Introducing David Mamet, songsmith, and Michael Ritchie, multiculturalist.
The playwright famed for filling playgoers' ears with staccato cussing will seek to seduce them through song in his first musical, "A Waitress in Yellowstone," one of seven world premieres on Center Theatre Group's three stages in 2006-07.
And Ritchie, CTG's artistic director, whose first big move a year ago was to disband the company's network of identity-based play-development initiatives -- resulting in loud complaints that the East Coast arrival didn't grasp diversity as an L.A. imperative -- has put together a rainbow of shows that includes new plays by Chinese American David Henry Hwang and Lisa Loomer, a Spanish-Romanian writer whose ties to Mexico often have led her to portray Latino characters and themes. "In the Continuum," a touring off-Broadway import written and performed by Danai Gurira and Nikkole Salter, concerns the impact of AIDS on black women, and CTG will continue its cultivation of partnerships with L.A. small theaters by remounting the 2004 Playwrights Arena/TDRZ Productions staging of "Dogeaters," Jessica Hagedorn's play about political turmoil in the Philippines.
Besides Mamet's show next June at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, the musical premieres announced Thursday for the Douglas and Mark Taper Forum are "13," Jason Robert Brown and Dan Elish's show about kids at a bar mitzvah -- 13 of 'em, an entire, middle school-aged cast -- and "Sleeping Beauty Wakes," co-produced with Deaf West Theatre, whose sung-and-signed version of "Big River" went from a tiny stage in North Hollywood to success at the Taper and a Broadway run. "Big River" director-choreographer Jeff Calhoun oversees a new take on the fairy tale by Rachel Sheinkin ("25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee") and Brendan Milburn and Valerie Vigoda of the theatrical pop band GrooveLily.
The new nonmusical plays are "Nighthawks," Douglas Steinberg's dramatization of the famous Edward Hopper painting; "Distracted," in which Loomer dramatizes a mother's attempt to help her 8-year-old son cope with attention deficit disorder; and "Yellow Face," Hwang's satire, co-produced by New York's Public Theater in association with L.A.'s East West Players, that addresses questions of racial identity while embroidering fictional elements onto a true incident from Hwang's own career -- the Broadway flop of his 1993 show "Face Value."
Ritchie said Thursday that his selections for his second season were "absolutely not" influenced by flak over the elimination of play development programs for Latino, black, Asian and disabled writers.
He said he intended all along to have "the widest possible representation of the diversity of the city, the diversity of artists" -- and that matters of timing and availability typically will dictate when those fall into place.
Mamet's musical, billed as "a funny and ironic modern-day fable," involves a waitress, the son she wants to take on a nice wilderness vacation for his 10th birthday, and a brouhaha that erupts when she reports a U.S. congressman to the cops for trying to steal her tips. No director or actors are attached to it, Ritchie said, but the writing is "pretty far along."
Other high-profile shows are the American debut of "Nightingale," Lynn Redgrave's solo show about her maternal grandmother, and a touring production of "Doubt," John Patrick Shanley's Tony- and Pulitzer-winning drama, starring Cherry Jones as a nun trying to pin sexual abuse charges on a Boston priest. "Doubt" will be on the Taper's season subscription but will be staged at the Ahmanson.
The Taper schedule: "Doubt" (at the Ahmanson), Sept. 27-Oct. 29; "Nightingale," Oct. 15-Nov. 19; "13," Jan. 7-Feb. 18; "Distracted," March 25-April 29; "Yellow Face," May 20-July 1, 2007.
The Douglas schedule: "Nighthawks," Sept. 6-24; "In the Continuum," Nov. 19-Dec. 10; "Dogeaters," Jan. 21-Feb. 11; "Sleeping Beauty Wakes," April 7-May 13, 2007; "A Waitress in Yellowstone," June 24-July 15, 2007.