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City Theatre chooses works

| Thursday, Jan. 16, 2003

City Theatre audiences should expect to see at least two world premieres, one Pulitzer Prize-winning drama and some earlier curtain times during the 2003-04 season.

To fill three of the seven available slots in City Theatre's 2003-04 season, artistic director Tracy Brigden has chosen Suzan-Lori Parks' "Topdog/Underdog," which won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for drama; the world premiere of "Gompers," which Adam Rapp wrote for City Theatre; and the world premiere of "String of Pearls," by playwright Michelle Lowe, whose "The Smell of the Kill" recently debuted on Broadway.

The theater also will offer a 7 p.m. curtain time for Tuesday performances.

"We got a lot of requests from people wanting not to have a late night," Brigden says. Also in answer to ticketholder requests, each of those Tuesday performances will be followed by talk-back sessions that give audience members an opportunity to discuss the production with the theater's artists and administrators.

In choosing the first three titles for the season, Brigden went with artists and works that had excited her:

  • Brigden has wanted to bring "Topdog/Underdog" to City Theatre since she saw it last year on Broadway. It's a darkly comic fable about two African-American brothers named Lincoln and Booth, living their lives on opposite sides of a cultural abyss.

    "I loved that play from the moment I saw it. In a smaller venue it would be so much better. I'm impressed with the way it's so funny and so disturbing," Brigden says.

  • Rapp was commissioned to write a play for City Theatre after his "Blackbird" was produced there last season.

    Brigden confesses that commissioning a playwright to create a play for a theater always contains an element of risk. "In this economic climate, I can't afford to do bombs," she says. But, she adds, "There are a lot of reasons to do (Rapp's) play."

    "Gompers" is a big-cast (10 actors), big-journey play about a depressed American city, not unlike — but not necessarily — Pittsburgh, that's hoping to revive itself with riverboat gambling.

    When a golden greyhound is born beneath a tree, the citizens learn that miracles can be elusive. Squonk Opera's Jackie Dempsey has agreed to write a score to accompany "Gompers," and Brigden will direct.

  • A necklace ties together Lowe's "String of Pearls," a drama performed by three women who play multiple characters whose lives are affected by this piece of jewelry.

    "Each of the women is (part of) a vivid, interesting menagerie of characters," Brigden says. "It's warm, touching, at some points disturbing and smartly but not harshly comic."

    Dates for each play's run will not be announced until the 2003-04 season's other four plays have been chosen. Brigden has set the March 6 start of performances of "Fair Game" as her deadline for those decisions.

    Subscription prices for the complete seven-play season range from $154 to $231, a 10 percent increase over this season's $140 to $210 package prices. Details: (412) 431-4400.

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