Xoregos Performing Company Presents Play By Famed Hollywood Screenwriter
The Xoregos Performing Company is presenting a new play at Theater for the New City by Arnold Schulman, a playwright and screenwriter who has been nominated for two Academy Awards and written for Broadway.
Schulman's Sign in the Six O'Clock Sky debuts at Theater for the New City March 14 and runs through March 31. Shela Xoregos directs the production. Tickets are $18 and
$15 for seniors and students.
Schulman was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Love with the Proper Stranger and Best Adapted Screenplay for Goodbye, Columbus.
He also wrote the screenplay for the movie of A Chorus Line and Tucker: The Man and his Dream, as well as the teleplay for And The Band Played On, an early depiction of AIDS.
Costumes are by Auda Sakho, set is by Sonya Plenefisch, lighting and projections are by Tianshu Zhao and Jennifer Healy is stage manager.
In this producion, a terrific cast does justice to this mysterious script and the dynamic, melodic songs by Dan Furman.
"He's 93 and he's still writing plays," said Xoregos. "The play's very unusual. That's the interesting thing."
Schulman, who is 93 and now lives in Santa Monica, Calif., was part of what many consider the heyday of Hollywood.
He worked with Frank Capra, Elia Kazan, Alan Pakula, Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas and Sir Richard Attenborough.
"I was going through some old papers not long ago. I ran across my discharge papers from the Navy," Schulman said. "They said, 'What do you plan to do?' To my surprise, it said 'playwright.'"
"I was so lucky," he said. "I wrote for radio before television. Then I wrote for TV and wrote a new play and had an audience every week. "
He wrote dramas to meet deadlines, before getting a call, asking if he could adapt one for the stage.
"It was like writing a new play every week," Schulman said. "One of them was seen by Garson Kanin, who called me and said, 'Do you want to make that TV show into a play?' I said, 'Of course.'"
He then went from radio to TV to Broadway, writing the book for Jenny, a musical starring Mary Martin, to movies.
He was later hired to do adaptations, including Philip Roth's classic Goodbye, Columbus.
"I think it's all due to Philip Roth," he said of the script's impact. "I spent a lot of time with him. He took me to Newark and showed me the places where everything happened."
Sign in the Six O'Clock Sky marks Schulman's return to the New York stage in a kind of comeback to the city where he began his career.
"I've been working on it for 30 years," Schulman said of the script. "I had these characters, a troupe of players. I tried it here and there. This time it just came together."
Sign in the Six O'Clock Sky tells the story of a 1933 sideshow troupe stranded in time. "Carnival sideshow performers find themselves in a strange place," Xoregos said. "They don't know where they are or how they got there. They're in a time warp." Other characters include two time-travelers.
The show also includes original songs by Dan Furman that evoke particular time periods. "It's a theatrical troupe," Schulman said. "I wanted to show what they do. So they sing and dance and tell jokes."
Xoregos likes Schulman's work as well as sideshow performers, at the core of this script.
"They're sideshow performers. Pin Cushion, the man who feels no pain, the Strong Man, beautiful Aphrodite and Dr. Raven, a blind mystic, who runs the freak show," Xoregos said.
Schulman's son Peter, a professor of French literature at Old Dominion University, in Norfolk, Va., saw a production of Britannicus, a classic play by Racine directed by Xoregos last May at Theater for the New City. "He liked it so much, he sent her a note. They got to be friends," Schulman said. "He asked her if she would read this play."
Xoregos said she was happy to read Schulman's work and enjoyed and connected with this script.
"His son loved Britannicus and asked if I'd be interested in reading his father's plays," she said. "I liked this one and said I would do it."
Schulman continues writing scripts, continuing to be as creative as in his youth. "I'm half-way through another play," he said. "I've been writing plays all along. I have dozens of plays and movies."
In his nineties, Schulman seems to experience the joy of writing the way he always has as characters come to life on the page and now, once again, on the stage.
"What comes out of their mouths surprises me," Schulman said of characters. "I write every day."
Sign in the Six O'Clock Sky, a new play by Arnold Schulman directed by Shela Xoregos. March 14-March 31. Thurs.-Sat. @ 8 p.m. and Sun. @ 3 p.m. Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. between 9th and 10th Sts. $18/$15 seniors and students. Reservations and information: 212-254-1109. www.theaterforthenewcity.net