In last week's Show section story on plans for upcoming theater season, a portion of type with the following information was garbled due to a printer's error; Richard Kiley will star in the Warner Theatre's "A Christman Carol," Nov. 17-22. The production is a new musical adaptation by Michel Legrand. Kennedy Center Chairman Roger Stevens is at work planning the Center's 10th anniversary celebration in September, and the winter debut of a new resident company at the Eisenhower Theater. The company will do six plays, as yet unspecified, for six weekseach. The Schubert organization, which is bringing the musical "Evita" to the National Theatre in September, expects the show to run through March, when the "Pirates of Penzance" is to move in.
AT ARENA Stage, according to producing director Zelda Fichandler, the concept of the "summer lull" brings waves of sarcastic laughter. Summer is when you see how the fall, winter and spring are going to hang together, or if "well-laid plans are going to gang agley," she says, shifting into a Scottish mood. "It's incredible. It's seven days a week. It's the worst time of the year, and all times are terrible . . ."
"When I write a book," says Fichandler, "it will deal with the process of coherence in an organization."
Perhaps she'll mention the behind-the-scenes prehistory of "Major Barbara," the production scheduled to open in Arena's 1981-82 season. When Fichandler first thought of doing "Major Barbara" she envisioned company members Annalee Jefferies and Robert Prosky as Barbara (the salvation army worker) and Undershaft (the armaments manufacturer). Then Jefferies became pregnant and Prosky took a movie job that will keep him in Hollywood this fall.
Many at Arena assumed that would be the end of "Major Barbara." But the more Zelda Fichandler thought it over, the more she wanted to do the play anyway -- even if it meant hiring non-company actors for the two roles. The issues in the play -- including the tussle between the value of social programs and the unrestrained movement of the marketplace -- seemed too timely. "I couldn't change that play," says Fichandler. Christine Estabrook, who has appeared in a variety of Arena productions, will play Major Barbara. The role of Undershaft hasn't been cast.
At Arena and elsewhere, the fall theater season is beginning to come together, and the mood is upbeat. The Folger's Louis Scheeder is excited about his contract with the National Park Service to do "Romeo and Juliet" on the Mall. By the time the production closes in September, it will have had 109 performances (barring rain-outs) -- a very long run indeed for a work of Shakespeare these days. "And I don't think we've had an empty seat since we opened," says Scheeder.
Free outdoor Shakespeare has been a longstanding goal of the Folger's, but it took Scheeder and Co. four years to win the nod from the park service. One result, Scheeder hopes, will be to attract new patrons for the Folger's regular season, which begins with "Julius Caesar" in October. It will be a Renaissance-dress "Julius Caesar." "I could not see a bunch of people walking around in togas on our [Elizabethan] stage," Scheeder explains. "Nor did I think the world needed another modern-dress 'Julius Caesar' as an attack on fascism."
As with many arts organizations, there are ever-present concerns about funding. "If any section of our income goes soft," says Scheeder, "we're going to be in big trouble. We're okay now.I fully intend to not only maintain but increase the quality of our productions."
Alma Viator, vice president and executive director of the National Theatre, says the National lost a play recently -- the Negro Ensemble Company's production of "Home," which the producers decided to hold in Chicago.As a result, the National will probably be dark through most of this month. But, "We're getting all geared up for 'Evita,'" says Viator. "Evita," the Andrew Lloyd Weber-Tim Rice musical, directed by Harold Prince, opens Sept. 22. With Valerie Perri as Eva Peron, Anthony Crivello as Che Guevara, and a cast of 50, it will be one of the biggest productions in the National's recent history.
It will also be the most expensive, with a $32.50 top-price ticket. Even so, the Shubert Organization, which books plays for the National, hopes winter debut of a new resident company at the Eisenhower Theater. The company will do six plays for six weeks each, although Stevens won't name any of the titles or stars yet.
