Sometimes, in my capacity as theater editor and drama critic, I feel like I'm living in some kind of local soap opera. When the 1993-94 season drew to a close, there were these cliffhangers:
Will Salt Lake Acting Company survive?What's happening at the Broadway Stage?
Whatever became of Provo Theatre Company?
Theater League of Utah subscriptions: Are they hot or not?
Will Falling Skys Theatre Company find a home?
Tune in same time, next season.
Well, the "next season" is upon us - and it looks like most of these cliffhangers have pleasant endings. (Please look for a complete list of the 1994-95 season's productions in this section.)
- Salt Lake Acting Company weathered some precarious times in recent months, including upheaval within its creative and administrative ranks, but what might be termed its "fresh start season" will include seven productions (six of them regional premieres) and downscaling of the upstairs mainstage space from 152 seats down to a more financially realistic 99.
Nancy Borgenicht, one of SLAC's two artistic directors (the other is Allen Nevins) said the company will have two season subscription packages for 1994-95: four plays upstairs and three downstairs.
The calendar includes John Pielmeir's suspense thriller, "Voices in the Dark," Ariel Dorfman's "Death and the Maiden," Michael Hollinger's "An Empty Plate in the Cafe du Grand Boeuf," Jane Martin's award-winning "Keely and Du," David Ives' "All in the Timing" and Donald Margulies' "Sight Unseen," closing with a summerlong run of SLAC's longtime controversial fund-raiser, "Saturday's Voyeur: Spirit of the Hive '95."
While the Theater League of Utah is bringing in such big-name celebrities as Carol Channing and Marie Osmond, SLAC has some pretty important local names, too, including David Mong, Nevins, David Chambers, Tom Markus and Marilyn Holt as directors.
Especially intriguing: Former University of Utah acting student Julie Boyd, who performed the role of Keely in "Keely and Du" at the Actors Theatre in Louisville and at the Hartford Stage, will be guest-director for SLAC's regional premiere . . . for which Marilyn Holt has already been cast in the role of Du.
Hmmm . . . maybe Boyd can give us a clue as to who elusive playwright "Jane Martin" really is. There is wide speculation that Martin is actually renowned director/writer/actor Jon Jory.
SLAC also plans to present its annual "free readings" series in both January and April. The company's new literary manager, who will coordinate the readings, is David Mong, a former SLAC performer who has returned to Salt Lake City.
Season ticket information and brochures for Salt Lake Acting Company will be available soon, with ArtTix handling both season and single ticket sales.
Meanwhile, not one, but two companies are talking about picking up where the past two seasons of SLAC's "Salt Lake Salt Lake" left off, which brings us to the subjects of . . . the Broadway Stage and Provo Theatre Company. These latter two venues are looking at two new parodies of local foibles respectively: "Hotel Utah," a sort of Grand Hotel-esque spoof of Wasatch Front goings-on, and "Happy Valley," which will poke fun at Utah County's unique social environment.
- The Broadway Stage at 272 S. Main (just two doors north of "Broadway"), has been leased by two former Desert Star Playhouse performers, Bob Bedore and Eric Jensen. They're changing the name to the Off-Broadway Theatre and are planning a mix of both new and revival stage productions, some stand-up comedy events and "improv" nights.
Specific projects on the Off-Broadway's docket include Bedore's new sequel to his popular "Star Trek" parody, tentatively titled "Star Wrek: The Wrath Is Gone," and a yet-to-be-written spoof, "Gilligan's Isle."
Similar comedies are on the Desert Star Playhouse calendar for 1994-95. They're not going precisely head to head, but local theatergoers might get to sample variations of closely similar productions at both theaters during the next few months.
Other items on the Off-Broadway docket: a revival of "Noises Off" and intermittent engagements of mime Alan Schoenberger's hilarious one-man "Ski Bum" production, which Schoenberger is rewriting. If you missed it last year at Park City, don't let it slip away this time. It's one of the funniest shows I've seen.
