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The American Scene

Updated: Dec 21, 2023

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.



Brooklyn Laundry

John Patrick Shanley, the Pulitzer Prize- and Tony-winning author of Doubt and the Oscar®-winning writer of Moonstruck, returns to MTC with this world premiere of a new play. Sometimes big things start from little things; in this case, a bag of laundry. Shanley’s latest is about three sisters and a guy who runs a laundry in Brooklyn, and the sometimes savage tricks life plays on them. "Tragic and funny by turns, this story will remind you what is important in life... and the sorrow and joy of fully embracing adulthood."


Swing State

Direct from a hit run at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre comes a complex, humanistic yarn written by Pulitzer Prize finalist Rebecca Gilman and directed by Robert Falls. "Evenings on the prairie are relatively quiet for Peg, a recently widowed woman in rural Wisconsin who still cooks for two. Which doesn’t go to waste whenever Ryan, a dear friend with a troubled past, pays her a visit. However, after noticing her husband’s toolbox is missing, she places a call to the local authorities—unwittingly setting off a series of events that will forever reverberate through the small community."


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.



The world premiere of new music-theatre work Illinois, directed and choreographed by Tony winner Justin Peck, landed as part of SummerScape 2023 at The Fisher Center at Bard June 23-July 2. Based on indie rock musician Sufjan Stevens’ 2005 concept album of the same name, the full-length work explores the album's portrayals of the American heartland. We sit down to discuss with Pulitzer winner Jackie Sibblies Drury (Fairview) who collaborated on the story which weaves it all together.

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. Cambodian Rock Band Arena Stage It’s 2008 and a father-daughter duo are heading to Phnom Penh; she to prosecute a notorious Cambodian war criminal, he 30 years after escaping then-Communist rule. In a psychedelic theatrical extravaganza set to some of the country’s most popular rock music, including from Dengue Fever, Cambodian Rock Band shines a light on the country’s vibrant ’70s rock scene and how an entire generation of musicians was purged by the Khmer Rouge, as it brings long-buried family secrets back to life.

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.

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.

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