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THEATER | THEATER NOTES

Will Taper 'Tiger' Star Fugard?

July 12, 1998|Don Shirley | Don Shirley is a Times staff writer

Tonight, Athol Fugard opens in his new play, the autobiographical "The Captain's Tiger" at La Jolla Playhouse. L.A.-based Fugard fans may be thinking they can skip the trip, under the expectation that Fugard will appear in the play at the Mark Taper Forum next summer (June 27-July 25, 1999), as Taper season brochures indicated.

Yet it now appears likely that Fugard won't be at the Taper next summer.

"He is not currently scheduled to play the Taper," Fugard's agent Peter Franklin said last week. "He certainly won't do it during the time the Taper announced. I don't know if he'll do it later. It's not possible he could do it earlier. He's booked."

Fugard has "personal commitments made some time ago--something in another country" during the time allotted for the Taper production, Franklin said.

Asked about the conflict between the Taper announcement and Fugard's plan, Franklin replied: "I still don't know how this happened. I'm not interested in parceling out blame. We decided to table it for now till he gets his show up in La Jolla. He's very focused now, and I can't disturb him with business questions."

Taper artistic director Gordon Davidson remains confident that Fugard will eventually perform in "The Captain's Tiger" at the Taper. "I have no doubt that I will get Athol Fugard to do it," he said.

Davidson said his recent conversations with Fugard revealed that the playwright "wasn't sure how he would feel about performing because he might be in a writing mode" next summer. There also was a possible conflict with a lecture. So, Davidson said, he told Fugard to " 'Relax, we'll talk later.' I don't need to know for many months. I might flip a play [in the season schedule, as a solution to the conflict]. I'm finding it harder and harder to plan a season 18 months in advance."

Davidson said he would consider doing a production of the play without Fugard's performance, but Fugard "does bring something with him" when he appears in his own work. Fugard appeared at the Taper in "Valley Song" in 1997. La Jolla's earlier staging of "Valley Song" did not feature the playwright in the cast.

PLAYING ON: By contrast, another show that already played San Diego is now definitely on its way to L.A.: "Play On!," the Harlem-set musicalization of "Twelfth Night," written by Cheryl West, focusing on Duke Ellington music.

It opened at the Old Globe in 1996, then didn't last long on Broadway the following spring. But now a revised and well-received version is at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. It will move on to Seattle Repertory Theatre in September, to the Spreckels Theatre in San Diego for two weeks in November, followed by an L.A. run, probably at the Wilshire or the Doolittle, said producer Mitchell Maxwell.

Since the Broadway run, West and director Sheldon Epps cut a big gambling scene, added a scene for the leading women, and moved the song "I'm Just a Lucky So and So." The show was conceived by Epps when he was associate artistic director at the Old Globe.

Meanwhile, Epps is now artistic director of Pasadena Playhouse, where he recently announced the winter/spring season. Among the offerings is D. Paul Thomas' new play "The Presentment," slated for next spring. Playhouse Executive Director Lars Hansen found the play at a reading at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, Epps said, and the playhouse then gave it two more readings.

"The theater served the play in an informal way that I'd like to make formal," Epps said. An official play development program, which the playhouse currently lacks, "is high on my list of funding priorities."

Richard Seyd, who's staging "Present Laughter" at the playhouse for an opening next Sunday, will direct "The Presentment." Epps himself plans to stage "The Importance of Being Earnest," the season's third entry, which he sees not only as a great comedy but also as "an opportunity to serve artists of color in open casting." This doesn't mean, however, that Epps plans to open the part of Lady Bracknell to men, as is sometimes done--cross-gender casting "strikes me as a little bit of a gimmick," he said.

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