KRISTEN ADELE, actor, New York City: I am thrilled about Marcus Gardley’s Black Odyssey at Denver Center Theatre Company (Jan. 17–Feb. 16). I met Marcus in 2008 at the Colorado New Play Summit and have been eagerly anticipating one of his commissions coming to the Denver stage. I saw his show On the Levee back on the East Coast and love the way he combines the contemporary (in this case, a Gulf War veteran) with history (Homer’s Odyssey), whimsy, magic, comedy and raw human experiences. I am also eager to see the NYC premiere of Dominique Morisseau’s Sunset Baby at LAByrinth Theater Company (Nov. 6–Dec. 8). It will be refreshing to see an African-American father/daughter narrative onstage, and I am especially excited to see how she incorporates the music of Nina Simone.
JILLIAN ARMENANTE, producer, director, actor and writer, Los Angeles: I am looking forward to Donald Margulies’s The Country House at L.A.’s Geffen Playhouse (June 10–July 20). I have been a huge fan of director Daniel Sullivan’s work since his days back at Seattle Rep; his directing work is so economized. The Steward of Christendom, by Sebastian Barry, at the Mark Taper Forum (Nov. 26–Jan. 5) is a chance to watch Brian Dennehy perform—to me, it is like watching a bear attack a garbage can. He is so primal and matter-of-fact. And at Manhattan Theatre Club, When We Were Young and Unafraid by Sarah Treem (May 22–June 17): I loved Sarah’s work on “In Treatment” and I have adored Cherry Jones’s work and her restraint as an actress since seeing her in The Heiress all those years ago.
ROBYN BERG, actor and director; adjunct professor at Lipscomb University and Belmont University, Nashville: I’m looking forward to seeing what comes this year out of the Ingram New Works Lab at Tennessee Repertory Theatre (spring 2014 festival dates TBA). One of the local playwrights featured in last year’s festival was Nate Eppler, whose utterly hilarious Larries opened the Rep’s season last month, and the lab has developed work by Theresa Rebeck, Steven Dietz, John Patrick Shanley and many others.
KELLI BLAND, director and performer, Paper Chairs, Austin: Here in Austin I am excited to see Trouble Puppet Theater Company’s The Head (through Oct. 12)—their original scripts are always dark and fanciful, paired with talented designers and cast. And running Nov. 7–24, Kirk Lynn’s Fixing King John is the first of the Rude Mechanicals Shakespeare adaptation series. Lynn is Austin’s freshest playwright and I am always excited to see what he makes!
MAHA CHEHLAOUI, actor, executive director of Noor Theatre, New York City: Heather Raffo has been working on an opera called Fallujah (dates TBA). A performer herself, Raffo’s writing moves deftly between blunt realism and a poetry that magically seems to ground the work even deeper in a kind of open-minded humanity. I am also very grateful for a new initiative by the New Black Fest here in New York: Facing Our Truth: Ten-Minute Plays on Trayvon, Race and Privilege, that will be presented in theatres across the country (dates TBA). Playwrights I am very invested and interested in have been invited to participate, including Mona Mansour, Dominique Morisseau, Winter Miller and A. Rey Pamatmat. Including diverse voices into an issue often posed as black/white is necessary. And continuing the conversation about race in America, and specifically what happened around Trayvon Martin’s trial, is imperative.
BOSTIN CHRISTOPHER, artistic associate, Perseverance Theatre, Alaska: I love catching whatever Braden Abraham is directing at Seattle Repertory Theatre, and this coming season seems a don’t-miss with the premiere of Samuel D. Hunter’s A Great Wilderness (Jan. 17–Feb. 16). Hunter’s work jumps off the page. I love its electricity, fire and heart. Arlitia Jones is a playwright who makes her home in Alaska (and wouldn’t have it any other way). Her Tornado recently was awarded publication as part of the Samuel French Off-Off-Broadway Short Play Festival, which pleases me no end, as she wrote it with me in mind (the quickest way to an actor’s heart). This season she will have two plays produced in Alaska. Full disclosure: I am directing one of them (Rush at Everlasting) at Perseverance Theatre. I can’t wait to see the other, at Cyrano’s Theatre in Anchorage: Come to Me, Leopards, directed by Jayne Wenger (Oct. 25–Nov. 17). Arlitia has a way of writing for the actors in Alaska that captures their voices and makes us grateful that she won’t be leaving anytime soon!
