Welcome to our John Guare Festival

September 20, 2017

With a career spanning five decades, John’s acclaimed works include House of Blue Leaves, Six Degrees of Separation, Landscape of the Body, and the movie Atlantic City. John has been a Pulitzer finalist, Oscar nominee, Tony, Olivier, and Obie Award-winner. His wide-ranging oeuvre includes comedies, domestic dramas, sweeping epics, political protests, musical books, and screenplays. All of his work streams from the same fountain of theatrical creativity, fiery intellect, and wit. A true innovator, Guare has left his mark on the modern theater by bringing an American sensibility, theatricality, humor, and poetry to the stage.

 

I first met John in 1999. When I was a young theater director, fresh out of Columbia grad school, I was often hired to do a new job in theater called “Associate Director.” This position was used for large scale, large cast shows, or processes in which significant script development would occur. The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis asked me to come out and work on a new John Guare script called Lake Hollywood, which he had recently written as part of The Signature Theater’s season devoted to his work. John was to be present throughout much of the rehearsal period doing rewrites.

 

Up until that time, classics had been my focus. So before flying out, I immersed myself in John’s work. I was first drawn in by his unique theatrical voice. His work is playful, in love with theater, and uniquely devoted to, and skeptical of, American culture. His plays precariously bridge psychological drama, comedy, poetic lyricism, and musical pizzazz.

 

"...it was when I came upon the Lydie Breeze plays that I felt like I had discovered a buried treasure."

 

I was fascinated by his theatrical voice, but it was when I came upon the Lydie Breeze plays that I felt like I had discovered a buried treasure. These plays all had separate productions in major theaters, but had never been done together, and had never been celebrated at the level they deserved. Together, they are a giant sweeping epic that joins a personal spiritual journey with the landscape of American history. They are heartfelt and vulnerable while containing soaring theatrical lyricism. It hit me that John had created a new American Expressionism that carried forward the legacy of Tennessee Williams and early Eugene O’Neill. Here was a new classic I must take on one day!

 

Coincidentally, just days before the show at the Guthrie opened, John got a call from New York Theater Workshop. They had lost rights to a play in their season and wanted to go into production right away on what are now Parts II and III of the Lydie Breeze Trilogy. We flew right back to New York, and much of my next year was devoted to these plays, and John, as he continued rewrites to get them to become part of a whole. The NYTW production was a lovely version starring some of my favorite actors: Elizabeth Marvel, Bill Camp, and Jefferson Mays. But it became clear to me as soon as rehearsals began that these plays cannot stand alone. The entire trilogy is essential for this extraordinary theatrical universe to make sense.

 

By this time, I already considered John a mentor and dear friend. With young director chutzpah, I told John that I felt like his legacy would not be complete without the Lydie plays getting the attention they deserved, and that it was my dream to produce the whole trilogy. Unbelievably to me, even today, John responded: “if you can pull it off, the trilogy is yours.”

 

"Little did I know, it would take 16 years, a hurricane, relocation for myself and EgoPo, a recession and recovery, and the birth of my daughter..."

 

A couple of years later, I relocated to New Orleans with EgoPo, and brought John down to work on Part I, Women and Water, at Loyola University where I was a professor. This time I was the director, and John and I focused on beginning to knit the three plays together, not just textually, but also directorially. I was now 100% committed to seeing the trilogy produced for the first time and John continued to give me his incredibly gracious and unconditional support.

 

Little did I know, it would take 16 years, a hurricane, relocation for myself and EgoPo, a recession and recovery, and the birth of my daughter, before we would get the necessary funds to take on the Lydie Breeze Trilogy. Thanks to major project support from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, and incredible support from our audience, we are able to undertake this mammoth feat as the centerpiece of our John Guare Festival. I am so very fortunate that John has entrusted this amazing treasure to us….buried no longer.

 

'John is an original and one of the finest writers that this country has created.' -Gregory Mosher, former Artistic Director of the Lincoln Center Theater 

 

So this season, we celebrate John Guare, a giant of the American theater and a dear person.

 

In a 1990 profile of John, The New York Times said “Mr. Guare's writing - both its cinematic form and its unnerving, absurdist content - seems to have intruded into American playwriting and left a haunting imprint.” Playwrights citing influence by John include Paula Vogel, Craig Lucas, Tony Kushner, Nicky Silver, and David Lindsay-Abaire (John Guare: A Research and Production Sourcebook, Curry. 2002.)

 

Gregory Mosher, former Artistic Director of the Lincoln Center Theater Company, told The New York Times, ''John is an original and one of the finest writers that this country has created.''

 

Choosing which Guare play would open the season, and prelude Lydie Breeze, was a difficult decision – there are a dozen other plays of his I would like our audience to see. In the end, we chose a piece that would show John’s extraordinary range, and which would allow EgoPo to produce its first…….MUSICAL!

 

"I hope you’ll join us at the Bronze subscription level or higher, which will include our Musical season kickoff." 

 

In 1971, Joe Papp and director Mel Shapiro, brought in John Guare and Galt MacDermot (Hair) to add music to Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona, and before they knew it, it had transformed into a musical. Originally starring Raul Julia, and with a young Stockard Channing and Jeff Goldblum in the chorus, the piece would go on to win the Tony Award for Best Musical and Best Book for Guare. Director Brenna Geffers (Anna, Machinal, The Hairy Ape) will helm this campy and fun staged concert version for five performances in November.

 

Please join us for this VERY special 25th anniversary season. You can choose three ways to view the Lydie Breeze Trilogy: spread out over three months, in three consecutive days, or in amazing 9-hour marathon days with built in meals. I hope you’ll join us at the Bronze subscription level or higher, which will include our Musical season kickoff. See you at the theater!

 

- Lane Savadove

Artistic Director of EgoPo

Director of the Lydie Breeze Trilogy

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