The cast of "Mr. Burns, a post-electric Play" at Playwrights Horizons last year./Photo from Playwrights Horizons.
All’s Well that Ends Well, Shakespeare reminded us. And it appears that a potential loss for Park Square Theatre’s 2014-15 season has a reasonably happy ending, thanks to cooperation from the Guthrie.
Park Square had announced an ambitious line-up of 19 projects for what will be the company’s first season with two stages. “Mr. Burns, a post-electric play,” by Anne Washburn, was slated for the new 200-seat thrust stage and it felt like a real coup to snare this buzzy play to christen the new space.
Show business, though, can be a weird deal. Park Square had a deal with Samuel French to produce the play but in a classic case of the left hand not knowing what the right is doing, another agent and the playwright had been negotiating with the Guthrie and ACT in San Francisco for an agreement that would guarantee the play’s Twin Cities premiere at the big blue house.
“We had received a contract for the show, it was a done deal,” said Richard Cook, Park Square’s artistic director. “He [the Sam French agent] was commanded to officially yank the license.”
Guthrie Director Joe Dowling said it was one of those "bizarre situations. Inevitably, because the Guthrie is larger, the playwright wants it here because the royalties will be bigger."
The Guthrie and Park Square had a similar situation two years ago when Cook signaled an early interest in the play “Stick Fly,” which had Broadway all tingly. In that case, Cook thought he had exclusive talking rights with the playwright and her agent, while the publishing house was involved with another potential deal that would have involved the Guthrie and Penumbra. When the dust settled, Park Square produced “Stick Fly” last fall.
This time, it was obvious the Guthrie was going to get “Mr. Burns” and that might have been the end of the story. However, in conversations over the rights, Cook told Dowling that Park Square had once wanted the rights to “4,000 Miles,” a dramatic comedy by Amy Herzog. Again, the Guthrie had the rights and, Dowling said, the play was "definitely being considered for production."
But Dowling called Cook and offered to work together to transfer the rights to Park Square. So the St. Paul theater gets the Herzog play, which had been a Pulitzer finalist in 2013. On Monday, Cook signed Gary Gisselman to direct.
“Joe was wonderfully gracious,” Cook said.
Dowling said the co-production with ACT-San Francisco will be part of the Guthrie season, expected to be announced next week. The plan is to put "Mr. Burns” on the proscenium stage.