Tom Stoppard

Playwright/screenwriter Tom Stoppard stands outside the Yale School of Drama before speaking at a playwriting class taught by Paula Vogel in 2008. (Cloe Poisson, Hartford Courant / December 16, 2008)

His intelligence and wit are legendary. Now you can witness both for yourself when playwright and screenwriter Tom Stoppard presents a free lecture at Yale's University Theatre on Monday at 5:15 p.m. The event is open to the public.

The richly worded works of Stoppard, 77, include the plays "Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead," "Jumpers," "Travesties," "The Real Thing," "The Invention of Love," "Rock 'n' Roll" and his epic trilogy, "The Coast of Utopia," as well as screenplays for "Brazil," Empire of the Sun" and "Shakespeare in Love," for which he won an Oscar. A stage adaptation of the latter is now a hit in London with speculation about a staging in New York.

Stoppard's "Arcadia" will be the season opener at the Yale Repertory Theatre, staged by James Bundy, artistic director of the Rep and dean of the Yale School of Drama. Previews begin Oct. 3, opening Oct. 9 and continues through Oct. 25.

Cast in this Rep production are: René Augesen (Blanche in Yale Rep's "A Streetcar Named Desire"), Felicity Jones (Rep's "The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls," "Hamlet"), Rebekah Brockman, Julian Gamble, Annelise Lawson, Max Gordon Moore, Tom Pecinka, Graham Rowat, Michael Rudko, Jonathan Spivey, Bradely James Tejeda, and Stephen Barker Turner (Rep's "Compulsion," "The Evildoers"). The production will have original music by Matthew Suttor.

In a breakfast interview during Stoppard's last visit at Yale in 2008, I asked if he were able to travel back in time to meet his earlier self, like a character in one of his plays, would he be sympathetic or critical?

"Both at the same time, I think," he says. "People think I'm a sort of serious — or too serious — a writer. But I wasn't actually serious enough as a person. I had a superficial knowledge of what was happening around me. I like theater because it's, in the best sense, a recreation. If I were to go very deep in many of the things I've been writing about, I wouldn't do it by writing plays because plays aren't fitted for that. I am not, by any means, undervaluing plays. I think a society without culture is a nightmare vision."

Then Stoppard starts to consider the idea at hand, and you can almost see the analytical wheels whirling.

"But more than that, I think the arts come from somewhere else. A meaningless phrase, I know. But. I don't think the arts are something you teach and learn. But, I'm missing the point I'm trying to make — which is that there is something about creativity that escapes the physical world, even escapes mathematical law. Artists aren't subject to that. It's hard to explain."

The lecture should be a doozy.

Information: 203-432-1234 and www.yalerep.org.

Taylor Heads 'Our Town' Cast

Myra Lucretia Taylor will play the Stage Manager in Thornton Wilder's "Our Town," which kicks off Long Wharf Theatre's 50th anniversary season. The show, staged by artistic director Gordon Edelstein, will feature a multi-racial cast made up of actors who have played the New Haven theater. Taylor was in "The Old Settler" and "To Gleam It Around, To Show My Shine" at the theater.

The show will begin on the theater's main stage with previews on Oct. 8, opening on Oct. 15 and running through Nov. 2. Wilder, a 1920 Yale grad, spent many of his years in the New Haven area with a family home in Hamden. He is buried at the Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hamden.

The cast also features James Andreassi (as Joe Stoddard), Leon Addison Brown (Editor Webb), Robert Dorfman (Simon Stimson), Mateo Gomez (Sam Craig), JoJo Gonzalez (Howie Newsome), Jenny Leona (Emily Webb), Rey Lucas (George Gibbs), Ann McDonaugh (Mrs. Soames), Phil McGlaston (Constable Warren), Aidan McMillan (Joe Crowell), Dermot McMillan (Si Crowell), Linda Powell (Mrs. Gibbs), Christina Rouner (Mrs. Webb), Steve Routman (Professor Willard), Namumba Santos (Wally Webb), Don Sparks (Dr. Gibbs) and Remy Welsh (Rebecca Gibbs).

Lucas and Gomez were in "The Old Man and the Sea." At the theater. Leona and Routman were in "The Underpants." Sparks and Dorfman were in "The Front Page." McDonough's Long Wharf credits began with 1985's "Paris Bound."

Hartford Stage presented "Our Town" in 2007 starring Hal Holbrook. (Long Wharf did a 1987 production of the play that also starred Holbrook.) Paul Newman starred in a Westport Country Playhouse production in 2002 that went on to Broadway. That production was also filmed for PBS-TV.

Information: www.longwharf.org and 203-787-4282.

Dental Jams

More than 500 dentists, anesthesiologists and history enthusiasts will host multiple events celebrating the life of Hartford's own Dr. Horace Wells — who discovered anesthesia in 1846 — in connection with Hartford Stage's play about his life, "Ether Dome," which runs Sept. 11 through Oct. 5.

"No longer did patients have to suffer excruciating pain in order to have life-saving surgery," said Dr. William MacDonnell, a dental anesthesiologist and past president of the Horace Wells Club.

The Connecticut Historical Society (CHS) will co-host an evening at the theater for history buffs with Envisionfest and CT Explored magazine, on Sept. 16. CHS is also creating an exhibit about Wells' life in the theater's upper lobby. Other organizations hosting events include Connecticut State Society of Anesthesiologists, Sept.13; Connecticut State Dental Association, Hartford Dental Society, and Connecticut Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, all on Sept. 17; Integrated Anesthesiology Associates, Sept. 18; and Hartford Medical Society, Sept. 20. Draturg Elizabeth Williamson will host a conversation with Dr. MacDonnell after the matinee on Sept. 21.

Loved the Play? Read the Book

Hartford Stage is also introducing "Darko's Book Club," named after artstic director Darkjo Tresnjak, featuring book discussions to complement and add perspective to each play of the 51st season.

The club begins on Sept. 15 with Julie Fenster's "Ether Day," centering on Hartford's Dr. Horace Wells and the discovery of anesthesia. Tresnjak will personally lead the discussions for that book, along with "1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare," on Oct. 20 coinciding with the theater's production of "Hamlet;" W. Somerset Maugham's "Theatre" on Jan. 12 in relationship to Noel Coward's "Private Lives," and William Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew" on May 18 in conjunction with the Cole Porter musical "Kiss Me Kate."

James Baldwin's "Another Country'' will be the selection on Feb. 3 to coincide with Matthew Lopez' "Reverberation." The discussion on March 30 will be on the book "The Children of Willesden Lane: Beyond the Kindertransport: A Memoir of Music, Love and Survival," which is the basis of "The Pianist of Willesden Lane" at the theater.

All Monday night gatherings, which include light snacks, will be at 6 p.m. at the theater. Membership for the season is $120, not including books. Interested readers can sit-in on the first evening for $25. Information: 860-527-5151 or visit www.hartfordstage.org.