WASHINGTON D.C.: The Jewish-focused company Theater J has announced the plays in its 2015–16 season, with world premieres by Caleen Sinnette Jennings and Derek Goldman scheduled.
“This season’s line-up is an exciting one full of dynamic, theatrical and important works,” said acting artistic director Shirley Serotsky in a statement. “Our characters, this season, are each bound to their memories, legacies and stories through objects, images and sounds: an iconic photograph, the youthful voices of a college a cappella group, a starkly emotional letter from home, stashed away in a camp bunk bed, a shared grape popsicle, a picture of a lesser-known saint, a massive wall of rock. Are we haunted by these legacies or propelled by them?”
The season will kick off with the world premiere of Queens Girl in the World by Jennings (Sept. 16–Oct. 11), directed by Eleanor Holdridge and starring Dawn Ursula. The play is also part of the 2015 Women’s Voices Theater Festival, which aims to highlight new plays written by women. Queens Girl in the World follows a young African-American girl whose world expands when she leaves her African-American neighborhood in Queens, NY to attend a progressive school in Manhattan with mostly white, often Jewish, classmates.
“It’s an honor to launch the year with Caleen’s play,” said Serotsky in a statement. “We’ve long admired this D.C.-based playwright for her talents and her commitment to the community. We first got to work with her through our Locally Grown Festival in 2013, when we matched this moving semi-autobiographical solo show with the powerhouse team of director Eleanor Holdridge and actor Dawn Ursula—and we’re thrilled to now present it on our main stage, as our entry into the Women’s Voices Theater Festival.”
Next on the roster is Sons of the Prophet by Stephen Karam (Nov. 18–Dec. 14), directed by Gregg Henry. A finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize (and published in the February ’12 issue of American Theatre), the dark comedy follows a Lebanese-American family who are the distant relatives of real-life writer Khalil Gibran, author of the 1923 book The Prophet.
Stars of David: Story to Song will play during the holiday season (Dec. 22–27). The play is based on the book by Abigail Pogrebin, and conceived by Aaron Harnick and Pogrebin; Serotsky will direct. This comedic musical revue celebrates the lives of Jewish public figures, including Gloria Steinem, Aaron Sorkin, Fran Drescher and many more.
The first show of 2016 will be The Sisters Rosensweig by Wendy Wasserstein (Jan. 13–Feb. 21, 2016). The play follows the three Rosensweig sisters, as they reunite one weekend and reevaluate their life choices. The play will be accompanied by a Wasserstein retrospective featuring readings of her plays Uncommon Women and Others and Third. The plays are presented in tandem with the 10th anniversary of Wasserstein’s death.
The second world premiere of the season will be Falling Out of Time, based on the book by Israeli author David Grossman, and adapted and directed by Derek Goldman (March 17–April 17, 2016). The play is a fable that explores loss and parental grief. It follows a man who goes on an expedition to find his lost son in a place where the living and dead can meet again. Goldman previously helmed Theater J’s production of Our Class.
“We welcome Derek Goldman back to Theater J to helm, as both director and adapter, this exciting work—I can’t imagine a better fit, as Derek is internationally known for his stunning adaptations of essential literary works,” said Serotsky in a statement.
The Body of an American by Dan O’Brien will be next (April 27–May 29, 2016). Based on a true story, the play is an exploration of O’Brien’s friendship with Pulitzer-winning photographer Paul Watson, who is haunted by a picture he snapped of a dead American soldier being dragged through the streets of Somalia.
The final show of the season will be Another Way Home by Anna Ziegler (June 22–July 24, 2016), directed by Serotsky. When two parents show up to visit their son at camp and a father-son blow up leads to his disappearance, they are forced to wonder not only where he has gone, but their own status as a family.
Theater J is currently conducting a national search for a permanent artistic director, following the departure of longtime leader Ari Roth. Serotsky has been serving in the position in an interim capacity.
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