A conversation with Artistic Director Todd Haimes about Athol Fugard's The Road To Mecca.
Q: Roundabout has presented Athol Fugard's work in the past. Can you tell us what drew you to this play and made it the right time to present it on Broadway for your subscribers?
A: I was so proud of Roundabout's revival of Master Harold...and the Boys in 2003, and it's been a hope of mine that we would be able to revive another of Athol's plays. In particular, The Road to Mecca has really stuck with me over the years. I love how specific it is to its particular setting, but the play also addresses universal themes, like loyalty, aging, and freedom of expression. It's that combination that makes Athol's work so exciting. To be able to give the play its Broadway premiere and celebrate his 80th birthday at the same time is just a thrill. Having an incredible cast was also a big motivation for deciding to do the play at this particular point in time. You can expect a true tour de force performance from RoseMary Harris as Miss Helen. With the incredible Jim Dale and Carla Gugino, both of whom I have been hoping to work with again, this is truly a dream cast for me.
Q: This production is presented by special arrangement with Signature Theater Company, who recently announced a Fugard season for their new home. Can you talk about Roundabout's relationship with Signature?
A: I've been a long-time fan of Signature's work and of their mission of honoring contemporary playwrights. It's a fantastic organization, and I think it's pretty exciting that Athol Fugard will not only get to open their new theatre, but he'll also be produced on Broadway. Not a bad season to have at the age of 80! I really have to thank Jim Houghton and his excellent team for helping us give Athol this opportunity. Athol has such an incredible body of work at this point that to be able to show audiences another of his plays in addition to what Signature is doing this year is really a bonus for the theatergoers. I honestly don't think you can have too much of a good thing in this case.
Q: You talk often of Roundabout's family of artists coming back to work at the theatre. RoseMary Harris, Carla Gugino, and Jim Dale are all returning artists. Was this play chosen for them or was it coincidence that they were right for the roles?
A: It's always nIce To bring back actors with whom Roundabout has ongoing relationships, but these three in particular are really members of our theatrical family, not to mention being lovely and talented people. I'd been actively talking to all of them about working together again, and it's just a happy happenstance of the right play at the right time that The Road to Mecca turned out to be the right fit for all three of these amazing performers. It is my deepest pleasure to foster an artistic community at Roundabout, and this is truly one of the great pleasures of not-for-profit theatre, creating a family of artists and providing a home for them to do exciting work.
Q: Athol Fugard directed the premiere of this play. Why is Gordon Edelstein the right director for this production?
A: Athol and Gordon have become close collaborators and friends over the years, and they have a celebrated production history that includes both world premieres and revivals of Athol's work. Pairing them together again for The Road to Mecca was honestly an easy decision to make. I was so thrilled with the way that Gordon re-imagined The Glass Menagerie, and I know that he will be approaching this play with fresh eyes as well. Roundabout's first-ever Broadway production took place 20 years ago, and it was directed by Gordon Edelstein, as he inaugurated our then-home at the Criterion Center with The Homecoming. To have him back on Broadway with us again feels wonderfully full-circle. This is a theatre where the classics have always been at the core of our mission, and I think Gordon, Athol, and I are all quite excited by the prospect of introducing a true contemporary classic to a whole new audience on a larger scale.