Many of both the Off-Broadway and Desert Star Playhouse projects are still in the "conceptual" stage. Neither DSP's "Gilligan's Other Island" (July 20-Sept. 9) nor OB's "Gilligan's Isle" (May 4-June 24) have been written.
Desert Star, meanwhile, is considering new melodramas based on "M*A*S*H" and "Frankenstein," but Todd also maintains some flexibility in his schedule, just in case a parody of something topical, like Whitewater or Pres. Clinton's Health Plan, should surface.
- Provo Theatre Company, which has been on hiatus for the past couple of years, is being revived and will soon move into the former Christian Science Church building at the corner of 100 East and 100 North. Most recently, this was the site of the short-lived Children's Keep Theatre.
Provo's Artistic Director Lynn Frost said the 130-seat building will be modified and renovated.
Dates for most of the company's first season in its new home have not been set, except for the Nov. 10 opening for "Happy Valley."
Other shows under consideration for the Provo troupe: "The Kathy and Mo Show: Parallel Lives," "A Tuna Christmas" (a sequel to the popular "Greater Tuna"), David Mamet's "Oleanna" (hopefully more successful than SLAC's dismal attempt this past season) and a "Godspell" revival.
- Theater League of Utah, which has succeeded in putting Salt Lake City on the map for big touring Broadway productions, is really cooking again this season. Subscriptions for the 1994-95 season are close to completely selling out.
Wouldn't you subscribe, if you knew you'd have first crack at tickets to "The Phantom of the Opera" for the following season?
TLU is getting some big-name stars with its new lineup. They include Marie Osmond as Maria Von Trapp in "The Sound of Music" (Feb. 21-26), and Carol Channing in her national tour of "Hello, Dolly!" (June 13-18). The league's subscription season opens Nov. 22 with "The Will Rogers Follies." When I last checked on this production, Mac Davis was portraying the legendary, rope-twirling humorist. Other editions have starred Larry Gatlin or Keith Carradine.
The Theater League is also bringing back "Les Miserables" as a "bonus" (not part of its regular subscription series). Although the recent ads promoting its season list only a one-week run for "Les Miz" - Aug. 22-27 - it is actually scheduled for a three-week engagement, from Aug. 22 through Sept. 10.
And, for those who have their 1996 calendars ready and waiting, Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera" opens an eight- to 10-week run at the Capitol Theatre on March 28, 1996.
- Falling Skys Theatre Company, which attempted to open an "alternative theater" enterprise in a vacant retail/distribution space in the vicinity of Main and State, west of Salt Lake Community College's South City campus, will likely continue its previously nomadic ways.
City building inspectors closed down the Major Street venue, citing a number of building code problems. Most recently, Falling Skys presented two one-act plays by Harold Pinter ("The Collection" and "A Slight Ache") at The Art Barn. One of the actors in these productions said FSTC will mount plays on an intermittent basis, whenever a good script turns up - and if there's an empty stage available somewhere.
We'll keep you posted.
- IN OTHER THEATER NEWS for the 1994-95 season:
TheatreWorks West, Westminster College's resident company, mounts most of its productions in the school's Jewett Center for the Performing Arts. But one play on TWW's 1994-95 agenda is Elizabeth Egloff's adult fantasy, "The Swan," which has been listed in the October-November time slot with dates and location to be announced.
Originally, it was thought "The Swan" would be perfectly suited to showcase the new "black box" space in the West Broadway Performing Arts Center, but so far both the completion of the venue and the scheduled play dates are up in the air. "The Swan" may not land until spring.
However, the word is now out about TWW's "Christmas surprise" - half of the twin bill being shared by "A Child's Christmas in Wales." The "surprise" will be a one-act, operatic parody called "Cinderella - or The Shoe Must Go On," which utilizes familiar classical music with hilarious lyrics.
One of the community's newer alternative groups, Mikal Troy Klee's Metro Theatre Works, which is based in the Realms of Inquiry school at 1140 S. 900 East, has tentatively scheduled a musical revue, "Give My Regards," in mid-November.
Quite a few premieres - both "world" and "regional" - are scheduled this season.