BRUCE CROMER, actor, Human Race Theatre Company, Dayton, Ohio: As an Equity regional theatre actor, I’m slavering to see the premiere of Size Matters, by Raymond McAnally, at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati (May 7–25). Co-directed by D. Lynn Meyers and Ed Stern, this comedy about an overweight actor promises to be something more universal than the usual theatre-about-theatre piece, and is quite reflective of the new playwrights’ voices usually appearing somewhere other than NYC.
EISA DAVIS, playwright, performer and composer, New York City: What I’m looking forward to, off-the-cuff: Bobby Steggert, Kate Baldwin and Norbert Leo Butz in Big Fish on Broadway (currently in previews), Anika Noni Rose as Beneatha in Raisin in the Sun on Broadway (previews begin in March), and the cast of Here Lies Love in anything.
SANDRA DELGADO, actor-creator; TCG Fox Actor Fellow at Goodman Theatre; ensemble member of Collaboraction and Teatro Vista, Chicago: I love actor Cheryl Lynn Bruce. Every time I experience her onstage I learn so much about presence, focus and interpreting a text. Looking forward to seeing her in Marcus Gardley’s new play The Gospel of Lovingkindness at Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theater (Feb. 21–March 23, directed by Chay Yew). Also, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting the talented group of actors-musicians-creators that goes by the name PigPen Theatre Co., and I’m inspired by their vision and aesthetic, heavily informed by music and visual imagery. I’m excited to see their The Old Man and the Old Moon at Writers’ Theatre in the Chicago suburb of Glencoe (through Nov. 10).
STEVEN DRUKMAN, playwright, New York City: The revival of The Glass Menagerie that started in Massachusetts at American Repertory Theater—with Zachary Quinto, Cherry Jones, Celia Keenan-Bolger and Brian J. Smith (who can be my gentleman caller any day)—is already making me cry (on Broadway through January). L.A’s Geffen Playhouse is featuring the sublime Annette Bening in Ruth Draper Monologues (April 8–May 18). Finally, an actor with outsize talent, Francois Battiste, dons pinstripes as Mister October (Reggie Jackson) in Eric Simonson’s Bronx Bombers at New York’s Primary Stages (through Oct. 19). If he’s really sharing the stage with Keith Nobbs as Billy Martin, that’s enough to make me leave my Red Sox cap at home.
JACKIE SIBBLIES DRURY, playwright, New York City: I’m looking forward to the remount of the Foundry Theatre production of Good Person of Szechuan at the Public Theater (Oct. 18–Nov. 24); I missed it last season, and am excited to get a chance to bask in Taylor Mac’s charm and intelligence, and to experience the music of César Alvarez and Sammy Tunis and the rest of the Lisps, who are so skilled and aren’t just a band or “acting like a band”—they use pop music and performance in tandem to the betterment of both forms. Also, I can’t help but be giddy to see Daniel Kitson in his new piece Analog.Ue at St. Ann’s Warehouse (Nov. 22–Dec. 21); his wit and delivery are inspiring and entertaining. I also can’t wait to see David Greenspan perform The Argument and Plays at the Bushwick Starr (Dec. 19–21)—I appreciated Gertrude Stein before I saw Greenspan, but I came to love her through his nuanced and deeply felt performance of her works.
ERIK EHN, playwright, Providence, R.I.: Let us be ever mindful of our friends, the creepy and sublime puppets. Looking especially to whatever Alison Heimstead drums up at In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre in Minneapolis, and Janie Geiser/Susan Simpson at Automata in L.A. And Dan Hurlin, enjoy your Rome Prize, but—hurry home!
CLAYBOURNE ELDER, actor, New York City: I loved Daniel Beaty’s Mr. Joy at Lincoln Center this year, and his new play The Tallest Tree in the Forest, directed by Moisés Kaufman for Tectonic heater Project, is something I can’t miss. Luckily it’s playing all over the country (through May)—Kansas City Rep, La Jolla Playhouse, Arena Stage, Mark Taper Forum. I think Paul Robeson is a fascinating character in American theatre history and I can’t wait to see Mr. Beaty get his hands on the role. I’m a huge fan of Mary Zimmerman, and I can’t imagine a better person to adapt The Jungle Book, playing at Boston’s Huntington Theatre (through Oct. 13)—plus, I’d literally watch André De Shields read the phone book.
