As part of this special issue’s exploration of the state of the new American play, we wanted to highlight some of the most exciting works of theatre written within the past five years. So we asked a group that champions new work, dramaturgs and literary managers across the U.S. and Canada, which productions they were most looking forward to this season.
DANIELLE MAGES AMATO, literary manager and dramaturg, the Old Globe, San Diego:
I’m so excited about Anna Ziegler’s new play Actually, premiering at the Geffen in Los Angeles (May 2-June 11, 2017) in conjunction with Williamstown in Massachusetts. I’m just in love with Anna’s writing—it’s lyrical, insightful, often hilarious, and always utterly brilliant—and I’m so glad she’s adding her voice to the conversation about consent and sexual assault on college campuses.
EMILE BECK, co-literary manager, the Theatre @ Boston Court, Pasadena, Calif.:
I’m looking forward to Good Grief by Ngozi Anyanwu at the Kirk Douglas (Center Theatre Group in L.A., Feb. 26-March 26, 2017). This playwright’s voice is fresh and unique. It feels like personal exploration is at the heart of the play, and Anyanwu goes in deep. Her poetic language renders the personal into something expansive and moving. I’m also thrilled to see another production of Lookingglass Theatre Company’s Moby Dick at South Coast Rep in Costa Mesa, Calif. (Jan. 20-Feb. 19, 2017; Lookingglass, June 7-Sept. 3, 2017), which I saw in Chicago last summer. David Catlin’s adaptation and direction remain loyal to Melville’s book, and also crack it open with a theatricality that achieves modern-day relevance. The production both entertains and implicates the audience. It’s a stunning piece of theatre and a lesson in transferring literary works to the stage.
WALTER BILDERBACK, dramaturg/literary manager, the Wilma Theater, Philadelphia:
A few picks, with attention to some of the new generation of Philly playwrights: Mary Tuomanen has two new plays coming up in Philadelphia this season. I’m picking Peaceable Kingdom (Christ Church Neighborhood House in 2017, dates not yet announced) to shout out the work Orbiter 3 is doing here in town. I’ll go with the poetry and anger of James Ijames’s Kill Move Paradise at National Black Theatre in New York City (dates TBA). Pass Over by Antoinette Nwandu (Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company, May 2017) channels Beckett and Pinter with #BlackLivesMatter. The combination of Richard Maxwell and Steve Earle for Samara at Soho Rep in NYC (April 4-May 7, 2017) is also something I have to experience. And it’s not new, but Party People by Universes (NYC’s Public Theater, Nov. 1-Dec. 4) is an essential look at America’s radical history that also rocks the house.
KIRSTEN BOWEN, literary director, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Washington, D.C.:
I’m excited to see Sell/Buy/Date (Manhattan Theatre Club, Sept. 27-Nov. 6) by Sarah Jones, who is a chameleon-like storyteller. I will read anything by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, from plays to grocery lists, and so I will definitely catch Everybody at Signature Theatre, also in New York City (starting Jan. 31). The political/historical carnival ride that is Scenes From Court Life, or the whipping boy and his prince by Sarah Ruhl at Yale Rep in New Haven, Conn. (Sept. 30-Oct. 22), actually evoked compassion for the Bushes, and I am all for plays that unearth unexpected feelings in unexpected places, especially during the election cycle. I’m also for delightfully buoyant, tough-minded heroines, so I’m thrilled for Bella: An American Tall Tale by Kirsten Childs at Dallas Theater Center (Sept. 22-Oct. 22) and NYC’s Playwrights Horizons (May 19-July 2, 2017). In my own Washington, D.C., I’m anticipating Hooded: Or Being Black for Dummies by Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm at Mosaic Theater Company (Jan. 25-Feb. 19, 2017) and No Sisters by Aaron Posner at Studio Theatre (March 16-April 23, 2017).
MARK BLY, teaching artist and freelance dramaturg at the Acting Company, New York City:
I can’t wait to see Tectonic Theater Project’s Uncommon Sense in January 2017 at the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Weaving several characters throughout, it offers a unique way of thinking about our world and provides a theatrical looking glass into living on the autism spectrum. I’m eager to see Jacqueline E. Lawton’s world premiere at Arena Stage of her play Intelligence Feb. 24-April 2, 2017, directed by Daniella Topol. It’s based on the story of CIA operative Valerie Plame and her husband’s blown cover prior to the Iraq war. The play focuses on the active role a citizen must take when their government behaves dishonorably. Lawton’s play is just one by a wide range of women playwrights in a season created by artistic director Molly Smith.
