Clan chats about being a Fonda

Annual fundraiser brings in $800,000

Jane Fonda's annual charity fundraiser for the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention last week at Atlanta's Woodruff Arts Center raised $800,000 for the organization.

A highlight of the evening -- which included an auction of rare items, one being a night of bowling for 10 people, plus Fonda -- was the first time all four of today's acting Fondas have been together on any stage. Jane and son Troy Garity and Peter and daughter Bridget had a spirited conversation about being a Fonda and the incredible benchmark set by patriarch Henry.

The evening, dubbed "Three Generations of Fonda on Film," finished on a high and unusual note with a film tribute to Henry that was accompanied by a jaunty song called "Wild, Wild Rose," with words and music written by that same H. Fonda.

Summer nostalgia

This is the time of year that, once upon a time, was much coveted by 90% of the actors in the U.S. The June-August period could mean three months of steady employment in one or more of the countless summer theaters (many of which were converted barns) that dotted the Eastern seaboard, delivering plays and musicals to the city folk summering in the countryside to escape the urban heat in the days before air conditioning. (Pop had to stay among the skyscrapers and sweat it out during the week, but he joined the family in the country on the weekend.)

Some of the upscale summer theaters, like the Westport Country Playhouse in Connecticut, offered tonier fare, such as Henry Fonda in "The Virginian," Olivia de Havilland in "What Every Woman Knows" and John Cassavetes and Maureen Stapleton in "42 Wagons Full of Cotton." Others offered bills as diverse as Nazimova in "Ghosts" or stripper Ann Corio in "This Was Burlesque."

Everybody did it: Helen Hayes, Gertrude Lawrence, Roddy McDowall, Groucho Marx -- and all of them needed supporting casts. For many, a busy summer could earn a person enough moola to pay for the next year's rent in Manhattan while pursuing Broadway.

Summer theater still exists (the Westport venue, for one, continues full-tilt but no longer has a "star" policy); those that do continue are more subdued than in the past, and few major players participate. But no longer is there a "circuit" that allows actors and plays to move throughout the summer among different venues.

Some who worked that circuit don't regret its passing, but others do, especially the way it sweetened the bank account. But regardless of whether one disliked working in stock or loved it, from an outside observer like myself who grew up far from any opportunity to partake, it sounds most appealing. Is there a theater addict or film buff who wouldn't want to have a gander at some of the attractions that played, for instance, on the famed Kenley summer circuit in Ohio? For starters: Billy Crystal in "Cabaret," Gene Kelly in "Take Me Along," William Shatner in "Arsenic and Old Lace," Sally Field and Jerry Orbach in "6 Rms Riv Vu," Robby Benson as Che in "Evita," Van Johnson and Sheila MacRae channeling the Lunts in "The Great Sebastians" and Elaine Stritch, Marge Champion, Gloria Swanson, Marilyn Maxwell and Dagmar in "The Women."

Some are most intriguing, some boggle the mind.

Busy week off the main stem

Three off-Broadway shows open this week.

> Tonight5/19 at the Second Stage is "Good Boys and True," a new play by Roberto Aguirre-Sacase, directed by Scott Ellis.

> On Wednesday5/21 is the Atlanta Theatre Company's "Port Authority," by Conor McPherson, directed by Henry Wishcamper and featuring Brian d'Arcy James at the Linda Gross Theater.

> On Thursday5/22 is the New York premiere of Richard F. Stockton's new play "Prisoner of the Crown" at the Irish Rep, directed by Peter Cormican.

No new Broadway opening is scheduled until July, when the unusually named "(title of show)" opens at the Lyceum. It's a new musical -- with book by Hunter Bell and music-lyrics by Jeff Bowen -- that had an off-Broadway run in 2006 at the Vineyard Theater.

Robert Osborne is the primetime host and anchorof the Turner Classic Movies television network.
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