AFTER A YEAR-LONG search, Ford's Theatre has found itself a new managing director: Michael Gennaro has been general manager of the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, N.J., and an actor who appeared in the touring company of "Godspell" that played the National Theatre in 1976. Gennaro's father is Peter Gennaro, choreographer of "Annie" and "3 Penny Opera" (he's back at work trying to resuscitate "Annie II"). The younger Gennaro replaces Ford's general manager Nancy Gibbs, who has moved to New York.
Ford's is still tightening up the first act of Stephen Pouliot's "Grandma Moses -- An American Primitive," a one-woman show starring Cloris Leachman as the naive-style but very wise painter. Leachman has performed the show in Chicago, Anchorage and Madison, Wis., among other cities, and is headed for Broadway's Belasco Theatre in late September. Director Howard Dallin recently decided not to use the two live chickens (and one understudy) on stage, after all, a decision which has made Ford's company manager Patricia Humphrey very happy. "Grandma Moses" begins performances Tuesday. Call 347-4833.
SUMMER'S (ALMOST) HERE and the time is right to head out on the (almost) country drive to the Olney Theatre. The theater, which did quite well at last month's Helen Hayes Awards, just closed the hit musical "Dennis the Menace" (which may tour next year with Jean Stapleton and Gavin McLeod), and recently raised the curtain on its second show of the season, David Hare's "The Secret Rapture."
The play, which suggests the atmosphere of English conservative politics within a family, was recently at the center of a theater-world controversy. Well-received in London, it closed in New York after two weeks, following a lukewarm New York Times review by Frank Rich, who subsequently received a much talked-about letter of protest from the playwright.
Director Jim Petosa says Hare "signals the dawning of a new morally enigmatic age as surely as George Bernard Shaw ushered us out of Victorianism and into the 20th century." Hare has said he views the play as a way to "challenge the government in the best way we can -- on the stage."
The terrific Olney cast includes Karen Trott, Leland Orser, former Folger Theatre artistic director John Neville-Andrews, Carolyn Swift and Jennifer Mendenhall; the latter two were Helen Hayes nominees this year. "The Secret Rapture" begins performances Tuesday.
The Olney has been promised a $625,000 grant from the Maryland State General Assembly, earmarked to support half the projected costs of renovating the theater's facilities. Planned renovations include a new lobby, further winterization, upgraded and disabled-accessible restrooms, seating reconfiguration and a new scene shop. The theater must match the grant in cash or written pledges before any state monies are received, so the Olney is launching a campaign to match funds by December. As part of the campaign, theater seats will be inscribed with donors' names; clay bricks permanently inscribed with the names of friends of the theater are available at $1,000 to $10,000 each, and will be assembled to form a decorative "wall of fame." Call 924-4485.
JUNE HAS traditionally been "gettin' married month," so it's only right and proper that "Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding" opened last week. A gimmicky environmental theater piece along the lines of "Tamara," "Tony 'n' Tina" invites audience members to sit among the bickering, feuding family and guests at their Italian wedding ceremony, then join the cast (still in character) at a rambunctious reception, complete with buffet dinner and a live dance band. The show has been playing in New York for four years, and "franchises" have opened in Los Angeles and Philadelphia, and now at Fells Point Cafe, 723 S. Broadway in Baltimore. Call 800/766-0028.
HONOR THY GRANDFATHER: Actress Helen A. Patton, recently seen in the No-Neck Monsters production of "Angel," was invited by the French village of Nehou to perform in honor of her granddad Gen. George S. Patton Jr. at the opening of the annual Voir de la Liberte' Bicycle Trek last Saturday. The race began at Utah Beach, where the Allied Forces landed in Normandy, and finished in Luxembourg; Nehou was the site of the sequestered mobile headquarters where Gen. Patton kept himself in hiding for six weeks before liberating France from Nazi occupation. Patton, executive director of the No-Neck Monsters company, sang and read her grandfather's poems, "God of Battles" and "Through a Glass Darkly," then joined the cyclists for the stretch to Paris.
CONFIDENTIAL to "Dark Shadows" fans (you know who you are): Jonathan Frid, who played vampire hero Barnabas Collins in the '60s gothic TV soap, will bring his one-man "Shakespearean Odyssey" to the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Va., June 27 through July 14. Currently at the Barter is Will Stutts, whose one-man "A Journey through the Mind . . . Edgar Allen Poe" continues through June 23. Call 703/628-3991.