Benjamin Scheuer performs in "The Lion" at Manhattan Theatre Club.

Merrimack Repertory Theatre 2015–16 Season to Include 3 World Premieres

Next season at the Massachusetts theatre will feature world premieres from new a.d. Sean Daniels, Idris Goodwin and Lila Rose Kaplan.

LOWELL, MASS.: Merrimack Repertory Theatre has announced its 2015–16 season, the inaugural season under incoming artistic director Sean Daniels. It will feature world premieres from Idris Goodwin, Lila Rose Kaplan and Daniels, plus the launch of the national tour of The Lion by Benjamin Scheuer.

The season will open with The Lion,  an autobiographical solo musical written and performed by Scheuer and directed by Daniels (Aug. 26–Sept. 20). Daniels and Scheuer previously collaborated on The Lion in its premiere at Manhattan Theatre Club and its current run at the Lynn Redgrave Theater through March 29. The Merrimack production will serve as the launch for The Lion‘s national tour.

“I always knew I wanted to start with the show Ben and I built together,” Daniels said in a statement. “My hope is that in launching the national tour at MRT, I can show local audiences the type of work we’ll be making here, and give them a taste of what the future holds.”

Daniels will also direct I and You by Lauren Gunderson (Oct. 7–Nov. 1), about two teenagers who come together to work on a homework assignment about Walt Whitman.

The holidays will feature It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play (Nov. 25–Dec. 20), adapted by Joe Landry and directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian.

The first world premiere of the season will be Daniels’s The White Chip, a dark comedy about alcoholism and recovery from a Mormom point of view (Jan. 6–31, 2016), to be directed by Sheryl Kaller.

“For several years I’ve been working on a dark comedy about the science of addiction and the shifting perceptions of whether it’s an illness or a choice,” Daniels said in a statement. “Following the losses of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Williams, and with Boston being named ‘Best Sober Living City in the Country’ by the Huffington Post and its very public election of a sober mayor, I think the time for this conversation is now. Though I want to really make that a funny conversation—so we all keep listening.”

Following that will be Tinker to Evers to Chance by Mat Smart (Feb. 10–March 6, 2016), directed by Daniels, about a woman who wants to take her sick mother to a Chicago Cubs game only to discover that her mother has disappeared.

The next world premiere will be Idris Goodwin’s The Realness: A Break Beat Play (March 16–April 10, 2016). The play, set in 1996, is about a young man who comes to the city from the suburbs to immerse himself in the hip-hop scene.

“I know of no other playwright who is more relevant, who is more dangerously honest, who writes in a way that allows multiple groups of people to see themselves through his work—thereby feeling a little less alone in the world,” Daniels said in a statement. “At the same time he’s an amazing word alchemist—creating dialogue and rhymes that stay with you for days. In my mind, he’s one the brightest in our business.”

Realness will be directed by Wendy Goldberg, artistic director of the National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center.

The final play of the season will be the world premiere of Home of the Brave by Boston-based playwright Lila Rose Kaplan (April 20–May 15, 2016), directed by Daniels. Just in time for the 2016 presidential elections, the play follows a senator running for president as she comes home for the holidays. Home of the Brave will feature Boston-based actor Karen MacDonald. “Like ‘The Daily Show’ and ‘The Colbert Report,’ Home of the Brave will skewer politicians on both sides of the aisle,” Daniels said in a statement. “I’m excited to have the funniest and most subversive of Boston talent in a show that will no doubt have a long life.”

Merrimack Repertory Theatre has been Merrimack Valley’s professional theatre company since 1979, presenting new plays and regional premieres.

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