It seems like only yesterday that Marg Helgenberger first won legions of admirers playing the mouthy, entrepreneurial K.C. Kolowski on ABC’s landmark series China Beach. Now the C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation star has signed on for the off-Broadway premiere of What We’re Up Against, an early play by Theresa Rebeck (NBC’s Smash, Broadway’s Seminar). And she’s in a first-class cast that includes House of Cards‘ Damian Young and Quantico‘s Krysta Rodriguez. Adrienne Campbell-Holt will direct for WP Theater, which is mounting the play by special arrangement with Segal NYC Productions.
What’s it about, you ask. According to WP (AKA The Women’s Project and Productions):
“It’s 1992, and Eliza is the brainy new recruit at a small-shop architecture firm. But she’s struggling to get a foothold on even the lowest rung of the company ladder, and starts making moves to blow the lid off their Pandora’s box of office politics and social maneuvering, in this darkly funny and all-too-relevant comedy of gender politics.
The four-week limited engagement begins previews October 28, with opening night set for November 8 at the WP Theater, on the Upper West Side. See wptheater.org.
Inaugurated 10 years ago, the biennial Steinberg Playwright Awards are among the richest in prize-dom, coming as they do with a $50K check attached, courtesy of the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust. This time, the Trust will be out $100K, as two winners of the award, which goes to up-and-coming playwrights, have been announced: Ayad Akhtar and Lucas Hnath, both of whom are neither up nor coming but have, by any measure, arrived: Akhtar’s Disgraced won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama; his new play, Junk, is about to open on Broadway at Lincoln Center Theater’s Vivian Beaumont. Hnath presided over one of the most celebrated new works of the past Broadway season, A Dolls House, Part 2.
“The incredible accolades and recognition their respective work has received in such a short amount of time is remarkable,” says board member Jim Steinberg, who pretty much runs the joint, “and we look forward to seeing their innovative words and visions portrayed on stages around the world for years to come.”
On October 16, Angels In America playwright Tony Kushner and Public Theater artistic director Oskar Eustis will appear at New York University’s Skirball Center to discuss The Siege, a presentation of the Freedom Theater, a Palestinian company dedicated to “cultural resistance” that’s based in the occupied West Bank refugee camp of Jenin. The drama concerns an infamous 39-day confrontation between the Israel Defense Forces and Palestinians, many armed, in Bethlehem in the spring of 2002, and unfolds from the Palestinian viewpoint. It’s slated to run for 10 performances at the center, October 12 – 22. The venue and its Los Angeles counterpart, it’s worth noting, is named for Jack Skirball, a legendary rabbi-turned-producer (Shadow of a Doubt) and philanthropist whose foundation is “committed to the exchange of ideas from every viewpoint.”
The Kushner/Eustis discussion will be the second in Skirball Talks, a series of free-to-the-public conversations that will launch next week with Jason Robert Brown, Lisa Kron, Steven Lutvak, and Alex Timbers addressing what it takes to bring a show to Broadway in the 21st century. See nyuskirball.org.
L.A.’s astonishing, and never replicated, Olympic Arts Festival in 1984, saw the American debuts of such ground-breaking companies as the German choreographer Pina Bausch’s Wuppertaler Tanztheater and the Kabuki-inspired Shakespeare of French director Ariane Mnouchkine’s Le Théâtre du Soleil, which took over studio sound stages for its epic presentations. In December, Théâtre du Soleil will take over the similarly outsize Drill Hall of the Park Avenue Armory for A Room in India (Une chambre en Inde). The piece follows a touring French theater company stranded in India without a director while the world around them falls into disarray. According to the troupe,
“The work touches on the meaning of theater in a time of tumult and explores pressing issues that societies are currently facing around the globe, ranging from terrorism, and religious extremism, to climate change, and gender equity. The production intersperses dream sequences with special performances of Terukkuttu—a traditional form of theater practiced in South India. …this epic production travels through many fascinating worlds with references from Shakespeare, Terukkuttu, Charlie Chaplin, and everything in between. Mnouchkine and her extraordinary company of actors from multiple nationalities explore some of the most universally human and thought-provoking questions of our time.”
A Room in India will run December 5-20. See armoryonpark.org.
And last but not least, Jay O. Sanders – an actor you know from most recently from Amazon’s Sneaky Pete and HBO’s True Detective, and an icon of New York stages (notably Richard Nelson’s play cycles at the Public Theater about the Apple and Gabriel families), makes his directing debut with The Bench, beginning October 15. Here’s the description of the work at the Cherry Lane Theatre, written and performed by Robert Galinsky, from producer Terry Schnuck and his partners on the venture, Chris Noth, Barry Shabaka Henley and the Cherry Lane:
“Based on true stories, The Bench, set in urban decay and rubble, explores the emotional heartbreak of five homeless characters and the catastrophic hysteria surrounding AIDs in the 1980’s…It’s a solo theater piece wherein one actor plays five characters, written in dialogue form.”
Sanders, whose CV extends back to memorable plays by the likes of Sam Shepard and Michael Weller, has built a career on roles that are inseparable from the worlds that spawned them; that same sensibilty is certain to be in evidence here. See cherrylanetheatre.org.