LAUREN GUNDERSON, playwright, San Francisco: I don’t approve of time travel, but I would risk it to speed up the clock and see two of my favorite Bay actors, Arwen Anderson and Kat Zdan, in Marin Theatre Company’s Failure: A Love Story (June 5–29). I have been a fan of these exuberant two since I moved to the Bay and am poised to see both their musical and comedic chops let loose. Also, Shotgun Players of Berkeley’s Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness (Dec. 4–Jan. 12) should be fantastic, in part because of another of my favorite smart and funny Bay Area actors, Patrick Kelly Jones—who I believe is playing, among other parts, a woman.
REBECCA HART, actor, New York City: As usual, I can’t wait to see everything at Playwrights Horizons. I love Madeleine George’s wit (her The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence runs Nov. 17–Dec. 29) and Sarah Ruhl’s everything (her Stage Kiss plays there Feb. 7–March 23). I am also looking forward to the final installment of the Untitled Biopic Project (dates TBA), ending the residency of the Mad Ones at the New Ohio, directed by Lila Neugebauer and written by the company. I saw the workshop version at the Ice Factory this summer and it was so, so engrossing and beautiful and deftly staged. Also, as a theatre person with one foot in the music world, I’m always really excited when a play about a (fictional) band rings true. Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s Appropriate was one of my favorite plays at the Humana Festival this year—I saw it twice—and I am thrilled that Signature Theatre is doing it (in February and March). It is a big, grand American family drama that feels familiar and then shocks you. And all the roles (several women!) are meaty.
KYLE HATLEY, director, actor and playwright; associate artistic director, Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Missouri: We’ve had the inspiring pleasure of witnessing a number of young, smart, passionate theatre companies come roaring into existence here in Kansas City over the last five years, including the Living Room Theatre, Spinning Tree Theatre and the Fishtank. One upcoming production that stands out is the Living Room Theatre’s original one-woman show about Frida Kahlo’s relationship with her imaginary friend, entitled The Two Fridas (in May), created and developed by Alex Espy and Vanessa Severo. Meanwhile, the Unicorn Theatre celebrates its 40th season with a killer lineup, but the one I’m most excited about is Clybourne Park (Dec. 4–29), which has put together an incredible cast and creative team. And, let’s face it, I’ve got a serious nerd crush on Bruce Norris.
MICHAEL HOLLINGER, playwright, Philadelphia: I can’t wait to see the premiere of Jacqueline Goldfinger’s Skin and Bone at Azuka Theatre (March 5–23), featuring three of Philly’s funniest actresses: Drucie McDaniel, Amanda Schoonover and Maureen Torsney-Weir. Each is quirky and complex in her own right; together, they’re bound to make Jackie’s Southern Gothic world twisty, turny and darkly humorous.
LAURA JACQMIN, playwright and TV writer, Chicago and Los Angeles: I first had the pleasure of working with Sofia Jean Gomez during a workshop of my play January Joiner with P73 at Yale in 2010 (the play premiered at Long Wharf Theatre in 2013). The character she played was a sort of possessed demon, and Sofia’s name was the first that sprang to everyone’s mind. She’s utterly fearless onstage—she’s the ideal actress for new work, so I’m so pleased she’s in the premiere of my dear friend Tanya Saracho’s play, The Tenth Muse, up at Oregon Shakespeare Festival (she’s also playing Cordelia in King Lear, both through early November).
GREG KELLER, actor/playwright, New York City: I love Wallace Shawn. I will most definitely be attending Grasses of a Thousand Colors (a Theatre for a New Audience/Public Theater co-production, Oct. 8–Nov. 10). In addition to being a wonderful role model for actor-playwright hyphenates, his writing always amazes me with how deeply personal and political it manages to be at the same time. He writes about sexual desire for cats in one sentence, and about how buying a nice dinner can make us complicit in global violence in the next.
