JULIE FELISE DUBINER, associate director, American Revolutions: The United States History Cycle, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland:
A road trip to Oregon’s Portland Center Stage is in my future, to see Dan O’Brien’s Body of an American (Oct. 2–Nov. 11), directed by OSF’s Bill Rauch. It’s a gorgeously mind-bending, important play. And I never thought I’d be sad not to be in Rochester, N.Y., in the winter, but Geva Theatre Center is doing Karen Zacarías’s The Book Club Play (Feb. 19–March 24). Karen is amazing, and she has an awesome team of collaborators working on her beautiful and hilarious play—Brian J. Lilienthal (lights), Michael Raiford (sets), Matt Callahan (sound), with Sean Daniels directing.
MEREDITH McDONOUGH, associate artistic director, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Ky.:
I wish I were working with Rajiv Joseph on his new musical, Fly (July 2–Aug. 18), at Dallas Theater Center. He and I are both obsessed with Peter Pan, and I can’t wait to see how his dark humor will thrive in his first musical!
CARRIE CHAPTER, literary manager and dramaturg, Philadelphia Theatre Company:
Productions popping up locally which stir me up include A Slow Air (Oct. 2–21) by David Harrower, at Inis Nua Thea-tre Company—monologue plays from across the pond are contemporary gems, and I’d love the intellectual challenge of dissecting the tension in the work. Also Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (through Oct. 14) by Christopher Durang, first at the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, N.J., and then at Lincoln Center Theater (Oct. 25–Jan. 13)—this is just dramaturgical dream cake, a localized (Bucks County!) riff on Chekhov. And Robert O’Hara’s Bootycandy (May 15–June 16) at the Wilma Theater—this work (first seen at D.C.’s Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in 2011) offers a kaleidoscopic vision of the African-American experience as it pertains to sexuality.
ELISSA ADAMS, director of new play development, Children’s Theatre Company, Minneapolis:
One of the greatest actors on the planet, Mark Rylance, is collaborating on his first play ever with Minnesota poet Louis Jenkins—it’s called Nice Fish, and it’s premiering at the Guthrie Theater (April 6–May 18). To be in the room as these two great artists come together and challenge themselves to work in a form new to them both would be a thrill. As a dramaturg, how might one contribute to discussions about form and structure, story and language, in a way that retains the unique artistry of these two men?
Also: Minneapolis’s Ten Thousand Things brings lively, intelligent productions, usually of classic plays, to audiences who seldom get to experience them—men and women incarcerated in prison or housed in homeless shelters or refuges for battered women. The directors and actors always find a way to bring out the elements in familiar texts that will resonate most with these special audiences. To look at a play like A Streetcar Named Desire (May 2–26) through that lens will be fascinating. What does a woman who has suffered domestic abuse make of Stella? Is Belle Reve good riddance to a Southern plantation or grieved for as another lost home?
SETH GORDON, associate artistic director, the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Mo.:
I always find myself beguiled and entertained at Upstream Theater, Philip Boehm’s St. Louis outfit dedicated to classical theatre in the U.S. and around the world, newly reimagined. They’re going to present O’Neill’s The Hairy Ape (Oct. 5–21); a Parisian revue (Café Chanson, Jan. 11–26) directed by St. Louis native and musical-theatre living legend Ken Page (newly resettled in his home town); and a play called Sweet Revenge (April 5–21). Sweet Revenge is a Polish classic first performed in 1834 and this will be its U.S. premiere, adapted and directed by Philip, of course. I can’t wait to drink it all in.
JENNI WERNER, director of literary and artistic programs, Geva Theatre Center, Rochester, N.Y.:
The Raisin Cycle at Baltimore’s CENTERSTAGE absolutely has me coveting my fellow dramaturg’s season. A conversation between Bruce Norris’s Clybourne Park (April 10–June 9)and Kwame Kwei-Armah’s world premiere Beneatha’s Place (May 8–June 9), both inspired by Lorraine Hansberry’s Raisin in the Sun—how could you not want to be in that room? Kwame has joked that he is petrified—and doing it anyway. That kind of courage is thrilling and will undoubtedly inspire a passionate dialogue about art.
