Williamstown Theatre Festival announces 2012 Season

David Hyde Pierce (l) and Jessica Stone will direct two plays in 2012.

Update 4/18/12: An additional announcement was made adding two more events to the 2012 season, details here. They are The Elephant Man with Bradley Cooper and Patricia Clarkson and a workshop presentation of David Byrne’s Here Lies Love to be presented at Mass MoCA. We have updated the calendar below to include them as well.

This morning, the news of an exciting summer of theatre was made by Jenny Gersten, artistic director of the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Fielding questions from reporters and VIP’s gathered in the Williams College Faculty Club, six plays were announced, with one more still being formalized and to be announced later.

As in her first season, there will be a total of seven productions, three on the main stage and four on the Nikos stage. The performing season will run from June 26 to August 19 one week shorter than in the past to enable the transition back to college use to take place more smoothly.

For their Summer 2012 season, there will be a world premiere by Oliver Award-winning Mountaintop playwright Katori Hall, plus works by Oscar Wilde, Neil Simon and Ivan Turgenev. A pair of productions will enable Berkshire audiences to see another side of the actors David Hyde Pierce and Jessica Stone – they will showcase their work as directors for the two popular plays.

Director Jessica Stone, who directed the brilliantly conceived all-male cast of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, returns with a production of Neil Simon’s Last of the Red Hot Lovers.

Tony and Emmy winner Pierce will re-imagine Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest with quite a twist. The advance word on the production is a real tease: What if a family of Guys and Dolls-style gangsters moved to Downton Abbey-style London in order to escape certain, shall we say, entanglements? What if two of these wise guys fell hard for two tough dolls? And what if the formidable dame who runs the aforementioned criminal family developed an appetite for cucumber sandwiches?

“There’s a whole group of people who love ‘Guys and Dolls,’ and there’s a whole group of people who love ‘The Importance of Being Earnest,’and this is our chance to alienate all of them.” – David Hyde Pierce quoted in the New York Times

Gersten remarked that “David started here in our non-equity company,” as she announced the lineup. “He’s a comedic genius, that guy,” and an audience favorite.

In a recent New York Times article, Pierce was quoted as saying: “My dream was to have James Gandolfini play Lady Bracknell, as a man. You know how in organized crime, people are, like, Jimmy the Nose? Maybe they call him Lady Bracknell. But I realized by doing that, it really goes from being Oscar Wilde to being Ionesco, and that was one step too far.”

At the press briefing, Gersten assured the critics that Lady Blacknell would be played “straight,” as a woman by a woman.

Stone’s outing will infuse Neil Simon’s Last of the Red Hot Lovers with hilarity as well as humanity. The show follows Barney Cashman as he attempts to bring excitement into his life by hosting three afternoon trysts with three very different women.

In a more serious vein, writer Richard Nelson will direct a fresh translation and world premiere of Turgenev’s classic A Month in the Country. Nelson collaborated with Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky on the translation. The play follows 29-year-old Natalya, who is comfortably married with a young son. One day, without warning, she falls under the influence of a force she has never known before: desire. Suddenly, her simple, predictable world is irrevocably changed.

One of the more interesting projects is the oddly named WHADDABLOODCLOT!!! which is being presented in collaboration with New York’s Signature Theatre Company. It is a searing satire of race and class which will arrive just as the election season is making much of the same topics.

The team behind Grey Gardens will take on the film Far From Heaven transforming the unusual story of life in 1957 suburban Connectiut into a musical. It has a book by Tony Award winner Richard Greenberg (Take Me Out) and an original score by Tony-nominated Grey Gardens songwriters Scott Frankel (music) and Michael Korie (lyrics). Michael Greif (Next to Normal, Grey Gardens, Rent) will direct (July 19-29). Three-time Tony Award nominee Kelli O’Hara will star.

Tony winner Blythe Danner returns after a decade away from an onstage role at the WTF, to perform in Lucy Boyle’s The Blue Deep, a world premiere that tells the touching story of a mother and daughter at odds, and then looking for a way to connect again. Bob Balaban directs.

“These plays introduce some real merriment and unexpected pleasures into the 2012 season. We’re so proud that two of the new plays premiering on the Nikos Stage this Summer are homegrown, developed in front of our audince as part of our Fridays @ 3 new play reading series. Collectively, the 2012 Season is a gorgeous assembly of surprise and delight – with laughs, heartfelt longing and genuine revelations for artists , sudents and audiences.” – Jenny Gersten

Here is a rundown of the plays and dates:


June 21 – 24, 2012
Created By David Byrne
Directed by Alex Timbers
Music by David Byrne & Fatboy Slim

Within a throbbing dance club environment, David Byrne and Fatboy Slim deconstruct the astonishing journey of Filipina First Lady Imelda Marcos, from her meteoric rise to her descent into infamy. This wholly immersive spectacle combines disco beats, adrenaline-fueled choreography, and a remarkable 360-degree scenic and video environment — going beyond Imelda’s near-mythic obsession with shoes to explore true questions of power and responsibility. Directed by two-time Obie Award winner Alex Timbers (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Peter and the Starcatcher), Here Lies Love is neither period piece nor mere biography, neither play nor musical, but a unique theatrical experience that raises the pulse and quickens the blood – all filtered through the remarkable vision of David Byrne, one of the great American artists of the last half century.


