Phillip James Brannon and Nia Vardalos in "Tiny Beautiful Things" by Vardalos at the Public Theater.

Onstage for the Public’s 50th Season: Founder Joe Papp

Richard Nelson’s play about Papp joins a slate featuring world premieres from Elevator Repair Service and Lynn Nottage.

NEW YORK CITY: The Public Theater has announced the lineup for its 2017-18 season, which will mark the theatre’s 50th anniversary. It will include a world premiere play by Richard Nelson about the Public’s founder Joe Papp, and world premieres from Elevator Repair Service and Lynn Nottage.

“The new season is a beautiful evocation of the Public’s artistic family: longtime favorites, new voices, works traditional and experimental, art that strives to reflect all the turbulence and beauty of our times,” said artistic director Oskar Eustis in a statement. “The Public’s offerings have a range and variety that is unmatched by any theatre in the country. Each of these plays participates in the great issues of the age; that is what makes them Public plays.”

The season will open with a musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, by Shaina Taub & Laurie Woolery (Sept. 1-5). The production will be the fifth iteration of the theatre’s Public Works initiative, which invites NYC residents to perform in the work alongside professionals. Woolery will direct and Sonya Tayeh will choreograph. As You Like It will be performed for free at the Public’s Delacorte Theatre in Central Park.

For the first production in its home at Astor Place, the Public will present the world premiere of Measure for Measure, a new Shakespeare adaptation by Elevator Repair Service (Sept. 18-Oct. 29). ERS, which has performed Gatz and Arguendo at the Public, will bring “athletic theatricality and Marx Brothers-inspired slapstick” to 17th-century Vienna. ERS founder and artistic director, John Collins, will direct. ERS ensemble members Rinne Groff, Lindsay Hockaday, Maggie Hoffman, Mike Iveson, Vin Knight, April Matthis, Gavin Price, Greig Sargeant, Scott Shepherd, Pete Simpson, and Susie Sokol will perform.

Following at the Astor will be an encore presentation of Tiny Beautiful Things, Nia Vardalos’s stage adaptation of the book by Cheryl Strayed (Sept. 19-Nov. 12). The piece was co-conceived with Marshall Heyman, Thomas Kail, and Vardalos. Tony winner Kail will direct and Vardalos will reprise her role as “Sugar,” an anonymous advice columnist.

Next will be Oedipus El Rey by Luis Alfaro (Oct. 3-Nov. 12). In this reimagining of the Greek tragedy, Oedipus is a troubled Latino who dreams of controlling his own destiny. The production will be produced in collaboration with the Sol Project, which is dedicated to advancing the work of Latinx artists. Chay Yew will direct.

In October, the Public will present Office Hour by Julia Cho (Oct. 17-Dec. 3). The play is about a teacher who has a meeting with a student who may or may not become a mass shooter. Neel Keller will direct.

Richard Nelson will continue his collaboration with the Public with the world premiere of Illyria (Oct. 22-Nov. 26). Diving into Public Theater history, the play takes place in 1958, when a young Joe Papp is determined to stage free Shakespeare productions in Central Park.

At Joe’s Pub, the cabaret space at Astor Place, Judy Collins will present A Love Letter to Stephen Sondheim (Nov. 21-30). Collins, who will be in residence at Joe’s Pub, will weave Sondheim’s songs in with personal anecdotes.

In January the Public will present the 14th edition of its Under the Radar Festival (Jan. 4-21, 2018), which will present experimental theatre artists from the U.S. and around the world. The first show that has been announced for the festival will be Antigonon, un Contingente Épico, a production of Teatro El Publico from Havana, Cuba. Written by Rogelio Orizondo and directed by Carlos Dias, it tells the story of 19th-century Cuban poet José Martí, determined to free Cuba from Spanish control.

Next will be the world premiere of Kings by Sarah Burgess (Jan. 30-March 25, 2018). The play is billed as a comedy about “money, politics, and the state of the American republic.” Thomas Kail will direct.

Following that will be The Low Road by Pulitzer-winning playwright Bruce Norris (Feb. 13-April 1, 2018). Set in the 18th century, the play imagines America’s first laissez-faire capitalist, whose path to riches becomes entangled with an educated slave. Obie winner Michael Greif will direct.

At Joe’s Pub, Daniel Alexander Jones will produce his newest show Black Light (Feb. 13-March 25, 2018), in which he returns as his drag alter ego Jomama Jones to perform original songs written by Jones, Bobby Halvorson, and Dylan Meek.

In March, the Public will present the world premiere of Mlima’s Tale by Lynn Nottage (March 27-May 20, 2018). The play follows Mlima, an elephant, as she journeys around the world as part of the ivory market.

The Astor Place season will close with Fire in Dreamland by Rinne Groff (July 17-Sept. 2, 2018). The play takes place on Coney Island in 2013, in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

In addition to the staged productions, the Public will continue its Mobile Unit, its touring productions of Shakespeare throughout the five boroughs of NYC. In the fall, Lee Sunday Evans will stage The Winter’s Tale (which will play at Astor Place Nov. 26-Dec. 17). Then in the spring, Robert O’Hara will direct Henry V (playing at Astor Place April 23-May 13, 2018).

The Public will announce its 2018 Shakespeare in the Park season in Central Park at a later date.

The Public Theater programs in two locations: its home at Astor Place, which contains five theatres, and at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park. The Public programs classics, new plays, and world premieres, and its productions are currently playing on Broadway (Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Sweat). Its work has won six Pulitzer Prizes and 59 Tony Awards.

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