We delve into the stunningly accomplished and the boldly experimental that drive theater throughout America. From the creative cauldron of New York’s off and off-off Broadway to the dazzling ferment of the theater scene in Chicago and Minneapolis and San Francisco and Atlanta and… across the country, we explore the exciting mix of the established and the upstart, the most compelling and innovative work that is being generated far beyond the glare of Broadway, and we invite readers to respond.
HERE ARE SOME EXAMPLES:
CONNECTICUT Because of Winn Dixie Goodspeed Musicals Based on Kate DiCamillo‘s book of the same name, this new musical by Grammy and Tony winner Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening) and Tony nominee Nell Benjamin (Legally Blonde, Mean Girls) received rave reviews for its exciting production at the famed Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam. “In a Southern town filled with lost souls, a new leash on life is just around the corner when a preacher and his daughter take in a mutt named Winn Dixie.” We’re keeping an eye on it as it’s sure to be barking up Broadway soon.In the meantime we talk with Tony Award winning animal trainer Bill Berloni on his work with the unique star of this show and with the scores of other animals he’s coached for theater, movies and television.
WASHINGTON D.C. Jitney Arena Stage August Wilson’s Jitney opened Arena Stage’s last season-long Festival celebrating the Pulitzer Prize-winning giant with Ruben Santiago-Hudson at the helm directing. The dramatic story of a Pittsburgh jitney station, a symbol of stability, struggles against an oppressive lack of opportunity and unnerving neighborhood gentrification that threatens the way they live and work. The drivers resist powerful forces while coming to grips with their pasts to fulfill their own hopes and dreams for the future. Arena Stage’s presentation kicks off the National Tour of one of this masterpiece. We sit down with Francois Battiste to hear about the joys (and the pressure) of portraying Booster, one of the titular characters.
SAN DIEGO Diana La Jolla Playhouse Early last year, Joe DiPietro and David Bryan, the writers of the hit Memphis, premiered Diana, a new musical based on the life of the beloved Diana, Princess of Wales. Now headed to Broadway in the Spring of 2020 with an “epic and sweeping contemporary score,” it tells the story behind the fairytale. Facing an entrenched monarchy and unprecedented media scrutiny, Princess Diana surprises everyone – including herself – as she grows into a global phenomenon and manages to change the world. We talk to journalist Sarah Lyall, who covered Diana’s life as Princess of Wales, to discuss how the musical attempts to captures her spirit.
DENVER The Great Debate Buntport Theater Denver’s own Buntport Theater is home to some of the most entertaining experimental theater in the country. The Great Debate pits teams of non-experts head-to-head, toe-to-toe, and often dumb-and-dumber in lively debates of the inconsequential. Mundane topics are brought to life by ordinary, but opinionated folks. You’re bound to be a flip-flopper after listening to compelling arguments on things that never mattered. We talk to Buntport director and performer Erin Rollman about the challenges and joys of working with strangers on this unique theatrical event.
ATLANTA Becoming Nancy Alliance Theater Based on the novel ‘Becoming Nancy’ by Terry Ronald, this new musical features a book by Elliot Davis and a score by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. The story follows a boy who is cast as Nancy in his school’s production of Oliver! and the friendship he develops with the football player classmate playing Bill Sikes. Set in 1979, the unconventional casting rocks the small London suburb of East Dulwich.
NEW YORK Alice Bliss Playwrights Horizons has commissioned a new musical by Karen Hartman (book), Jenny Giering (music), and Adam Gwon (lyrics). Based on Laura Harrington’s critically acclaimed novel of the same name, it follows Alice, a young teenager whose father is deployed to Iraq, as she navigates the challenges of growing up in a family touched by the effects of war. Winner of the 2019 Weston-Ghostlight New Musical Award, Executive Artistic Director Susanna Gellert says, “Not only is it a stunning and heart wrenching new musical, it is also a detailed and compassionate exploration of an oft overlooked story of contemporary life.” Stay tuned as Theaterhound tracks the development of this exciting project.
On the Road
Are Kids the Best Audience?
TheatreworksUSA says yes. They aim to engage the parents too. Their traveling productions have grown to make them the country’s largest nonprofit theater committed to young and family audiences. Our resident mother of three, and Yale Drama-trained actress, Amy Malloy , looks at what and why she wants her kids to see from Theatreworks and the myriad other touring companies aiming to enchant children.
Girl Power! Some of the most powerfully engaging theater touring companies we’ve seen focus on a particular politically incendiary topic. Among our favorites: Guerrilla Girls, a New York City-based touring company which explores women’s history — past, present & future. These edgy feminists conceal their identities behind masks and draw on physical theater, vaudeville and parody to explore sexism at every level in our society.
Renaissance Throwback Now come the Kings Players–touring companies dedicated to Shakespeare. The touring wing of the Virginia-based American Shakespeare Center, has won international acclaim with its signature style that’s dedicated to replicating a Renaissance approach, breaking the fourth wall and creating a sense of a theatrical and totally engaged community.
The Essence of the Craft The Acting Company Co-founded by John Houseman, the legendary theater producing partner of Orson Welles and launcher of the Juilliard Theater School, and Margot Harley, ACT is recognized as a uniquely powerful and innovative stager of Shakespeare, and some of the best and most promising American theater. The company brings classic and bold new theater to communities throughout the U.S.—particularly those where live performance and theater arts education is sparse. Winner of Tony and Obie awards, The Acting Company is also recognized as an incubator of young talent: alumni include such current stage stars as Kevin Kline and Patti LuPone.