North Adams Transcript
WILLIAMSTOWN -- Williamstown Theatre Festival Artistic Director Jenny Gersten isn’t holding back or playing it safe as she enters her second year at the helm of the Tony-Award winning festival.
She’s kicking off the festival’s 58th season with a new interpretation of Oscar Wilde’s "The Importance of Being Earnest," which blends "Downton Abbey"-style British satire with the characters of "Guys and Dolls."
"Instead of this stuffy British comedy, it reimagines it in the universe of ‘Guys and Dolls,’ " Gersten said Tuesday during an announcement at the Williams College Faculty House. "Imagine appropriating Wilde’s words with Damon Runyonesque language -- with this very American enunciation."
She described the play -- which will be directed by Tony-Award winning actor David Hyde Pierce, an alum making his festival directorial debut -- as an American crime family on the lam in Wilde’s London of 1895. She said a few of the characters will remain British.
"I wasn’t really sure about this until I heard a reading two weeks ago," Gersten said. "It really turns the piece on its ear. It’s a delight. I imagine this sounds as absurd as it did two years ago, when it was announced we were doing ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’ with an all male cast.
"Earnest" will run on the Main Stage from June 26 to July 14.
The Main Stage will also host the previously announced preview production of the musical "Far From Heaven," featuring Broadway star Kelli O’Hara as a suburban housewife whose life begins to fall apart. The musical, which will move to Broadway in 2013, is based on the 2002 movie of the same name. O’Hara will star opposite Matthew Broderick on Broadway this spring in "Nice Work If You Can Get It."
"We’re very lucky to get Kelli," Gersten said. "She gets a two-week break from Broadway and she’s choosing to come here."
"Far From Heaven" will run July 19-29.
The final Main Stage production, running Aug. 1-19, will be a world premiere of a new translation of Russian playwright Ivan Turgenev’s "A Month in the Country," by director Richard Nelson and premier Russian translators Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.
"This collaboration is a big deal and this production will attract big talent," Gersten said. "We’ve done one other production of Turgenev’s work in 1978. It has the very dramatic qualities of a Checkov play, but where Checkov is known for exploring the human condition and the day-to-day pain of life, Turgenev looks at the extreme emotional conditions of life."
The Nikos Stage’s season will kick off June 27 with the previously announced world premiere of "The Deep Blue," starring festival alum Blythe Danner. The play will run through July 8.
Director Jessica Stone, who directed the heavily lauded all-male cast of ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," returns with a production of Neil Simon’s "Last of the Red Hot Lovers," running July 11-22. It will be followed by a yet to be announced drama, running July 25 to Aug. 8.
The Nikos finishes its season with the world premiere of "WHADDABLOODCLOT!" by Katori Hall, a Signature Theater Company writer-in-residence. Hall’s latest piece, "The Mountaintop," starring Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassette, recently finished a run on Broadway.
The festival will also mark the 25th anniversary of its Free Theatre with an adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s "The Valley of Fear," by WTF veteran Steve Lawson. Lawson penned the Free Theatre’s debut play, an adaptation of Doyle’s "A Study in Scarlet," which starred actors Tim Daly and Alec Baldwin. "Valley of Fear" will play July 18-27 at Poker Flats Field on the Williams College Campus.
Special discount ticket bundles for the 2012 season are available for purchase until March 9 at www.wtfestival.org. Single tickets for the season will go on sale in April through the website and by mail order using this season’s brochure. The box office at the Williams College ‘62 Center for Theater and Dance will open on June 5.