BRYAN CONGER, artistic associate, Triad Stage, Greensboro, N.C.:
The premiere of Aaron Posner’s Stupid Fucking Bird (May 27–June 23) at D.C.’s Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company ignites my dramaturgical fire. I am always intrigued when classic plays (in this case The Seagull by Chekhov) are torn to shreds, exposed, reinvigorated and reimagined to speak to an audience of our time. Woolly Mammoth inspires me with the chances they take and the boundaries they shatter. And to be truthful…who wouldn’t want to work on a play with that title?
ANNE CATTANEO, dramaturg, Lincoln Center Theater, New York City:
Although I’ve been at LCT forever, it seems, I can still remember a time in the 1980s when I was running around NYC as a freelance dramaturg. And there are three wonderful projects this season that make me wish for the old days! I need an unlimited MetroCard to take me to rehearsals of the moving and heartfelt new play by Colman Domingo, Wild with Happy at the Public Theater (Oct. 9–Nov. 11); the untitled but totally intriguing Irwin/Shiner Project, to be created by the great Bill Irwin and David Shiner at Signature Theatre Company (Feb. 12–March 24); and, finally, Jonathan Marc Sherman’s Clive, adapted from Brecht’s Baal, for Ethan Hawke at the New Group (winter 2013). I know and admire all these artists, and I’d be there in a heartbeat if they’d have me (and I didn’t have a job).
MARGOT MELCON, literary manager and dramaturg, Marin Theatre Company, Mill Valley, Calif.:
Woyzeck, at Shotgun Players in Berkeley (Nov. 29–Jan. 13), gives Bay Area auteur Mark Jackson the opportunity to tackle the Robert Wilson/Tom Waits musical version of this timeless story of a young soldier traumatized by war. When these theatrical visionaries collide on the Ashby Stage, the result is likely to be inspiring, crazy and completely original. On the opposite coast, The Whale by Samuel D. Hunter, due at Playwright’s Horizons in New York (Oct. 12–Nov. 18, see page 122), is a heartbreaking and complicated play about family and redemption that takes you on a completely unexpected journey. Sam writes deeply into humanity, like no one else around.
PIER CARLO TALENTI, resident dramaturg and literary manager, Center Theatre Group, Los Angeles:
I envy Lynn Jeffries for dramaturging the upcoming production of Pinocchio (fall 2012) by the Los Angeles–based Rogue Artists Ensemble. Given the ensemble’s theatrical imagination and puppetry skills, I think this fable (which I always found disquieting, to say the least) is going to feel particularly urgent and scary.
RACHEL DICKSTEIN, director/deviser and artistic director, Ripe Time, Brooklyn, N.Y.:
I’m really looking forward to The Grand Parade (Feb. 6–10) at D.C.’s Arena Stage, with the amazing Double Edge Theatre. Another must-see is Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater Wuppertal at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave, with her final work “…como el musguito en la piedra, ay si, si, si…” (“like moss on a stone”) (Oct. 18–27). The company is also touring two seminal works of Bausch’s from their early years, The Rite of Spring and Café Müller, in Taipei, Moscow and Naples! NYC next year?
ANNE G. MORGAN, literary manager, Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, Waterford, Conn.:
Working exclusively in new-play development, I see a lot of great projects in their earliest stages, but never get to work with them through to fully realized productions. There are three projects from the 2011 National Playwrights Conference at the O’Neill that make me envious of those involved with them. Dan LeFranc’s Troublemaker, or The Freakin Kick-A Adventures of Bradley Boatright (Jan. 4–Feb. 3) is an epic, irreverent roller coaster of a play, and I’m eager to see how California’s Berkeley Repertory Theatre brings things like high-speed boat chases to life. Deborah Zoe Laufer’s Leveling Up (Feb. 9–March 10) is a play that’s near to my heart, and I am thrilled that it will be at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, directed by Wendy C. Goldberg (who also helmed its workshop at the O’Neill). It’s a play that’s timely and full of humor and fantastic characters. The Nether (March 19–April 14), which won this year’s Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, is going to be at Center Theatre Group in L.A. Jennifer Haley asks some vital questions about morality in our increasingly digitized world.
