McCarter Theatre Center has announced that the 2012 Sallie B. Goodman Artists’ Retreat will take place from June 7 through June 16. The twelve artists participating are Julia Cho, Lydia Diamond, Emily Mann, Michael Friedman, Marcus Gardley, Daniel Goldstein, Tarell Alvin McCraney, Meg Miroshnik, Heather Alicia Simms, Paula Vogel (Pulitzer Prize winner for How I Learned to Drive), John Weidman, and Blanka Zizka (founding artistic director of Philadelphia’s Wilma Theatre).
For ten days, McCarter provides a supportive environment for these major theater artists to work at their own pace on whatever inspires them. It is a respite from their day-to-day responsibilities with no requirements and no formula, no deadlines and no concrete goals.
“It is lonely work that we do, easily encroached upon by the constant demand of professional distractions and the personal demands of family,” said playwright Lydia Diamond. “Ten days of concentrated work in a beautiful environment gives a rare opportunity to find or finish a play, roll around in one’s thoughts, share ideas with peers, and sleep peacefully.”
At its core, McCarter’s Artists’ Retreat is an act of faith: faith in the artists and their singular ability to perceive what their projects most need, be it a week of solid writing or a week of silent waiting for the next idea to emerge.
The many plays that have been developed over the course of the past eleven Artists’ Retreats and have gone on to production include Christopher Durang’s Miss Witherspoon; Will Power’s Fetch Clay, Make Man; Beth Henley’s Ridiculous Fraud; Danai Gurira’s The Convert; Tarell Alvin McCraney’s The Brother/Sister Plays; Sarah Ruhl’s The Clean House; Lydia Diamond’s Stick Fly; and Take Flight by John Weidman, David Shire, and Richard Maltby, Jr.
“McCarter Theatre has maintained an impressive track record in commissioning and producing new plays that make a lasting contribution to the theatrical canon, and the Sallie B. Goodman Artists’ Retreat is central to our success,” said McCarter Artistic Director/Resident Playwright Emily Mann.
Although many theaters offer play development programs, McCarter’s Sallie B. Goodman Artists’ Retreat is the only one of its kind among the nation’s leading theater companies.
Tony Award winner Rachel Sheinkin (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) offered this praise, “McCarter offers a gift that isn’t available anywhere else that I know of, for any price. To be invited to this lovely place and told now your task is simply to dream, to create, to set your own task – among this group of other theater artists who will be doing the same, with all the resources of world class theater to support you in doing so, and its productions as inspirations – this is not the normal life of a playwright. This is a dream opportunity.” One of the many projects that Sheinkin worked on during the 2009 retreat was the book for the new musical, Sleeping Beauty Wakes, which McCarter produced spring 2011.
“I always praise McCarter for being the most artist-centered and specifically writer-centered theaters I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with, added Ms. Diamond, whose play Stick Fly was seen at McCarter in 2007, and had a Broadway production this season.
The Artists’ Retreat is named for Sallie Brophy Goodman, a friend and supporter of McCarter Theatre Center for 40 years before her death in 2007. She graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London in 1950, and her arrival in New York coincided with the ”golden age” of American television. She worked with actors ranging from Jack Lemmon to Cliff Robertson, and directors from Sidney Lumet to Arthur Penn. Among the many segments she did were those on The U S Steel Hour, The Dick Powell Show, Kraft Theater, Ben Casey, Medic, and The Fugitive. On Broadway, she appeared in The Second Threshold and played Wendy, grown-up, in the 1954 Broadway musical Peter Pan with Mary Martin. In 1958 she starred in her own series, Buckskin, a Western set in the Montana Territory. She had a featured role in the 1961 film, ‘The Children’s Hour’, with Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine, which won 5 Academy Awards. She also appeared in the film Storm Center with Bette Davis. She married Jerry Goodman in 1961, and when the couple moved to Princeton in 1965, she directed student productions at Theatre Intime on the Princeton University Campus. She taught theater and acting for 20 years at Rider University in Lawrenceville, NJ. The Sallie B. Goodman Artists’ Retreat, established by her husband, honors her legacy by providing support for leading theater artists who choose to practice their craft in a not-for-profit environment.