ILANA M. BROWNSTEIN, director of new work, Company One, Boston:
I’m most excited for a duo of world premieres by local writers at Fresh Ink Theatre in Boston: Don’t Give Up the Ship (February 2017) by Laura Neill, and La Llorona by Cecelia Raker (May 2017). These women represent a rising tide of excellent local playwriting by early-career writers. I’m wicked psyched for the raucous cultural critique of Tiger Style! by Mike Lew at Huntington Theatre Company (Oct. 14-Nov. 13), and the bracing, bittersweet Mala (Oct. 27-Nov. 20) by Melinda Lopez at ArtsEmerson, about a woman traversing the map of her mother’s dementia. A special shout-out goes to the fascinating season of performance-art-meets-dance-theatre at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston.
CARRIE CHAPTER, literary manager and dramaturg, Philadelphia Theatre Company:
Philadelphia is presenting some of my favorite brilliant voices this coming season: In addition to two highly anticipated world premieres by two Philly playwrights, Jacqueline Goldfinger’s The Arsonists (May 3-21, 2017) and Douglas Williams’s Shitheads (Feb. 22-March 12, 2017), Azuka Theatre is producing the edifying, genre-defying How We Got On by Idris Goodwin (Sept. 21-Oct. 9), a play I’ve been yearning to see spin its magic in Philly since its time at the O’Neill. And the Lantern Theater Company will be giving a Philly premiere to the smart, incisive, yet incredibly intimate Informed Consent by Deborah Zoe Laufer (Jan. 12-Feb. 12, 2017).
KIMBERLY COLBURN, literary director, South Coast Rep, Costa Mesa, Calif.:
There are two plays that spring to mind: The Book of Will by Lauren Gunderson at Denver Center (Jan. 13-Feb. 26, 2017) and Imogen Says Nothing by Aditi Kapil at Yale Rep (in New Haven, Conn., Jan. 20-Feb. 11, 2017). Both are sideways explorations of Shakespeare’s world, making use of tropes familiar to the theatregoing folk, but both are unique and wholly reflect Gunderson and Kapil’s distinct voices.
JOSHUA BASTIAN COLE, dramaturg, playwright, performer, and scholar, Ithaca, N.Y.:
If I had the ability to be anywhere for the upcoming season, I’d be in Chicago for Will Davis’s “wild new plays and old plays done in new ways” at the American Theater Company. Davis will be again directing the play Jill Dolan called the best thing she’s seen this year: Jaclyn Backhaus’s Men on Boats (Jan. 6-Feb. 12, 2017). This regional premiere follows its previous iterations with Clubbed Thumb and Playwrights Horizons. Davis’s reimagined Picnic by William Inge (March 17-April 23, 2017) is definitely something to look forward to as well.
TYLER DOBROWSKY, associate artistic director, Trinity Rep, Providence, R.I.:
In New England we’re blessed with theatres of all shapes and sizes using new plays to tackle issues facing our society. Here are just a handful of new shows I’m looking forward to: At American Repertory Theater (Cambridge, Mass., Aug. 20-Sept. 17) and Second Stage Theatre (NYC, starting Oct. 16), Notes From the Field: Doing Time in Education. Anna Deavere Smith is a treasure, and I can’t wait to catch this urgent new piece about the school-to-prison pipeline. At Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre (Pawtucket, R. I.), King Elizabeth (April 27-May 28, 2017), a new version of Mary Stuart by Friedrich Schiller adapted by Tony Estrella; the Gamm is starting to achieve some national attention for their incredible work, and I can’t wait to see their A.D., Tony Estrella, take a crack at Mary Stuart. Company One (Boston): Their whole season looks pretty great, but I’m particularly excited about Jackie Sibblies Drury’s Really (Jan. 20-Feb. 5, 2017).