EMILY SOPHIA KNAPP, actor, Ashland, Ore., and New York City: Luis Alfaro might just be my favorite living playwright. His plays make classic texts searingly relevant, illuminating how ancient poetry can help us understand the brutality and mystery of modern American life. Luis makes visible segments of American society that rarely appear on our stages, and devotes himself to engaging with the community wherever his plays appear. His Oedipus El Rey will play the Dallas Theater Center (Jan. 16–Mar. 2), and I could not be happier for Dallas. And I can’t wait for Tarell Alvin McCraney’s adaptation of Antony & Cleopatra, set just before the Haitian revolution against the French, transferring to NYC’s Public Theater Feb. 18–March 23 (after runs at London’s Royal Shakespeare Company, Nov. 7–30, and GableStage in Florida, Jan. 11–Feb. 9). He is one of the country’s freshest, most vibrant playwrights, and I’m excited to see what happens when he and William Shakespeare join forces.
TRACY LETTS, actor/playwright, Chicago: In Chicago: Mud Blue Sky by Marisa Wegrzyn at A Red Orchid Theatre (April/May). Marisa has a funky voice. A Red Orchid has the actors to deliver the goods. In New York: Domesticated by Bruce Norris at Lincoln Center Theater; the best satirist in the American theatre—ever (previews begin Oct. 10). And The Killer by Ionesco at Theatre for a New Audience: Mike Shannon gets his Theatre of the Absurd freak on (May 17–June 29). Anywhere: I want someone to bring the Donmar Warehouse production of The Night Alive by Conor McPherson to the U.S.
MIKE LEW, playwright, New York City: I am ecstatic that Steven Boyer will be reprising his role in Rob Askins’s play Hand to God, which first ran at Ensemble Studio Theatre and is now going to MCC Theater (Feb. 18–Mar. 30), directed by my good pal Moritz von Stuelpnagel. This’ll be the best combination of writer/director/performer New York has to offer outside of Louis C.K. working alone. In Hand to God: Steven plays both Jason, an earnest Texan kid, and Tyrone, a satanic sock puppet. Steven is so chameleon-like that watching him give life to Tyrone is like watching two people performing at once. He was similarly transcendent in Nick Jones’s play Trevor, which Moritz also directed. Steven played a chimpanzee, and his moves were so accurately apelike I got flashbacks of being at the San Diego Zoo.
SEAN CHRISTOPHER LEWIS, playwright, solo performer, artistic director, Working Group Theatre, Iowa City: One performance that jumps out immediately is Jody Hovland in Jennifer Fawcett’s brilliant new play The Birth Witches (Oct. 18–Nov. 3). It’s sure to set the Riverside Theatre in Iowa City, where Hovland is artistic director, afire. If I were in Ohio I would go see the criminally underrated ensemble work of Available Light Theatre and its newest creation Glue (Nov. 14–23). And after hearing some of the conversations this summer between director Braden Abraham and writer Samuel D. Hunter, A Great Wilderness at Seattle Repertory Theatre (Jan. 17–Feb. 16) sounds well worth the airfare.
LISA LOOMER, playwright, Ashland, Ore.: In Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s 2014 season, I’m sure looking forward to seeing Robert Schenkkan’s next brilliant play for the American Revolutions cycle, The Great Society, and seeing Jack Willis again as LBJ (opening July 24, see page 40). I’m dying to see John Tufts, Mark Bedard and Brent Hinkley as the Marx Brothers again (The Cocoanuts, opening Feb. 15), because they were pee-in-your-pants funny in 2012’s Animal Crackers—as was K.T. Vogt, who’s also coming back. Dan Donohue was so brilliant and so unusual as Hamlet in 2010 that I will come back and see him as Richard III (opening June 3), and even though I’m a bit sick of Shakespeare, the production will likely surprise me. I look forward to seeing Catherine Coulson in whatever she’s cast in because she epitomizes the consummate repertory theatre actress: She can play a rooster (and has) and steal the show for a moment.
TAYLOR MAC, actor and playwright, New York City: I feel like I should be naming all the young new people who are doing extraordinary work, but, honestly, what I’m most excited by at this point are the luminaries being presented in New York: a new Caryl Churchill at New York Theatre Workshop (Love and Information, Feb. 1–April 1); Lisa Kron’s musical with Jeanine Tesori, Fun Home, at the Public Theater (Oct. 1–Nov. 3, see page 120); and, also at the Public, Wallace Shawn’s Grasses of a Thousand Colors (Oct. 7–Nov. 10); Martha Clarke’s Cheri at Signature Theatre Company (November/December); and Lee Breuer’s La Divina Caricatura at St. Ann’s Warehouse (Dec. 6–22). And a future luminary, Madeleine George, has a new play called The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence at Playwrights Horizons (Nov. 17–Dec. 29) that I’m chomping at the bit for. It’s a year of learning from the masters (and, one hopes, discovering a few new gems).
