By City Guide News Desk

Quality continues at Theatreworks

  |  Theater & Performances  

With a new cast, the tender, coming-of-age story, Summer of the Swans, the new Theatreworks/USA production that enjoyed a successful summer run at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, opens the company’s regular season of weekend performances, October 11, at the Auditorium at Equitable Tower. Based on the Betsy Byars Newbery Medal-winning novel of the same name, the thought-provoking drama tells the story of 14-year-old Sara Godfrey, who over the course of a few days, struggles with her appearance, a popular older sister and a mentally disabled younger brother Charlie. Self-involved, like most teens her age, Sara is resentful of her situation and responsibilities — until Charlie wanders off and she sets off to find him, making some meaningful discoveries about what’s really important along the way. According to artistic director Barbara Pasternack, a new production like Summer of the Swans or its predecessor from the 2002 summer series, Sarah, Plain and Tall, can take the company two years to develop. “I try to find people who are talented but know how to tell a good story,” says Pasternack, noting that Theatreworks/USA frequently turns to writers’ programs at NYU, Juilliard and the New Dramatists for emerging artists and playwrights. One of the company’s most popular productions, Ferdinand the Bull was written by Robert and Jeff Marks, the creative team that produced the music and lyrics for the current Broadway hit, Avenue Q. This year’s Theatreworks/USA season features 16 productions, including familiar classics from the company’s repertory such as Charlotte’s Web, as well as musicals produced for a slightly older audience, such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Though a show like The Color of Justice, which tells the story of Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court case Brown vs. Board of Education, may delve into pivotal historic events, Theatreworks/USA has a knack for examining the human drama in its subjects, as well as their historical significance. First in Flight — The Wright Brothers, a new musical making its debut in January, is as much a celebration of the centennial of the Wright brothers’ successful flight at Kitty Hawk as it is about Orville and Wilbur’s relationship as brothers. “It shows how the brothers grow up to overcome years of rivalry and conflicts in order to achieve flight,” says Pasternack, who recruited another team of brothers to write the music for the production. The company will continue First Act! Kids Club, an hour-long interactive workshop prior to certain performances a variety of stage and performance techniques, and is held on select Sundays for the following performances: More Aseop’s Fables, October 19; First in Flight — The Wright Brothers, January 25; and Corduroy, April 4. With more and more companies offering theater for young audiences, Pasternack doesn’t get caught up in competition. “I pick what I think is intriguing. When a writer comes to me with a good idea, I’ll try to go with it and find an audience for it,” she explains. “You make it the best you can, and hope that people see it and come back again.”

Info: Where: at Auditorium at Equitable Tower, 787 Seventh Ave., between 51st and 52nd Streets When: Recommended for ages 10 and up, Summer of the Swans runs October 11-12 and October 25-26, at 2pm How much: $25 for a single ticket or $18 with a subscription package, in which patrons purchase a total of 10 tickets in any combination throughout the season. Tickets for First Act! are $7, and space is limited; participants are advised to reserve a spot early. For more info: (212) 627-7373; — Cynthia Tavlin