CLARE DROBOT, director of new play development, City Theatre Company, Pittsburgh:
I’m really looking forward to Julia Cho’s Aubergine at Playwrights Horizons in New York (Aug. 20-Oct. 2). I wasn’t able to see it at California’s Berkeley Rep, but had the chance to read it. It was one of those scripts that left me choked up at my desk—it’s such a moving exploration of family, food, and legacy. A Doll’s House, Part 2 (April 9-30, 2017) by Lucas Hnath at Costa Mesa, Calif.’s South Coast Rep and Jen Silverman’s Collective Rage: A Play in Five Boops (Sept. 12-Oct. 9) at D.C.’s Woolly Mammoth are also on that list. I love that the new-play landscape spans the whole country.
JULIE FELISE DUBINER, associate director, American Revolutions: The United States History Cycle, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, Ore.:
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that I am a sucker for holiday shows and Jane Austen, so I am hoping to make it to Marin Theatre Company (in Mill Valley, Calif., Nov. 25-Dec. 18), Northlight Theatre (Skokie, Ill., Nov. 10-Dec. 18), or Round House Theatre (Bethesda, Md., Nov. 23-Dec. 18) to see Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley by awesome women Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon. Bonus: It’s being directing in California by Meredith McDonough, in Chicago by Jessica Thebus, and in Maryland by Eleanor Holdridge—more awesome women.
JENNA CLARK EMBREY, literary manager, Signature Theatre, New York City:
I don’t think there is anything I have been looking forward to for longer than the single marathon performance of Taylor Mac’s A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, from noon to noon Oct. 8-9 at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn (it began running in consecutive parts starting Sept. 15). There is something about the ephemeral nature of that scale of spectacle that creates a really incredible kind of community. The way Mac can bring together a group of people to bear witness to an artistic (and athletic!) feat represents the best of American theatre’s fearlessness. I’m excited to see how theatre can embrace duration as part of the narrative, not just a byproduct of it.
LIZ ENGELMAN, dramaturg, head of playwriting/directing at the University of Texas at Austin, and director, Tofte Lake Center, Ely, Minn.:
Sneak preview: I am most excited about the renowned, Minneapolis-based Stuart Pimsler Dance and Theater’s world premiere of a new performance piece based on a Robert Coover short story entitled Matinee (Feb. 10-19, 2017). This dance-theatre work focuses on our fascination with film and the mystique of movies, mixing movement, text, and media to do what SPDT does best: create poetic and dynamic head and heart pieces that examine and explode our need for love, longing, and the human-est of connections. Plus they are just amazing to watch.
In a completely other vein and venue, Not Medea offers a gut- and heart-wrenching (and funny!) take on the classic tragedy as the line between real life and stage become blurred in this intense exploration of personal choices and the complex challenges and complicated consequences of being a working woman, wife, and mother. I would travel to the ends of the earth to see the inspiring Austin/Seattle playwright Allison Gregory’s new play, which is receiving a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere this year. (I would travel to see any of her plays anywhere.) You’ve got two chances to see this at Alaska’s Perseverance Theatre: Oct. 14-Nov. 6 in Juneau and Nov. 11-20 in Anchorage. Not quite the ends of the earth, but up there!
JOANNA FALCK, dramaturg and literary manager, the Shaw Festival Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario:
There’s so much new work happening in Toronto this season that I’m looking forward to; Erin Shields’s new play The Millennial Malcontent at the Tarragon Theatre (Feb. 28-April 9, 2017) is high on my list. She’s a writer who often takes on stories from the past and boldly reimagines them, and I can’t wait to see how she has combined Restoration comedy and millennials. Nightwood Theatre has lots of exciting work in their season—I’m especially keen on Anna Chatterton’s play Quiver (Oct. 21-Nov. 6). The premise is compelling: a single mother whose teenage daughter announces she’s moving in with her mother’s ex-boyfriend. And to watch Anna, who’s not just a great writer but a great performer, play all the roles using a voice processor sounds pretty exciting. Finally, I’ve already heard so much about Black Boys at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (Nov. 19-Dec. 11). It’s created by a collective of exciting young artists, and it looks at three black men and their identities and asks all the big questions about race, gender, and identity. A great combination of bold content with compelling performers—can’t wait to see this.