MELINDA McCRARY, actor; director of education, Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Missouri: I am looking forward to Master of the Universe, a new work by my colleague Kyle Hatley, presented at KC’s Living Room Theatre in June. Since Büchner has always scared and excited me, I expect fear and thrills from Kyle’s play, based on Woyzeck. I admire the way classic stories inspire a playwright as young as Kyle. His passion for the audience’s investment in these high-stakes works always ensures a wild night at the theatre.
MICHAEL McKEEVER, playwright and actor, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.: I am looking forward to seeing the terrific Pat Bowie recreate the role she originated on Broadway in Horton Foote’s Dividing the Estate at Palm Beach Dramaworks (March 28–April 27). Ms. Bowie always brings a graceful honesty to every role she plays. I am also looking forward to Christopher Demos-Brown’s Fear Up Harsh, being premiered by Miami’s Zoetic Stage at the Adrienne Arsht Center (Nov. 7–24), and Marco Ramirez’s Broadsword at Gift Theatre in Chicago (through Nov. 24). Both of these writers create dialogue and situations that actors kill for. Smart, urban, funny and real.
MICHAEL MITNICK, playwright, New York City: I’m looking forward to seeing Richard Nelson’s final play in his Apple Family quartet: Regular Singing. The Public Theater will be presenting it with the previous three plays in rep (Oct. 22–Dec. 15), and I’m eager to revisit them and the stunning ensemble cast that has faithfully committed to each annual production.
DOMINIQUE MORISSEAU, actor and playwright, New York City: I’m excited about Nyahale Allie. She is a gifted emerging actress with a sass and spunk that I find irresistible on stage. She will be in Jade King Carroll’s production of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom at Portland Stage Company in Maine (through Oct. 20), and I’m itching to see her work her moxie and magic.
MICHELLE MOUNTAIN, actor and literary manager, the Purple Rose Theatre Company, Chelsea, Mich.: In our area, I’m looking forward to The Game’s Afoot, or Holmes for the Holidays by Ken Ludwig, at Meadow Brook Theatre (Oct. 2–27). I think he’s a funny, clever writer of good farces—not an easy task. I’m also looking forward to a co-production of Other Desert Cities by Jon Robin Baitz (Jewish Ensemble Theatre and Performance Network Theatre, April 23–May 18). This play is so well written, so sharp and clear, with such an incredible betrayal. Amazing opportunities for the actors, as well—the people are not simple, and their relationships are wonderfully complex. The Williamston Theatre is doing Over the River and Through the Woods by Joe DiPietro (Nov. 29–Dec. 29). Finally, the Tipping Point Theatre is closing its 2013–14 season with a new play by James Kuhl called The Kings of Unionville (July 24–Aug. 24). James is the producing artistic director there, and a former apprentice at my theatre, so I’m very interested in seeing an original work by him.
TOPHER PAYNE, playwright and actor, Atlanta: The last time playwright Steve Yockey and director Melissa Foulger collaborated, it was on Wolves—a play that was, quite simply, badass. So I’m counting the days until we get to see their latest offering: the premiere of Pluto at Actor’s Express here in Atlanta Oct. 30–Nov. 24. (A National New Play Network rolling premiere, the play will also get stagings at Forum Theatre in D.C. Feb. 20–March 15 and Orlando Shakespeare Theater in Florida Feb. 27–March 23.) I’m also a big fan of writer/performer Michael Molina’s brain. His Mass Transit Muse at Atlanta’s 7 Stages (May 2–18) is guaranteed to be a jolt of theatrical adrenaline, and who couldn’t use a little of that?
ERIC PFEFFINGER, playwright, Toledo, Ohio: In a world of endless possibility and unlimited gas money, I’d start by catching Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at Indianapolis’s Phoenix Theatre (through Oct. 20), where Diane Kondrat will demonstrate how to ground the loopiest lunacy in relatable humanity. Then it’s up to Chicago to see the slyly subversive Erin Myers in the role she arguably wasn’t born to play: Victor Frankenstein in All Girl Frankenstein (Oct. 19–Dec. 1) by the Mammals. After that, the action’s in Philadelphia: Shannon Marie Sullivan being all achingly believable, as is her wont, in 4000 Miles at Philadelphia Theatre Company (Oct. 11–Nov. 10); Kittson O’Neill as Portia in Julius Caesar at Lantern Theater Company (Feb. 6–March 16), applying her fierce intelligence to a play from another century for a change; and Amanda Schoonover’s mad chameleonic skills in Jacqueline Goldfinger’s Skin and Bone at the Azuka Theatre (March 5–23). By then my family might notice I was missing.
