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Trio of premieres in TheatreWorks' new season

Capote tale, comic drama about a family of auctioneers, and psychological thriller are on the bill

Three world premieres, including a musical based on the Truman Capote short story "A Christmas Memory," are on the bill for TheatreWorks' 2010-11 season. The eight-show season starts in July and is the Peninsula theater company's 41st, artistic director Robert Kelley said.

"A Christmas Memory," which has been a stage play and a TV production, is Capote's look back at the South in the 1930s. It opens in December.

The new show has a book by Duane Poole, music by Larry Grossman ("Snoopy: The Musical") and lyrics by Carol Hall. Hall may be taking a different turn with this family show; she's best known for writing the music and lyrics for "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas."

Another world premiere, Laura Schellhardt's play "Auctioning the Ainsleys," kicks off the season in July as the centerpiece of TheatreWorks' annual New Works Festival. The play, a comic drama about a family of auctioneers, had a staged reading at last year's festival.

Also new is the psychological thriller "The North Pool." Playwright Rajiv Joseph, a veteran of the Peace Corps in Senegal and author of the play "Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo," also had a staged reading at the New Works Festival last year.

Ethnic profiling is the subject of "The North Pool," which follows a high school student from Saudi Arabia and his school principal. The show opens in March.

On the lighter -- and quirkier -- side, TheatreWorks is also bringing the Broadway backstage musical "[title of show" to town, in June of 2011. Theater geeks and aspiring composers everywhere may see themselves in this comedy about struggling writers trying to create a musical. Penned by friends Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen, the show opened on Broadway in 2008 and ran for 102 performances with such songs as "Two Nobodies in New York."

Another recent Broadway offering coming to TheatreWorks is "The Light in the Piazza," which opens on the Peninsula this August. Based on Elizabeth Spencer's 1960 novel, the musical depicts a fragile young American woman who falls in love with an Italian man while vacationing with her mother. The book is by Craig Lucas, with music and lyrics by Adam Guettel.

"Piazza" debuted on Broadway in 2005 and played for 504 performances. It was presented locally by the Palo Alto Players in 2008.

Also planned for the new TheatreWorks season, in October, is Tracy Letts' play "Superior Donuts." It went to Broadway last year after opening at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago, the city where the story takes place: A kid with bright ideas gets hired at a delapidated donut shop.

Letts won the Pulitzer Prize in 2008 for his play "August: Osage County."

Next January brings the Hitchcock spoof "The 39 Steps" to TheatreWorks. This take-off on the 1935 film was adapted by Patrick Barlow, an English actor and comedian.

"Snow Falling on Cedars," the Kevin McKeon adaptation of the David Guterson novel, opens in March 2011. The story centers on the 1954 murder trial of a Japanese-American veteran on a Washington island.

As in seasons past, the TheatreWorks shows will take place either at the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto or the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. For information about buying single tickets (which go on sale June 1) or season subscriptions, go to www.theatreworks.org or call 650-463-1960.

— Rebecca Wallace

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