LINSAY FIRMAN, director of play development, Ensemble Studio Theatre, EST/Sloan Project associate director, New York City:
I’m excited to see The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe—I’m always delighted by her language and her insight, and I look forward to seeing what director Lila Neugebauer does with the huge ensemble of women (the Playwrights Realm in New York, Aug. 29-Sept. 24). I’m also excited to revisit so many amazing Suzan-Lori Parks plays at New York’s Signature this season, and I’m especially curious to see how Lear deBessonet stages Venus (beginning April 25, 2017); her inventive theatricality feels like the perfect fit for the piece.
JONATHAN FOX, executive artistic director, Ensemble Theatre Company, Santa Barbara, Calif.:
I’m thrilled that New York City’s Lincoln Center Theater is remounting Oslo by J.T. Rogers (March 23-June 18, 2017), since I didn’t get to see it this summer. Bart Sher’s production of Rogers’s previous play Blood and Gifts was riveting and indelible. I’ve heard excellent reports about Lisa Loomer’s Roe at Oregon Shakespeare, so I hope to catch it at California’s Berkeley Rep in the spring (March 3-April 2, 2017). I recently saw Simon McBurney’s production of Beware of Pity in Berlin. His work is always highly imaginative, so I’m looking forward to seeing his new piece, The Encounter, on Broadway in the fall (Sept. 20, 2016-Jan. 8, 2017).
MARTINE KEI GREEN-ROGERS, freelance dramaturg, assistant professor, University of Utah, Salt Lake City:
I am very excited about Beyond Caring, written and directed by Alexander Zeldin at Lookingglass Theatre (March 22-May 7, 2017) in Chicago (in association with Dark Harbor Stories), as it is being reimagined for a Chicago audience. Plays that deal with issues and perspectives we don’t get to see much of onstage, such as that of the working class, always thrill me.
GABRIEL GREENE, director of new play development, La Jolla Playhouse, La Jolla, Calif.:
Rock stars need support crew, right? I want to become Aditi Brennan Kapil’s roadie and accompany her around the country for Orange (Nov. 11-Dec. 4 at Mixed Blood in Minneapolis and March 5-26 at California’s South Coast Rep) and Imogen Says Nothing (New Haven, Conn.’s Yale Rep, Jan. 20-Feb. 11, 2017). I love Aditi’s insanely intelligent and artistically restless voice—she never writes the same play twice, and I’d follow her anywhere.
ADAM GREENFIELD, associate artistic director, Playwrights Horizons, New York City:
Well, I can’t wait to see Furry!/La Furia! (Nov. 17-22), a multilingual (“Spanish/Spanglish/human”) play that follows a panhandling Elmo in Times Square; it’s the mind-meld of awesome writer William Burke and Modesto Flako Jimenez of the Brooklyn Gypsies collective. Also Miles for Mary (Oct. 2-29), the latest from the Mad Ones, “a bittersweet missive about endurance and surrender,” is set at an ’80s high school telethon, and its blurb already breaks my heart. Both of these are in the Bushwick Starr’s great lineup for the season. Amy Herzog’s new play, Mary Jane, which premieres at Yale Rep (in New Haven, Conn., April 28-May 20, 2017), is unspeakably beautiful and had me gasping for breath on the subway when I read it.
ADRIEN-ALICE HENSEL, literary director, Studio Theatre, Washington, D.C.:
Animal, Clare Lizzimore’s stunning and theatrical examination of a mind in radical freefall, at the Atlantic (in NYC, May-June 2017), which Studio commissioned and premiered last fall. Madeleine George’s Hurricane Diane (Jan. 14-Feb. 12, 2017 at Red Bank, N.J.’s Two River Theater) is a commission, so I don’t know anything about it except to keep my eyes, heart, and brain open.
JO HOLCOMB, senior dramaturg, the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis:
While it’s not totally new for this coming season, I am most looking forward to the New York premiere at the Public Theater of Sweat (Oct. 18-Nov. 27), Lynn Nottage’s newest play. A co-commission with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Arena Stage and winner of the 2016 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, the play takes a timely look at the loss of jobs and ways of life in America of the 21st century.
