Wednesday, December 24, 2014

News: Bucks County Playhouse plans premiere with high-level partners

The newly reopened Bucks County Playhouse is already planning a world premiere, and a high-level one, too: A production based on Stephen King's novel "Misery," which the Playhouse will produce along with two big backers, Warner Brothers and Castle Rock Entertainment. Inquirer theater critic Howard Shapiro reports.

News: Bucks County Playhouse plans premiere with high-level partners


By Howard Shapiro

The newly reopened Bucks County Playhouse is already planning a world premiere, and a high-level one, too: A production based on Stephen King’s novel Misery, which the Playhouse will produce along with two big backers, Warner Brothers and Castle Rock Entertainment.

The Playhouse, in New Hope, named no cast in an announcement of the premiere Thursday, but listed a creative team mostly Broadway-based. It’s not unusual for the 50-plus professional stages in metropolitan Philadelphia to stage world premieres — about a fourth of all plays performed here are being done for the first time. But the Playhouse deal is different.

It brings the Playhouse, which opened in 1939 and for decades was among the nation’s prime regional stages casting the likes of Helen Hayes, Grace Kelly and Robert Redford, back to developing major new professional work. The Playhouse had become an amateur theater and money woes forced its closing in 2010. A non-profit family foundation of local residents Kevin and Sherri Daugherty reopened the renovated theater in July as a professional house, and it has so far produced two shows and will bring in James Earl Jones and Tyne Daly to perform Love Letters for two nights next month.

The production of Misery, scheduled for 11 performances between Nov. 24 and Dec. 8, also puts Bucks County Playhouse in league with a few other stages around the country where substantial backers partner with local theaters to try out what they call “developmental plays” with an eye toward Broadway.

Misery is a “milestone in our efforts to re-establish the Playhouse as an integral and vital player in Broadway creative development,” said Playhouse producing director Jed Bernstein in the announcement. Bernstein, himself a hot-shot on Broadway, was for 11 years the head of its league of producers and founded an entertainment venture that launched recent revivals of Equus, Hair and Driving Miss Daisy.

Misery is King’s 1987 psychological thriller novel about about a writer whose historical fiction features a character named Misery Chastain. A woman fan who saves the writer from a car accident learns he’s planning no more novels, and keeps him prisoner. The book became a 1990 movie with James Caan and Kathy Bates, who won an Oscar for her portrayal as the writer’s captor.

That film was adapted by Oscar winner William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), who will script the new play. Another stage version by playwright Simon Moore has been performed, mainly in Britain.

“As a company with many projects in the pipeline ... we’re grateful to have the Playhouse” as a partner, said Mark Kaufman, a head of Warner Brothers Theatre Ventures, the company’s live-stage arm. Castle Rock, the other producer along with Warner Brothers and the Playhouse, has made  many films including seven based on Stephen King’s work.

Contact Howard Shapiro at 215-854-5727,, or #philastage on Twitter.

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About this blog
Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer. She also is a contributing writer for Variety and American Theatre magazine. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of four books about four playwrights (Rabe, McNally, Miller, Albee), and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). Her 'weekend' job as a travel writer provides adventure: dogsledding in the Yukon, ziplining in Belize, walking coast-to-coast across England, and cowboying in the Australian Outback.

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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