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Lauren Dolk, Chioke Coreathers, and Katie Harrison in "Duck for President" at Houston's Main Street Theater. (Photo by Ricornelproductions.com)

Front & Center for September 2016

Political satires, dystopian dramas, new works festivals, and more take the stage this month.

Staff Picks

Joshua Harmon has had a good few years: His breakout play Bad Jews was among the most produced plays in the U.S. in the 2014-15 season, and his newest play, Significant Other, will hit Broadway in February 2017. But Boston audiences will get a jump on Gotham, as Harmon’s comedy about the trials of dating in the age of Tinder will open at SpeakEasy Stage Company, Sept. 9-Oct. 8.

Joseph Steven Yang, Tim Kang, and Jennifer Lim in "Aubergine" at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. (Photo by Kevin Berne)
Joseph Steven Yang, Tim Kang, and Jennifer Lim in “Aubergine” at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. (Photo by Kevin Berne)

Meanwhile Julia Cho’s new play Aubergine, currently running at New York’s Playwrights Horizons (Aug. 19-Oct. 2), marks Cho’s return to playwriting after six years. Aubergine, which premiered at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in February, is a lyrical examination of loss as a son faces his father’s imminent death; Korean cuisine (“aubergine” is the British word for eggplant) connects them when words cannot. “You can lose an entire language so easily, but I most likely will eat what my grandmother ate, with as much and equal relish as she did,” Cho told me earlier this year. “And my children will eat what my grandparents ate.” —Diep Tran


The disparity between productions by male and female playwrights on U.S. stages is still a trending topic, but back in 1993, five Milwaukee women founded Renaissance Theaterworks to correct the imbalance. The company’s Br!nk new works festival supports new works from Midwestern female playwrights; both plays in this year’s fest (Sept. 10-11) explore futuristic societies. Kathleen Allison Johnson and Gail Sterkel’s Ten Thousand Moons From Here is set on an intergalactic spaceship that’s reaching the uncertain finish of a 1,000-year journey, and Philana Omorotionmwan’s Before Evening Comes imagines a dystopian future in which black boys are forced to undergo surgery. Omorotionmwan explained one inspiration for the play: “In the last decade of my grandmother’s life, she saw her eldest son have his leg amputated. I never talked to her about it, but I always wondered how that affected her emotionally. In a lot of ways, this play is an exploration of that.” —Suzy Evans


With Election Day drawing closer, politics is in the air at theatres in the Southwest. First Arizona Theatre Company presents King Charles III (Sept. 10-30 in Tucson; Oct. 6-23 in Phoenix), Mike Bartlett’s blank-verse play imagining the English monarchy after the death of Elizabeth II. Next, Dallas’s Cara Mia Theatre Co. brings back Crystal City 1969 (Sept. 22-Oct. 16), a play by Big D natives David Lozano and Raul Trevi? about Mexican-American high school students who fight unfair treatment in Texas. Moving from high school injustice to the electoral college, young audiences will cast their vote with Duck for President (Sept. 27-Oct. 29) at Houston’s Main Street Theater. Adapted by James E. Grote from the book by Doreen Cronin, with music and lyrics by George Howe, the musical follows the eponymous bird running for office to combat unreasona­ble working conditions on the farm. Hail to the drake! —Russell M. Dembin


Raised on the Florida panhandle and stage-trained by New York City’s downtown thea­tres, playwright Lucy Alibar journeyed to the Louisiana bayou and film-world acclaim with the 2012 critical darling Beasts of the Southern Wild, adapted from her one-act play Juicy and Delicious. Now she’s returning to her childhood landscape (give or take) and the stage with Throw Me on the Burnpile and Light Me Up, which runs at Los Angeles’s Kirk Douglas Theatre Sept. 10-Oct. 2. Set in Grady County, Ga., on the border of Florida, Throw Me features, according to press notes, “a lecherous goat, Pentecostals on the radio, a house full of dogs, cats, Febreze, and Daddy’s .38 special.” Over the past few years the in-development piece has turned up at Sundance Theatre Lab, MASS MoCA, Under the Radar Festival, and Carolina Performing Arts, whose curatorial fellow, Heidi Kim, said the play “caught my attention because Alibar has continued to refine her unique voice: a child’s point of view that is alternately naïve and eerily wise.” —Rob Weinert-Kendt

The Orlando angels. (Photo by Jim Helsinger)
The Orlando angels. (Photo by Jim Helsinger)

News in Brief

ORLANDO, FLA.: There are angels in Orlando. Following the shooting in June at the Pulse nightclub in which 49 people died, anti-gay protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church threatened to disrupt the funerals for victims. In response, Orlando Shakespeare Theater and Orlando Repertory Thea­tre started the Angel Wing Project, building large wings to shield mourners from protesters. The idea came from Romaine Patterson, who started Angel Action in 1999 to fight anti-gay protestors at the trials of Matthew ­Shepard’s killers.

Another theatrical reaction to the Pulse massacre came from New York-based Missing Bolts Productions and NoPassport Theatre Alliance and Press, who teamed to curate new plays in response to the shooting from more than 25 playwrights, including Neil LaBute, Mia Chung, Caridad Svich, Winter Miller, and Jacqueline E. Lawton. The plays will be read in various cities, including New York and Orlando, this fall, and published in a collection, After Orlando, from NoPassport Press.


MIAMI, FLA., and AKRON, OHIO: Miami’s 30-year-old New Theatre closed in June. The company originally operated in Coral Gables, but since 2001 has changed venues four times. Most recently it moved to the South Miami Dade Cultural Arts Center, 16 miles from Coral Gables. But audiences did not follow and ticket sales dropped by two-thirds. In 30 years the company produced more than 200 productions, including the world premiere of Nilo Cruz’s Anna in the Tropics, which later won a Pulitzer.

Meanwhile, Akron’s Actors’ Summit Theater shuttered after longtime artistic director MaryJo Alexander announced her retirement. Rather than replace her, the theatre’s board voted to close the company.


CHICAGO: Not all theatre closings are unwelcome. In June the Chicago Reader published a 12,000-word article detailing allegations of abuse at Profiles Theatre over two decades; six days later the theatre closed. Its venues didn’t stay dark for long: Pride Films & Plays has taken over the leases. The new company is run by David Zak, former artistic director of Bailiwick Repertory Theater.

Also in the Windy City, Chicago Dramatists announced an overhaul of its artistic mission and a new name, Chicago Dramatists: The Center for New Play Development. The company will no longer produce plays but focus on new-work development, with initiatives to encourage local productions of Dramatist-developed plays and a fellowship program for early-career playwrights.

The 2016-17 resident playwrights are Jay Torrence, Georgette Kelly, Isaac Gomez, Ricardo Gamboa, and Susan H. Pak. A public showcase of new resident work is scheduled for Sept. 17, and will be followed by a day-long conference on Oct. 1.


PHOENIX and TUCSON, ARIZ.: The heat was on in late June, when Arizona Theatre Company threatened to cancel its entire 50th season and suspend operations if $2 million wasn’t raised by July 1. The deadline was then extended to July 15. Finally, on July 18, the theatre announced it had met its goal, which included contributions from 448 donors in Tucson and 320 donors in Phoenix. Moving forward ATC will continue to raise funds for its annual campaign and to recapitalize the institution. 

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