The Warner Theater is gearing up for its production of "Othello," starring James Earl Jones and Christopher Plummer.Coming from the American Shakespeare Theater in Stratford, Conn., the show will preview Sept. 8 and is slated to run through Sept. 27. It will be directed by Peter Coe, whose Broadway credits include "Oliver," the Tony-nominated "A Life On Broadway" and the London production of "Barnum." Warner spokeswoman Sharon Mayell said the theater hopes to be able to take the show to Broadway in March after several months of touring.
The Warner will host the premiere of "Apollo -- Just Like Magic," a musical history of New York's Apollo Theater.Directed and choreographed by George Faison, who did "The Wiz" on Broadway, the show is set to run Oct. 13-Nov. 15.
Ernest Borgnine visits the Warner in November in Samuel Gallu's comedy-drama, "An Offer You Can't Refuse." Gallu will direct his play about the life of a self-made Mafia kingpin, which is slated to run Nov. 24-Dec. 6.
Richard Kiley will star in the $99[text omitted] that "Evita" will run through March, when "The Pirates of Penzance" is set to move from the West Coast.
Ford's Theatre is closed for the summer, but executive director Frankie Hewitt is working on a new production of "Black Nativity," a collage of gospel music and the poetry of Langston Hughes.
Kennedy Center chairman Roger L. Stevens, back on the job after coronary bypass surgery, has two reasons to feel encouraged: After a disappointing theater season, subscriptions are "up quite a bit" for the fall, and tickets to "Annie," the current attraction at the Opera House, are selling at a rapid clip. The fall season included Katharine Hepburn in "West Side Waltz" and Diana Rigg in "Colette." Hepburn is a major reason for the subscription upturn.
"Annie" -- back for the third time, five years after it first played in Washington -- proves that "the business is there, if people have something they want to see," according to Stevens. But he can't understand the sorry box-office fate of David Storey's "Early Days," starring Sir Ralph Richardson. With a sigh and a chuckle, Stevens quotes the adage coined by impresario Sol Hurok: "When people don't want to go, nothing can stop them."
Right now, he's busy planning the Kennedy Center's 10th anniversary celebration in September, and the Warner's "A Christmas Carol," Nov. 17-22.The production is a new musical adaptation by Michel Legrand, and a return engagement of the musical "Your Arms Too Short To Box With God" is also planned for sometime after the Borgnine show.
Like Stevens, Zelda Fichandler is not ready to spell out the Arena's entire season, but she doesn't mind sketching the beginnings of it. After a pre-season return engagement for Pat Carroll's "Gertrude Stein" show, "Major Barbara" will get the regular season underway in Arena's main, four-sided space. Then South African playwright Athol Fugard's "A Lesson From Aloes" is slated to come to the smaller Kreeger Theater, followed by "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at the Arena and "Tomfoolery," a revue of the topical songs of Tom Lehrer, in the Kreeger. David Chambers, who ran Arena during Fichandler's absence in '78-'79 and '79-'80 seasons, will direct "Midsummer."
"It's impossible to satisfy everyone," says Fichandler. Last season "I came up with what I thought was an absolute paragon of gifts to the company, and when the season was over I had more complaints than ever." People claimed they had been "overworked," she says, "and it was a fair complaint -- they were overworked."
This year, the number of Arena and Kreeger productions will be back down to eight. There were 10 last season because of a special "carousel of new plays" in the Kreeger. Fortunately, there were two very profitable shows in the Old Vat Room (Arena's cabaret space) -- "The Flying Karamazov Brothers" and "Banjo Dancin'". So Fichandler not only met but surpassed her goal of a $100,000 profit for the Old Vat.
But the financial pressure will be even stiffer this year. Arena's funding from the National Endowment for the Arts has been cut from $240,000 to $215,000. And the private sector hasn't moved to close the gap; in fact, the Marshall Foundation decided not to make another $5,000 annual grant to Arena -- explaining, according to Arena Executive Director Tom Fichandler, that "social programs need the money more."