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John Lithgow, Jane Fonda, Theresa Rebeck headline 2011 Mark Taper season

August 24, 2010 |  3:24 pm

Taper L.A.'s Center Theatre Group announced Tuesday that its 2011 season for the Mark Taper Forum will feature a total of five productions, with star turns by John Lithgow, Olympia Dukakis and the previously announced Jane Fonda. In addition, playwright Theresa Rebeck will present her play, "The Novelist."

Michael Ritchie, the artistic director of CTG, said Tuesday that the still-soft economy was "a factor in our thinking" in scheduling five rather than the six it is presenting in the current season.

"But it didn't sway us one way or another," Ritchie said. "If there was another show that I was compelled to do, I would have done six. But none were screaming out for a production."

John Lithgow's "Stories By Heart" (Jan. 4 to Feb. 13) will open the 2011 Taper season. The solo show features the Tony and Emmy-winning actor tracing his roots as a performer and storyteller. The drama features stories by P.G. Wodehouse and Ring Lardner, as well as anecdotes from Lithgow's own life. The show previously had runs at Lincoln Center in New York in 2008 and in London in 2009.

As was previously announced, Fonda will reprise her Tony-nominated role in "33 Variations" (Jan. 30 to March 6) at the Ahmanson Theatre. The play, written and directed by Moises Kaufman, follows a musicologist's obsession with Ludwig van Beethoven as she battles a debilitating disease.

Lanford Wilson's "Burn This" (March 23 to May 1) represents a return of the oft-revived drama to CTG, where it had its world premiere in the 1986-87 season. No cast has been announced for the production, but Nicholas Martin is slated to direct.

Rebeck's "The Novelist" (Sept. 7, 2011 to Oct. 16, 2011) is an extensively revised version of her 2000 play "The Butterfly Collection," which had productions in various stages of development at South Coast Repertory and Playwrights Horizons.

The play, which in its original form received a scathing review in the New York Times, follows the relationship of an aging novelist with the members of his dysfunctional family.

A spokesman for CTG said "The Novelist" marks the first time that a Rebeck drama has received a full production by the company.

Closing the season, "Vigil" (Nov. 2, 2011 to Dec. 18, 2011), which will star Dukakis and Marco Barricelli, tells the darkly comic story of a man's visit to the deathbed of his aunt. The play, written and directed by Morris Panych, was produced at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco earlier this year.

-- David Ng

Photo: the Mark Taper Forum. Credit: Center Theatre Group

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