WASHINGTON, D.C.: Theater J has announced its 30th anniversary season for 2020-21.
“Our 30th anniversary season is ambitious, timely, affecting, and quintessential Theater J,” said artistic director Adam Immerwahr in a statement. “From Arthur Miller’s rarely seen masterpiece Incident at Vichy, to the powerful and touching story Tuesdays With Morrie (based on the best-selling memoir), to Anna Deavere Smith’s groundbreaking documentary play Fires in the Mirror about the Crown Heights riots. It’s a season full of extraordinary journeys, exalting and exploring the human experience in all its glory and its foibles, across continents and centuries.”
The season kicks off with a one-week return engagement of Electile Dysfunction (Sept. 9-13), performed by the Kinsey Sicks. In this a cappella performance updated for the 2020 election season, a group of drag queens take back America by out-pandering and out-conspiracy-theorizing their political rivals with songs and parodies delivered in four-part harmony.
Following will be Arthur Miller’s Incident at Vichy (Oct. 14-Nov. 8). In Vichy, France in 1942, a group of men and a boy are seized by the collaborationist authorities and held in a makeshift police station. As each man is removed for interrogation, some are set free, some are never heard from again, and the stakes rise for all who remain. Director Joe Calarco will reimagine this piece with a cast of just eight, consisting of John Austin, Jonathan Feuer, Billy Finn, Vincent Kempski, Michael Russotto, Nathan Whitmer, John Leslie Wolfe, and Gregory Wooddell.
Up next is Tuesdays With Morrie (Dec. 2-27), written by Jeffrey Hatcher and Mitch Albom, based on Albom’s memoir. It tells the story of a hard-driving journalist reuniting with a former college professor, Morrie Schwartz, as he faces his mortality as an ALS patient. Jenna Duncan will direct and Michael Willis will star as Morrie.
The season continues with the D.C. debut of Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story (Jan. 6-24, 2021), written by Hannah Moscovitch, Ben Caplan, and Christian Barry. A love story interwoven with a klezmer concert, this music-theatre hybrid is inspired by the true tale of two Jewish Romanian refugees finding love after arriving on the shores of Canada in 1908. The production will feature a performance by Ben Caplan and direction by Christian Barry.
Next is an adaptation of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s Nathan the Wise (Feb. 17-March 24, 2021), written by Michael Bloom and produced in association with D.C.’s Folger Theatre. Mitchell Hébert will star as Nathan, a 12th-century Jewish merchant from Jerusalem who tries to find the answer to the rising sultan’s question, “Which religion is the one most beloved by G-d?” Immerwahr will direct.
Following will be the world premiere of The Red Beads (April 7-May 2, 2021), written by Rinne Groff and developed in Theater J’s Yiddish Theater Lab. Based on the Yiddish classic The Singer of His Sorrows by Osip Dymov, the play imagines a father’s bedtime story coming to life as his young daughter is plunged into the world of a poor shtetl poet desperately in love with a woman who spurns him. The production will feature direction by Johanna Gruenhut and performances by Regina Aquino, Maboud Ebrahimzadeh, Billy Finn, Naomi Jacobson, Jefferson Russell, and Todd Scofield.
Closing the season is Fires in the Mirror (June 9-July 4, 2021), a co-production with Theatrical Outfit in Atlanta. Conceived, written, and originally performed by Anna Deavere Smith, Fires in the Mirror is a documentary play that examines the 1991 riots in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, that broke out after an African American child was killed by a car in the Chabad-Lubavitcher Rebbe’s motorcade and a Jewish scholar was slain in retaliation. Atlanta actress January LaVoy will star and Immerwahr will direct.
Theater J, the nation’s largest Jewish theatre, was founded in 1990. It celebrates, explores and struggles with the complexities and nuances of both the Jewish experience and the universal human condition.