CELISE KALKE, director of new projects, Alliance Theatre, Atlanta:
The Atlanta theatre scene continues to be a hotbed of activity for Atlanta-based and national writers. Essential Theatre serves as the talent scouts of the city: This year Essential debuted When Things Are Lost by Derek Dixon and Dispossessed by Karen Wurl. I’m also excited to see Freed Sprits by Daryl Lisa Fazio at Horizon Theatre (Sept. 23-Oct. 30), which is set at the beautiful and eerie Oakland Cemetery; Strait of Gibralter by Andrea Lepcio at Synchronicity (March 31-April 23, 2017); and Aurora Theatre’s production of Georgina Escobar’s Sweep (Feb. 10-March 5, 2017). Outside Atlanta, I’m so thrilled that many alumni of the Alliance/Kendeda competition have world premieres this year: Queen by Madhuri Shekar by Victory Gardens in Chicago (April 14-May 14, 2017); Meg Miroshnik’s Fickle: A Fancy French Farce at the Olney Theatre Center in Maryland (March 1-26, 2017); and Eleanor Burgess’s Chill at Merrimack Repertory Theatre outside Boston (March 22-April 16).
MARCELLA KEARNS, associate artistic director, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre:
Plays that confront racial, cultural, and political identity speak directly to me these days as our country continues to probe systemic wounds. Ayad Akhtar’s Disgraced is coming to Milwaukee through a multiyear relationship Akhtar’s work is enjoying at the Milwaukee Rep (Jan. 17-Feb. 12, 2017). Lauren Gunderson’s The Taming is opening Next Act Theatre’s season (Sept. 29-Oct. 23). (Bonus on The Taming, which uses Shakespeare as a springboard! Reimaginings help me articulate present questions.) Another bonus on both counts, identity and Shakespeare: Outside my immediate region, in the Twin Cities, I’m hoping to see Lolita Chakrabarti’s Red Velvet (Minneapolis’s Walking Shadow Theatre Company, May 12-28, 2017).
ANDY KNIGHT, associate literary director, South Coast Repertory, Costa Mesa, Calif.:
I’m looking forward to Larissa FastHorse’s What Would Crazy Horse Do? at Kansas City Repertory Theatre (in Missouri, April 28-May 28, 2017). The play is suspenseful, with moments of shock, and challenges an audience with an unnerving examination of identity, legacy, and survival.
DOUG LANGWORTHY, literary manager and dramaturg, Denver Center for the Performing Arts Theatre Company:
I love that playwrights are dreaming big these days. At Mixed Blood Theatre, Gabriel Greene and Alex Levy will unleash Safe at Home (Minneapolis, March 7-12, 2017), their 18-character thriller that examines, among other things, U.S. immigration policies and racial politics—through the lens of baseball! The site-specific production will take place in the St. Paul Saints’ minor league stadium. What’s not to love about that?
EMILIA LAPENTA, literary director, McCarter Theatre Center, Princeton, N.J.:
This season is brimming with exciting projects: It’s difficult to choose even a handful of standouts! There are a number of plays I’ve followed for a long time and am eager to see in production—as it happens, they all have to do with family history and journeys of personal discovery: Qui Nguyen’s hilariously moving family adventure Vietgone (Manhattan Theatre Club, Oct. 4-Dec. 4), Julia Cho’s gorgeous and evocative Aubergine (Playwrights Horizons in NYC, Aug. 20-Oct. 2), and Jiehae Park’s inventive Hannah and the Dread Gazebo (the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, March 29-Oct. 28, 2017).
KRISTIN LEAHEY, literary director, Seattle Repertory Theatre:
I’m very much looking forward to Nat Turner in Jerusalem, which will have its premiere this fall at New York Theatre Workshop (Sept. 7-Oct. 16). Playwright Nathan Alan Davis reflects on the conversations that took place in Nat Turner’s jail cell the night before his execution, as he is convicted for leading the August 1831 slave rebellion. As champions of Davis and Nat Turner in Jerusalem, artistic director Jim Nicola and associate artistic director Linda Chapman have helped to assemble a superlative team of artists and placed it in conversation within an extremely strong and ambitious season at NYTW. As Davis is a NYTW 2050 fellow, this production is a great example of thoughtfully pipelining new work while support emerging artists.
