Rudin-Norris spat rivets Broadway

Bruce Norris

Bruce Norris

In a blockbuster scoop this morning that had Broadway people choking on their cornflakes, New York Post columnist Michael Riedel reported that the powerful New York producer Scott Rudin had angrily pulled the plug on his upcoming Broadway production of the Bruce Norris play "Clybourne Park." (Rudin had planned to import a production from Los Angeles, not the recent Steppenwolf Theatreproduction.)

As Riedel told it, Norris walked out on a commitment to appear in the pilot for Jonathan Franzen's "The Corrections," which Rudin is producing for HBO as a series. Angry that Norris had reneged on his word, Rudin retaliating by telling Norris that, therefore, he longer intended to produce his show. And it was not a private retaliation.

Some in the business smelled a publicity-generating moment for whoever does pick up the production, assuming someone does. Others saw a useful way out of a show that was not likely to make a lot of money. And there have been no official announcements. But those who can read between the lines suspect the report was sourced to Rudin's office, the producer's "no comment" notwithstanding. And Rudin is known to champion just this kind of play. Norris, it appeared, had overplayed his hand with the wrong poker player.

In Chicago, of course, Norris' colorful and sometimes self-destructive behavior is as well known as his disdain for stooping to those in power. At Steppenwolf, the theater that made his career and that premiered all his major plays aside from "Clybourne Park," Norris was carefully nurtured and protected by artistic director Martha Lavey. Steppenwolf must be looking good to Norris this morning.

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