The world premieres include Pioneer Theatre Company Artistic Director Charles Morey's latest stage adaptation, "A Tale of Two Cities," and Hale Center Theater's "Sockeye and the Sissy," a new comedy by the prolific Ruth Hale. Morey's theatrical versions of such classics as "Dracula," "The Three Musketeers" and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" have received wide critical acclaim.
The regional premieres include "Annie Warbucks" at the Pages Lane Theatre in Centerville; both "The Swan" and "Dancing at Lughnasa" (a Tony Award winner when it was on Broadway) by TheatreWorks West, and a new Western melodrama for Park City Performances, among others.
StageRight TheatreCompany in Bountiful is mounting a new version of "12 Angry Men" - bringing it into the more socially correct '90s as "12 Angry Jurors." It will feature a mixed jury rather than the traditional all-male panel.
Salt Lake Community College's Grand Theatre is being renovated, with all new seating (more leg room and "more tush room," according to coordinator Pat Davis).
The Grand has changed one of its previously announced productions for the season. Instead of "The Sound of Music," patrons will get "Meet Me in St. Louis." The change was made to avoid a conflict with the Theater League of Utah, which is bringing Osmond's touring production to Salt Lake City. Personally, I believe "St. Louis" is a far more welcome addition, considering that "The Sound of Music" can be seen at least two or three times a year somewhere along the Wasatch Front.
One of the region's busiest theaters is Ralph Rodgers' Pages Lane Theatre in Centerville, which has no less than 14 separate productions on its calendar, including such mainstage musicals as "Brigadoon" (which opened two nights ago), "West Side Story" and "Annie Warbucks," along with several middle-of-the-week comedies and dramas and its popular Saturday matinee series for kids. Some of these other shows will include "Wait Until Dark," "The Plight Before Christmas," "The Diary of Anne Frank" and "Joseph and Mary: A Love Story."
Rodgers, like many other theater operators in the area, has concluded that Utah theatergoers prefer musicals over straight plays and comedies, but he also feels there's a niche for "line shows" and has placed them in the mid-week slots.
One of the most eagerly awaited traditions from year to year is the University of Utah's Greek Theatre Festival drama.
The upcoming Greek drama, Euripides' "Medea," might qualify as the season's most widely traveled show, with one dozen performances around the West. On Sept. 17-20 it hits three of the Four Corners states with engagements in Moab, Santa Fe and Durango, followed by two consecutive weekends at the Red Butte Gardens in Salt Lake City (Sept. 24-25 and Oct. 1-2), and additional performances in Logan, Ogden, Provo and finally - new this year - stops in Santa Clara, Calif., on Oct. 21 and Santa Cruz, Calif., on Oct. 23.
In Logan, Utah State Theatre has a busy schedule both on and off campus, opening with a back-by-popular-demand production of "Song of Singapore," which has been part of this summer's Old Lyric Repertory Company offerings. It will run Oct. 11-15 in the Morgan Theatre. Also on tap: "Fiddler on the Roof," Feb. 16-25 in the Ellen Eccles Theatre downtown, and USU's annual "narrative theater" offering in the Studio Stage, with "Always Coming Home" as this season's theme.
On May 24-27, USU will host its "Playfest" activities, including playwriting competitions, readings and workshops in a variety of locations. The USU theater department has also scheduled several evenings of one-act plays as student and faculty projects.
The calendar accompanying this story (see facing page) is as complete as possible up to deadline. Some of the collegiate schedules have not been firmed up, and not every "community" theater or local troupe responded to our request for calendar submissions.
- TWO THEATER CONFERENCES scheduled early next year are the Utah Theatre Association's Junior High Theatre Festival, Jan. 28, 1995, at Bingham High School, followed one month later by "Festival IXX," jointly sponsored by the Utah Theatre Association and the Utah Thespian Society, Feb. 23-25, on the campus of Utah Valley State College, Orem.
Both of these activities are mainly of interest to junior high and high school drama instructors and their students, but the UTA/UTS festival also includes a number of workshops for those involved with "community" theater as well.