Fusion Fest opens with Seth Gordon as designated hitter

Cleveland Play House associate artistic director Seth Gordon downplays how busy he has been this year, especially during the annual FusionFest, taking place April 14-25. He’s directing two of the festival’s major productions back to back, but he’s done that before: Earlier this season, he directed Inherit the Wind, immediately followed by A Christmas Story.

For FusionFest, he’s directing what he believes to be the first full production of Bill W. and Dr. Bob in the Great Lakes region. It’s the story of the two men who founded Alcoholics Anonymous (see Get Out!). Then, before that closes, he brings the curtain up on Igor Stravinsky’s dance and spoken-word opera A Soldier’s Tale, a collaboration with GroundWorks DanceTheater and the Cleveland Orchestra.

“I’m directing two of the festival’s biggest projects quite by accident,” says Gordon. “I was always supposed to direct A Soldier’s Tale, but [Play House artistic director] Michael Bloom was originally scheduled to direct Bill W. and Dr. Bob. But because the company is moving to the Allen Theatre in 2011, Michael decided the theater would be better served if he focused his attention on that. I’m the designated hitter.”

Gordon has a history with A Soldier’s Tale and was the impetus for its inclusion in FusionFest. He directed the first production of the 1993 Kurt Vonnegut version, which replaces the original 1918 libretto (by Swiss writer Charles Ferdinand Ramuz) with the story of American WWII soldier Eddie Slovik, who deserted during the Battle of the Bulge. Commissioned by the chamber group New York Philomusica, it was first produced at Alice Tully Hall.

“At that time, Vonnegut was alive,” says Gordon. “We worked on the script together.”

The piece was performed a few times after that, but it was caught in an international copyright dispute that kept it out of production from 1998 until 2006, when the same ensemble performed it again. Gordon is enthusiastic to be collaborating with a group of Cleveland Orchestra musicians (who will be conducted by Tito Muñoz) and with Groundworks artistic director David Shimotakahara.

“I wanted a choreographer who had same iconoclastic style as Vonnegut and Stravinski, and thought David fit that very nicely,” says Gordon.