NEW YORK CITY: Second Stage Theater announced its first Broadway season at the Helen Hayes Theatre in 2018 on Thursday morning. The lineup will feature Kenneth Lonergan’s Lobby Hero and Young Jean Lee’s Straight White Men.
“Opening our new home on Broadway has been years in the making and I am beyond thrilled to begin this next phase in Second Stage’s life,” said founder and artistic director Carole Rothman in a statement. “The Hayes will be dedicated to living American playwrights: no British imports, no Chekhov translations, no classics—just contemporary works that provoke, stimulate, and challenge from the finest playwrights our country has to offer.”
The Broadway season will open in March 2018 with Lonergan’s Lobby Hero, starring Michael Cera and Chris Evans. Set in the lobby of a Manhattan apartment building, the play follows four New Yorkers involved in a murder investigation. Lonergan’s plays This Is Our Youth and The Waverly Gallery have been produced at Second Stage, and he won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Manchester by the Sea. Trip Cullman will direct.
“I’ve only been on Broadway once before and this to me is the perfect way to do it, because all my roots are in Off Broadway and the not-for-profit world,” Lonergan told American Theatre. “So it’s nice to maintain that link and still be at the Helen Hayes.”
Next up will Lee’s Straight White Men, which will be her Broadway debut and will make her the first female Asian-American playwright ever produced on Broadway. The play follows three adult sons visiting their father for the holiday as they grapple with their own privilege. Anna D. Shapiro will direct.
“I’m also so excited that this is happening, but it’s a little bit of a double-edged sword,” Lee told American Theatre, explaining that she was shocked to learn that both Paula Vogel and Lynn Nottage only made their Broadway debuts this season. “I was like, how are the two greatest playwrights in America on Broadway for the first time? And then I was told that I was going to be the first Asian-American female playwright on Broadway and I was like, ‘Uhh.'”
“It is shocking that these barriers are broken in the 21st century,” Nottage added. “One would think that we still wouldn’t be breaking glass.”
“There’s jubilation, with a little soupçon of rage,” Vogel said.
Vogel, Nottage, and Lee are three of the playwrights who are participating in Second Stage’s new co-commissioning program, STAGE-2-STAGE, which will develop work by established playwrights with another theatre. The program will launch with Los Angeles’s Center Theatre Group, and each play will receive an initial production at one of CTG’s three theatres before moving to New York. In addition to Vogel, Nottage, and Lee, the commissioned playwrights are Jon Robin Baitz, Will Eno, and Lisa Kron.
“Theatre is the most collaborative of all the arts, and to be successful at it requires partners that share not only compatible artistic ambitions, but also a spirit of earnest cooperation,” said Michael Ritchie, artistic director of Center Theatre Group, in a statement. “I can think of no better person than Carole Rothman, and no better theatre than Second Stage, to join with on an artistic venture and adventure. I have the highest respect and admiration for the work they have done and the aspirations they have for the future.”
Second Stage is also partnering with the Williamstown Theatre Festival to commission new works for Broadway from Bess Wohl, and is working with Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre to commission Broadway plays from Lydia R. Diamond and Dominique Morisseau.
“I think it’s wonderful to note this moment,” Nottage said, standing next to Lee and Vogel. “Not only are we three women, but we’re three diverse women standing here. And I think now Broadway is ready for a variety of voices. So it feels great in particular to be in this company talking about Broadway.”
Second Stage also announced its Off-Broadway season, at the Tony Kiser Theater in midtown. The season will open with Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song in September 2017. The play follows Arnold Beckoff, a gay Jewish drag queen, as he searches for love, purpose, and family. The show will open in September 2017, with Moisés Kaufman directing. Next up will be the New York premiere of Tracy Letts’s Mary Page Marlowe (June 2018), about an ordinary Midwestern woman told through eleven moments of her life.
Second Stage purchased the Hayes Theater in 2015 and is working with David Rockwell and the Rockwell Group to make renovations and updates to the building before the inaugural Broadway season.
“We thank everyone who has helped bring us to this moment and we look forward to welcoming audiences to the Hayes—both those that have been with us over the years, as well as the many new theatregoers we look forward to welcoming to our new home,” Rothman said in a statement.