London theater gives N.Y. producers transfer rights

— Britain's National Theatre, one of the most important playhouses in the English-speaking theater, has brokered a deal with two New York producers to transfer their London hits to New York.

Nicholas Hytner, the National's artistic director, said this week that he and executive director Nick Starr "were happy to be more aggressive than maybe this theater has been in the past." To that end, he and Starr have brokered a nonexclusive, first-look deal for National shows transferring to New York with American producers Bob Boyett and Bill Haber, the latter by way of his Ostar Productions.

The deal gives the National $450,000 a year for three years while giving Boyett and Haber first refusal for the United States on some of the most exciting theater emerging from England.

Since Hytner succeeded Trevor Nunn as the National's leader in April, the three-theater complex has had a nearly unbroken string of critical and popular hits.

Those include "Jerry Springer -- The Opera," the most talked-about new musical of the season, and Michael Frayn's newly opened "Democracy," which quickly became the season's most talked-about new play.

Hytner's regime hasn't yet hosted a dud, mounting obscure David Mamet ("Edmond," in an epic production starring Kenneth Branagh in his National debut) and well-known Chekhov ("Three Sisters," in a production from director Katie Mitchell).

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