Scene Last Night: Mandy Greenfield Makes Williamstown Gala DebutAmanda Gordon
When Mandy Greenfield first talked to Benjamin Scheuer about his solo musical “The Lion,” they agreed on the seven things wrong with it.
“She didn’t tell me how to fix those seven things,” Scheuer said last night in a tasting room at City Winery, standing next to his girlfriend Jemima Williams, an illustrator for the children’s television series “Peppa Pig.” “She just pointed out what I needed to work on and let me go work. She gave me the facilities, the opportunity and the encouragement to do that.”
The approach of Greenfield, then artistic producer at Manhattan Theatre Club, led to a run at City Center in June. On Sunday, “The Lion” reopened at the Lynn Redgrave Theater at Culture Project. Scheuer said he’ll probably perform the work at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Williamstown, Massachusetts, during Greenfield’s first season as artistic director, a post she started in September.
Greenfield shared her 2015 slate for the first time last night at the festival’s annual gala. Martin Short helped emcee, even though he’s never performed at the festival. “They don’t pay enough,” he said.
The season features eight new productions ("The Lion’’ is an extra little something), with four world premieres, three American premieres, and a revival of Eugene O’Neill’s “A Moon for the Misbegotten.” All performances take place on the campus of Williams College from June 30 to Aug. 23.
Women seem poised to dominate the stage. Kyra Sedgwick will star in William Inge’s “Off the Main Road” as a “complicated, conflicted woman at a moment in time when being that in this country is also complicated and conflicted,” Greenfield said in a generous interview during the gala’s throwback musical performances (think banjos and covers of The Band’s “The Weight”). Cynthia Nixon will appear in “Kinship” as She, an educated, strong woman who has a husband, children, a career, friends, and is still missing a piece. “It’s a play that looks at the cost of chasing total happiness,” Greenfield said. “There aren’t a lot of plays that look at female characters in that pursuit.”
In Daniel Goldfarb’s “Legacy,” which he said is “darker” than his other plays, Jessica Hecht will portray Suzanne, whose husband reopens the topic of having children as she nears the end of her childbearing years.
“It’s a conversation they’ve been in together for a long time, but one she lost and he won when they decided not to have kids,” Greenfield said. “It makes for an intense trajectory.”
Trip Cullman, who’ll direct the season’s lone world-premiere musical, “Unknown Soldier,” said the festival is an “incubator” to “hopefully” ready it for a life on the New York stage.
In the last three years, during former artistic director Jenny Gersten’s tenure, 14 of the festival’s 20 shows have moved on to other theaters, seven to Broadway and the West End, according to Matt Harris, chairman of the festival. Four of the Broadway shows are part of the current season, including “The Elephant Man” starring Bradley Cooper.
“Generally speaking, we get 1 percent in revenue,” Harris said of the financial benefit of productions moved elsewhere.
Harris, a managing partner at Bain Capital Ventures, played up the festival’s risk-taking.
“The New York theaters are like big private-equity firms, and we’re the scrappy, early-stage venture firm,” Harris said. “We’re doing the new, the interesting stuff, some of which maybe doesn’t work, but when it does work, it goes boom in a big way.”
Tickets to the festival are cheaper than on Broadway (and a trip to Williamstown comes with the opportunity to hike a mountain or swim in a creek to boot). A “big bundle” of tickets to all of the shows is available on the Williamstown Theatre Festival website for $355.
Last night some additional money was raised when Darren Goldstein, who plays Oscar on “The Affair,” was volunteered by his wife, actress Katie Finneran, to kiss the winning bidder of a walk-on part on the Showtime series. Goldstein obliged a few bidders.
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