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Jayne Atkinson as the titular character in 'Ann' at the Dorset Theatre Festival in 2018. (Photo by Joey Moro)

Ann Richards and Fidel Castro, Players in Arena Stage’s 70th Season

The anniversary season will include three world premieres, two plays by August Wilson, and Disney’s ‘Newsies.’

WASHINGTON, D.C.: Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater has announced the lineup for its 2019-20 season, marking the theatre’s 70th. The season will feature three world premieres—one of which is the seventh Power Play, a decade-long Arena initiative focused on stories of politics and power from 1776 to the present day—as well as three collaborations with theatres across the country.

“If I were to think of two words for Arena in her 70th season it would be resiliency and fighting spirit,” said artistic director Molly Smith in a statement. “It’s a season of revolution and uprisings of leaders, laborers, of battles in the courts, on the street, on a road, in a field. A season of people fighting for what matters to them.”

Ann (July 11-Aug. 11), Holland Taylor’s comedic play about the life of legendary Texas governor Ann Richards, will open the season. Produced in association with Dallas Theater Center, it will feature Jayne Atkinson, reprising the title role and Kristen van Ginhoven will direct.

August Wilson’s Jitney (Sept. 13-Oct. 20) will follow, with Ruben Santiago-Hudson directing the dramatic story of a Pittsburgh jitney station, a symbol of stability, struggling against an oppressive lack of opportunity and unnerving neighborhood gentrification that threaten the way they live and work.

Next will be the world premiere of Right to be Forgotten (Oct. 11-Nov. 10), Sharyn Rothstein’s new drama about a man desperately trying to erase a decade-old mistake from the unforgiving internet. Seema Sueko will direct.

The season will continue with Disney’s Newsies (Nov. 1-Dec. 22), the musical based on the film written by Bob Tzudiker and Noni White. With Music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman, and book by Harvey Feinstein, Newsies follows the newsboys of 1899 New York City as they take on two of the most powerful men in the country: Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst. Molly Smith will direct.

Ken Ludwig’s Dear Jack, Dear Louise (Nov. 21-Dec. 29) will follow, directed by Jackie Maxwell. The play tells the courtship story of Ludwig’s parents, a military doctor in Oregon meets an aspiring actor and dancer in New York City by letter during the second World War.

A Thousand Splendid Suns (Jan. 17-Feb. 23, 2020), based on the novel by Khaled Hosseini, will be next. In the play, adapted for the stage by Ursula Rani Sarma, two women become unlikely allies in war-ravaged Kabul. Carey Perloff will direct.

After this will be the Oregon Shakespeare Festival production of Mother Road (Feb. 7-March 8) by Octavio Solis. Inspired by The Grapes of Wrath,  Mother Road follows two men traveling from California back to Oklahoma, all while forging an unlikely bond and coming to terms with their brutal past. Bill Rauch will direct the production, which examines the crossroads of family, immigration, and the American dream.

The season will continue with the world premiere of Celia and Fidel (Feb. 28-April 12), Eduardo Machado’s play about Fidel Castro’s most trusted confidant and political partner, Celia Sánchez. Arena Stage’s seventh Power Play imagines a conversation between Cuba’s most influential female revolutionary and its most notorious political leader in a contest between morality and power. Molly Smith will direct.

Following will be August Wilson’s Seven Guitars (April 3-May 3), which follows seven lives in 1940s Pittsburgh as an old friend and blues singer vows to turn his life around after a surprise windfall leaves him hopeful for a second chance.

The season will culminate with Toni Stone (April 23-May 31), produced in association with American Conservatory Theater. Written by Lydia R. Diamond, the play chronicles the life of the titular athlete, who was the first woman to play baseball in the Negro Leagues, also making her the first woman to play professionally in a men’s league in the 1950s. Pam MacKinnon will direct.

Founded in 1950, Arena Stage aims to produce plays of all that is passionate, profound, deep and dangerous in the American spirit.

ADV – Billboard