Theater

Maxwell's Rep Music

Writer-director-composer Richard Maxwell hasn't held a day job since 1997, when he assisted on the Conan O'Brien show and made a brief on-camera appearance as a cape-clad devil. Today—four years and numerous plays, critical plaudits, and European tours later—Maxwell has an office job again. He's answering phones and overseeing matters at the New York City Players. But circumstances have altered. The Players—cofounded with producer Barbara Hogue—boasts a simple mission statement: to present Richard Maxwell plays.

At the moment, Maxwell and company have their hands full as they prepare to get back into the ring with Boxing 2000 (which ran at the Theatorium last fall) and debut his latest, Caveman, at Soho Rep. Only Caveman was slated for a slot in Soho Rep's season, but Maxwell convinced Artistic Director Daniel Aukin to find space for both. "We felt in the fall that Boxing closed too early," explains Maxwell. "It was just getting steam, and it shut down." Besides, Maxwell wanted to go a few more rounds with the play before its European tour this June.

Rozanne Seelen in her Drama Book Shop
photo: Pak Fung Wong
Rozanne Seelen in her Drama Book Shop

With any luck, the plays should illuminate each other when viewed in tandem, particularly since actors Jim Fletcher and Lapka Bhutia play pivotal roles in each. One difference: Caveman features six new songs, unlike Boxing 2000, which had only a single tune. Maxwell sounds excited, if anxious, in discussing the score for Caveman. "It's a weird realm for me," he admits. "I don't read or write music—I just kind of intuit it. There's an aspect of arrangement, of theme, of composition that's out of my reach. But I'm learning." These days Maxwell has music on the brain. His next show, slated for the fall at P.S. 122, is titled Drummer Wanted. Asked if the piece will concern a rock band, Maxwell, invoking the flat inflection favored by many of his characters, replies, "No, it's about a lone drummer. The drummer who's wanted." —Alexis Soloski


Crossing South

The Drama Book Shop is on the move. By September 1, if things go according to plan, the venerable emporium will have carted its extensive inventory of performing arts books from the 27,000-square-foot store it's filled at 723 Seventh Avenue for the past 20 years to an 81,000-square-foot space at 250 West 40th Street.

The new, three-level facility will still be owned and operated by Rozanne Seelen, whose husband and longtime business partner, Arthur, died last year. Occupied with the book-buying end of her business, Seelen has handed the relocation assignment to her nephew Allen Hubby, a director of operations at Dramatists Play Service. Hubby is designing the new space and was happy to offer a tour through rubble that was once Art-Max Fabrics.

When renovations are completed, patrons will enter at street level—avoiding the frustrating elevator wait at the Seventh Avenue location. The ground floor will be two stories high at the front. The back will be divided into an area for scripts below and a paneled mezzanine area for theater, film, and television books above. The basement will be outfitted for readings, book signings, and panel discussions.

Apparently, the Seelens have considered a shift for at least a decade, but whenever their real estate broker found suitable digs, Arthur Seelen hesitated. Hubby, who worked for his aunt and uncle before going to DPS, promoted the leap. He promises a store full of "surprises," one of which could very well be a permanent Juliet mannequin stationed on the mezzanine balcony. Or, he asks, "Is that too tacky?" —David Finkle


The Big House

When Fran Reiter was appointed executive director of the Public Theater four months ago, it was reported that the theater was planning to add a new, 499-seat house to its Lafayette Street home. But don't hold your breath waiting for it. At the moment, the new space is only a twinkle in executives' eyes.

The proposed theater is last in the five phases of the Public's current capital campaign. The first two, which included the creation of Joe's Pub and upgrading Central Park's Delacorte Theater, were completed some time ago with public funding of about $15.9 million; the third phase, new administrative offices at the south end of the Lafayette Street building, is nearly finished. Serious consideration of the new, $30 million to $40 million theater will only kick in after the 2002 completion of phase four—the construction of new dressing rooms, a carpentry shop, and all-purpose rehearsal rooms. Phase five would begin with renovation of the lobby.

Artistic Director George Wolfe imagines the new space being used for classical works, musicals, and productions that might attract star names. He's excited about the idea of state-of-the-art technology—not to mention an orchestra pit. "As we enter the new century," he says, "it would be nice to have a theater of the same time." Institution officials also hope that such a large auditorium will help offset the losses that even sell-out productions can mean at the not-for-profit company. But, notes Reiter, "When I tell you none of this is final, believe me."

Exactly where the theater would be situated is also up in the air, although thought has been given to an area that includes what is now the infrequently used 275-seat Anspacher Theater.

Other Public news: The theater has announced the departure of Artistic Producer Rosemarie Tichler. Tichler has held the position since 1991; she'll leave after this summer's Mike Nichols-directed production of The Seagull. From 1975 to 1991, Tichler served as the Public's head of casting. —D.F.

 
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