For this year's preview issue we asked education and engagement pros at the nation’s theatres what productions they were looking forward to in the new season, and which programs in their field they most admire.
LAINE SATTERFIELD, director of education, Cadence Theatre Company, Richmond, Va.
Productions: I am looking forward to Ripcord by David Lindsay-Abaire at the Keegan Theatre in D.C. I always love David’s work and really enjoyed Keegan’s production of Top Girls last season. I am also looking forward to Admissions at Studio Theatre. I love Artists Rep’s season in Portland (and wish I lived closer!), and am especially interested in Dominique Morisseau’s Skeleton Crew, Bess Wohl’s Small Mouth Sounds, and Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s Everybody. I respect all of these playwrights immensely and feel they have an immediacy in everything they write.
Programs: I really respect the approach of the Barrow Group in New York City. Their focus on living onstage, spontaneity, and the technique that acting should be invisible really speaks to my process as a teacher, actor, and director.
Willa Taylor, director of education and engagement, Goodman Theatre, Chicago
Productions: I’m really looking forward to Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Choir Boy, which will be his Broadway debut. I love his writing and voice, and this exploration of an all-male gospel choir at a black prep school reveals images of black men and boys we rarely get to see on stage anywhere, let alone the Great White Way.
Programs: I am consistently impressed with the engagement and education programs Oregon Shakespeare Festival offers to all its audiences. They dig deep into Shakespeare, expand the thematic reach of the productions with lectures and behind-the-scenes talks, and explore the real-life immediacy of themes and issues in the productions. All this plus teacher training and robust school-based programming. Their work is amazing.
Marcie Bramucci, director of community investment, People’s Light, Malvern, Pa.
Productions: I’m looking forward to Grief Is the Thing With Feathers at St. Ann’s Warehouse, starring Cillian Murphy, magnificently paired with Enda Walsh again. I’m deeply appreciative of the fearless work St. Ann’s scours the planet to find and bring to Brooklyn each year. And I’m heading to Vineyard Theatre this fall for Good Grief by Ngozi Anyanwu—a play bursting with heart about growing up as a first-generation Nigerian American in the white suburbs of Philly. Power Street Theatre Company’s Hidden disAbilities Project is a bold new work confronting the gray areas of perceived (dis)ability in an increasingly binary, black-and-white world. My kiddos and I will stay tuned for what’s on the docket at Upper Darby Summer Stage, and are excited to see the relaxed performance of Honk! at Delaware Theatre Company—an experience for my whole crew, where we can be ourselves in a fully welcoming and inclusive environment.
Programs: The Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, England, has been a beacon of inspiration to me for years. They embrace and leverage each production with meaningful—not to mention playful, warm, and exciting—invitations across ages and interests. It feels like the heart of Manchester courses through this community-centered organization. If the commute were less onerous, I’d be there right now learning from and engaging with them.
Nikki Weaver, education director, Portland Playhouse, Portland, Ore.:
Productions: Anything by Brooklyn’s Colt Coeur, hands down. I have long been an admirer of artistic director Adrienne Campbell-Holt; her passion, attention to detail, and innovative ideas are exciting to witness. Any theatre company that uses the words terror, ambivalence, and exhilaration in its mission statement excites me.
Programs: I am constantly inspired by the work Steppenwolf Theatre Company does in surrounding communities. They are bridging the barriers from the outside in, and making theatre more accessible by creating more meaningful relationships.
Laurel Crowe, education director, Georgia Ensemble Theatre, Roswell, Ga.
Productions: I will be seeing the pre-Broadway premiere of Hadestown in London this fall. So much of my work is rooted in literacy, and I love creative retellings of stories we think we know. Programs: Here in Atlanta, I truly admire my colleagues at the Alliance Theatre, who innovate and engage with both the regional and national audience.
Jenny Toutant, education director, Milwaukee Repertory Theater
Productions: I’ve noticed several theatres are doing Lynn Nottage’s Sweat. I am interested in how the show does in each city and what education and engagement programs are built around each production. I’m also interested in work being produced that is co-created with communities, like some of the work in the Level Nine space at the Guthrie or Cleveland Public Theatre’s Y-Haven Theatre Project.
Programs: For a long time I’ve been intrigued by the education programming at the Alliance Theatre. Specifically, the Palefsky Collision Project is one of my favorite programs to read about, and the fact that there’s an in-school residency version for middle and high school students to create collaborative theatre inspired by a script from the current season is fantastic.
Daniel A Kelin II, director of drama education, Honolulu Theatre for Youth, Hawaii
Productions: When traveling (which I do a fair bit), I research the area I will be visiting and find out what is playing there. At present, I am looking forward to seeing Sinking Ship Productions’ one-man A Hunger Artist at a festival in Vermont in September, mostly because I will be performing my own solo show later this season.
Programs: I love the work that New York City’s Roundabout Theatre Company does, particularly because they include education programs around technical theatre.
Gary Cadwallader, director of education and community engagement, Palm Beach Dramaworks, West Palm Beach, Fla.
Productions: There is so much exciting new work in Florida next season. I’m excited to see the intriguing Skeleton Crew by Dominique Morisseau at GableStage, the overt parallels of fascism and resistance in We Will Not Be Silent by David Myers at Theatre Lab, and One Night in Miami at Miami New Drama, about the meeting between Cassius Clay, Malcolm X, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke after Clay’s heavyweight title in Miami Beach in 1964.
Programs: I’m always excited about the education programming created at the Alliance Theatre, the Cleveland Play House, La Jolla Playhouse, Seattle Children’s Theatre, and the Guthrie. I’m always peeking at their websites to see what’s new and exciting in the field and how they’re impacting their communities.
Hester Kamin, director of education, Gulfshore Playhouse, Naples, Fla.
Productions: I am eagerly awaiting the next site-specific performance by visionary artistic director Judith Barnes of Vertical Player Repertory in Brooklyn. These spectacular marriages of opera, movement theatre, and visual art are performed in shipyards, atop stacks of lumber fashioned into outdoor amphitheatres, and in cobblestone alleys. Seeing a VPR show is like being granted a vision into another world.
Programs: Robin Kitsu runs a life-changing theatre program in Nanakuli, Hawaii, on the far western edge of the island of O’ahu. The families in Nanakuli struggle with dire poverty; some of Robin’s students live in tents on the beach. What began as a small after-school musical-theatre program has garnered international attention—it was selected as one of the few student groups ever to perform at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and was the subject of the documentary Dream Big: Nanakuli at the Fringe.
Brenna Nicely, education and engagement director, American Repertory Theater, Cambridge, Mass.
Productions: I am looking forward to more work that actively interrogates white supremacy, like Suzan-Lori Parks’s premiere of White Noise at the Public next February. I also can’t wait for Rebecca Taichman’s production of Paula Vogel’s Indecent (one of the best productions I have ever seen) to come to town at the Huntington Theatre Company.
Programs: For almost 30 years, the Theater Offensive has fully integrated engagement practices into the creative work they do to positively impact the lives of LGBTQ young people. They are a beacon for our community and an inspiration for me personally.
Faye Hargate, director of community ensembles, Cleveland Public Theatre
Productions: I first saw a reading of Marisela Treviño Orta’s Wolf at the Door at the Latinx Theatre Commons Carnaval in 2015 in Chicago, and I was rapt. The script was complex, human, thrilling, and magical. So I am celebrating its upcoming rolling world premiere via the National New Play Network at Milagro Theatre, New Jersey Repertory Company, Halcyon Theatre, and Kitchen Dog Theater.
Programs: Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit is top-notch. Their notable history of excellence and their focus on community, skill mastery, and youth autonomy, motivate us at CPT to level up. Rick Sperling and DeLashea Strawder raise the bar for all of us, and I always have my eyes on the innovative work they are doing and look forward to what next season will bring.
Alexander Santiago-Jirau, director of education, New York Theatre Workshop, New York City
Productions: I am looking forward to Jeremy O. Harris’s work finally appearing on New York stages in two anticipated productions, Slave Play at our theatre and Daddy at the Vineyard Theatre in a co-production with the New Group. I am also excited about the Public Theater’s new season, particularly the world premieres of Ain’t No Mo’ by Jordan E. Cooper and Eve’s Song by Patricia Ione Lloyd, and the New York premiere of Wild Goose Dreams by Hansol Jung.
