Lear deBessonet in rehearsal for "The Odyssey" at the Old Globe. (Photo by Jeffrey Weiser)

Public Theater Season to Bring Back Stew, LaChiusa, deBessonet and Gob Squad

Free classics bookend a season of new plays and musicals by authors including Robert O’Hara, Sarah Burgess and Tarell Alvin McCraney.

NEW YORK CITY: Public Theater artistic director Oskar Eustis and executive director Patrick Willingham have announced the lineup for the theatre’s 2015–16 season, including two world-premiere musicals, several new plays and free classics, as well as the 12th annual Under the Radar Festival.

“The Public Theater’s new season reflects all the core values of the organization Joe Papp founded: inclusion, dramaturgy, fearlessness, artistic excellence, and continuity,” said Eustis in a statement. “New friends and old family members, experimental theatre and musicals, classics and new plays. The new season is a brilliant continuation of the Public’s story.”

The season begins with a free Public Works musical adaptation of Homer’s The Odyssey, conceived and directed by Public Works director Lear deBessonet, and with music, lyrics and book by Todd Almond. As with last year’s The Winter’s Tale, it will be offered free at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park, Sept. 4-7.

Next, at the Public Theater’s main building downtown, will be the world premiere of Barbecue, a new play by Robert O’Hara (Sept. 22–Nov. 1). Kent Gash will direct this play about a family gathered in a local park to stage an intervention with a wayward daughter, only to have it go wildly off-track.

Center Stage artistic director Kwame Kwei-Armah will next direct a production of Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well for the Public’s Mobile Shakespeare Unit (Nov. 2–22), which will tour all five New York City boroughs before sitting down at the Public in downtown New York.

Michael John LaChiusa will then follow up his acclaimed First Lady Suite from 1993 with the new musical First Daughter Suite, directed by Kirsten Sanderson, and running Oct. 6–Nov. 15. Directed by Kirsten Sanderson, the show—about the inner lives and dreams of America’s best-known daughters—has already announced a cast including Rachel Bay Jones, Theresa McCarthy, Betsy Morgan, Isabel Santiago, Carly Tamer, Mary Testa and Barbara Walsh.

The British and Berlin-based troupe Gob Squad then presents the U.S. premiere of Before Your Very Eyes (Oct. 17–Nov. 29), a work about aging and nostalgia, created over the course of the past two years with 8- to 14-year-olds from around New York City.

Gob Squad last made a splash place at the Under the Radar Festival, the hugely influential international experimental theatre festival. The next iteration will run at the Public Jan. 6–17, 2016, curated as before by codirectors Mark Russell and Meiyin Wang. One production has already been slated: a Belgian/French production called Germinal, created by Halory Goerger and Antoine Defoort of the company L’Amicale de production.

Next is the world premiere of Sarah Burgess’s Dry Powder (March 1–April 10, 2016), a serious comedy about the politics within a cutthroat private equity firm. Thomas Kail will direct.

The Public will then produce the New York premiere of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Head of Passes (March 15–April 24, 2016), a coproduction with Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Tina Landau directs this contemporary parable inspired by the Book of Job, about a family reunion tested by tragedy.

After being postponed from last year’s Public season, Stew and Heidi Rodewald’s new musical The Total Bent will have its world premiere May 10–June 19, 2016. Joanna Settle will direct this musical about the collision between gospel music and rock ‘n’ roll, the British Invasion and the black South.

Finally, Lear deBessonet returns with a Mobile Shakespeare Unit production of Romeo & Juliet (May 10–May 29, 2016), which, like All’s Well, will roost at the Public after touring the five boroughs.

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