Connecticut Artistic Directors Having A Busy Summer

How did Connecticut's artistic directors spend their summer?

It's been a busy theater summer for many of Connecticut's artistic directors.

Gordon Edelstein, artistic director at New Haven's Long Wharf Theatre, staged an excellent production of Eugene O'Neill's "A Moon for the Misbegotten" at Williamstown Theatre Festival in the Berkshires, starring six-time Tony Award-winner Audra McDonald.

Edelstein previously staged the show (with a similar Ming Cho Lee set design) starring Alyssa Bresnahan at Long Wharf and Hartford Stage. At Long Wharf in 2005 she played opposite John Procaccino and at Hartford Stage in 2006 it was with her husband, James Colby.

McDonald played opposite her husband — the Tony Award-nominated Will Swenson — and though he is mostly known for his musical roles ("Hair," "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," "Les Miserables") he was solid in his performance as the haunted James Tyrone. The production ends Sunday, Aug. 23.

Future prospects for the show are still unclear but I wouldn't be surprised to see it have a future life. McDonald, however, is booked to star in the spring opening of the Broadway production of "Shuffle Along, Or, The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed." The show, which features music and lyrics by Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle, also stars Brian Stokes Mitchell, Joshua Henry and Billy Porter. George C. Wolfe directs.

Rob Ruggiero, producing artistic director of Hartford TheaterWorks, scored a big hit at St. Louis' MUNY with Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Oklahoma!" (which had its world premiere at Shubert in New Haven in 1943 under the title of "Away We Go!"). The MUNY is famous for it's epic stage and large-scale musical productions for an audience of 11,500 per performance, which must have been quite the contrast from Ruggiero's experience directing "La Cage Aux Folles" at the intimate Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam this summer. Seating there is about 380. You probably could put Goodspeed Opera House on the MUNY stage.

Across the Sound, former Hartford Stage artistic director Michael Wilson staged the musical "Grey Gardens" at Sag Harbor's Bay Street Theatre on Long Island this month starring Betty Buckley and Rachel York. Next he'll direct "Desire" off-Broadway in September, a collection of short plays based on Tennessee Williams stories.

As for Darko Tresnjak, artistic director of Hartford Stage, he's gearing up this month for the national tour of "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder," with pre-tour start in Schenectady,, N.Y. in September, followed by its official national tour launch in Chicago on Sept. 29. John Rapson play the role of the eight nasty D'Ysquith heirs and Kevin Massey plays the murderous (but likable) Monty. The Broadway production is still running and completes its second year in November.

Adam Pascal Performs

Tony Award-nominee Adam Pascal ("Rent," "Aida") will perform in concert at Norwalk's Music Theater of Connecticut on Sept. 26 at 8 p.m. Pascal's credits also include stints "Memphis," "Cabaret" and "Chicago" and numerous feature films The event is a benefit for the theater.

Tickets are $125 for The VIP Experience, includes cocktails, plentiful hors d'oeuvres at 6:30 p.m. and reserved seating and a post-show dessert reception meet-and-greet with Pascal. Tickets for the show only are $75. Information: 203-454-3883 and musictheatreofct.com

'Disgraced' Cast

Nicole Lowrance (Hartford Stage's "Dividing the Estate," "The Learned Ladies of Park Avenue") will be featured in cast of the Long Wharf Theatre production of Ayad Akhtar's "Disgraced." Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award, the play also features Arash Mokhtar (TV's "Madame Secretary"), Benim Foster (Broadway's "Twelve Angry Men"), Mohit Gautam and Shirine Babb (Ariel in Hartford Stage's "The Tempest," Long Wharf's "Macbeth 1969"). The production, staged by the theater's artistic director Gordon Edelstein, will run Oct. 14 to Nov. 8. The show is a co-production with Boston's Huntington Theatre Company. Information: lonmgwharf.org.

Steve Martin In Conversation

Long Wharf Theatre likes Steve Martin and it's apparent that the comedian, writer, producer, actor and musician likes Long Wharf Theatre, too.

The theater produced Martin's "Picasso at Lapin Agile" and co-produced his "The Underpants" with Hartford Stage. Artistic director Gordon Edelstein staged both productions

Martin will be at Long Wharf in a "creative conversation" with New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik on Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. Gopnik has a Long Wharf connection, too. He is collaborating with composer David Shire on a new musical, "Table," which is being developed by Long Wharf and will have its world premiere in New Haven in 2017.

Tickets for the talk are $75 to $100. Information: longwharf.org.

Short Takes

>>E'Dena Hines, the step-granddaughter of actor Morgan Freeman, was stabbed to death early Sunday in New York, allegedly by her boyfriend. Police charged Lamar Davenport, 30, with murder and took him to Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center for a psychiatric evaluation pending his arraignment. The 33-year-old actress played Beneatha in the 2012 Westport Country Playhouse production of "A Raisin in the Sun," directed by Phylicia Rashad. Hines was a graduate student at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts from 2008 to 2011.

>>Are you a theater obsessive like me? Get alerts on theater news, news and opinion by following me on Twitter at Twitter@ShowRiz. And are there any Twitter followers who want to be my guest when I review the national tour of the musical "The Book of Mormon" when it plays the Shubert Theatre in New Haven? Tweet me why you would like to go in 140 characters or less. New Twitter followers get special consideration.

>>Tyler Perry brings his comic creation "Madea" in another stage show in the touring "Madea On The Run," written and starring Perry. the show plays Hartford's The Bushnell on Sept. 11 and 12. The 21/2-hour show centers on Perry's drag creation on the outs with the law. Information: www.bushnell.org. In other Bushnell bookings: "Menopause: The Musical" returns with its "Survival" tour on Oct. 16 to 18. Comedian Bob Newhart performs there Oct. 23.

>>The New Haven-based Spit Knuckle Company presented its latest work, "The Curious Case of Phineas Gage," last week at the New York International Fringe Festival. The work is inspired by the life and times of Gage, one of the most famous cases of traumatic brain injury. The Split Knuckle Company presented its "Endurance" last summer at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven. That production won a special award from the Connecticut Critics Circle at its annual awards ceremony in June.

>>Shakespeare & Company will present a staged reading of William Shakespeare's "Richard III" in a special benefit event on Oct. 10 at 2 p.m. starring stage, film and television actor Hamish Linklater (Matthew Kimble in TV's "The New Adventures of Old Christine" and Andrew Keanelly in "The Crazy Ones"). The event will be directed by artistic director Jonathan Croy. Linklater is the son of company founding member Kristin Linklater and made his first theatrical appearance on stage at Shakespeare & Company. He is currently starring in the Shakespearean fairy tale, "Cymbeline" at New York's Shakespeare in the Park. Information: 413-637- 3353 and shakespeare.org.

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