Williamstown Theatre Festival Flip Flop

Season Opener a Switcheroo

By: - Apr 13, 2011


When we discussed the season opener with Williamstown Theatre Festival artistic director Jenny Gersten she described the Broadway bound comedy with a cast of 15, You Can’t Take It With You, as “a slam dunk.”

“This season was a lot about opportunity, “ Gersten said. “I got a call from my friend Liz McCann who I worked on Hair with and Passing Strange actually. She said I’ve been trying to do You Can’t Take It With You for four years and it would be great to start it at Williamstown. I said it would be a perfect show for Williamstown and let’s do it. She and I started talking months ago and we came up with this plan. I think it’s going to work for the director and it’s going to work for the cast. It just seems like a great opportunity.”

But it appears that Gersten was fouled while driving to the hoop for her first season in Williamstown. Launching her tenure at one of America’s most prestigious and venerated regional theatre companies with a Broadway bound production was indeed a major coup. It was an exciting eye opener that evoked considerable media attention and potential audience excitement.

With such a large cast it was off the map for the WTF budget. It is the kind of Broadway quality production that was only possible because of the synergy between Gersten and McCann.

Because of the cancellation of You Can't Take It With You Jon Robin Baitz’s two-person drama Three Hotels will open the 2011 Williamstown Theatre Festival Main Stage.  Tony Award-winner Robert Falls (Death of a Salesman) will direct Three Hotels, which will play June 29 – July 24, 2011.

We were out of town last week when the press release, posted below, was circulated. It was printed without comment by the mainstream media.

Our colleague Larry Murray, of Berkshire On Stage, had apparently been tracking the back story for several weeks through various Broadway sites and sources. It is interesting that he posted the only investigative news report on this significant change. Please link to Murray’s site for full details.

WTF Press Release

Williamstown, MA (4/07/11) – Artistic Director Jenny Gersten announced today that Jon Robin Baitz’s two-person drama Three Hotels will join the 2011 Williamstown Theatre Festival Main Stage line-up.  Tony Award-winner Robert Falls (Death of a Salesman) will direct Three Hotels, which will play June 29 – July 24, 2011 and will now kick-off the Main Stage season.
Three Hotels replaces the previously announced production of You Can't Take It With You, the casting of which was not able to be completed in time for its engagement at Williamstown Theatre Festival.
“Jon Robin Baitz has always been a writer I’ve held in high regard, and we feel so lucky to be able to present Three Hotels in what has turned out to be such a landmark year for him,” Gersten said.  “Three Hotels is a beautiful and overlooked play.  By presenting it on the Main Stage, WTF affirms our relevance in the American Theatre by continuing to serve as a home for our most important artists.  I anticipate finding two extraordinary actors for these powerhouse roles.”
In Three Hotels, Ken Hoyle is an ambitious hatchet man for a multinational company that sells defective baby formula in developing African countries.  His wife Barbara advises other young executive wives on life in the third world.  Their days as idealistic Peace Corps volunteers are far behind them – physically and metaphorically – and the succession of moral compromises has taken its toll.  Jon Robin Baitz weaves a timely tale of corporate misdeeds, personal tragedy, and marital discord that takes us into the private thoughts of a man and a woman searching for answers and aching for redemption.
WTF also announced additional programming for the 2011 season, including:
Free Theatre: William Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors
Free Theatre returns to the outdoors with Shakespeare’s rollicking farce of mistaken identity, The Comedy of Errors. One of Shakespeare’s earliest comedies, the play traces the adventures of two sets of identical twins unaware of one another’s existence in a small town.  Directed by former Sagal Fellow Johanna McKeon, with a raucous, Laurel and Hardy twist, this beloved, uproarious classic will play at Poker Flats Field July 13 – 16 and July 19 – 22 at 7:00 PM, offering the local community an opportunity to enjoy quality theatre as the sun sets on the beautiful Berkshire Hills. 
Late Night Cabaret Series
Comedian (and Williamstown veteran) Lewis Black will host the renowned WTF Late-Night Cabaret Series, one of the only late-night cabaret scenes in the Berkshires.  These unique evenings of musical theatre and comedy, presented July 7 – 9, July 21 – 23 and August 4 – 6 at 10:30 PM in Goodrich Hall, will feature a mixture of Tony-winning Equity actors and members of the non-equity and apprentice corps. 
Theatre artist Phil Soltanoff will be in residence at the 2011 Festival to create an outdoor performance piece about public space.  Transforming stairways, alleys, bus stops, and parking garages with kinetic movement and striking tableaux, the work will be performed at several sites in Berkshire County.  Exact times and locations will be announced in June.
Announcements regarding additional cast and creative team information for both Nikos Stage and Main Stage productions, as well as additional Festival events, are forthcoming.
Three Hotels
By Jon Robin Baitz
Directed by Robert Falls
June 29 – July 24, 2011
She Stoops to Conquer
By Oliver Goldsmith
Directed by Nicholas Martin
Cast includes: Brooks Ashmanskas, Kristine Nielsen, Jon Patrick Walker, Paxton Whitehead
July 27 – August 7, 2011
Ten Cents a Dance
Conceived and Directed by John Doyle
Music by Richard Rodgers
Lyrics by Lorenz Hart
Cast includes: Malcolm Gets, Lauren Molina, Jane Pfitsch
August 11 – August 28, 2011
A Streetcar Named Desire
By Tennessee Williams
Directed by David Cromer
Cast includes: Jessica Hecht, Sam Rockwell
June 22 – July 3, 2011
One Slight Hitch
By Lewis Black
Directed by Joe Grifasi
Cast includes: Paige Howard, Mark Linn-Baker
July 6 – 17, 2011
A Doll’s House
By Henrik Ibsen
Translated by Paul Walsh
Directed by Sam Gold
Cast includes: Oscar Isaac, Hamish Linklater, Matthew Maher, Lily Rabe, Lili Taylor
July 20 – 31, 2011
By Bess Wohl
Directed by Trip Cullman
August 3 – 14, 2011
You Better Sit Down: tales from my parents’ divorce
Written by Anne Kauffman, Matthew Maher, Caitlin Miller, Jennifer R. Morris, Janice Paran, and Robbie Collier Sublett
Conceived by Jennifer R. Morris
Directed by Anne Kauffman
August 16 – 21, 2011 (one week only!)
ADDED PERFORMANCE: Sunday, August 21st at 7:30pm