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Juliette Binoche in "Antigone" at the Barbican. (Photo by Jan Versweyveld)

The Kennedy Center Announces 2015–16 Season

Juliette Binoche as Antigone, a Brazilian ‘Oliver Twist’ by Karen Zacarias and a women’s voices festival anchor the Kennedy Center’s theatrical season.

WASHINGTON, D.C.: The John. F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has announced the 2015–16 season for its three performance venues: Kennedy Center, the National Symphony Orchestra and Washington National Opera. All three are under the direction of president Deborah F. Rutter, who joined the center last September. Season highlights include Juliette Binoche in Antigone and a riff on Charles Dickens’s Oliver by D.C.–based playwright Karen Zacarias.

The Kennedy Center theatrical season will kick off with its 14th annual Page-to-Stage new play festival (Sept. 5–7, 2015) of free readings and open rehearsals of plays and musicals currently in development at the center.

The first theatrical offering of the season will be Sophocles’ Antigone (Oct. 22–25), with Juliette Binoche playing the titular heroine, under the direction of Belgian director Ivo van Hove. Those in the U.K. can see her play the role this month at the Barbican Theatre in London, also directed by van Hove (March 4–28).

Then, as part of the D.C.-wide Women’s Voices Theater Festival, focused on presenting female playwrights, the Kennedy Center Theater for Young Audiences will present the commissioned production Darius & Twig (Oct. 31–Nov. 8), by Caleen Sinnette Jennings, adapted from the novel by Walter Dean Myers about the unlikely relationship between a writer and a long-distance runner.

Additionally, as part of the festival, the center will also present two free readings: Lisa Loomer’s Roe (Sept. 28, presented in association with Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s American Revolutions Project, dedicated to commissioning American history plays); and a reading of Naomi Iizuka’s Good Kids (Oct. 12), about a sexual assault scandal at a university.

The center will also present six national Broadway tours, including three Tony  winners for Best Musical:

  • Beautiful: The Carol King Musical (Oct. 6–25)
  • Matilda the Musical (Dec. 15–Jan. 10, 2016)
  • A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder (Jan. 13–30, 2016)
  • Kinky Boots (June 14–July 10, 2016)
  • The Bridges of Madison County (June 28–July 17, 2016)
  • The Phantom of the Opera (July 13–Aug. 20, 2016)

In the spring, the Kennedy Center will collaborate with Washington National Opera to present Kurt Weill’s musical/opera hybrid Lost in the Stars, based on Alan Paton’s novel Cry, the Beloved Country, about apartheid in South Africa. The production comes from Cape Town Opera in South Africa; Tazewell Thompson (who oversaw the Cape Town production) will direct.

In addition, the Kennedy Center will present two festivals in early 2016. First up will be its 48th annual American College Theater Festival, for college and university theatre programs, students and faculty members (April 11–16, 2016). The festival will offer master classes, networking opportunities, audition opportunities and an awards ceremony.

Louis Lovett in "The Girl Who Forgot to Sing Badly" from Theatre Lovett.
Louis Lovett in “The Girl Who Forgot to Sing Badly” from Theatre Lovett.

Following that will be the new international festival, Celebrating a Century of Irish Arts and Culture! (May 16–June 5, 2016), which will include performances from some of Ireland’s best contemporary musicians, dancers and theatre companies. On the slate  will be Samuel Beckett’s All that Fall, from Peter Pan Theatre and the TYA show The Girl Who Forgot to Sing Badly by Finegan Kruckemeyer, from Theatre Lovett. In the latter production, Theatre Lovett joint artistic director Louis Lovett will play a little girl and her family. The complete line-up for the festival will be announced later in the year.

Besides Darius & Twig, the Kennedy Center’s 2015–16 Theater for Young Audiences season will open with the world premiere of Mariko’s Magical Mix: A Dance Adventure (Oct. 9–18), co-commissioned with Chicago’s acclaimed Hubbard Street 2 dance company, with choreography and original concept Robyn Mineko Williams. The show will mix dance, music and puppetry to tell the story of a young girl who discovers a crate in her attic filled with old vinyl records.

The fall will see the return of the center-commissioned Elephant & Piggie’s We Are in a Play! (Nov. 27–Jan. 3, 2016), with book and lyrics by Mo Willems  and music by Deborah Wicks La Puma, about a best-friend duo made up of an elephant and a pig. Its based on Willems’ children’s book. The show was first performed in 2013 and is back by popular demand. It will then go on a national tour Jan. 7–March 20, 2016.

The fall will also include two world premiere co-commissions with the U.S. Botanic Garden. Both works, to be announced, will be performed at the USBG, including a site-specific piece in the gardens itself.

Then in 2016, the center will present another world premiere, this time a Brazilian riff on Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist called OLIVERio: A Brazilian Twist, about the lives of street children in Rio de Janeiro (Jan. 30–Feb. 21, 2016). The commissioned piece features book and lyrics by Karen Zacarias and music by Deborah Wicks La Puma. Expect a veritable Carnival onstage.

April 1–3, 2016, Chicago’s Theater Unspeakable will come to town with their Superman 2050, in which seven actors sharing just three-by-seven feet of space, will present a battle between Superman and his arch-nemesis Lex Luthor.

Later that month, Theater Triebwerk from Germany will present another whale of a tale: Moby Dick (April 23–24, 2016). The production will contain just three actors  (and no boat),

The TYA season will close with the 25th annual New Visions/New Voices festival (May 6–8, 2016), in which theatre artists will come together for a week to develop new plays and musicals for young audiences. And in honor of the festival’s 25th anniversary, Dramatic Publishing will release an anthology of select plays previously developed at New Visions/New Voices.

Other program highlights from the Kennedy Center’s overall season includes a new multidisciplinary performance series, curated by different artists. So far, the center has announced shows chosen by Kennedy Center artistic director for jazz Jason Moran, composer-in-residence Mason Bates, composer and MacArthur fellow Chris Thile and New York City Ballet principal dancer Damian Woetzel. Other artist-curated programming will be announced in the coming months.

Of this new artist-driven initiative, Kennedy Center president Rutter said in a statement: “I believe the performing arts are central to our society as they speak to the world around us and reflect our shared culture. Art and the work of artists are central to communicating and reflecting the truth in our world. I hope to put the artist at the center of our conversation and have our artists provide illumination and commentary about contemporary events.”

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