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The American Scene

Updated: Apr 7

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:


MANHATTAN THEATRE CLUB

Mary Jane

This world premiere of Amy Herzog's new play, directed by Anne Kauffman and starring Hollywood star Rachel McAdams in her first ever stage role, is now in previews at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. The play delves into the life of a single mother navigating challenging family dynamics with unwavering optimism, supported by the wisdom and camaraderie of her makeshift family. As she confronts formidable obstacles, including an impossible family situation, Mary Jane's resilience and newfound connections become crucial in facing each new day.


BERKELEY REP

Mother Road

Octavio Solis, renowned for his portrayal of the Mexican-American experience, offers a contemporary narrative inspired by John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath," directed by David Mendizábal at Peet's Theatre from June 14 to July 21, 2024. The story follows William Joad, who discovers Martín Jodes, a young Mexican-American migrant worker, leading them on a journey reminiscent of the Joad family's legendary odyssey from California to Oklahoma. Through Solis' poetic prose and gritty realism, the play will explore themes of identity, migration, and the convergence of cultures in the American West.


VERMONT

The Heart of the Matter Circus and Pageant

Under the scorching July sun in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, 89-year-old Peter Schumann directs Bread and Puppet Theater's surreal outdoor performance, "The Heart of the Matter Circus and Pageant." Towering papier-mâché hands and dirge-like songs set the scene for this debut, featuring playful political sketches and rowdy bands amidst handmade memorial huts. Schumann, a German immigrant, channels his response to social injustice into towering figures, creating experimental pieces influenced by artists like John Cage and Claes Oldenburg, all while baking sourdough bread to feed audiences during the theater's summer events.


LINCOLN CENTER

The Gardens of Anuncia

Lincoln Center Theater presented the New York premiere of the new musical The Gardens of Anuncia at its Off-Broadway Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. The show features a book, music, and lyrics by iconic composer Michael John LaChiusa, and was directed and co-choreographed by Tony winner Graciela Daniele. Inspired by an early life story of Daniele's, the tango-infused musical centers on Anuncia as she reflects on her childhood in Juan Perón's Argentina and the women in her family who encouraged her artistic dreams. We ask LaChiusa about how he finds his way into this story musically.


DENVER Colorado New Play Summit

Denver Center for the Performing Arts At the Colorado New Play Summit, participants meet some of theatre’s most promising writers while helping them fine-tune their work. They listen to play readings by fabulous actors, give feedback on where they think the story should go, and enjoy two fully produced Theatre Company productions: the world premieres of Cebollas and Rubicon, both of which were featured readings at the 2022 Summit.


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.

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1 Comment


Wes Braver
Wes Braver
Aug 15, 2023

Cambodian Rock Band was one of the best plays (musical? play with music? I'm not sure) I have seen. Tremendously powerful story, I wasn't alive during the Cambodian genocide and it wasn't exactly taught in history class. Goes to show how theater can really educate

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