June 26 – July 14
By Oscar Wilde
Directed by David Hyde Pierce

What if a family of Guys and Dolls-style gangsters moved to Downton Abbey-style London in order to escape certain, shall we say, entanglements? What if two of these wise guys fell hard for two tough dolls? And what if the formidable dame who runs the aforementioned criminal family developed an appetite for cucumber sandwiches? Director David Hyde Pierce gives us Oscar Wilde’s hilarious high society satire in a very new way. Welcome to the family.

July 19 – 29
Book by Richard Greenberg, Music by Scott Frankel, Lyrics by Michael Korie
Directed by Michael Greif
With Kelli O’Hara
A Preview Production

Cathy Whitaker seems to be the picture-perfect wife and mother in 1957 suburban Connecticut. But roiling beneath the surface, secret longings and forbidden desires cause her world to unravel – with incendiary consequences. With a lush score that is both jazz-inflected and hauntingly lyrical, Far From Heaven is a powerful story of romance, betrayal, intolerance, and a woman grappling with her own identity in a society on the verge of great upheaval.

August 1 – 19
By Ivan Turgenev
Translated by Richard Nelson, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky
Directed by Richard Nelson
World Premiere Translation

It looks to be a long life of sylvan contentment for 29-year-old Natalya, who is comfortably married with a young son. One day, without warning, she falls under the influence of a force she has never known before: desire. Suddenly, her simple, predictable world is irrevocably changed. Both romantic and psychologically compelling, this rare production of Turgenev’s masterful A Month in the Country honors the Festival’s tradition of celebrating great works of Russian drama with some of America’s greatest actors. This revelatory new translation is the first collaboration between playwright Richard Nelson and Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky, the foremost contemporary translators of classic Russian literature (War and Peace, The Brothers Karamozov, and the best-selling Oprah’s Book Club selection, Anna Karenina).


June 27 – July 8
By Lucy Boyle
Directed by Bob Balaban
With Blythe Danner
World Premiere

Though only in her twenties, Lila Miller is stuck, while her mother, Grace, is perpetually in motion. When Lila returns home to her family’s exquisite Hamptons house and garden with only a plastic bag and a broken heart, there’s no nurturing to be found, except as pertains to horticulture. The same painful history that threatens to drive mother and daughter permanently apart ultimately evolves into the one realm where reconnection might be possible. The Blue Deep is an achingly honest and funny play about loss, growing up, and the benefits of aquaerobics.

July 11 – 22, 2012
By Neil Simon
Directed by Jessica Stone

Meet Barney Cashman. He’s a middle-aged restaurant manager who has a very nice married existence. But he’s tired of existing; he wants to live – before it’s too late. Maybe one afternoon of passion could be so exhilarating, so vivid, that the memory alone would sate his desire for more. Three women, three afternoons, three shots at living in Technicolor. As she did with her lauded WTF production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, director Jessica Stone reveals the humanity and the hilarity of this oft-overlooked early work of Neil Simon.

July 25 – August 4
The Elephant Man

By Bernard Pomerance
Directed by Scott Ellis
With Patricia Clarkson and Bradley Cooper

From a desperate existence in a Victorian freak show to his days as the toast of London high society, the life of John Merrick, the Elephant Man, has fascinated the world for well over a century. Though his disfigurement brought notoriety, it was his unblemished inner humanity that most astonished those around him, compelling examinations of their own prejudices and beliefs. Shattering our illusions of normalcy, Pomerance weaves Merrick’s tale into a parable on beauty, innocence, and human dignity.

August 8 – 19, 2012
By Katori Hall
World Premiere
Presented in association with Signature Theatre Company
One-percenter Eden Higgenbotham lives a cushy Upper-East-Side life surrounded by equally affluent, vain, and snobbish friends. When a sudden stroke causes her to contract the very rare Foreign Accent Syndrome, which makes her speak uncontrollably with a Jamaican accent, she’s forced to embrace a dramatically altered identity. Irreverent and hilarious, WHADDABLOODCLOT!!! is a searing satire of race and class by the Olivier Award-winning writer of The Mountaintop, Katori Hall.


July 18 – 27, 2012
By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle adapted by Steve Lawson

Celebrating its 25th anniversary with the return of Sherlock Holmes, the Free Theatre will present The Valley Of Fear, adapted by WTF veteran Steve Lawson from the novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A Study in Scarlet, the first Sherlock Holmes saga, launched the Free Theatre in 1987, and now the legendary sleuth returns in this new theatrical version of Conan Doyle’s final novel. Spectators will don their crime-solving caps and lend Holmes and Dr. Watson a hand, with gasps and laughs guaranteed for all. Presented under the stars at Poker Flats Field.

Tickets and Subscriptions

Single tickets for the 2012 Williamstown Theatre Festival season will be available in April through the WTF website and by mail order using WTF’s season brochure (call 413-597-3400 to join the mailing list). The WTF Box Office will open on June 5th at which point tickets may be purchased online, by phone or in person at the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance Box Office at 1000 Main St (Route 2), Williamstown, MA 02167.

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