DREW LICHTENBERG, literary manager, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Washington. D.C.:
This fall, I am very excited to be seeing a double bill of Romeo Castellucci’s Julius Caesar. Spared Parts (Sept. 22-24) and Brett Bailey/Third World Bunfight’s Macbeth (Sept. 24-25) at Philly’s Fringe Arts. As someone who works on classical plays, there is nothing better than to see one reimagined whole cloth. On my home stomping grounds in D.C., I am excited to see Lucas Hnath’s The Christians come to the best possible venue for it: Theater J (in D.C., Nov. 16-Dec. 11). And the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., has a fantastic year of new avant-garde Regietheater: Ivo van Hove’s A View From the Bridge, Nov. 18-Dec. 3 (the most influential production of the decade?), Ex Machina’s Needles and Opium (March 16-18, 2017), Peter Brook’s Battlefield (March 29-April 2, 2017), and Three Sisters (April 26-April 30, 2017) from the Maly Drama Theatre.
RAPHAEL MARTIN, director of new work and FEED, Soho Rep, New York City:
I’m most looking forward to Betroffenheit by Kidd Pivot and the Electric Company (touring, various dates). Although I am a literary manager, I am deeply interested in work that is a hybrid of disciplines—work that goes beyond language to tell a story. This Canadian dance/theatre piece blends the choreographic prowess of Crystal Pite and her company Kidd Pivot alongside the theatremaking of Jonathan Young’s Vancouver-based Electric Company. It’s a ferocious and powerful look at grief, particularly when the victim is a younger person. I’ve only seen bits on video, but the storytelling and visual elements are dazzling. I only wish it were coming to New York on its tour. I’m also looking forward to Request Concert from Laznia Nowa Theater and TR Warszawa, written by Franz Xaver Kroetz, directed by Yana Ross, Brooklyn Academy of Music (Oct. 26-29). Kroetz is kind of an unknown genius here in the States. A German playwright who did really experimental work in the 1970s, he uses hyper-naturalism both in the language he deploys for the actors to say as well as the action he asks them to undertake. Request Concert is particularly exciting, as it is a wordless play completely made up of stage directions. This production at BAM will let me see the piece in performance, and I couldn’t be more excited.
KELLY MILLER, manager, the Shuman Company; cofounder, the Kilroys, Los Angeles:
The new-play magic is real this season. I can’t wait to see Qui Nguyen’s irreverent Vietgone at Manhattan Theatre Club (Oct. 4-Dec. 4) and Julia Cho’s beautiful Aubergine at Playwrights Horizons (in New York City, Aug. 20-Oct 2). I’m heading to California’s Berkeley Rep for Jeff Augustin’s stunning The Last Tiger in Haiti (Oct. 14-Nov. 27). Chicago’s Gift Theatre has lined up a killer all-female season: work by Melissa Ross, Mona Mansour, Claire Kiechel, and Janine Nabers. Finally, Rachel Bonds’s Sundown, Yellow Moon with music by the Bengsons, presented by NYC’s WP Theater and Ars Nova (March-April 2017), is not to be missed.
ANNE G. MORGAN, literary manager and dramaturg, Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, Waterford, Conn.:
Hilary Bettis’s Alligator gripped me the moment I read it for the O’Neill’s National Playwrights Conference and never let go. I’m delighted that it’s finally getting its world premiere this November at New Georges (in New York City in November), as the inaugural production of the Sol Project. Jen Silverman is another crazy-talented writer that I love, and this year she’s getting world premieres of two wildly different plays: Collective Rage: A Play in Five Boops at Woolly Mammoth (in D.C. Sept. 12-Oct. 9) and All the Roads Home at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park (March 25-April 23, 2017). I cannot wait to see Qui Nguyen’s Vietgone at Manhattan Theatre Club (Oct. 4-Dec. 4). I first encountered it at South Coast Rep’s Pacific Playwrights Festival a few years ago; I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a reading that has made me laugh that hard, cry that hard, and think that hard—and I see a lot of readings. Lastly, the fierce new musical GIRL Shakes Loose by Zakiyyah Alexander and Imani Uzuri, which will premiere at Penumbra (St. Paul, Minn., April 20-May 14, 2017), is not only stirring and entertaining, but also gives me hope that the American musical will have a future that is unflinchingly diverse in both story and form.