AARON POSNER, playwright and director, Riverdale Park, Md.: Looking forward to the amazing actor Holly Twyford in Jackie Sibblies Drury’s We Are Proud to Present a Presentation… at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in D.C., under the direction of Michael John Garcés (Feb. 10–March 19). Also in D.C., I’m looking forward to the excellent actors Kathleen Turner, Rick Foucheux and Erin Weaver (full disclosure: my wife) in Mother Courage at Arena Stage under Molly Smith’s direction (Jan. 13–March 9).
MOLLY RICE, scriptwriter and experience designer, New York City: I can’t wait to see Kristin Sieh as Teddy Roosevelt and Libby King as Elvis in the TEAM’s RoosevElvis at Brooklyn’s Bushwick Starr (Oct. 8–Nov. 3). Kristin has this incredibly lithe, feather-trigger responsiveness onstage that gets wonderfully tangled up with her oddball humor; and Libby’s gritty-but-vulnerable, unvarnished sincerity, as applied to the King, is going to be crazy. Then there’s Taylor Mac in The Good Person of Szechuan at the Public Theater (Oct. 18–Nov. 24), playing both the female Shen Tei and her male creation, Shui Ta. Taylor brings with him associations of beautiful but alienating in-betweenness. If you miss that, he and Mandy Patinkin (!) will be at Classic Stage Company Dec. 17–31 with their new cabaret, The Last Two People on Earth: An Apocalyptic Vaudeville. I also always have my eye out for two Brown MFA grads, Susannah Flood and Charise Greene. Charise will play the smoldering lead in Richard Ploetz’s Versailles in February and March at Theater for the New City. Susannah is in Anne Washburn’s Mr. Burns, a post-electric play (onstage at Playwrights Horizons through Oct. 6), with yet another of my favorites, the unusual and extraordinary Matt Maher.
PETER J. ROTH, playwright, Cleveland: I’m excited to see Miniature Curiosa’s Birds of America at the New Hazlett in Pittsburgh on Oct. 12. Murphi Cook was workshopping the script while we were at Carnegie Mellon. It’s creepy and funny—mostly creepy…but mostly funny. She and her partner Zach Dorn create wild vaudevillian puppet spectacles with toy theatres, video cameras and projectors. I love everything they do and I can’t wait to see where they’ve come with this script and how it’ll look.
TAMMY RYAN, playwright, Pittsburgh: I am most looking forward to seeing newcomer powerhouse Bria Walker showcased in Suzan-Lori Parks’s Venus, directed by Cynthia Croot for the University of Pittsburgh Stages (Oct. 24–Nov. 10). I first saw Bria in City Theatre of Pittsburgh’s Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet two seasons ago, and I’ve been captivated by her since. Also this month, veteran comic actress Sheila McKenna will appear as Sonia in City Theatre’s production of Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, directed by Tracy Brigden (Oct. 12–Nov. 3). McKenna’s sense of comic timing is topped only by her amazing dexterity playing multiple characters. A natural mimic, she’s an expert in dialects and I’m looking forward to her imitation of Maggie Smith. Later in City Theatre’s season (Jan. 8–26) is the reprise of Tami Dixon’s one-woman show South Side Stories, directed by Matt Morrow. Dixon is a talented triple threat: she can write, she can run a theatre company (Bricolage Production Company) and she can act. South Side Stories comes straight out of Pittsburgh’s Southside community. It sold out its extended run last season, and is being brought back because we’re still lining up around the block to see it.
JONATHAN MARC SHERMAN, playwright/actor, New York City: No two words excite me more in the theatre than “world premiere,” so I’m eager to witness somebody whose work I am in awe of play a part that’s never been played—namely Laurie Metcalf, in Bruce Norris’s new play Domesticated at Lincoln Center Theater (Oct. 10–Jan. 15). Every time I have had the pleasure of enjoying her act is now a treasured memory. Some of her performances I’ve missed (mostly due to my not living in closer proximity to Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company) seem vivid in my mind simply because I’ve heard about them and kicked myself for not catching them—like Steppenwolf’s True West, in which she played the mother when she was 26 years old, exactly two months older than her stage son Jeff Perry, and actually younger than her other stage son, John Malkovich. If there’s something Laurie Metcalf cannot do, I hope to never find out about it.
