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Eisner’s curtain call

SPECULATION ABOUT MICHAEL EISNER‘S second act has made it all the way to Off Broadway.

Word, from people who say they know people who say they know people, has hit the East Coast that the former Disney CEO is thinking about an Off Broadway venture.

Legit? A definite possibility. But Off Broadway? Not likely.

After all, who makes piles of money Off Broadway? Nobody. Just ask anybody producing Off Broadway these days.

But dabbling in Broadway, a la Harvey Weinstein, doesn’t seem so farfetched. Eisner was raised in Gotham and took playwriting at Denison U. He has said that, unlike many top Hollywood execs who move on to greener pastures, he’d like to stay in showbiz.

And while he was never directly involved in Disney Theatrical Prods. and the megahits it produced, the division was created under his watch, and he was always a big supporter, as well as a longtime fan of theater in general.

He was spotted at the industry reading of “Lestat,” directed by “Beauty and the Beast” director Robert Jess Roth. Plus, he’s got friends — and a former thorn in his side — in the biz.

In the friends category: Bill Haber, one of the founders of CAA, and Bob Boyett, the TV producer who was Eisner’s assistant early in his career. These days, Haber and Boyett partner on Brit legit imports such as “Jumpers,” “The Woman in White” and the upcoming “The History Boys.”

As for the thorn, that’s Peter Schneider, the former Disney chairman who butted heads with Eisner repeatedly before Schneider retired in 2001. Since then, Schneider has embarked on a career as a stage director, and he’s working on a “Sister Act” musical that could well show up on Broadway. Eisner likely wouldn’t want Schneider to steal all the Broadway glory, would he?

On the other hand, maybe the thing Eisner really is after is fulfillment, which he might just find on a legit stage of any size. After all, besides personal reward, what other possible motive could he have had for “Camp,” his childhood-summers memoir that few read (and that even fewer read with a generous disposition)?

Besides, as the man whose last contract with Disney worked out to about $20 million a year, does he really need more money?

Schenkkan hones four-hand

For the Gotham-centric, it can be tempting to assume Robert Schenkkan, whose Pulitzer-winning “The Kentucky Cycle” received a tepid welcome during its brief Broadway run in 1993, has given up the stage for Hollywood.

As if to prove us wrong, he’s in the midst of a year during which he’ll have four stage preems.

His picaresque adventure “Lewis and Clark Reach the Euphrates,” starring James Barbour, begins perfs at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles on Dec. 1. Earlier this month, his screwball comedy “The Marriage of Miss Hollywood and King Neptune” bowed at the U. of Texas at Austin, and before that, his contemporary two-character romance “By the Waters of Babylon” opened at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in the spring. In February, his new adaptation of “The Devil and Daniel Webster” gets staged at Seattle Childrens’ Theater.

He’s doing just fine on the Hollywood front, too, adapting the nonfiction bestseller “Ugly Americans” for DreamWorks and Triggerstreet. He’s also at work on “The Pacific,” Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg‘s follow-up to “Band of Brothers” for HBO.

Still, Schenkkan wouldn’t mind a return to Gotham, adding that there’s been some New York interest in his new stage works. And he doesn’t harbor any resentment over the reception of his single previous Broadway outing.

“The players have changed a lot,” he said. “Besides, better to live in the future than the past.”

Rapp session rallies for ‘Rent’

OK, so everybody in the industry checks Internet chat sites. But few cop to it as openly as Anthony Rapp, who recently caused a minor stir by defending the film version of “Rent” on the bulletin board of Broadwayworld.com.

Private messages were exchanged, and soon there were accusations that Rapp had asked one of the posters to edit negative comments.

Rapp, posting a long, calmly worded defense under the screen name “Whiteboy Spice,” called such allegations “false and specious.” And the poster, “MJohnson05,” said he never suggested that Rapp had done anything wrong. He was just disconcerted by being contacted by an artist in a movie he was critiquing.

Still, the dust-up serves as a reminder that everybody in the industry is aware of the chatter on the Web. Even if no one wants to admit it.

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