KITTSON O’NEILL, artistic associate, InterAct Theatre Company, Philadelphia:
There are some very different projects brewing here in Philly right now. I’m pretty excited about a number of them. Blanka Zizka, artistic director of the Wilma, is venturing into playwriting with Adapt! (March 22-April 22, 2017), which premieres this spring. She has a truly unique theatrical mind and when she makes something I either love it or hate it. That’s always exciting. The Arden’s production of The Legend of Georgia McBride (Oct. 13-Nov. 27) is going to be my guilty pleasure. It stars the unstoppable Dito van Reigersberg, and I will watch him do anything. But the piece I am most excited about isn’t fully formed yet. Swim Pony Performing Arts is working with the Entrepreneurial Game Studio at Drexel University to make a citywide interactive production of War of the Worlds. There will be some workshops and showings (I hope) this year, and when this finally happens, it’s going to be the greatest.
MADELEINE OLDHAM, director, the Ground Floor, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Berkeley Calif.:
I’m really looking forward to Erika Chong Shuch’s For You at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (in San Francisco, April 1, 2017). Each performance is created for 12 audience members after getting to know them a little bit, and the results could be anything. It’s exciting. Also the new Royal Osiris Karaoke Ensemble piece (May 24-June 10, 2017) and basically everything in the Bushwick Starr’s upcoming season in Brooklyn because it’s eclectic, surprising, and nothing looks like the thing that went before it. And of course Aubergine at Playwrights Horizons (in New York City, Aug. 20-Oct. 2) because that play is so special—it basically creates a collective space to be human in a really magical way.
JENNI PAGE-WHITE, literary manager, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Ky.:
I can’t wait to see Steppenwolf take on Young Jean Lee’s Straight White Men (Chicago, Feb. 2-March 19, 2017)—the way that play subverts a familiar family-gathering narrative is going to be juicy material in the hands of a company that understands family dynamics so well. Also on my can’t-miss list: the world premieres of Jen Silverman’s Collective Rage: A Play in Five Boops at Woolly Mammoth (D.C., Sept. 12-Oct. 9, 2016), a hysterical, absurd romp that bites its thumb at worn-out feminine stereotypes, and Lucas Hnath’s A Doll’s House, Part 2 at South Coast Rep (April 9-30, 2017), because Hnath writing for Nora? Yes, please.
MICHAEL PALLER, dramaturg, director of humanities, American Conservatory Theater, San Francisco:
As usual, there is plenty of provocative theatre to look forward to in San Francisco. San Francisco Playhouse will be doing You Mean to Do Me Harm (June 6-July 1, 2017) by Christopher Chen, whose recent play Home Invasion encompassed entire universes, while performed, when I saw it this summer, in a tiny Mission District living room. It Can’t Happen Here, a new adaptation of Sinclair Lewis’s novel about a homegrown fascist elected president of the U.S., adapted by Tony Taccone and Bennett S. Cohen, will be at Berkeley Rep in time for the election (California, Sept. 23-Nov. 6).
KATE PINES, literary director, the Playwrights Realm, New York City:
I suppose writers constantly use their own stories as launchpads for their work—but it does seem like a funny coincidence that all my picks are somewhat autobiographical: Lauren Yee’s King of the Yees premieres at the Goodman in Chicago this winter (March 31-April 30, 2017), and then heads to Center Theatre Group in L.A. (July 9-Aug. 6, 2017). Like much of her work, it is both delightfully quirky and surprisingly penetrating. I’m so thrilled that Brian Quijada’s one-man show Where Did We Sit on the Bus?, which premiered in Chicago last season, comes to Ensemble Studio Theatre in NYC this fall (Sept. 10-Oct. 9). Brian is a magnetic performer; I can’t wait to watch him tell his own story. And finally, Josh Harmon’s Significant Other just wrecked me when it premiered at Roundabout last year, so I couldn’t be happier that it is coming to Broadway this season (performances beginning in February).
