Robert Bush 6:31 p.m., May 18
In this week's theater column, Sam Woodhouse looks back on the San Diego Rep's first 35 years. I asked him not for a Greatest Hits list, but to talk about shows where the Rep or he, personally, made a leap. The feature discussed the first ten. Here are the others.
JAZZ MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (directed by George Ferencz, 1988). Max Roach, legendary drummer and former sideman to Charlie Parker, improvised Shakespeare's comedy into a musical, literally. "At rehearsals," says Woodhouse, "Max couldn't play piano, so he'd take lines from the text and start humming. 'Play that', he'd tell the pianist. And he would. Then Max'd turn to, say, Keith David and Sheila Dabney, and say, 'sing.' The whole thing was built like that!"
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO DICKENS DICKENS (directed by Woodhouse, 1992, 1993). "Merger of gospel and A Christmas Carol - completely disparate elements. But Dickens, it turns out, was big on the Bible and, like Gospel, deeply influenced by Christian principles. Gospel's about the light shining in a dark corner. Just like what happens to the world's most evil man: Scrooge."
WATER & POWER (directed by Woodhouse, 2008). Richard Montoya and Culture Clash's drama about brothers, who grow up in East LA, nicknamed "Water" and "Power." One becomes a senator, the other a cop (who says DWP doesn't stand for Department of Water and Power; it stands for "Department of White People").
BUCKY: R. BUCKMINSTER FULLER: THE HISTORY AND MYSTERY OF THE UNIVERSE (directed by Douglas Jacobs, 2000). Possibly the Rep's most successful world premiere. Jacobs' script has since toured the U.S. and Canada, including stops at the prestigious Arena Stage, in Washington, D.C., and American Repertory Theatre at Harvard where Fuller, one of the brightest and sanest minds of the 20th century, was kicked out twice.
THE WOMEN (directed by Anne Bogart, 1992). The renowned director turned up the temperature on Claire Booth Luce's already steamy satire of angry, entitled, yet powerless women.
THE MAD DANCERS (directed by Todd Salovey, 2001). In Yehuda Hyman's "mystical comedy," Rabbi Nachem of Breslov is dying. Whoever replaces him must be "a terrific dancer." The piece premiered at the Rep, and was later staged in Washington, D.C.
AVENUE X (directed by Woodhouse, 1984). In Ray Leslee and John Jiler's musical, a street in Brooklyn's Gravesend section divides the African-American and Italian-American communities. Milton and Pascuale dare to blend their music. "A capella do wop battle," says Woodhouse, "with a full-hearted love story in the middle. A rare chance to hear a face-to-face racial showdown AND street corner music."
OF MICE AND MEN (directed by Douglas Jacobs, 1981). "Profoundly moving and rich performances by Tavis Ross and Bill Dunnam. Such a rare event where the love between the two men breaks your heart and the hearts of the characters."
AMERICAN BUFFALO (directed by Woodhouse, 1979). "Testosterone, machismo, profanity, ambition, ferocity, and a cry for recognition - like watching two raging lions battle it out in the veldt."
Photograph by Darren Scott