The Mark Taper Forum's 2001-02 season will experiment with theater size--moving its opening production, "Flower Drum Song," into the Taper from a previously scheduled slot at the Taper's larger sibling, the Ahmanson Theatre, and also moving its subscribers into the larger Wilshire Theatre for the touring "Copenhagen."
"Copenhagen" will mark the first time the Taper has shifted its main-stage subscription audience from the Music Center to a different space. The season was to be announced by Taper artistic director Gordon Davidson today.
After a 2000-01 season of six new plays, including two world premieres, the Taper will tilt more strongly toward the past in its next season, with three titles from before 1960 in addition to three recent plays--none of which will be a world premiere.
A year ago, David Henry Hwang's new adaptation of Rodgers & Hammerstein's 1958 musical "Flower Drum Song" was announced for the slot at the Ahmanson now occupied by "3hree." After its planned Ahmanson appearance, "Flower Drum Song" was slated to tour to San Francisco and Singapore, ending up on Broadway. Later in the year, however, financing from Singapore fell through, and the production was canceled when not enough money could be raised in time to continue with the original plan.
The show, about a Chinese refugee in San Francisco's quickly changing Chinatown and her New World romance, will be reconceived for the Taper (Oct. 14-Dec. 2). Although the cast size will not be drastically slashed, the orchestra will be reduced from 18 in a pit to six onstage musicians, Davidson said. Unlike the previous plan, which came with co-producers, this will be a Taper production, with only "a little enhancement money from interested parties," Davidson said, declining to name the parties.
No other engagements of this production will be scheduled, at least for now.
For "Copenhagen" (Nov. 20-Jan. 6), Taper subscribers will reconvene at the Wilshire in Beverly Hills. Davidson had hoped to present his own production of Michael Frayn's 2000 Tony Award-winning drama about a fictionalized encounter between German physicist Werner Heisenberg and his mentor, Niels Bohr, in occupied Copenhagen during 1941. But the Broadway producers wanted to do a tour of big proscenium-framed theaters, and Davidson said he didn't want his subscribers to have to wait to see it until after the tour. "I love the way it resonates off 'QED,' " the just-closed Taper production about another physicist, Davidson said.
Taper subscribers will be among the first audiences to see the show at the Wilshire, Davidson said. The Wilshire's seating capacity will be about 1,500, down from a potential 1,900. The 1,100-seat Royale Theatre in New York was the home of the American premiere of this three-character drama. Ahmanson Theatre subscribers also can purchase priority tickets to "Copenhagen," but it is not part of the regular Ahmanson season.
Performances of Israel Horovitz's "My Old Lady" (Dec. 20-Feb. 3) will begin at the Taper while the run of "Copenhagen" is still going on at the Wilshire. Horovitz, much of whose recent work was introduced to L.A. at the 99-seat Fountain Theatre, has not been represented at the Taper since 1968. "My Old Lady" is about a financially strapped New Yorker who inherits a luxury apartment in Paris but must first deal with the 90-year-old tenant and her daughter. It premiered in 1996 at Horovitz's home base, the Gloucester Stage Company in Massachusetts. David Esbjornson will direct.
The Taper goes classical with "The Moliere Comedies" (Feb. 21-April 7), a double bill of two short plays, "The School for Husbands" and "The Imaginary Cuckold," by the French master, starring Brian Bedford, who did the same double bill on Broadway in 1995, receiving a Tony nomination. Bedford won a Tony in 1971 for a production of Moliere's "The School for Wives."
South African master Athol Fugard will return to the Taper to stage his new "Sorrows and Rejoicings" (May 23-June 30, 2002), which recently premiered at McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, N.J. It examines a white poet who had been exiled from South Africa during the apartheid years; the play moves between his unhappy experiences abroad and his return to the semiarid Karoo region. Fugard's last play at the Taper was "Valley Song" in 1997.
The season will end with Chay Yew's adaptation of Federico Garcia Lorca's 1936 drama "The House of Bernarda Alba" (July 25-Sept. 1, 2002), about one of literature's most controlling mothers. Yew heads the Taper's Asian Theatre Workshop, and his adaptation premiered at the National Asian-American Theater Company in New York last December with an Asian American cast. The Taper production is expected to be multicultural, staged by Taper resident director Lisa Peterson.