Feb 17, 2009

Oleanna's 15-Year Journey to the Taper

And so, Mamet's controversial gender-relations scrimmage will make it to L.A.'s Mark Taper Forum after all. Not recalled, at least in this LA Times piece, is the play's rocky history with the Taper. I was around and reported it for the baby Back Stage West, and the short version is: It was announced for the Taper in late '93 or early '94, and Mamet insisted on casting Lionel Mark Smith, an African-American actor, as the entitled professor, opposite Kyra Sedgwick's naive-like-a-fox college student; the Taper's menschy-liberal AD Gordon Davidson reportedly thought that idea was wack; Mamet withdrew the play and it opened in February '94 at the 99-seat house the Tiffany, in a production directed by William H. Macy, which I pretty much hated (and which its publicist later confessed to me he found "hateful"). Now that Gordon's gone and Michael Ritchie is running the joint, Mamet will make what is, to the best of my recollection, his debut at L.A.'s most prominent theater. UPDATE: As Taidan points out in the comments below, my recollection is not so good. Still, these CTG Mamet productions are all post-Davidson. (There's a whole page about the controversy here.)

Interestingly, I caught another production of Oleanna years later at a tiny L.A. theater (with Warren Zevon's daughter in it, oddly enough) and found it...actually pretty compelling. And Pullman and Stiles is pretty good casting, I must say.


Taidan said...

I believe Mamet had "Romance" produced at the Taper a few years back, and then last year did a couple of one-acts at the Douglas.

Jessica said...

I saw that production at the Tiffany and it did indeed suck! Kyra Sedgewick was fit for "Singles"; Mamet, not so much.