The first full production of Theater Emory’s (TE) 20th
season is, appropriately, Discovery of America, a work-in-progress
by Tony Award-nominee Arthur Kopit that runs Oct. 9–26 in
the Mary Gray Munroe Theater.
The play looks at the earliest exploration of the Americas, encouraging
audiences to see what the Europeans found and how they reshaped
Discovery is a fitting selection for a company focused
on developing new work, challenging existing models and posing questions—working
in the context and best tradition of a research university. The
play is directed by Vincent Murphy, TE artistic producing director,
who has been integrally involved in the work’s development
for more than a year.
The work was commissioned by the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Arts
Festival and the Pioneer Theatre Company. Murphy directed the first
reading in February 2001 at the Pioneer and most recently worked
with Kopit on the play at the Ojai (Calif.) Playwrights Festival
Discovery is inspired by the experiences of Spanish explorer
Cabeza de Vaca, who traveled through the Americas from 1528–36.
As the first European to cross nearly 6,000 miles of the North American
continent, de Vaca was transformed by the journey he chronicled
in La Relación, a written report to the king of Spain first
published in 1542.
“The great thing for me about Discovery, is that
it’s very rare for American writers to take on their own history,
especially in an epic, big-canvas way,” Murphy said. “Here
you have Arthur Kopit taking what many scholars call the first great
American narrative and trying to see what we can discover about
“That is what’s made the play so daunting and absolutely
Murphy is quick to credit colleague Tim McDonough, associate professor
of theater studies and a principal TE member, for his part in the
“Tim has been a crucial player,” Murphy said. “Arthur
is largely writing the role of Cabeza
de Vaca for Tim’s voice; they have become interchangeable.
There have been other great actors in the workshops and readings,
but Arthur hears Tim’s voice.”
Some of the region’s most acclaimed actors comprise the cast
of Discovery, including McDonough as de Vaca, Carolyn Cook
as his Native American wife, John Ammerman as his shipmate Dorantes
and Chris Kayser as Cortes. Gene Ruyle, Harold Leaver, Lawrence
Salberg, Dianne Cusak-Butler and Emory students complete the cast.
The set designer is Wm. Moore, the costume designer is Marianne
Martin and the lighting designer is Bart McGeehon. The music is
composed and performed by Klimchak.
Kopit came to prominence in the 1960s with his play Oh, Dad,
Poor Dad, Mother’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m
Feeling So Sad, which won the Vernon Rice Award and the Outer
Circle Award. He was a Tony Award nominee and Pulitzer Prize finalist
for his plays Indians and Wings, and wrote the
book for Nine, the 1982 Tony Award-winner for best musical
that is scheduled for a revival on Broadway this season with Antonio
Banderas and Chita Rivera.
Theater Emory’s is the first full production of Discovery
as Kopit continues to fine-tune it, and the play is being presented
as part of the citywide First Glance Atlanta Festival, a collaboration
of more than 30 arts organizations (www.firstglanceatlanta.com).
Tickets are $15 general admission; $6 for students; $12 for Emory
faculty and staff. For tickets or more information, call 404-727-5050.