Bold choices mark the 2006-07 season announcements of two Seattle theaters this week.
Foremost is the news that Seattle Repertory Theater has become the first U.S. venue to slate a production of “My Name Is Rachel Corrie” since controversy was stoked when a planned American premiere was indefinitely postponed by New York Theater Workshop earlier this month.
Meanwhile, the 5th Avenue Theater has announced it will continue the company’s recent tradition of grooming new musicals for Broadway, staging the world premiere of the musical “Cry-Baby,” based on John Waters’ film, in February. Book is by “Hairspray” team Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, lyrics and music by “The Daily Show” writer David Javerbaum and pop musician-jingle writer Adam Schlesinger (of alt-pop group Fountains of Wayne).
Based on the writings of an American college student killed by an Israeli bulldozer in the Gaza Strip, “Rachel Corrie” will open in March 2007 on Seattle Rep’s second stage, the 286-seat Leo K. Theater. Casting has not yet been announced. Seattle Rep artistic director David Esbjornson said he first started looking at the script (by Alan Rickman and Katharine Viner) before NYTW workshop pulled the plug on the premiere due to political concerns.
“We have been discussing (it) for several months — after the play came to our attention from its run at the Royal Court in London and well before the recent controversy in New York,” Esbjornson told Daily Variety. “I am heartened that the discussion in Seattle about the play has been largely in the Seattle spirit of openness and encouragement of discussion.”
Northwesterners have a keen interest in Corrie because she attended Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. — the state capital, about 60 miles south of Seattle. “It seems especially fitting to us to produce the play in Rachel’s home state, amidst the people and places that formed her character and led her to make the choices she made,” added Esbjornson.
Seattle Rep has had a bumpy first year under Esbjornson’s direction. Some plays on its challenging lineup have been well received (August Wilson’s “Radio Golf,” Heather Raffo’s “Nine Parts of Desire”), others not so (Shelley Berc and Andrei Belgrader’s adaptation of “The King Stag,” Ariel Dorfman’s “Purgatorio”).
The 2006-07 season gives no sign that Esbjornson is scaling down his artistic ambitions. Included on the slate of nine plays are Edward Albee’s “The Lady From Dubuque,” Simon Levy’s adaptation of “The Great Gatsby” and Kathleen Tolan’s “Memory House,” first developed at Seattle Rep’s Women’s Playwright Festival.
The 5th Ave. has fashioned itself into a new-musical factory over the past few years, debuting “Hairspray,” “Princesses” and, most recently, “The Wedding Singer,” which begins previews Thursday on Broadway for an official April 27 opening.
In a written statement, Waters said, “I am thrilled to be coming back to Seattle with ‘Cry-Baby.’ Here’s a town that understands my sense of humor and has a passionate theatergoing public that roots for winners outside the usual Broadway boundaries.”
Also on 5th Ave.’s 2006-07 season lineup is Matthew Bourne’s dance/theater piece based on another Johnny Depp movie, “Edward Scissorhands”; the national tour of “Bombay Dreams”; and a handful of classic tuners such as “Camelot” and “West Side Story.”