PHILADELPHIA: Quintessence Theatre Group has announced its 2020-21 season with the theme of “Fate vs. Free Will.” Like many theatres across the country, Quintessence’s fall plans are still to be determined, with the season tentatively planned to commence in December.
“There are many ideas circulating about how the theatre must evolve in the aftermath of COVID-19,” said artistic director Alexander Burns in a statement. “Quintessence is sticking to its belief that the theatre is a necessary civic space, essential for our community to gather and ask the impossible questions of what it is to be human. We have curated a season of ‘must-see’ classics, which will resonate louder than ever as we work to process, heal, and move forward as a better, stronger society. We believe that if we all work together, we can gather as artists and audiences in a safe and responsible way.”
The season kicks off with Frances Hodges Burnett’s The Little Princess (Nov. 25-Jan. 3, 2021). Burnett’s 1902 play follows Sara Crewe, a charmed schoolgirl whose fortune vanishes overnight. Equipped with only her books, vivid imagination, and the devotion of her friends, Sara discovers her innate power and that there is more to a meaningful life than pretty dresses and glittering jewels.
Up next will be Thornton Wilder’s classic post-apocalyptic drama The Skin of Our Teeth (Feb. 3-28, 2021). George and Maggie Antrobus live a seemingly perfect life in suburban Excelsior, N.J., with two beautiful children and a maid to attend to them day and night. Over 5,000 years of marriage, the family refuses to let small inconveniences – a fire, flood, the Ice Age, plague, a dozen wars, and as many depressions – get in the way of their survival or happiness.
The season will continue with Euripides’s tragedy Bakkhai (March 30-May 9, 2021). Stirred into a religious frenzy, the women of Thebes disappear into the mountains to perform bacchanalian rituals to the god Dionysus. Pentheus, the King of Thebes, bans worship of the new god, denying Dionysus’ divinity and paternity as the son of Zeus. But when a mysterious stranger arrives in Thebes, Pentheus confesses a desire to witness his people’s new religious ecstasy and is drawn into Dionysus’ web of revenge, one that threatens to plunge all of Thebes into hot madness and destruction.
Closing out the season will be the absurdist tragedy The Chairs (March 31-May 9, 2021), written by Eugene Ionesco and adapted by Martin Crimp. Reaching the end of their life, an Old Man and his wife invite an audience of the celebrated and powerful to attend an important announcement. Fearful of failing to communicate his discovery, the Old Man engages an Orator to assist him. As the Old Woman prepares chairs for the arriving guests the couple reflect upon their marriage and play their favorite games.
“We are taking every precaution to ensure the health and safety of our community,” said managing director David Lloyd Olson in a statement. “The Sedgwick Theater is a flexible performance venue which allows for the auditorium to be reconfigured depending on the needs of the production. In the current scenario we will follow federal and state guidelines to ensure physical distancing between patrons and between the patrons and artists. We are also consulting with experts on making as many improvements as possible to the venue in order to protect the health and safety of theatregoers. Quintessence will be thoroughly disinfecting all public areas before and after each performance, and until officials change their recommendations, we will require everyone who enters our venue to wear a mask.”
Founded in 2009, Quintessence Theatre Group uses the classics to explore the fundamental question of what it is to be human in today’s world. Through visceral, and innovative productions of epic theatre, Quintessence pursues its vision to become the Delaware Valley’s center for progressive humanism through classic drama and literature.