BRIAN QUIRT, board chair, Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas; artistic director, Nightswimming, Toronto; director, Banff Playwrights Colony, Alberta:
I’m eager to be in the audience next February for Two Degrees by Tira Palmquist (Feb. 3-March 12, 2017) and The Book of Will (Jan. 13-Feb. 26, 2017) by Lauren Gunderson at the Denver Center Theatre Company. I caught both plays in workshop productions at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. It will be great to return to see two challenging and very different pieces receive their premiere productions when LMDA is back at the Summit in 2017. The Summit struck me as a healthy, diverse, nurturing environment for new work; I’m curious to see how the plays develop, and what the Center has in development for the future.
MEGAN MONAGHAN RIVAS, dramaturg; associate professor of dramaturgy, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh:
New Yorkers must not miss Daniel Alexander Jones’s Duat at Soho Rep (NYC, Oct. 11-Nov. 6), featuring music by Samora Pinderhughes and performance by Jomama Jones standing out among a powerful cast. Duat’s themes of transformation and renewal are the tonic America needs in this season of change. Sojourn Theatre’s How to End Poverty in 90 Minutes (with 199 People You May or May Not Know) (various dates) can be seen/experienced anywhere, as the piece is touring and available for partnership and residency opportunities. Sojourn is my “desert island theatre company,” the one I would choose if I could see work by only one company for the rest of my life. And audiences in Berkeley, Illinois, and San Diego will have the chance to see the NNPN Rolling World Premiere of Into the Beautiful North, adapted by Karen Zacarías from the fantastic novel by Luís Alberto Urrea (Central Works in Berkeley, Calif., Oct. 15-Nov. 13; 16th Street Theater in Berwyn, Ill., Feb. 2-March 7, 2017; and California’s San Diego Repertory Theatre, March 30-April 23, 2017). The story of a young woman’s huge quest in the modern world, this piece stands as a hero’s journey for the 21st century.
JILL RAFSON, director of new play development, Roundabout Theatre Company, New York City:
Empathitrax by Ana Nogueira, directed by Adrienne Campbell-Holt for Colt Coeur (HERE in New York City, Sept. 10-Oct. 1), is high on my list. I loved the play on the page, and I think Colt Coeur is a great young company that always comes up with strong productions. I’ll see anything the Debate Society comes up with, so I am eagerly awaiting The Light Years by Hannah Bos (NYC’s Playwrights Horizons, Feb. 17-April 2, 2017). I have no idea what to expect, which is exactly how I like to see their work. Andrew Hinderaker’s The Magic Play at the Goodman (Chicago, Oct. 21-Nov. 20) plays around quite artfully with questions of performance and control. I know that with Brett Schneider in the piece, the actual magic in the show is going to be impressive. But what I really can’t wait to see is how it plays out with an audience, in a play that is brave enough to leave a lot to chance. Late in the season, I’m anticipating Mfoniso Udofia’s Sojourners and Her Portmanteau at New York Theatre Workshop (dates TBA), directed by the wonderful Ed Sylvanus Iskandar. I saw Sojourners when they put it up last year at the Playwrights Realm in NYC, and now it’ll be exciting to revisit that rich story and to follow into another chapter with these characters.
ERIC SHETHAR, artistic programs associate, Ars Nova:
I can’t wait to catch Sonya Tayeh’s “dance-symphony,” you’ll still call me by name, at New York Live Arts this December (Dec. 9-11 and 14-17). In a workshop showing I saw last year, her dynamic, ecstatic choreography was the perfect match for the Bengsons’ haunted, atmospheric live score. And I’d be remiss not to mention that the Brooklyn fabulists of On the Rocks Theatre Company will be bringing a new piece to Dixon Place in March. Their savvy, wry, Technicolor dance/theatre hybrids are always immaculately designed and performed downtown treats.
GAVIN WITT, associate artistic director/director of dramaturgy, Center Stage, Baltimore
Of all the many projects I’m thrilled to see this season, I’m probably most jazzed about the New York Theatre Workshop production of Nat Turner in Jerusalem (Sept. 7-Oct. 16), by Nathan Alan Davis. Nathan is an artist, and human, whose work I’ve relished for some years now, both through our own fruitful collaborations and from afar. It’s tremendous to see his considerable talent and hard work pay off with this debut, in a piece filled with his signature magic, passion, politics, and humanity. To my mind, nobody writes like Nathan—New York better get ready.
A version of this story appears in the October 2016 issue of American Theatre.
*An earlier version of this piece misspelled Martine Kei Green-Rogers’s first name.