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Not Such a Quantum Leap
Scott Bakula Has Always Been Partial To the Stage, and Hopes to Be There More

By Jane Horwitz
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Fans of Scott Bakula's star turn in the 1989-1993 TV series "Quantum Leap" or his more recent four-year stint as Capt. Jonathan Archer on "Star Trek: Enterprise" already know he can sing. At Sidney Harman Hall on Friday, they'll be able to hear him perform an evening of show tunes, in a benefit for the Ford's Theatre renovation.

"I never set out to be on TV or in a movie. Theater's my first love," says Bakula, and he hopes to do more of it now that his kids are older.

Before his "Quantum Leap" days, he was nominated for a Tony Award as the male lead in "Romance/Romance." Recently in Los Angeles, he starred in the play "Quality of Life" and in a revival of Richard Rodgers's "No Strings."

Bakula says he's tried to squeeze singing into his television work whenever possible. He just shot an episode of "Boston Legal" in which he plays the piano and croons "Once Upon a Time" to Candice Bergen. Tunes from "Man of La Mancha" figured in a "Quantum Leap" episode when his character, Dr. Sam Beckett, mind-and-body-melded with an understudy to go on as Don Quixote. He'll sing some "La Mancha" songs at the Ford's benefit.

"A lot of the 'Quantum Leap' fans who will be there on Friday night will enjoy that," says the actor. The Duke Ellington School of the Arts Female Ensemble will harmonize as Bakula's chorus on some numbers. (Visit http://www.fords.org, then click on "Performances.")

Bakula has a soft spot for Ford's. He marked his return from intergalactic travel in 2006 to star in a well-reviewed revival there of the Civil War musical "Shenandoah."

The first half of Friday's performance, shaped with director Dennis Deal, will trace Bakula's "own personal journey through the musical world," including his debut at age 13 as Amahl in "Amahl and the Night Visitors." The second half will be "more of a sit back, relax and here come some standards, here comes some Rodgers & Hart . . . here comes some jazz, here comes some me at the piano," Bakula says.

"I think it's going to be fun. I'm scared to death of the whole night."

Fresh Ink

The Inkwell, a fledgling organization dedicated to nurturing and producing new plays, is in the midst of a mini-festival at H Street Playhouse through Jan. 28. (Go to http://www.inkwelltheatre.org for the schedule.)

Born last September, when it presented pieces at the Kennedy Center's Page to Stage festival, the Inkwell is a descendant of the Hatchery, a new-play incubator that presented works in 2005 and 2006. Jessica Burgess, a carryover from the Hatchery, is artistic director.

For "suggested donations" of $10 or so, the public can attend open rehearsals and bare-bones "Inkubator" productions of two plays -- Anne McCaw's "OK," about the women behind the men who fought the gunfight at the OK Corral, and "Underground" by James McManus, about a West Virginia mining accident. A third new work, "The F Word" -- as in fat -- by Melissa Blackall, will have a staged reading.

Burgess, who directs around town and was in charge of finding new works for Catalyst Theater, will stage "OK" and was deeply involved in choosing all three plays, which are "about what it means to be American here, now."

She also liked the way they sounded in her head.

" 'OK' has beautiful cowboy poetry and 'Underground' has this earthy West Virginia accent [that] brings out the poetry in that community," while "The F Word" is "surprisingly funny," poking fun at "the American obsession with its gut."

Aside from McManus, a winner of the Princess Grace Award for playwriting, whose work came to Burgess's attention while she was at Catalyst, the playwrights are friends and Inkwell members. Next year, she says, they'll seek full-length plays in an open submission process "from anywhere and everywhere."

The Inkwell offers something playwrights don't get at other Washington theaters, Burgess maintains. Others may workshop plays and stage world premiere productions -- a goal of any development process -- but "what we're doing is the step before that production," says the director. She wants theatergoers to think of an Inkwell showcase as "the final draft" of a play -- "designed and fully staged, because designers ask good questions about a text" -- but not the final product.

Putting playwrights, designers and audiences together early to see what percolates is an Inkwell mission.

Burgess cites a stage direction in "OK" that calls for a character to put a drop of honey on a wilted sunflower, which blooms again onstage. "I loved the challenge of that stage direction," she says. "We want to just engage the playwrights' imaginations in creating the impossible onstage." Even on a tiny budget, "there are different ways to make that moment seem like it's happening," she explains, with lighting, other effects and just plain acting.

"The complicity between audience and actor is incredible. The audience will always go the extra mile in their imagination. That's why they go to the theater. They want theater magic."

Follow Spots

¿ Signature Theatre has signed Broadway actor Hunter Foster ("Urinetown," "Little Shop of Horrors") to star with Natascia Diaz in "Kiss of the Spider Woman." The show opens March 11 as part of a Kander & Ebb rep. Another Broadway light, George Hearn ("Sweeney Todd," "La Cage aux Folles"), will join fellow Tony winner Chita Rivera in Kander & Ebb's "The Visit," opening May 13.

¿ Patrick Page, who played Iago and Macbeth at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in recent years, has bowed out of its spring/summer Roman rep of "Antony and Cleopatra" and "Julius Caesar." He was to play Marc Antony in both plays. A veteran Broadway player ("The Lion King," "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!"), Page has signed for a lead in the musical "Dancing in the Dark," premiering in San Diego. His replacement won't be announced for a month or longer.

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