurents himself received a Tony for directing the original production of La Cage aux Folles. His new revival of West Side Story, integrating Spanish lyrics and text translated by Tony winner Lin-Manuel Miranda (In The Heights), received stellar reviews in Washington, D.C. and on Broadway, playing to packed houses at the Palace Theatre.
Angela Lansbury, the 2009 recipient of the Drama League Unique Contribution to the Theatre Award.

Leadership Award to Broadway producer and longtime Drama League member Herbert B. Blodgett. An energetic supporter of the art form, Blodgett served on the Drama League Board of Directors from 2002-2007, donating countless hours of service and expertise to the organization. He remains integrally involved to this day, as a member and as President of The Players Club. An independent producer both on and Off-Broadway, he recently produced the Broadway revival of Talk Radio starring Liev Schreiber. John, Lansbury, Laurents and Blodgett will join over fifty of the season’s brightest stars for the awards celebration on May 15, where Drama League members will have a rare opportunity to interact and enjoy the greatest achievements of New York theatre. Tickets for The Drama League Awards, which Arthur Laurents, the 2009 recipiwill be held on May 15 in ent of the Julia Hansen Award for the Broadway Ballroom Excellence in Directing. of the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, are now available for members and their guests by using the enclosed order form. For more information about the Drama League Awards, call Roger Calderon at 212-244-9494 x5.
Roger Calderon is Special Events Director of The Drama League.

At 90 years old, Laurents is enjoying the kind of success only rarely reached on Broadway; it can be hard to believe, in fact, that he has been changing the landscape of theatre since his Broadway debut nearly 65 years ago, in 1945. His first play, Home of the Brave, dealt with anti-semitism in the military; he would later adapt his second Broadway play, The Time of the Cuckoo, into the 1965 Broadway musical Do I Hear a Waltz? A keen observer of talent, Laurents directed I Can Get It for You Wholesale in 1962, where he cast a then-unknown Barbra Streisand in the breakout role of Miss Marmelstein. Anyone Can Whistle, which he wrote and directed, featured a score by Stephen Sondheim and marked the first time Laurents worked with fellow award recipient Angela Lansbury. In 1967, Laurents provided the book for Hallelujah, Baby!, which starred Leslie Uggams and won the Tony for Best Musical. In Hollywood, Laurents wrote the award-winning screenplays for The Way We Were and Rope, but it is in the theatre where his talent has been most appreciated. To celebrate The Drama League’s anniversary and its commitment to service to the professional theatre community, the Awards Luncheon will include a special 75th Anniversary


Nominations Announcement Ballots Mailed To Members Presenters/Remaining Co-Chairs Announced Ballots Due Luncheon and Ceremony
Please visit

April 21 April 21 May 1 May 13 May 15

for late-breaking awards updates

by Roger Danforth

Keeping Up With Alumni of The Directors Project
This month sees the inaugural productions from the New American Play Initiative, The Drama League’s new joint venture with the University of New Mexico Department of Theatre and Dance. Since last October, three Drama League alums, Michael Goldfried, Lauren Keating and Kerry Whigham, have been working with playwrights from the department’s graduate program. Their world premiere productions will be the centerpiece of the 2009 Words Afire Festival, running from April 24-May 3 in Albuquerque. Information on the writers and directors, plus a full performance schedule, is available at http://theatre.unm.edu/waf. In 2007, The Directors Project supported the development of Venice Saved, a new project from director David Levine and writer Gordon Dahlquist. Based on an unfinished play by Simone Weil, it is, in Levine’s words, “an inquiry into the nature of democracy and the value of political theater.” Levine eliminates the ‘audience’ and gathers everyone around a seminar table peppered with cast members who may, or may not, be acting. This unique event is running at PS 122 until April 5. Award-wining director Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening)

returns to New York with Everyday Rapture, a new solo musical by Dick Scanlan and Sherie Rene Scott, at Second Stage on April 7. In A Slight Headache director Jessica Bauman and performance artist Alyson Pou work to recreate a 19th century Dime Museum (or Sideshow). This unique event is running at the South Street Seaport Museum through April 19. The Exchange, the theater company headed by alums Ari Edelson and Meredith McDonough, have announced the return of The 24 Hour Musicals, an unique event where artists and actors from theater and music unite to create four new musicals in one seriously short period! This one-day-only event happens on April 13 at the Gramercy Theatre. Director José Zayas and playwright Caridad Svich have brought Isabel Allende’s novel The House of the Spirits to the stage. Performed in Spanish with a simultaneous English translation, it runs through June at Repertorio Español. Congratulations to two alumni for their lovely notices on two recent Shakespeare productions. Davis McCallum brought his production of Henry V to the New Victory Theatre, while Arin Arbus, associate artistic director of Theatre for a New Audience, received high praise for her Othello, which will return to the Duke on 42nd Street for a short return – April 15-24.
Roger Danforth is the Deputy Director of The Drama League and Artistic Director of the Directors Project.

Member News April 2009
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