Published: June 19. 2008 6:00AM
Gearing up for the theater's 25th season, Vivienne Benesch and Ethan McSweeny, co-artistic directors of the Chautauqua Theater Company, are promising a summer of great writers, great actors, and great theater.
"In the past 25 years, we've gone from being one of the youngest members of the Chautauqua arts community to becoming one of its four major pillars," said Benesch.
The season kicks off on Tuesday with Arthur Miller's classic American masterpiece, "Death of a Salesman" (June 24-July 6), with Stuart Margolin cast in the title role of Willy Loman.
"Stuart is returning for the fourth consecutive year, and I can't say enough about him as an actor," said McSweeny, who'll direct the production.
"He's been an inspiration to both Vivienne and myself as well as the entire company. I believe he'll be the best Willy Loman audiences have seen since Lee J. Cobb in the original Broadway production.
"Starring in Craig Lucas' "Reckless" (July 19-27), Benesch will return to the Bratton Theatre stage for the first time in a decade as Rachel, the role she filled 20 years ago as a Chautauqua Conservatory student.
"Rachel is a woman not sure if she's running away from or to her dreams," she said. "The play is a dreamscape that includes both fantasy and comedy and is an incredible journey of self-discovery. 'Reckless' is one of my favorite plays, and Rachel one of my favorite roles.
"If there's anything comparable to an official birthday party for the CTC's 25th season, it's got to be the July 24 performance of "Every Good Boy Deserves Favor," which will mark the first time the company has ever performed on the Chautauqua Amphitheater stage.
That evening, the company's actors will team up with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra in a one-night-only performance of Tom Stoppard and Andre Previn's rarely seen work featuring Michael Emerson of "LOST" and multi-award-winning actor Brian Murray.
The CTC will close out the season with Shakespeare's most beloved comedy "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (Aug. 9-16), performed by actors of the CTC Conservatory.
"It doesn't matter how many times you see the play, the fantasy world a production creates is always going to be unique," said McSweeny. "I believe our creative production team will bring a special vibrancy to each of the three disparate elements of the comedy -- the fairies, the lovers, and the mechanicals.
Along with full productions, the CTC will also feature a new play workshop series, which corresponds with the Chautauqua Institution's weekly morning lecture theme.
The summer's first new play offering, "Variations on a Theme" by Anna Ziegler, was chosen to complement the Week Three theme, "On Writing." The second play, "Sick" by Zayd Dohrn, reflects Week Six's theme, "Healing the Globe."
"The 2008 season is not only a summer of dreams on stage, it's also a season of dreams of what the CTC can do in our next 25 years," said Benesch.
The 2008 Chautauqua Theater Company will present "Death of a Salesman" (June 24-July 6), "Reckless" (July 19-27), "Every Good Boy Deserves Favor" (one night only on July 24), "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (Aug. 9-16).
For a season brochure or to make reservations, call (716) 357-6250 or visit tickets.ciweb.org.