Off-Broadway’s Second Stage Theater today unveiled plans for the inaugural productions at its Broadway flagship, the Helen Hayes Theatre, as well as co-commissions of new work in collaboration with several of the country’s best-known non-profit companies.
The Hayes, the smallest of Broadway’s 41 designated houses, is undergoing a complete renovation before re-opening in March 2018 with a revival of Lobby Hero, by Manchester By The Sea director-writer Kenneth Lonergan. Trip Cullman will direct a cast led by Michael Cera and Chris Evans. That production will be followed in July 2018 with a revival of Jean Young Lee’s Straight White Men, staged by Anna D. Shapiro.
“We’ve always believed that the living American playwright is the driving force behind Broadway theater,” said Second Stage co-founder and artistic director Carole Rothman this morning on the stage of the theatre, flanked by playwrights and directors involved in the company’s upcoming Broadway debut season. She said the Hayes will be dedicated to living American playwrights: “no British imports, no Chekhov translations, no classics – just contemporary works that provoke, stimulate and challenge from the finest playwrights our country has to offer.”
At a meeting with journalists Thursday morning at the Hayes, on West 44th Street, Rothman also said that Second Stage has entered into agreements with L.A.’s Center Theater Group, the Williamstown (Massachusetts) Theatre Festival and Atlanta’s True Colors Theater to commission and produce new plays. The moves align Second Stage with New York’s other major non-profits with Broadway houses – Lincoln Center Theater, the Manhattan Theatre Club and the Roundabout Theatre Company – in aggressively seeding the development of new works from diverse voices.
“Second Stage is making a serious investment in the future by co-commissioning writers through our STAGE-2-STAGE initiative with Center Theater Group,” Rothman said, “ensuring that American playwrights have a vital, continuing voice in the Broadway landscape.” The two companies have commissioned work from Jon Robin Baitz, Will Eno, Lisa Kron, Young Jean Lee, Lynn Nottage and Paula Vogel.
“This ongoing program will provide a pathway to Broadway, with each play receiving an initial production in Los Angeles at one of CTG’s three theaters before moving to New York,” Rothman said. (From Los Angeles, CTG artistic director Michael Ritchie added that in addition to Second Stage, it has embarked on co-commissions with the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, and the National Theatre and Royal Court ion London.)
Second Stage has co-commissioned new works for Broadway from Bess Wohl, through a partnership with the Williamstown Theatre Festival, and from Lydia R. Diamond and Dominique Morisseau that will be developed in association with director Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theater.
Second Stage purchased the Hayes in 2015. The company will continue to lease and operate its original theaters on the city’s Upper West Side and in Midtown Manhattan. Architect David Rockwell and The Rockwell Group are overseeing renovations and updates to the 104 year old landmark building.
In the meantime, the season at the Tony Kiser Theatre on West 43rd Street will open in September with Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song, a revival of his landmark Torch Song Trilogy (which had a Broadway run of ovwr 1,000 performances at the Helen Hayes Theatre), to be staged by Moisés Kaufman.