CAMBRIDGE, MASS.: American Repertory Theater artistic director Diane Paulus has announced its 2015–16 season, with a heavy emphasis on new musicals and some returning favorites.
“I am thrilled to have A.R.T. friends return this season—Mark Rylance, Eve Ensler, Dave Malloy, Rachel Chavkin and the TEAM, to name a few,” said Paulus in a statement. “It’s also a delight to welcome Sara Bareilles and the UK’s Headlong theater ensemble, among others. The insights and the talents which these artists will bring to the A.R.T. offer a range of new perspectives. In their radical, dynamic stagings of history, song, literature and memory, these artists share a form of theatre actively engaged with how we understand and conduct our lives as human beings on this planet.”
The season begins with the world premiere of Waitress, a new musical by Jessie Nelson (book) and Sara Bareilles (music and lyrics), based on the film by the late Adrienne Shelly. Paulus will direct. It tells the story of Jenna, a waitress and expert pie maker who finds her ticket out of a small town and a loveless marriage in the form of a baking contest in a nearby county. Tony winner Jessie Mueller is slated to lead the production.
Next is a production of Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, Dave Malloy’s electropop-opera adaptation of a portion of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Rachel Chavkin, who directed the play in various stagings in New York (at Ars Nova and in a specially constructed Off-Broadway pop-up tent), returns to direct. Though presented on A.R.T.’s Loeb Drama Center mainstage, the show will retain the immersive feel of its New York productions.
Shakespearean actor Mark Rylance co-created and will star in the next piece, Nice Fish, which he premiered at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis last year. Conceived and cowritten with Minnesota prose poet Louis Jenkins, the piece iabout two meditative ice fishers out for one last catch mines Rylance’s own Midwestern upbringing. The new production, directed by Claire Van Kempen, is a coproduction with St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn.
A new adaptation of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 follows. Presented in association with the U.K.’s Headlong Theatre, Almeida Theatre and Nottingham Playhouse, this new staging was created by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan.
Eve Ensler is next, with the world premiere of her new solo show, directed by Paulus, titled In the Body of the World. Adapted from her acclaimed 2013 memoir, the play deals in part with her time in the Congo, where amid war and devastation she was diagnosed with stage III/IV uterine cancer.
Closing the season proper is RoosevElvis, a two-character play from the TEAM in which two actresses play Theodore Roosevelt and Elvis Presley as they embark on a road trip to vie for the soul of a painfully shy meat-processing plant worker. It will be directed by Natasha‘s Chavkin. RoosevElvis previously ran at the Bushwick Starr in Brooklyn and then at the Vineyard Theatre earlier this year.
For families, A.R.T. will offer a holiday production of a new adaptation of The Pirate Princess, with a book by Lila Rose Kaplan, music by Mike Pettry and direction by Allegra Libonati.
And in the A.R.T.’s Oberon club space (where RoosevElvis will also be staged), a series of cabaret/theatre events will be staged throughout the season, including Dave Malloy’s haunted song cycle Ghost Quartet; Courtney Love and Todd Almond’s “theatricalized concept album” Kansas City Choir Boy; Song of a Convalescent Ayn Rand Giving Thanks to the Godhead (In the Lydian Mode), created by Michael Yates Crowley and Michael Rau of Wolf 359; One Child Born: The Music of Laura Nyro, performed by Kate Ferber; a return engagement by Sean Graney and the Hypocrites with the final installment of their Gilbert & Sullivan trilogy, H.M.S. Pinafore; and Ubu Sings Ubu, a mashup of Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi and the music of Pere Ubu, starring Tony Torn and Julie Atlas Muz.