Today, Roundabout announced two additional productions for the 2010-2011 theatrical season: Cherry Jones will star in George Bernard Shaw’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession, directed by Doug Hughes and Olympia Dukakis starring in Tennessee Williams’ The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore, directed by Michael Wilson.
Here is a conversation with Roundabout Artistic Director Todd Haimes about these productions:
Q. Why did you select Mrs. Warren’s Profession for the 2010-2011 Season?
A. Doug Hughes is Roundabout’s Resident Director, so we are always in conversation about potential projects, and this is a play that we both felt would be wonderful to see on stage again. Both Doug and Roundabout have great histories with Cherry Jones, and I’d been hoping to bring her back here for quite some time, so it all came together beautifully with Mrs. Warren’s Profession. We’ve obviously done a lot of Shaw over the years, but I’m particularly fascinated by this play. Mrs. Warren was banned from the stage for years after Shaw wrote it, and it scandalized audiences when it debuted. I think it will be fantastic to see this play in front of a modern audience and find out how much our attitudes have evolved.
Q. What is the nature of Doug Hughes’ relationship with Roundabout and why was he chosen to direct Mrs. Warren’s Profession?
A. As Resident Director, Doug is an integral part of the creative team at Roundabout; he has been a trusted advisor throughout the artistic planning process for each season, as well as being a gifted director. A Man for All Seasons was his most recent production with us, and to me that was a similar example of how a great director can take a play that has been more frequently taught than seen of late and revive it as a truly theatrical experience. Mrs. Warren’s Profession has such amazing characters, and I know that Doug is going to find new life in them and really revitalize this play for today’s audience.
Q. You have said that you consider Roundabout Theatre Company to be the closest thing New York has to a repertory company. Is Cherry Jones’ return to Roundabout an example of this?
A. Cherry joined the Roundabout family with command performances in Night of the Iguana and Major Barbara, another great play by Shaw, and I have been interested in getting her back on stage with us for quite a while. Getting to work with a talented artist like Cherry over and over again, and giving her the chance to perform such diverse roles, is certainly one of the pleasures of the kinds of long-term relationships that we’re able to form at Roundabout. Beyond her work on stage, she has a profound understanding and appreciation for the not-for-profit community, supporting our fundraising activities and participating in our arts education program. And while I feel Cherry truly gives back to the theatre by just appearing on our stage, it is extraordinarily meaningful to all of us at Roundabout to have her unique contribution in sustaining this company as a whole.
Q. Why did you select The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore for the 2010-2011 Season?
A. I have been taken with the humor and devastation of this play since I saw a reading of it in late 2008, soon after the production at Hartford Stage, and Olympia’s performance was truly unforgettable. Doing this production at the Steinberg Center’s Laura Pels Theatre has just been a matter of finding a time for all of the schedules to align. I’m delighted that it’s worked out to coincide with the 100th birthday of Tennessee Williams, which feels so right to be acknowledging, given our history with his work. After the overwhelmingly positive response to this season’s The Glass Menagerie, it’s particularly exciting to be doing another play by Tennessee Williams, and one that I think will be new to the majority of the audience.
Q. Michael Wilson completed a ten-year project on the work of Tennessee Williams. How has that work influenced this production?
A. As the Artistic Director of Hartford Stage, Michael spent his first ten years there dedicated to exploring the work of Tennessee Williams, one of the greatest American playwrights. Milk Train was the final offering of that initiative, and I believe this production is an example of the amazing depth that can be discovered when a director takes the time to truly study and develop a relationship with a playwright, even if they are no longer alive. Tennessee re-wrote Milk Train each time it was produced, and it was Michael’s deep connection to this playwright after so many years that enabled him to use those different drafts to create this amazing version of the script. He’s worked incredibly hard to hone in on a cohesive, emotionally full story that, to me, makes this production so exciting. It is also a unique pleasure for Roundabout, as a not-for-profit theatre, to be able to work with other renowned not-for-profit organizations, both regionally and in New York, and it’s wonderful to be able to share with a New York audience the work that Michael has cultivated in Hartford throughout this project. Michael is no stranger to New York audiences. Most recently his production of the Horton Foote trilogy, The Orphan’s Home Cycle has been met with sold out houses and vast acclaim. We had a great experience working with Michael on Old Acquaintance in 2007, and I’m so pleased to have him back with us and directing a project about which he is so passionate.
Q. Why do you think this is the perfect marriage of an actor, Olympia Dukakis, and a character, “Flora Goforth”?
A. I have been a fan of Olympia’s for a long time, and it is a thrill to have her join the Roundabout family with such a powerful role. Olympia brings an expertise and grace to Flora that balances the character’s daring nature against the crippling fear of her own mortality. She plays Flora with a wit and style that cut to the core of human nature. Tennessee Williams is known for his expertly created female characters, and I couldn’t imagine a finer actress than Olympia to bring his vision to life.
Q. Roundabout produces a lot of Shaw and Williams plays. When picking one of their plays to produce for the Roundabout subscription audience, what are you looking for?
A. Roundabout has a legacy of producing top-rate classics, and I believe it is important to present both the well-known plays, like Pygmalion and The Glass Menagerie, as well as plays by great writers that are not seen as often, as we’ve done in the past with Heartbreak House and Suddenly Last Summer. I think it’s fair to say that Mrs. Warren and Milk Train fall into that latter category, and to me it’s as simple as going back to our core mission. It’s just as important to revisit the classics of the canon as it is to explore less-familiar works. It is especially exciting to bring a unique concept by a director or an extraordinary actor who will illuminate a familiar role in a whole new way. These classic plays are all a part of our theatrical history and deserve to be explored by the great artists of today.
2010-2011 Season, From Todd Haimes