Thursday, July 10, 2014

Planning a Season

Hello from Summer!

Well that happened quickly, didn't it? It feels like yesterday that I was scraping ice off my car windshield for the umpteenth time and wondering to myself if summer was ever going to arrive. But here we are, in the blissful heat, and now it's winter that seems very far away.

When you work in a theater, your seasons become very dominated by, well, your season. For those who might not know, that's what we call the group of plays and musicals we choose for our year, and most theater seasons run from September to June or thereabouts, (every theater is a little different, though, and there are theaters whose seasons run exclusively in the summer). Since I came to Two River Theater last August, I had no hand in planning the 2013-14 season, which had been chosen the previous spring (although I don't think I would have chosen anything differently - I loved all of the plays we did last season). But as my job is largely about choosing plays to develop, I've been a part of choosing the 2014-15 season, which will start up in September. And I am so very excited about it.

Choosing a season for your theater is complicated. In its simplest terms, when you're choosing a season you want to have a selection of plays (for us, 6-8) that provide a variety of styles and themes, so that you don't have, say, eight farces in a row one year and nothing but existentialist tragedies the next, or a solid season of plays about teenage boys or fin de siecle. Just as when you're choosing a menu for a great meal, you want a mix of flavors that provide variety and yet live together in the same delicious world. And because most everyone who works in theater does so because they deeply love theater, everyone involved in the process is bringing their own tastes and favorites to the table.

But of course, plays aren't nearly as simple as salads or a nice dessert. Plays are meals unto themselves, entire experiences, sometimes spanning lifetimes or centuries, in a few hours. And they bring with them their own historical context, plus a host of other logistical issues, like cast size, the complexity of their production requirements, and whether it's something that's widely performed (which might be a problem, if there's been several different productions in your area already recently). You have to plan plays that fit within your theater space and budget size (as much as we would love to do Ben-Hur Live: The Stadium Spectacular*), and remember the tastes of your audiences (while still providing work that might expand their tastes and bring them something new). And as a theater, you probably have commissioned works and works-in-development that are ready for a spot in the season. Plus relationships with theater artists you love and respect, who often have their own wish list projects.

So there's a lot to consider, and putting it all together is a fun, fascinating, sometimes slightly heartbreaking (it sucks when you have two projects you really love, but are too similar to put in the same year) process, which takes weeks and often involves a lot of shifting. But we have our season now, and it is a doozy. To carry on my already-tortured metaphor about a season being a meal, our 2014/15 season would get three Michelin stars. Here's just a little sampling of each show (go HERE for a fuller description of each, plus info on their stellar creative teams):

1. School for Wives
       Molière. You've probably at least heard his name, but have you actually seen one of his plays? Molière is one of the all-time funniest writers, and his plays, all in verse (verse translated from French verse!) are as delightful today as they were in 1600s Paris. This play is no exception, and makes some startling observations about romance, men, and women that feel true today.

2. Camelot
       Oh my god, this score. Pretty much the only thing that could possibly improve on the stories of King Arthur is having the characters sing exquisite songs by Lerner and Loewe, and in Camelot, they do. I'm not usually involved in casting at the theater, but I've informed my boss that I will be present at the auditions for Lancelot, purely because I can't think of a better way to spend a day than having handsome talented men sing "If Ever I Would Leave You" at me. If you don't know what I'm talking about, get thee to YouTube, and ready yourself for some heart-melting high notes in the fall.

3. The Very Hungry Caterpillar
        This one's technically for kids, but by all accounts this production, featuring puppets as the characters from the beloved children's book, is utterly delightful. 31 still counts as a kid in some cultures, right?

4. Absurd Person Singular
        If you love dark humor, British humor, or things that are very, very funny in general, this play is for you. Alan Ayckbourn is a master of comedy, a few centuries and across the channel from our season's other comedy master, Molière. The producer of the original 1972 production hired a statistician to count the number of laughs in each act, and they calculated that there were 504 individual laughs in the entire show, including 125 Belly Laughs. I haven't checked the math, but that feels entirely accurate to me.

5. Guadalupe in the Guest Room
        John Dias (our Artistic Director) and I went to a reading of this play at the Lark in NYC, and we both fell in love with it. Written by the young playwright Tony Meneses, it's exquisitely beautiful, with a blend of emotional honesty, melancholy, and hope that we have come to recognize as a hallmark of Tony's work. We adore Tony's work and this play, and we couldn't be prouder to be giving it its world premiere.

6. Your Blues Ain't Sweet Like Mine
        I was a big fan of Ruben Santiago-Hudson as an actor before I came to Two River, and I was so excited to learn that he has worked with the theater many times as a director. This play is another world premiere, and a play we commissioned Ruben to write. And like everything Ruben does it is fiercely intelligent, deeply felt, and inspires questions that linger with you long after you leave the theater.

7. Be More Chill
       To put it simply, Be More Chill totally rocks. A new musical by composer Joe Iconis and playwright Joe Tracz, based on a YA novel by Ned Vizzini, it's already become one of my most favorite musicals - and that's saying a lot, since I LOVE musicals. But this show is the real deal, and captures life as a teenager in our increasingly technological world with wit, empathy, and songs that you will be playing on repeat for months (and I speak from experience).

*We don't actually want to do Ben-Hur Live: The Stadium Spectacular, much as we love chariot races.

1 comment:

  1. I am counting down the days. Can't wait for the season to begin!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!