RICK SHIOMI, playwright and director, Minneapolis: I can’t wait to see Sun Mee Chomet and Kurt Kwan in A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Ten Thousand Things here in the Twin Cities (Oct. 10–Nov. 3). They are two of the most versatile and dynamic actors who are part of the Mu Performing Arts family. Also: Good Morning, Ann Landers by Lauren Yee as part of Unwilling and Hostile Instruments, directed by Elly Green at Theatre Seven of Chicago (through Oct. 27). I think Lauren is one of the most talented young playwrights in the country! I’m looking forward to the trilogy of plays by Aditi Brennan Kapil (see page 36), one of the new wave of playwrights in the Midwest: Displaced Hindu Gods at Minneapolis’s Mixed Blood Theatre (Oct. 2–27). Finally, I am eager to see Tazewell Thompson’s take on the fascinating story of a First Lady and her seamstress in Mary T & Lizzy K at Park Square Theatre in St. Paul (Oct. 18–Nov. 10).
MAT SMART, playwright, New York City: Steven Epp will star in Dario Fo’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist at Connecticut’s Yale Repertory Theatre Nov. 20–Dec. 21. I saw Mr. Epp in Servant of Two Masters at Yale and it was one of the best shows and performances I’ve ever seen. He’s teaming up with director Christopher Bayes again—this is a can’t-miss. And Nick Mills will knock the drag queen role out of the park in Matthew Lopez’s hilarious new play The Legend of Georgia McBride at Denver Center Theatre Company (Jan. 10–Feb. 24).
SARAH SOKOLOVIC, actor, New York City: Well, I just love Lisa D’Amour. She’s got a new play, Cherokee, that is going to premiere at the Wilma Theater in Philly and Anne Kaufmann is directing it (Jan. 8–Feb. 8). I can’t wait for Fly By Night at Playwrights Horizons (May 16–June 29). It’s an amazing show: Kim Rosenstock, Will Connolly and Michael Mitnick have been working on this project ever since they were in school at Yale together. It was pretty magical then, and I’m sure it’s just gotten even better. My friend Halley Feiffer’s play How to Make Friends and Then Kill Them is happening at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater this season (Oct. 23–Dec. 14), and as talented as she is, I’m sure it’ll be great—and Kip Fagan is directing it.
SAVIANA STANESCU, playwright, New York City: I’m looking forward to seeing the wonderful and versatile Jefferson Mays in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder on Broadway (starting Oct. 22). Since I saw him first in Doug Wright’s I Am My Own Wife I’ve been admiring his range, talent, precision, charisma, etc., etc.
GWYDION SUILEBHAN, playwright, Washington, D.C.: I cannot wait to see Anu Yadav perform her own Meena’s Dream at D.C.’s Forum Theatre (Jan. 8–19). Her plasticity as a performer—she can become anyone, instantly—is rivaled only by her authenticity. Her work as a deviser and performer is unforgettable. I’m also looking forward to watching Rick Foucheux and Todd Scofield face off as Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis in Freud’s Last Session at Theater J (May 14–June 29). Those two lions could roar and prowl for hours and I’d never grow tired of watching them.
JEFFREY SWEET, playwright, New York City: Ever since I worked with Reed Birney on one of my plays at 78th Street Theatre Lab, I’ve been an enormous admirer of his work. I was delighted to learn he was cast as Hubert Humphrey in Robert Schenkkan’s All the Way at American Repertory Theater in Massachusetts (through Oct. 12; see page 40). (Delighted to hear the protean Michael McKean is in it, too.) To generalize about Reed is risky. I thought I had him figured out as a master of sensitive, decent but repressed characters, trying to find their way through the minefield of life’s disappointments (his Vanya was extraordinary), and then he does something like Sarah Kane’s Blasted (at Soho Rep in 2008), complete with nudity and some of the most abusive language ever penned, and it turns out he can nail that, too.