RAPHAEL MARTIN, literary and humanities manager, Soho Rep, New York City:
Opening late October at Connecticut’s Yale Repertory Theatre (after a run at American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass.) is Marie Antoinette, the extraordinary new play by the boundlessly imaginative, intellectually dazzling wordsmith David Adjmi. There are very few playwrights working in the American theatre today who combine the big ideas and state-of-the-nation themes that Shaw utilized with the whiplash feeling of being on a roller coaster. David does it in spades.
STEPHANIE FLEISCHMANN, playwright and librettist, Brooklyn, N.Y., and Columbiaville, N.Y.:
Putting on my dramaturg hat, I’d love to be working on Annie Baker’s Flick (Feb. 15–March 24 at Playwrights Horizons), Sibyl Kempson’s Ich, Kürbisgeist (Oct. 25–Nov. 10 at P.S. 122) and Jenny Schwartz’s Somewhere Fun (May–June at the Vineyard Theatre), all in New York City. Three playwrights pushing the envelope, working with language in radical, transformative ways: Annie Baker is a master of the hyperreal—honing life-shattering revelation from her artfully crafted petri dish of microscopic yet painfully resonant moments and silences; Sibyl Kempson is a genius of the utterly awkward, an archeologist of semantics and syntax whose work mines a peculiar madcap mix of the unwieldy and the gossamer; and Jenny Schwartz’s plays are comic dreams of the colloquial turned on its head to get at the underbelly of what it means to be alive today.
HENRY MURRAY, dramaturg and playwright in residence, Rogue Machine, Los Angeles:
I traveled to four major new works festivals this year and saw a lot of excellent plays. In Omaha, Neb., at the Great Plains Theatre Conference, I “discovered” two playwrights from my own back yard, and now I have the good fortune of working with Jami Brandli and Kit Williamson in Rogue Machine’s new-play development program. On the opposite coast, a Brooklyn playwright named Paul Cameron Hardy has written a play called feeling, to be produced by Glass Bandits (spring 2013). It’s an intimate story about a young woman who, after being rejected by the man she loves, becomes obsessed with research about a certain Milwaukee serial killer. The compassionate heart of the play is stunningly enormous.
MIRIAM WEISFELD, director of artistic development, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Washington, D.C.:
I cast my vote for Zero Cost House, the new collaboration between Pig Iron Theatre Company and Toshiki Okada (who created Hot Pepper, Air Conditioner and the Farewell Speech, which appeared at last year’s Under the Radar festival). After premiering at the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival in September, it will begin touring to other venues. This project sounds like catnip for dramaturgs because of its international development path and its audacious material—apparently it’s a mash-up of Thoreau’s Walden and contemporary Tokyo. I think this is what the future of new-play development looks like—writing in tandem with choreography, improvisation and design to create pieces driven by both artistic rigor and a collective sense of purpose. The dramaturg who’s actually working on this piece is the phenomenal Jackie Sibblies Drury, a U.S. playwright whose own brilliant work will doubtless be fed by this experience.
MICHELE VOLANSKY, associate artist and conference dramaturg, PlayPenn, Philadelphia:
As a proud Philadelphian, I am most excited about what the thea-tres in my community are up to—including anything that Azuka Theatre is doing, though the company hasn’t announced its season yet. Theatre Exile is doing a new play called The English Bride (Nov. 8–Dec. 2), written by Lucile Lichtblau and directed by the talented Deborah Block. And the inimitable Jennifer Childs of 1812 Productions brings both This Is the Week That Is (Sept. 27–Nov. 4)—her take on electoral politics that was huge fun in 2008—and It’s My Party: The Women and Comedy Project (April 25–May 19), the culmination of two years of research. I can’t wait to get to the theatre in Philly!
