Directing gig for Oscar winner

SYDNEY — Cate Blanchett will return to the Sydney Theater Company for the 2006 season as a director, not a thesp.

Blanchett last year headlined the STC’s critically acclaimed “Hedda Gabler.” That production will play the Brooklyn Academy of Music in March with its original cast, including Blanchett and Hugo Weaving.

In December 2006, she’ll make her directorial debut with Harold Pinter’s “A Kind of Alaska,” to play on a double bill with David Mamet’s “Reunion,” helmed by her husband, scribe Andrew Upton. Justine Clarke, Caroline Lee and Robert Menzies will appear in both.

Also in its 2006 season, STC will launch its players ensemble, a long-held ambition of company topper Robyn Nevin, with David Hare’s interpretation of Bertolt Brecht’s “Mother Courage and Her Children.”

Melbourne Theater Company’s lauded 2004 production of “Urinetown,” helmed by Simon Phillips and featuring many of the original cast members, also will have a run in Sydney.

STC season features two world preems: Campion Decent’s “Embers,” about summer bushfires ravaging Victoria; and “The Lost Echo,” which, in a rare foray home since being appointed co-artistic director at Vienna’s Schauspielhaus in 2001, Barrie Kosky will direct, co-write, design and play the piano in.

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