Katori Hall—who will be one of the most-produced playwrights at U.S. theatres during the 2012-13 season—is as photogenic as she is accomplished. During a recent outdoor photo shoot with the great American photographer Bruce Davidson behind the camera, the 31-year-old playwright made a silly, peeking through-my-fingers face that Davidson captured with aplomb. When the American Theatre editorial team began casting about for a Season Preview cover image to emblemize the coming theatrical year, the shot of Hall in an impertinent pose tickled our fancy.
But would Hall herself prefer a more dignified likeness? We asked her. “I’d love to have that quirky shot on the cover,” she instantly replied. “I’m like that 99 percent of the time!”
It’s not just Hall’s sense of style (also evident in a portrait by another
top-flight photographer, Gregory Costanzo) that made an indelible impression on arts reporter Alexis Soloski, who shared an opening night with Hall at the Williamstown Theatre Festival and talked with her about the often intensely personal sources of her plays. “Perhaps the quality that most distinguishes Hall’s writing—and which may alienate some viewers—is her refusal to write immediately likable characters,” Soloski speculates, and Hall, seemingly unperturbed by push back from audiences and critics, concurs. Rather than approval, she says, “for me it’s more about being adamant about my vision and having some kind of integrity.”
Hall is only one of a number of outsized personalities whose work is celebrated in this oversized, info-packed edition of AT. There’s a triumvirate of “forward-lookers,” as associate editor Rob Weinert-Kendt dubs Polly K. Carl, David Dower and Rob Orchard in his savvy report on their new Center for the Theater Commons; interviewer Celia Wren elicits more big ideas from National New Play Network’s new-play handler Jason Loewith; in the back of the book, playwright Caridad Svich interviews her up-and-coming colleague Samuel D. Hunter about his personal slice of Americana; and outlaw playwright John Steppling (interviewed by acolyte Jon Robin Baitz) and master director Andrei Serban (in an an illuminating, career-spanning appreciation by critic Eileen Blumenthal) seize the occasion to rail eloquently against the constraints of the U.S. theatre establishment.
And just when you thought you’d had your fill of strong opinions, here come the dramaturgs. We hunted up dozens of them to quiz about highlights of the coming American theatre season—“What projects afflict you with dramaturgical envy?” was the tongue-in-cheek question—and their answers, spread through the special Season Preview section in this issue, make for inspired reading. There’s additional dramaturgical juice in a series of picture spreads that lead off the section, in which directors and dramaturgs working on four of the most-produced shows of the coming season weigh in with distinctly personal observations on how to get at the heart of the plays in question.
So spend some time with Katori Hall and the other big thinkers in these pages.
What better way to get a heads-up on the season to come?
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