Don Bauder 7:49 p.m., May 22
OnStage Playhouse is world premiering Jon Jory's adaptation of Jane Austen's novel Persuasion.
Yeah, yeah, some may say. Another San Diego world premiere. We average what, 20 a year?
True. But the eye-openers are the author and the company he chose.
Jory's a theater legend, as his inclusion in New York's Theatre Hall of Fame testifies (and his Carnegie Mellon Commitment to Playwrighting Award, and three honorary doctorates). After founding the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, in 1969 he became artistic director of the Actors Theatre of Louisville. He elevated the company's status nationally and created the annual Humana Festival of New American Plays in 1976.
Now world renowned, the festival showcases new works, including Beth Henley's Crimes of the Heart and Donald Margulies' Dinner with Friends.
Like Jerry Patch, formerly of the Old Globe and now the Manhattan Theatre Club, Jory nurtures the word. He's that rare phenomenon in this day and age: a script-guider, helping playwrights fulfill their vision. And a teacher. Three of his books are must reads for practitioners of the craft: Tips: Ideas for Actors, Tips: Ideas for Directors, and Tips: Ideas for Actors II.
The Humana Festival also championed "Jane Martin," a writer as reclusive as Thomas Pynchon, if she exists at all. Martin's collection of women's monologues, Talking With, has been staged many times locally with great success.
Some say Jory is Martin. Jory isn't saying.
He now pens plays using his own name. When OnStage produced his adaptation of Austen's Pride and Prejudice, says Carla Nell, "apparently a friend of his saw it - we don't know who - contacted him and said it was a great show."
Jory emailed Teri Brown, artistic director of OnStage: Would she be interested in a world premiere?
Up to now, the thriving Chula Vista company hasn't staged a new work by a nationally recognized author.
"It was all very random," says Nell, who will direct Persuasion, "very awesome."
"I have to admit," says Brown, "I was a bit skeptical - until I Google'd the email address. Then the adrenaline hit!
But there was a hitch. Jory wanted a production before the end of 2012. He told Brown if she wasn't interested, or couldn't fit it in, a professional theater in the Midwest wanted to do it.
"I looked over our current season," says Brown, "and determined that our year-end slot and director [Nell] would be a perfect fit. The email hit my inbox around 8:00 a.m. I called Carla around 9:30. She jumped at the chance, and we had it all wrapped up by noon!"