Scott Schwartz’s choice for the first production of his first main stage season as Bay Street Theatre’s artistic director augurs well for the goal of returning Bay Street to the cutting edge of America’s regional theater scene.
“Conviction” by Carey Crim will make its world premiere at Bay Street in 2014 with Mr. Schwartz directing. It is the story of a trusted and honored teacher accused of sexual misconduct with a student.
The idea behind the play “came to me from many different sources,” Ms. Crim said two weeks ago. “It was something I knew I wanted to write, but I had to let the story percolate for a while.”
“Carey is a wonderful up-and-coming writer,” Mr. Schwartz said two weeks ago. “She has a very distinctive voice. She writes characters like you and me.” And the play, he said, “digs into an impossible moment in their lives.”
“What does that sort of not knowing the truth do to the people who love the accused?” Ms. Crim asked. She paraphrased a line from the play: “I’m not saying that he’s not a wonderful teacher of the year, all these wonderful things, but what I am saying is, what if he’s both?”
For the artistic director of a regional theater, selecting a play that will premier there is not a casual choice. The rewards, both financial and artistic, can be great for the theater involved. Any revival afterwards lists the theater as the original producer. Bay Street will produce this world premiere in association with the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg, the Rubicon Theatre Company of Ventura, Calif., and Dead Posh Productions of London, which recently staged another play of Ms. Crim’s, “23.5 Hours.”
Ms. Crim caught the playwriting bug during another world premiere, appearing in Lanford Wilson’s “Book of Days” at the Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea, Mich., in 1998.
Though born in Kentucky, she considers herself a Michigan native, having grown up outside Detroit in Grosse Point. A graduate of Northwestern University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in performance studies, she went on to study acting at the Royal Court Theatre in London.
While pursuing an acting career, making the prerequisite career sojourn to Los Angeles, then New York, she found an artistic home with the Purple Rose Theatre Company. Founded by Jeff Daniels and named after the Woody Allen film, “The Purple Rose of Cairo,” in which Mr. Daniels starred, the regional theater was a nurturing environment that allowed Ms. Crim to find her legs, first as an actor then as a playwright.
During the premiere production of “The Book of Days,” Ms. Crim was inspired by Mr. Wilson’s almost ruthless ability to cut his own work in order to make the play better.
“If he can be ruthless and he’s Lanford Wilson, than who am I not to follow suit?” she asked last month.
Bay Street will announce its choices for the 2014 season’s revival and the always-much-anticipated musical in the coming weeks. Lillian Hellman’s 1939 play, “The Little Foxes,” has been under consideration for revival but negotiations are still ongoing.