The Grand Manner
by A.R. Gurney
directed by Mark Lamos
originally produced at Lincoln Center Theater ,
New York, NY.
through August 1, 2010
In spring 2010, Lincoln Center Theater will present the world premiere of A.R. Gurney’s The Grand Manner, a poignant mix of remembrance and imagination. The play begins with a reenactment of a brief meeting in 1948 between the young A.R. (Pete) Gurney and the actress Katharine Cornell after her performance in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra at the Martin Beck Theatre. It continues as a fanciful backstage encounter as Pete, who is flirting with the idea of making the theater his profession, demonstrates his knowledge of Shakespeare as he tangles with three seasoned professionals (Cornell’s Company Manager Gertrude Macy and a combustible Guthrie McClintic, Cornell’s husband and director, play significant roles in the playwright’s re-imagined encounter). The Grand Manner is ultimately a love letter to a fabled actress and a look at a bygone era of Broadway theater’s post-World War II heyday.
Mark Lamos will direct the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater production, which will perform a 9½-week engagement. Cast and designers will be announced later in the season.
From Artistic Director André Bishop:
My relationship with Pete Gurney goes back to 1981 when I was Artistic Director of Playwrights Horizons and we produced The Dining Room, the play that established Pete’s reputation as an observant and wry chronicler of American WASP lives and mores, a reputation he still maintains though the forty plays he has since written have encompassed a wide variety of topics and characters. Pete has been so prolific that no one producer has been able to keep up with him. In the past 28 years, and at two very different institutions, I have done seven of his works. By his own admission, Pete believes that he may not write many more plays. So for me, the fact that The Grand Manner may likely be one of the last Gurney plays we produce is extremely meaningful.
The Grand Manner was inspired by an event in Pete’s youth: when he was an 18-year-old prep-school student he met the actress Katharine Cornell. In re-imagining and embellishing their encounter, Pete has written a charming, sweet, and rather sad play about something that interests me very much—the changing of theatrical fashions and the desperation an artist confronts when she feels that time is beginning to pass her by. What also interests me about The Grand Manner is that while Pete has placed his youthful alter-ego within the play, his deeper connection may be to Cornell and her dilemma. I’m sure he must identify with Cornell in some sense even though he has soldiered on in his singular way over his long career in the theater.
The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust