Two of William Shakespeare's most popular tragedies are the Bard's only representations in the Shakespeare Theatre Company's 2016–2017 season lineup unveiled today by the Washington, D.C., company's artistic director, Michael Kahn. However, the Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) will give the keys of these productions to two directors making their Shakespeare debuts at the theater, adding to an overall season of bold steps that include collaborations on a recent Broadway hit, a musical, and a Hemmingway. A Middleton caps it all off.
After the annual summer-ending Free for All presentation revives the company's 2014 production of The Tempest, the season proper kicks off with Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. STC Associate Artistic Director Alan Paul, who has directed musicals at the theater, including this season's Kiss Me Kate, will be helming Shakespeare's classic tragedy of young love undone by fate. “I’m certain his success directing musicals will yield a fresh take on one of Shakespeare’s most beloved titles,” Kahn said in his announcement.
Slated for the spring is Shakespeare's Macbeth, a choice inspired by the company's hosting the National Theatre of Scotland's production of Dunsinane, ostensibly a sequel to Macbeth, last season. The play will be helmed by South-African born director Liesl Tommy, who joins STC following his Broadway debut of Danai Gurira’s Eclipsed, starring Lupita Nyong’o. “I’m interested in the coming generation of theater directors and giving fresh voices the space to work with Shakespeare and with us as a company,” Kahn said. “Liesl Tommy has done such powerful work with Eclipsed—a harrowing and relevant production—and Macbeth, with his and Lady Macbeth’s gruesome story, seemed like the perfect way for us to partner with her and bring her work to D.C. and to our stages.”
The season's second offering and STC's annual representation of the musical theater art form will be the Tony and Drama Desk Award-winning musical The Secret Garden, written by Marsha Norman and Lucy Simon, directed by Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre’s Artistic Director David Armstrong. This project follows on the heels of last fall’s Women’s Voices Theater Festival, Kahn said. “We want to continue the awareness that this festival offered; The Secret Garden, written and composed by two talented female artists, in addition to being an extraordinarily touching musical, will be our way of moving forward with the ideas of this season’s festival.” The Secret Garden will be a co-production with Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre.
Mike Bartlett’s Broadway and London West End hit King Charles III makes its regional theater debut at STC under the direction of David Muse, Washington, D.C., Studio Theatre’s Artistic Director and former STC Associate Artistic Director. In a world where Queen Elizabeth II is dead and Prince Charles must take the throne, King Charles III transplants the dramaturgy of the Shakespearean history play to modern times and modern royalty. “Mike Bartlett’s show, written completely in blank verse, is such a wonderful re-imagining of Shakespearean language and themes and aligns with our vision to connect classic texts to the modern world," Kahn said. "It makes perfect sense that King Charles III would make its regional theater debut with us."
After bringing in international productions of Dunsinane last year and Headlong’s 1984 this year, STC decided to look within the United States for a visiting production: New York-based Elevator Repair Service's stage adaptation of Ernest Hemingway, The Select (The Sun Also Rises). "This show in particular brings Hemingway’s classic language to the stage," Kahn said. The acclaimed Elevator Repair Service, founded in 1991 by Artistic Director John Collins, has been creating collaborative masterpieces for years, many of which focus on literary classics. The Select (The Sun Also Rises) is a co-production of Elevator Repair Service and New York Theatre Workshop. It was commissioned by the Ringling International Arts Festival, John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida, in association with the Baryshnikov Arts Center, New York; the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival with funding from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage through the Philadelphia Theatre Initiative; ArtsEmerson: The World On Stage, Boston, Massachusetts; and Festival Theaterformen Hannover/Braunschweig.
The season will close with Kahn directing Thomas Middleton’s Jacobean thriller Women Beware Women. “I haven’t done a Jacobean play since 2002 when I directed The Duchess of Malfi, so I am eager to work on this dark classic and to dig into the language of that era,” Kahn said. “It’s also really fitting to close the season with this play when we open the season with Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. In many ways, Middleton’s work is an answer to the question, ‘What if those two young lovers, Romeo and Juliet, had lived?’”
February 10, 2016