JOHN DOUGLAS THOMPSON, actor, New York City: This October, I’m very excited to see Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Julie Taymor for Theatre for a New Audience at their new home in Brooklyn (Oct. 19–Jan. 12). The combination of TFANA’s new classical theatre space, Taymor’s direction, and the brilliant Kathryn Hunter as Puck make this a “must see more than once” production for me. And I’m looking forward to seeing Ruben Santiago-Hudson in the solo show How I Learned What I Learned, by the late August Wilson, in November and December at NYC’s Signature Theatre. I can’t wait to see what this play reveals to us about Wilson’s life and remarkable body of work.
KEN WEITZMAN, head of the MFA playwriting program at Indiana University, Bloomington, Ind.: One performance in my region that I’m looking forward to is actor Henry Woronicz as the Poet in An Iliad at Indiana Repertory Theatre (Oct. 16–Nov. 16). I know the play has made the rounds but the combination of Henry’s incredible facility with language and his fierce intelligence should make for a special performance. Further west, Mike Hartman is playing Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman at Denver Center Theatre Company (through Oct. 20), where he is a long-time, long-beloved actor. He is such a fierce dude and so likeable at the same time. I would also love to see Ian Peakes playing Vershinin in Three Sisters at the Arden Theatre in Philadelphia (March 20–April 20). With Ian in the role, Chekhovian humor will rise to the surface in ways that will surprise and delight even folks who’ve seen multiple productions of the play.
WALTON WILSON, actor, Shakespeare & Company, Lenox, Mass.: I’m terribly excited to see what sparks of mad genius Rolin Jones brings to the book of the new musical These Paper Bullets—his adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing transplanted to London in the Swinging ‘60s, directed by Jackson Gay, with music by Billie Joe Armstrong—which will debut at Yale Repertory Theatre in Connecticut (March 14–April 5, see page 126). Jones and Gay seem like ideal collaborators. Add Shakespeare’s story and Armstrong’s score to the mix and the result should be cathartic.
JACQUELINE WRIGHT, actor and playwright, Los Angeles and New York City: I fell in love with the writing of Marlane Meyer when I first read Etta Jenks years ago, when the sex industry was so mysterious; it so needs to be remounted now that our culture has been so porn-ified. Her writing fits in your mouth in a way that possesses you; you can actually feel her far-out souls crawling into your heart space. Her The Patron Saint of Sea Monsters opens in New York at Playwrights Horizons Oct. 18–Dec. 1. Also: My first Wesley Walker play, The Conception, was transcendent. His plays make me feel beautifully uncomfortable. He is creating some of the most viscerally exciting and intelligent theatre today, and doing it quietly, without any pretentiousness. He is currently writing deceptively short plays that fill you up like full meals and has teamed up with dancer/writer Sissy Boyd—a poet goddess in her own right, who often infuses storytelling with dance. They have an evening lined up this October that I am sure will be crazy-amazing—Riddance, at MorYork gallery in L.A. Plus: I always love me some Sheila Callaghan plays! Where else can you see a female character naked in the moonlight eating dirt and roots? Her new play Everything You Touch opens in May at the Theatre @ Boston Court in Pasadena, Calif., and next September at NYC’s Rattlestick Playwrights Theater.
LAUREN YEE, playwright, New York City: I’m from San Francisco, so I’m still a huge fan of Bay Area actors, especially the ones whose careers I’ve watched grow for years now. Catherine Castellanos is devastatingly watchable. She makes you forget that there aren’t enough funny, complex roles out there for women, because she transforms every role she embodies in a startlingly layered performance. And she’ll be starring in Luis Alfaro’s Alleluia, The Road, produced by San Francisco’s Campo Santo (Nov. 1–25). Kathryn Zdan is a super-funny, multi-talented lady. She disappears into her roles with so much commitment. She’ll be the titular shrew in The Taming, Lauren Gunderson’s new take on The Taming of the Shrew, produced by San Francisco’s Crowded Fire Theater (Oct. 3–26).
STEFANIE ZADRAVEC, playwright, New York City: I’m dying to see Mr. Burns, a post-electric play by Anne Washburn at Playwrights Horizons (through Oct. 6). Matthew Maher is so funny, yet always manages to break my heart, and Susannah Flood is one of my favorite new actresses. She auditioned for me, and I was like, “Where did she come from? She’s incredible.” She wasn’t available for my show, but I can’t wait to see her in this.