Joseph Chaikin's production of "Solo Voyages" will open the American National Theater's fall season, followed by Anton Chekhov's "A Seagull," starring Colleen Dewhurst. The program, revealed (at long last) by director Peter Sellars last week, also includes a production of "Idiot's Delight," starring Stacy Keach and (probably) Faye Dunaway, and a 10-week visit from the Wooster Group, one of the country's most innovative and startling companies.
Sellars said he has divided the season in thirds and will firm up plans for spring and summer later this year. This fall-winter season, which inaugurates an arrangement with New Playwrights' Theatre to use its space as a satellite community-based theater, opens there Nov. 7.
"Solo Voyages" is the first work Chaikin has directed since he had a stroke last year. Long on the cutting edge of the American avant-garde, Chaikin has had to relearn language skills and works regularly with a speech therapist. "Solo Voyages" is based on three monologues by Adrienne Kennedy and is performed by Robbie McCauley, accompanied by African drummer Edwina Lee Tyler. Sellars said the production, now being performed at New York's Interart Theatre, will "be developed considerably -- where there are puppets now there will be a dancer instead, and there will be a different set."
"A Seagull" opens the Eisenhower season Dec. 9. Sellars prefers the article "A" as opposed to the more frequently used "The" because "it opens it to a wider interpretation. 'A' seagull drifting has infinite possibilities, while 'the' seems impersonal." Sellars will direct; the rest of the cast will be announced soon.
Plans for importing "The Golden Windows," the Robert Wilson piece opening this week at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, were abandoned because of the expense, Sellars said. "I hope there will be a smaller version we can bring in next year," he said. "In any case I hope we will be producing a new Robert Wilson show in three years."
The Wooster Group, he said, "is the most important experimental theater company in America." Founded 15 years ago by ANT associate director Elizabeth LeCompte, the company has managed to shock and in some cases horrify all types of audiences. One production, "Routes 1 and 9," was branded racist and the New York State Arts Council withdrew its funding in protest. Sellars said that was the first of the group's productions he saw, and he "really hated it.
"But then I saw a retrospective of their work and I realized that they have a classical beauty and discipline to their work. It is the equivalent of what it must have been like to walk into Picasso's studio in the early 1900s and say 'hey, women aren't shaped like that' . . . At first you think it's chaos, but then you realize it's tightly thought out."
Spalding Gray, who brought his monologues to New Playwrights' last year to great success, will join the Wooster Group for its first production, "North Atlantic." ("As opposed to 'South Pacific,' " chortled Sellars.) It is described as a "loony caricature of military life, set aboard an aircraft carrier 12 miles off the Dutch coast," with an "obscene and wonderful cast."
The group's second work is "The Road to Immortality," a set of three recent pieces. Sellars and LeCompte will direct one segment, "The Temptation of St. Anthony," based on a novel by Flaubert.
"Idiot's Delight," the second show in the Eisenhower, was first produced by ANTA 50 years ago, and playwright Robert Sherwood was one of the first presidents of the group, which is the parent of the present ANT. Its premiere was at the National Theatre here and it went on to win a Pulitzer Prize. Sellars will direct.
Sellars has been unable to stick to his original goal of keeping the top ticket price at $20, raising it to $25. "We just have to make the box office bear a larger burden of the costs," he lamented. "But I hope to make the ticket prices reflect the cost of the show." Names and Places
Irish playwright Niall Montgomery will introduce a performance of his play "The Winter Man" at the National Theatre tonight. Montgomery also will read some of his poems. The two performances are free; call 783-3372 for reservations . . . Friday is the deadline for performers to apply for an audition for the Kennedy Center's annual Holiday Festival. Musicians, dancers, clowns, jugglers, puppeteers, etc. must apply in writing to Sheri Stroud at the center . . . The Bristol Grill is offering a free glass of champagne to all who can prove, with a ticket stub, that they are just going to, or have come from, the theater . . .
Opening this week: Wednesday: " 'night, Mother," at the Kreeger; Friday (for three performances only): "Steeltown," by the San Francisco Mime Troupe, at the Commerce Department Auditorium. Call 463-6500.