KRISTIN LEAHEY, resident dramaturg, Northlight Theatre, Chicago:
I’m always excited about the Museum of Contemporary Arts Chicago’s performance programming—it is interdisciplinary, often a hybrid of theatre, dance, movement, music and art. The institution presents and produces some of the most diverse and revolutionary work from around the world, including this season an MCA co-commission (with Maryland’s Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center) called The Better Half, performed by the Chicago-based dance-theatre company Lucky Plush Productions. The show premiered at the MCA in 2011 and will be presented in Maryland Oct. 4–5. The work relies on the 1944 film Gaslight as source material and focuses on the gender politics of marriage, told through spoken language and dance.
LIZ ENGELMAN, dramaturg and director, Tofte Lake Center, Ely, Minn.:
I cannot wait to see one of my favorite Twin Cities companies—Sandbox Theatre—present the premiere of Beatnik Giselle (Oct. 19–21). This amazingly theatrical, dynamic, über-creative ensemble is asking the question: “What do you do when society no longer represents you?” Using modern dance, beat-inspired text and improvised music, they explore a world where opposites play out on a split stage: feminine ballet and masculine literature, movement and words, grace and brutality, gay and straight, “colored” and white, prudishness and hedonism—all of which intertwines in a filthy bedroom center stage. What’s hotter (or cooler) than that?!
You should dance, not run, to see Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theater, also of Minneapolis, tour of some of their most exciting work from the past 35 years. SPDT travels to the University of Minnesota–Duluth’s Weber Music Hall (Oct. 6) to perform an evening that includes excerpts from the company’s 2009 Guthrie Theater premiere Tales from the Book of Longing and other works. If you want a high-octane performance with virtuosic bodies in space giving life to beautiful text set to a seductive score, look no further. A dramaturg’s dream.
MICHAEL SCOTT-PRICE, literary manager, Theater for the New City, New York City:
I’m excited about the musical Giant (Oct. 26–Dec. 2) at the Public Theater in New York (in a co-production with Dallas Theater Center), based on Pulitzer-winning writer Edna Ferber’s novel. The setting is a colossal cattle ranch in Texas in the early 1920s, a time when a lot of things were on the cusp. The story is sweeping, yet it boils down to primal emotions—love, hate, greed, jealousy—and we get to witness decades in the characters’ lives. I remember seeing the movie version as a kid from the South and being aware of the issues of class and race that are overt and subtle from scene-to-scene. A wonderful challenge.
CHARLES HAUGLAND, artistic programs and dramaturgy, Huntington Theatre Company, Boston:
A recent start-up here in Boston called Fresh Ink Theatre will be producing the premiere of Patrick Gabridge’s Fire on Earth (Feb. 1–16), a smart, rollicking adventure about a smuggler who tries to publish the first English translation of the Bible. I’ll also be watching to see what Les Waters will include in his first Humana Festival as artistic director at Actors Theatre of Louisville, Ky.
KIRSTEN BOWEN, literary associate, Signature Theatre Company, New York City:
I am envious of the dramaturg who will be working with director Robert Woodruff and actor Bill Camp on their adaptation of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s In a Year with 13 Moons (April 26–May 18) at Connecticut’s Yale Repertory Theatre. Robert and Bill are two of the smartest, most creative and generous artists I know and the work they create together (and apart) is some of the most exciting, visceral and dangerous theatre I’ve ever seen.
