On a Thursday afternoon, world-renowned playwright Athol Fugard sent Gordon Edelstein his new play. Edelstein read the play and called Fugard.
“There’s only one actor who can play this part,” said Edelstein to Fugard.
“Who? Sam Waterston?” said Fugard.
“No, dummy. You!”
Is that any way to talk to one of the most significant playwrights in the world over the last half century?
Apparently so. By Friday afternoon, Edelestein, Long Wharf Theater’s artistic director, had not only secured the world-premiere rights to Fugard’s newest play. It also convinced Fugard to appear on stage starring in the work.
It will be the first time the apartheid-challenging 80-year-old dramatist and actor has been onstage in more than a decade.
That was the headline news at a festive pizza party that Long Wharf threw for about 200 stalwarts Monday night as Edelstein announced its 2013-2014 season.
Edelstein described Fugard’s The Shadow of a Hummingbird as a grandfather-grandson story and deeply autobiographical.
“It feels like the late work of a master trying to pass something on,” Edelstein said.
The grandparent-grandchild theme is also in evidence in Amy Herzog’s 4000 Miles. Edelstein called the play a kind of “odd couple” relationship between a grandmother and grandson who goes to live with her after biking across the country.
Click here for the full roster of six plays, which also includes Fences by August Wilson and The Underpants by Steve Martin.
Edelstein (pictured) said that it is also a first for Long Wharf to be producing August Wilson, an African-American playwright whose plays have long been championed and premiered at the Yale Rep.
Edelstein said that of Wilson’s ten-play cycle on African American life in Pittsburgh, his favorite is Fences. It chronicles the struggle between a great black ballplayer who was not allowed to play in the whites-only Major Leagues. He lives a bitter life as a garbage man and argues with his son about what Edelstein described as “how a black man should walk in the world.”
The season also includes one musical, The Last Five Years, by Jason Robert Brown. Click on the play arrow to hear The New Haven Theater Company’s Megan Chenot sing “Still Hurting,” a selection from that play, which will close out the new season just about a year from now.
Edelstein called the whole season “thrilling.” There was clearly a special place in his high expectations for the collaboration with Fugard, whose previous play The Train Driver also opened at Long Wharf.
“It’s a particular thrill for me to work with Athol. To be in the rehearsal room will be a joy,” Edelstein said.