The Fine Line Between Off-Broadway and Regional Theatre

Special Features   The Fine Line Between Off-Broadway and Regional Theatre
 
Connecticut’s Long Wharf Theatre balances its regional status with Off-Broadway quality productions and New York transfers.
Meteor Shower HR
Josh Stamberg and Jenna Fischer Jim Cox

“Long Wharf endeavors to put on work that is a provocation,” says artistic director Gordon Edelstein. “After nearly every performance we have a conversation with the audience. It gives them a chance to remain in the theatre and use it as a place to continue to talk about and unpack their feelings about the show they’ve seen.”

Edelstein has been artistic director of Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut, for 15 seasons. His Broadway and Off-Broadway credits include Athol Fugard’s The Road to Mecca, the 2010 revival of The Glass Menagerie with Judith Ivey, and My Name Is Asher Lev. This season at the Long Wharf he has directed the premiere production of Steve Martin’s Meteor Shower, Brian Dennehy in Samuel Beckett’s Endgame, and, a Roundabout Theatre Company co-production, Napoli, Brooklyn, by Meghan Kennedy.

“Long Wharf also has a paradoxical place in the American theatre ecology,” Edelstein says. “On the one hand, we are truly a regional theatre or resident theatre. But we also have the quality of an Off-Broadway theatre. We’re so close to New York. And we’ve had a long history of bringing shows to New York. It’s in Long Wharf’s DNA to have that function.”

How does he plan a season? “I start from thinking about where our community, our region, and our country are at the moment. I always look to do plays that say something about what it’s like to be alive today. So I look for new plays as well as material from the classical repertoire that reflect the issues that are concerning people.”

He also tries to find plays “that our audience will respond to and enjoy. We recently did Endgame. The word ‘enjoy’ and Samuel Beckett are sometimes not in the same sentence. Nonetheless, it was a sold-out production. And our audience, if we can’t exactly use the word enjoy, were compelled by it. I personally seek out theatre experiences that compel, move, and provoke.”

Next month, with performances beginning May 3, Edelstein directs the new musical The Most Beautiful Room in New York, with book and lyrics by New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik and music by Broadway composer David Shire (Big, Baby). “It’s about a restaurant owner in New York City who is being pushed out because rents are becoming impossible for him. It’s very much a piece of this moment.”

The future? “All of us in the nonprofit sector are battling economic forces,” Edelstein says. “We’re very proud of the impact of our output, of the attention our work gets.”

So a major objective is getting “the resources that help us stay relevant and important and give us the tools to produce the work we want at the level we want.”

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