Make way for the new kids on the block -- they're coming to Baltimore theaters.
No, not the teeny-bop rock group, but several world premieres as well as a slew of local debuts on professional and community theater stages this season.
The first new kid will be Israel Horovitz's " 'Park Your Car in Harvard Yard,' " booked into the Mechanic Theatre for a pre-Broadway run Oct. 1-27. A two-person play about a retired English teacher and his Irish housekeeper, it stars Tony Award-winners Jason Robards and Judith Ivey.
Center Stage will break new ground with "The Baltimore Waltz," the theater's first full production by a Baltimore-born playwright, Paula Vogel. A surrealistic account of a sister and brother facing the AIDS crisis, the play grew out of the author's experiences during her late brother's illness.
"The Baltimore Waltz" will be performed in the downstairs Pearlstone Theater during the re:Discovery series (March 26 to April 26) in repertory with the world premiere of "Police Boys," a drama set in an inner-city police precinct, by Minneapolis playwright Marion Isaac McClinton.
Although this will be a banner season for new plays, the same cannot be said for new musicals. Much of the musical excitement left town when the producers of "Nick & Nora" nixed the show's Baltimore tryout for the second straight year. But there's still one pre-Broadway musical in the lineup, albeit a revival. Patti LaBelle will star in Charles Busch's new adaptation of the Harold Arlen-Truman Capote musical "House of Flowers" (Feb. 11 to March 8, Lyric Opera House). Set in a French Caribbean "hothouse," the show has direction, choreography and costumes by Geoffrey Holder, creator of "The Wiz."
Of course, newness is the norm at the avant-garde Theatre Project. One-third of the theater's dozen offerings are premieres, starting with the extremely timely return visit of the Soviet Union's Theatre Buff in the English-language debut of "Masquerade" (Sept. 11-29), a comedy about a volunteer fireman.
Another English-language premiere, "Shelter" (Oct. 16-27) -- set in an Israeli air raid shelter during the Gulf War -- will mark the fourth visit of Israel's Tmu-Na Theater. Two more premieres wrap up the season: "The Village Child" (June 2-14), Vermont-based Eric Bass/Sandglass Theater's puppet-theater piece about letting go of the past; and a smaller, revised version of "Rev-er-ber-ber-ations" (June 17-28), by Spiderwoman, a New York troupe founded by American Indian women.
The summertime Baltimore Playwrights Festival is usually the only forum for budding Baltimore playwrights, but this season Arena Players -- co-sponsor of WMAR-TV's annual Drama Competition for Black Playwrights -- will present theatrical adaptations of three of last year's entries: B. L. Williams' "Senator, Sir!" (Feb. 14-23), H. B. Johnson's "In the Blink of an Eye" (March 13 to April 5) and T. L. C. Green's "Tapered in the Back" (June 5-28), the contest's first musical.
In addition, Spotlighters will host New Century Theater's new version of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (Oct. 4 to Nov. 3), co-adapted by the company's director Mark Redfield -- who will also play the title roles -- and Stuart Voytilla.
Back at the Mechanic, though only two offerings are premieres, the season also includes three recent Broadway plays -- Aaron Sorkin's court-martial drama, "A Few Good Men" (Jan. 7 to Feb. 2); Neil Simon's 1991 Tony and Pulitzer Prize winner, "Lost in Yonkers" (March 10 to April 5); and the 1990 Pulitzer Prize winner, August Wilson's "The Piano Lesson" (May 12 to June 6), with Baltimore's Charles S. Dutton slated to re-create his Broadway role.
There will also be one recent Broadway musical, "Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story" (Dec. 10 to Jan. 5), as well as an old chestnut, "My Fair Lady" (Oct. 29 to Nov. 24), starring John Neville, Christine Andreas and Clive Revill.
At Center Stage, one of the newer elements is acting artistic director Irene Lewis, whose taste is reflected in her selection of plays. Ms. Lewis will direct three of these, beginning with the season opener, "The Queen and the Rebels" (Oct. 18 to Dec. 1, Head Theater), a play about revolution by the Italian dramatist Ugo Betti.
In November, Baltimore audiences will get their first look at South African playwright Athol Fugard's latest work, "My Children! My Africa!" (Nov. 21 to Dec. 22, Pearlstone Theater), the story of the friendship between two idealistic students and a teacher committed to change through education.
The rest of the season consists of classics, and Center Stage can be relied on to give these a fresh spin: Ibsen's "A Doll House" (Jan. 3 to Feb. 2, Pearlstone), Moliere's "The Misanthrope" (May 8 to June 7, Pearlstone) and one of Shakespeare's least produced and most disputed plays, "Pericles" (Feb. 14 to April 5, Head).
As the above dates indicate, another change at Center Stage is that most productions will run one week less than in recent years. "The season is somewhat more compacted so we could do the bigger shows and not spend so much money. If you run them a week shorter, it's not so expensive," Ms. Lewis explained.
On a much smaller scale, Fells Point Corner Theatre will continue to produce local debuts of recent off-Broadway shows, including John Patrick Shanley's "Italian American Reconciliation" (Nov. 15 Dec. 15), and Frank Galati's adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov's "Heart of a Dog" (March 13 to April 12).
In the same neighborhood, Fells Point Cabaret Theater will premiere producer-turned-playwright Howard Perloff's "Bernie's Bar Mitzvah" (Oct. 9 to Dec. 15), an audience-participation show in the style of "Tony n' Tina's Wedding."
If so many newcomers leave you craving the older and more familiar, Baltimore's smaller theaters can help out there, too. Theatre Hopkins' lineup includes Jean Anouilh's "The Waltz of the Toreadors" (Nov. 15 to Dec. 15) and George Bernard Shaw's "The Devil's Disciple" (Feb. 14 to March 15). And at the Vagabonds, the golden oldies include Moliere's "The Miser" (Jan. 10 to Feb. 9), Tennessee Williams' "Suddenly Last Summer" (Feb. 21 to March 22) and Arthur Miller's "The Price" (April 3 to May 3).
Finally, when it comes to the tried and true, the Baltimore Center for the Performing Arts is bringing back its two most popular shows: "A Chorus Line" (Nov. 26 to Dec. 8, Lyric Opera House), playing here for the fifth time; and "Les Miserables" (April 7 to May 3, Mechanic Theatre), which sold out a record nine-week run
Selected fall schedules
" 'Park Your Car in Harvard Yard' ", Oct. 1-27.
"My Fair Lady," Oct. 29 to Nov. 24.
"Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story," Dec. 10 to Jan. 5.
"The Queen and the Rebels," Head Theater, Oct. 18 to Dec. 1.
RF "My Children! My Africa!," Pearlstone Theater, Nov. 21 to Dec. 22.
"Masquerade," Theatre Buff of Leningrad, Sept. 11-29.
"We All Fall Down," Daniel Stein and Touchstone Theater of Bethlehem, Pa., Oct. 2-13.
"Shelter," Tmu-Na Theatre of Tel Aviv, Oct. 16-27.
"Frank," Michael Matthews of Amsterdam, Oct. 30 to Nov. 10.
"Decodanz" and "Koppelvision," Margolis Brown Adaptors of New York, Nov. 13-24.
Don't miss . . .
*" 'Park Your Car in Harvard Yard,' " Mechanic Theatre, Oct. 1-27.
*"Crazy for You," National Theatre, Washington, mid-December.
*"House of Flowers," Lyric Opera House, Feb. 11 to March 8.
L *"Pericles," Center Stage, Head Theater, Feb. 14 to April 5.
*"The Baltimore Waltz," Center Stage, Pearlstone Theater, in repertory, March 26 to April 26.