As he looks forward to his 23rd and last season as artistic director of the Shaw Festival, Christopher Newton expansively commented: "I am extraordinarily proud of the work we have produced at Shaw, and the coming season is no exception. Among the usual mix of forgotten plays and dramas comes a fresh new work and some solid favorites that I am convinced our audience will appreciate."
New play? Isn't that counter to the Shaw's operating mandate that calls only for plays written by Shaw or written during his lifetime?
Yes, that was the agreement with the Shaw Trust, which oversees Shaw's estate, until 1999. But at that time the mandate was quietly "expanded" and now permits plays written later as long as they deal with situations and events from Shaw's lifetime.
For example, the "new work" referred to by Newton is a one-man show called "Chaplin," written by and starring a long-time leading figure on Shaw's stages, Simon Bradbury.
Newton also will celebrate his final year by directing three plays, including a reprise of this season's Court House Theatre hit, "The Return of the Prodigal" by St. John Hankin. On the big Festival Theatre stage he will direct Bernard Shaw's "Caesar and Cleopatra." And to close his days at Shaw, Newton returns to an area that has gained him international plaudits, the plays of Noel Coward.
Several influential London critics have said Coward simply is not done better anywhere than at the Shaw Festival under Newton's direction, so next season's staging of "Hay Fever" has the potential to be a blockbuster.
It also will be a season of sensible, gradual transition, as Jackie Maxwell, the artistic director-designate, will be on hand and will direct two productions, Shaw's "Candida" and the Stephen Sondheim musical "Merrily We Roll Along," in the Royal George Theatre.
Here is the complete schedule for the Shaw Festival's 2002 season, with play dates listed where they are available:
"Caesar and Cleopatra," by Bernard Shaw, directed by Christopher Newton, April 13 to Oct. 27.
"Detective Story," by Sidney Kingsley, directed by Neil Munro, May 2 to Sept. 21.
"Candida," by Bernard Shaw, directed by Jackie Maxwell, June 26 to date to be announced.
"Hay Fever," by Noel Coward, directed by Christopher Newton, Aug. 2 to date to be announced.
Court House Theatre
"The Return of the Prodigal," by St. John Hankin, directed by Christopher Newton, May 17 to Sept. 21.
"House of Bernarda Alba," by Federico Garcia Lorca, directed by Tadeusz Bradecki, June 8 to Sept. 20.
"His Majesty," by Harley Granville Barker, directed by Neil Munro, June 28 to Sept. 21.
"Chaplin," by Simon Bradbury, directed by Neil Munro, Aug. 10 to Sept. 22.
Royal George Theatre
"The Old Ladies," by Rodney Ackland, directed by James MacDonald, April 4 to date to be announced.
"Merrily We Roll Along," by Stephen Sondheim, directed by Jackie Maxwell, May 11 to date to be announced.
"The Old Lady Shows Her Medals," by J.M. Barrie, director to be announced, July 12 to Sept. 21.