Programs: I am always impressed with the breadth and depth of programming at NYC’s New Victory Theater, both in their theatre-based offerings and their school partnerships. I also always look to the Public’s Mobile Unit and Public Works as models of community engagement. I am always inspired by London’s Young Vic’s diverse initiatives, and how the programs integrate the community into the artistic life of the theatre.
Allison Watrous, executive director of education, Denver Center for the Performing Arts
Productions: I am most looking forward to Center Theatre Group’s continuation of Block Party, which produces encore productions by three outstanding L.A. companies at the Kirk Douglas Theater. This initiative is such a celebration of the city’s cultural community, and shows such love and support of the greater artistic endeavors.
Programs: I’m continually inspired by the comprehensive work and dedication of the education programming and vision at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre. Christopher Moses and his team spark wonder in the youngest of artists and patrons with their Theatre for the Very Young program, provide master-level actor training, and empower teachers.
Julie Rowe, director of education, Maltz Jupiter Theatre, Jupiter, Fla.
Productions: There are two theatres in South Florida who have Indecent by Paula Vogel in their season (GableStage and Palm Beach Dramaworks). I am looking forward to not only experiencing this powerful story in person, but also with two different artistic approaches with formidable creative teams.
Programs: I am continually inspired by the Seattle Children’s Theatre education and artistic programming. Their outreach, inclusion, and scope of work is both exciting and a call to action.
Kristen Link, director of education and accessibility, City Theatre Company, Pittsburgh
Productions: I’m very excited and intrigued by Playwrights Horizons’ production of I Was Most Alive With You by Craig Lucas. It’s a show that’s simultaneously being performed in English and ASL, and gives top billing to Sabrina Dennison, director of Artistic Sign Language (DASL for shorthand). As a person who works at the intersection of disability and the arts, I’m tremendously happy to see this evolution taking place in American theatre.
Programs: I’m in awe of Roundabout Theatre Company’s Theatrical Workforce Development Program. It is difficult to bridge the gap between educational experiences and real on-the-job training, especially in a field where paid internships are few and far between. The depth and breadth of Roundabout’s program gives students all the necessary tools and knowledge they need to lead an exciting and fulfilling career in technical theatre.
Mallory Pellegrino, director of education, the Warehouse Theatre, Greenville, S.C.
Productions: I’m thrilled to see An Octoroon by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins is being done at Actor’s Express in Altanta next January. I’m excited to see work that challenges established perceptions and confronts the audience, especially in the South. I’m sure it can get uncomfortable to watch at times, and I hope they do some killer programming and audience conversation around this production. They’re also doing a production of Charly Evon Simpson’s play Jump, which has been recommended to me twice now. I’m so appreciative of regional theatres that commit to doing work that sparks dialogue in their communities and new work by up-and-coming playwrights.
Programs: I love what New York’s Public Theater is doing with their Mobile Shakespeare Unit (bringing Shakespeare to every variety of audience) and Public Forums (creating conversation surrounding issues in their plays). Programs that take theatre to audiences that don’t normally receive those opportunities, and engage their communities in dialogue surrounding their art, truly excite me.
Pamela DiPasquale, director of education, Cleveland Play House
Productions: From the Lyric Stage in Boston to Marin Theatre Company in San Francisco, Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves will be one of the most produced plays across the country this season, and if I could see every production I would. The young women Sarah gives voice to are unapologetically aggressive, ambitious, intelligent, athletic, talented, empathetic, and curious. They demand that they alone should write the definition of who they are and who they want to be, and I love them and the play for it.
Programs: I really admire a handful of companies that offer both literal and figurative spaces for community members to create their own artistic identities and experiences. Cleveland Public Theatre’s invitation to the Latinx community led to the creation of Teatro Publico de Cleveland, while at Maryland’s Imagination Stage, the Police and Youth Program provides space and opportunity for youth and officers to create art and share experiences that build hope and strengthen trust.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this piece misstated Alexander Santiago-Jirau’s role at New York Theatre Workshop. Santiago-Jirau’s title is director of education, not director.
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