Mikhail Baryshnikov To Premiere Play At Hartford Stage
Legendary Dancer Will Premiere Chekhov-Inspired Play
By FRANK RIZZO
April 29, 2012
Mikhail Baryshnikov, the legendary dancer who has also taken on acting roles, will star in the world premiere of the dance-theater work "The Man in a Case," a stage adaptation of an Anton Chekhov short story that will premiere at Hartford Stage next February.
The five-actor show is a co-production with the theater, Baryshnikov Productions Inc. and ArKtype/Thomas O. Kriegsmann.
The piece is co-adapted and directed by Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar of the New York-based Big Dance Theatre. The show is choreographed by Parson, who is also choreographing the David Bryne/Fatboy Slim musical for the Public Theater, "Here Lies Love," about Imelda Marcos.
The show will run Feb. 21 to March 24 with seven performances a week instead of the usual eight.
Before the premiere there will be two workshops at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York, which the dancer opened in 2005 as a creative home for artists. The show will also be rehearsed in New York.
The short story, published in 1989, is a tale of pettiness and paranoia, as told by a teacher to a friend after a day of hunting in the country. The story centers on a narrow-minded schoolteacher of Greek and Latin who is obsessed with following the rules and is fearful of any suspicion of permissiveness.
The show will mark the third world premiere of the 2012-13 season for the theater, which is on a roll after its commissioned work which premiered last fall, Quiara Alegrķa Hudes' "Water By The Spoonful," won the Pulitzer Prize this month. The other two premieres will be the musical comedy "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder" starring Jefferson Mays and Daniel Beaty's "Breath and Imagination: The Roland Hayes Story."
"He is an extraordinary artist and I'm excited to bring him to Hartford as well as presenting this new way of looking at Chekhov," said Darko Tresnjak, artistic director of Hartford Stage. "It's important to take our audiences in different directions and explore new forms and this is a great artistic curveball."
Tresnjak said the five-actor piece is within the theater's budget but additional funding is needed for the New York workshops.
Subscriptions for the 2012-13 season are now on sale.
Last year Baryshnikov, 64, starred in a new play, "In Paris," which played Paris, Helsinki, the Netherlands and Tel Aviv, and toured this spring in Berkeley and Santa Monica, Calif. The work, which Baryshnikov produced and is based on a short story by Russian writer Ivan Buning, will be presented this summer at the Lincoln Center Festival.
Baryshnikov has performed in many acting roles since he defected from the Soviet Union to the West in 1974 when he was 26 and then a star of the Kirov Ballet. He made his film debut in 1977's dance melodrama "The Turning Point." He danced with Gregory Hines in the 1985 film "White Nights." He starred in "Metamorphosis" on Broadway in 1989. He was also featured in the last season of TV's "Sex and the City."
The Hartford Stage engagement will be the third time in eight years that a Russian or Georgian dance-theater piece will have been presented in Hartford.
In 2005, the Bushnell presented the premiere of "The Overcoat," produced by the Canadian Stage Company and based on two short stories by Nikolai Gogol.
Baryshnikov also starred in a touring theater piece with dance, "Forbidden Christmas or The Doctor and the Patient" in 2004. The piece, about a man with mental illness who thinks he is a car, was written and staged by Georgian director and puppeteer Rezo Gabriadze. Because of slow ticket sales the Bushnell run was cut in half to three performances.
In dance presentations, he also performed at the Bushnell in 2007 in "Hell's Kitchen Dance with Mikhail Baryshnikov." In 2003, the year after he disbanded the White Oak Dance Project, he launched his solo dance tour in Hartford. He also performed at the Bushnell in 1991 in a show presented by the Hartford Ballet.
After his defection, Baryshnikov performed with the American Ballet Theatre until 1979, when he joined the New York City Ballet to work with choreographers George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins. He returned to ABT in 1980 as principal dancer, choreographer and artistic director, a position he held for 10 years.
He founded White Oak in 1990 with choreographer Mark Morris.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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