Kennedy explores Tennessee

Center to honor playwright

WASHINGTON — Taking a leaf from its acclaimed celebration of Stephen Sondheim, the Kennedy Center confirmed it will showcase the talents of Tennessee Williams as part of its 2003-04 theater season.

Productions of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and “The Glass Menagerie” will be mounted at the Eisenhower Theater from April to July 2004 as part of a 10-week festival called “Tennessee Williams Explored.”

It will include five one-acts by Williams, three of them premieres, to be staged at the center’s 500-seat Terrace Theater by Michael Kahn, artistic director of the Shakespeare Theater here. No directors or performers have yet been inked.

The one-acts will be billed as “Five by Tenn” and will include “I Can’t Imagine Tomorrow” and the world premieres of “Adam and Eve on a Ferry,” “And Tell Sad Stories of the Death of Queens…,” “Escape” and another play to be chosen. Kahn is sifting through numerous variations of shorts by Williams, written in various stages of his career, which have recently become available.

Thomas plays Williams

In addition, actor Richard Thomas will deliver a solo performance based on personal correspondence from Williams to family, friends and associates. Called “Letters From Tennessee: A Distant Country Called Youth,” it is slated for June 11-13 at the Terrace Theater.

The Williams celebration is the first theatrical festival to be produced by the center since the popular Sondheim productions.

And the Washington Opera will join in. It will present Andre Previn and Philip Littell’s operatic reconception of “Streetcar,” with Previn conducting the East Coast premiere of his opera, staged by its original creative team of director Brad Dalton and designer Michael Yeargan.

The center’s 2003-04 theater season will open with the Goodman Theater’s production of the musical “Bounce,” by Sondheim and John Weidman. Originally commissioned by the Kennedy Center, the musical is staged by Harold Prince.

‘Producers’ to close season

The season will close with a summertime booking of “The Producers” at the Opera House and will include a return of the Royal Shakespeare Co. for productions of “The Taming of the Shrew” and John Fletcher’s “The Tamer Tamed.” The RSC will be in year two of a five-year residency here.

Kennedy Center prez Michael M. Kaiser said the upcoming season represents the most integrated programming effort ever for the facility, with multiple disciplines participating in numerous coordinated initiatives. It also will feature the first engagement by the New York City Ballet in 15 years, thanks to the resolution of union issues involving the respective orchestras.

Other highlights of the center’s upcoming season include:

  • A Festival of France, which will include performances by Opera Comique, Theater National de Chaillot, Theater de L’Atelier, Les Arts Florissants, Lyon Opera Ballet and a French jazz series. It will feature a weeklong booking of soprano Renee Fleming as part of the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Series for Artistic Excellence;

  • A Tchaikovsky Festival featuring the Kirov Opera, Ballet and Orchestra; Suzanne Farrell Ballet; the National Symphony Orchestra; and the Vermeer String Quartet;

  • A “Prelude Festival” of season-opening events includes readings of new plays and musicals that are being workshopped by local theaters, a sing-along “Wizard of Oz” and a collection of folk and gypsy fiddlers called “Fiddlers on the Roof.”
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