Robin Hood is the second project born from Beane's work with students from AADA, where the playwright himself graduated in 1980. His first piece created there was the Midsummer Night's Dream-inspired comedy Fairy Cakes, which had its premiere last spring with a mix of American and British student actors. The play came to life after Beane began doing scene work with AADA students on Shakespeare's original.
"It's sort of what the fairies are doing in Midsummer Night's Dream when they're not dealing with Oberon and Titania," Beane explained. The verse comedy, which Beane is grooming for a professional premiere, also received a starry private reading featuring Nathan Lane and Cynthia Nixon.
The new Robin Hood musical, which Beane is co-writing with his husband and Lysistrata Jones collaborator, composer Lewis Flinn, receives an eight-performance run this week in Midtown Manhattan.
While Beane and Flinn had been developing the idea for Robin Hood for several months, the true writing began in September once the writers began shaping the work with AADA students. What was once a history musical, conceived to feature 11th century ballads, is now a romantic musical comedy filled with adventure and sword-fighting.
"It's got my sense of humor, of course," Beane said. "But, it's a real, honest-to-God, good, old-fashioned British-American, romantic musical comedy. I originally used all this history stuff, but ultimately, I ended up reading those Howard Pyle stories, 'The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood.' It's a warm-hearted, funny telling." Beane has also taken on the task of directing the one-set, 12-actor production. "Directing a musical as I'm writing it is a form of insanity, but it's actually very pure. I'm having the time of my life," Beane laughed. He's brought on several industry professionals and some AADA colleagues to bring Robin Hood to the stage.
Joey Pizzi, who choreographed Beane's The Nance on Broadway and most recently worked on the film adaptation of "Into the Woods," is choreographer on Robin Hood. Also on board is Rock of Ages costume designer Gregory Gale.
The plan is to have industry members attend the AADA run this week. "I'm very proud of it," Beane said. "I think it's the best musical I've ever written."
New York is a definite goal for both Fairy Cakes and Robin Hood, but a London premiere is also not out of the question the playwright said. Nick Frankfort, who produced the London run of Beane's Tony-nominated comedy The Little Dog Laughed, is in talks with several different U.K. companies about the projects. "We might do Robin Hood and Fairy Cakes there first, or we might do it here in America," Beane remarked.
Beane also noted that his time with the students at AADA has been integral to the inspiration and creation of his two latest stage works. "It's been a wonderful experience," he said. "And three of them, I now use as assistants. I work with them regularly, and they're wonderful."
AADA alumni Jonathan Stephens and Billie Aken-Tyres have been enlisted to help bring Robin Hood to the stage, while Daniel Redfern will return to work with Beane on his upcoming play for Lincoln Center Theater, Shows for Days. "Daniel is a great talent, and I look forward to working with him at LCT," he said.
Jerry Zaks is directing Shows for Days, a reflective and comedic play about Beane's childhood introduction to theatre, which is in the final stages of casting now. Previews begin June 4. LCT also produced Beane's Tony-nominated play The Nance on Broadway in 2012.
Beyond the stage, Beane has three high-profile screen projects on deck, including finishing touches on the shooting script for Lysistrata Jones, which is "going to happen very soon," he said.
He's currently at work on a half-hour series for HBO, inspired by The Cartels, a satirical political play Beane originally wrote for the Drama Dept. that featured Joanna Gleason, Cheyenne Jackson and Cady Huffman.
"It was a nighttime soap opera, which was done in a bar down in Greenwich Village. It was a take-off on 'Dynasty,' but it was actually about the Koch Brothers and what was happening politically in the country at the time. I met Frank Rich socially, and I told him that I had the idea of turning that into a series and how great it would be to see that on television. No one really does parody on television the way we do it in theatre - smartly, within the style of exactly how the show is. So they took it."
Also on deck is a feature film for Fox Searchlight set within the theatrical world. Beane is at work on the second draft of the script, which they'll begin casting from shortly.
"Basically it's a true story about a chorus boy, who kind of no one would hire, who wound up going to another country, and changing the whole country around. I was knocked out by it. I couldn't believe it actually happened," Beane said. "So the opening scene is lights up on West Side Story and it's Arthur Laurents and Jerome Robbins yelling at each other. I can't believe they're paying me to write my fantasy scene!"