RICK DESROCHERS, associate artist and conference dramaturg, PlayPenn, Philadelphia:
Eric Pfeffinger’s new play Some Other Kind of Person (May 31–June 23), a 20/20 Commission for InterAct Thea-tre Company of Philadelphia, is a satirical look at do-gooder Americans who get in over their heads, in this case with the Cambodian sex-trafficking trade. Pfeffinger’s social conscience is matched by his amazing comic sensibilities, and he provides new insights into the politics of self-interest in the U.S. Directed by Philadelphia-based actor and director Paul Meshejian, this play brings together two talents I would love to work with as a dramaturg.
TYLER DOBROWSKY, associate artistic director, Trinity Repertory Company, Providence, R.I.:
I didn’t get a chance to see Oren Jacoby’s adaptation of Invisible Man, based on the novel by Ralph Ellison, when it premiered in Chicago last spring, but that book is not only one of the great novels of the past century—it also paints an incredibly vibrant account of a particular period of American history and, in doing so, manages to explore themes of race, class and individual identity. Invisible Man will run Jan. 4–Feb. 3 at Huntington Theatre Company in Boston.
I’m also psyched about Anne Boleyn by Howard Brenton, playing at the Gamm Theatre in Pawtucket, R.I. (Jan. 17–Feb. 17)—what’s not to love? Sex, royalty, religion, beheadings, loads and loads of history…a perfect play for a dramaturg with a historical bent.
ROBERT KOON, company dramaturg and resident playwright, Chicago Dramatists:
My envy list for productions here in Chicago contains one writer, one company and one program. The writer is Brett Neveu, whose play The Opponent will be produced by A Red Orchid Theatre. I’ve known Brett for years and admired his work, and Red Orchid always turns out top-notch theatre. The company is Strange Tree Group, and they have a very particular aesthetic that is tremendous fun—it would be great to spend time in that particular headspace. And I am anticipating Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s First Look Repertory of New Work (summer 2013): brand new plays, terrific playwrights in the room, everything in flux and focused on the process of creating new work—the type of dynamic atmosphere anyone would love to breathe.
SABRINA HAMILTON, artistic director, Ko Festival of Performance, Amherst, Mass.:
What I’m most looking forward to are several upcoming festivals and series where I appreciate the curatorial arc and eye—plus the stimulating conversations I know will ensue. I’m eagerly anticipating the next two iterations of the Network of Ensemble Theaters’s MicroFest USA series on place-based art that will take place in Harlan, Ky., and Knoxville, Tenn. (Oct. 25–28), and in New Orleans (Jan. 18–20). Dramaturgically, I wish I were one of the fellows looking for the links between place-based art projects across the country. The fact that the series culminates in Hawaii in summer 2013 seems pretty cool, too.
ARTIE OLAISEN, associate artistic director, Dallas Children’s Theater:
I’m interested in the upcoming revival of The Elephant Man (April 12–May 5) at Houston’s Alley Theatre. It’s a beautiful and highly theatrical depiction of a remarkable life that still resonates on so many levels. Ultimately, it is a lesson about our own humanity and the soul’s yearning for beauty, dignity, connection and spirituality. Life! Life! Life!
KELLY L. MILLER, literary manager, South Coast Repertory, Costa Mesa, Calif.:
There’s a wealth of exciting new work being produced in Southern California this season. My personal favorites include two world-premiere plays at Geffen Playhouse—Michael Golamco’s virtual-reality thriller Build (Oct. 9–Nov. 18), directed by Will Frears, and Donald Margulies’s holiday extravaganza Coney Island Christmas (Nov. 20–Dec. 30), directed by Bart DeLorenzo. I also won’t miss La Jolla Playhouse’s awesomely conceived new musical Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (Nov. 6–Dec. 16), directed by Des McAnuff, with music by The Flaming Lips. Finally, I’m psyched to see the premieres of Jennifer Haley’s The Nether (March 19–April 14) and Marco Ramirez’s The Royale (April 28–June 2) at Center Theatre Group’s Kirk Douglas Theatre, one of my favorite incubators for new work in Los Angeles. Bring on the new-play goodness!
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