My Austin 2013-2014 Season Wish List: The Plays
As 2012 comes to a close, many Austin theater companies are putting together their 2013-2014 season. Given the incredible talent in this town and the large number of daring, courageous theater groups in the Austin area, here are my picks for 13 plays that I'd love to see produced in the 2013-2014 season.
13. Ma Rainey'S BLACK BOTTOM
First Produced on Broadway in 1984
Austin loves music and history, and August Wilson's play about racism in 1920s America as told through the struggle of black recording artists would undoubtedly pique the interest of Austinites. It may not be the best play in Wilson's 10 play Pittsburgh Cycle, but it is one of the most accessible and enjoyable.
12. THE GOAT, OR WHO IS SYLVIA?
By Edward Albee
First Produced on Broadway in 2002
Albee's certainly dealt with the themes of a crumbling marriage before (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) but he pushes the envelope further with The Goat or Who is Sylvia. Just imagine if Virginia Woolf's George cheated on Martha with a goat...
11. THE KENTUCKY CYCLE
First Produced on Broadway in 1993
While it might not be the most well-known American epic from the 1990s (Angels in America earns that distinction), Schenkkan's nine act play is equally as profound and moving as it explores the themes of greed as told through several generations of the same Kentucky family.
10. AFTER THE FALL
First Produced on Broadway in 1964
Though it may be one of Miller's less popular works, there is something mesmerizing and intriguing about his semi-autobiographic play that most believe is based on his failed marriage to Marilyn Monroe, a figure who is constantly appealing to audiences.
9. A THOUSAND CLOWNS
By Herb Gardner
First Produced on Broadway in 1963
This charming but little-known play from the 1960s has a lot going for it. In his story about a 12 year old boy and his eccentric uncle/care-taker, Gardner gives us themes about adulthood, responsibility, parenthood, and non-conformitism. It's an odd mix but an enthralling one.
8. ANGELS IN AMERICA
By Tony Kushner
First Produced on Broadway in 1993
An epic of magic realism that requires a strong ensemble cast as it explores themes of community, love, death, fear, politics, and the AIDS epidemic. Why shouldn't this be produced in Austin?
7. SAINT JOAN
First Produced on Broadway in 1923
Joan of Arc is unquestionably one of the strongest female characters in history. Naturally, it seems obvious that the courageous and talented actresses in Austin would jump at the chance to play her. Though there are plenty of stage versions of the Joan of Arc story, I've always enjoyed Shaw's the best as it explores the mind of Joan's accusers rather than turning them into dastardly villains.
6. MURDER IN THE CATHEDRAL
By T.S. Eliot
First Produced in Canterbury in 1935
Eliot's account of the assassination of Thomas Becket, an archbishop who clashed with King Henry II over the rights of the church, is a beautiful and poignant salute to the courageous opposition to authority. It's quite interesting when considering that Eliot wrote the play in the 1930s as fascist regimes rose to power in Italy and Germany.
5. THE SCHOOL FOR WIVES
First Produced at the Palais Royal Theatre in 1662
Before there was Hugh Hefner, there was Moliere's Arnolphe, a dirty old man who lusts after a much younger woman. Like Moliere's other comedies, The School for Wives rips apart societal standards and behavior in a way that remarkably resonates with modern audiences.
4. M. BUTTERFLY
First Produced on Broadway in 1988
Loosely based on Puccini's Madama Butterfly and actual events, Hwang's beautifully written play explores identity, sexual orientation, cultural differences between East and West, and betrayal through the story of a French ambassador to China and his affair with a Chinese opera singer who is actually a man masquerading as a woman.
3. WHOSE LIFE IS IT ANYWAY?
By Brian Clark
First Produced in London in 1978
Far ahead of its time, Whose Life is it Anyway? offers arguments for and against euthanasia through the story of a successful sculptor who, after a car accident, is paralyzed from the neck down. It may not be the happiest of shows, but it will certainly make you think.
2. THE SCHOOL OF NIGHT
By Peter Whelan
First Produced in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1992
Austin audiences love their Shakespeare, and Whelan's play explores rivalry between Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe as well as Marlowe's mysterious death. As a period piece with plenty of drama and history, The School of Night would be a hit in Austin.
1. I GELOSI
By David Bridel
First Produced in Los Angeles in 2006
Plays within plays and period pieces are wildly popular virtually anywhere. While I Gelosi, a play about a traveling acting troupe which both delights and frightens the royal family of Renaissance-era England, may not be well known, it's one of the most engrossing history plays I've ever seen. I saw the premiere of the work back in 2006, and I was not surprised that it was lauded by the LA Times and LA Weekly. The piece still haunts me.
HONORABLE MENTIONS (in no particular order...)
By Oscar Wilde
First Produced in Paris in 1896
Oscar Wilde's only drama has been seen by millions over the last century, and there are many reasons why, namely Wilde's poetic prose.
DRIVING MISS DAISY
By Alfred Uhry
First Produced Off-Broadway in 1987
Uhry's play about racism and friendship between an elderly Jewish woman and her African-American driver is equally funny and thought-provoking. While the film version based upon it is excellent, the simplistic stage version succeeds in its own right.
Written between 1588 and 1593
Nothing says "a good night of theatre" like good ol' Bill and buckets of blood. When it comes to Shakespeare's tragedies, Titus would kick Hamlet's indecisive butt.
WHO'S AFRAID OF Virginia Woolf?
By Edward Albee
First Produced on Broadway in 1962
If you prefer your Albeean spouses without themes of bestiality, feel free to substitute Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf? for The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?
By Freidrich Schiller
First Produced in Weimar, Germany in 1800
Sure, family members quarrel, but Queen Elizabeth I and her cousin, Mary Stuart take family feuds to a whole new level.
THE ELEPHANT MAN
First Produced on Broadway in 1979
There are few roles as challenging as Joseph Merrick, the real-life Victorian era celebrity who rose to fame for his extremely deformed body. I'm sure many an Austin actor could rise to the challenge of this character.
First Produced in London in 1982
Shows within a show are a dime a dozen. Frayn's show behind the show is completely unique. With the right cast and director, it's a hysterical delight.
THE LIFE OF GALILEO
First Produced in Los Angeles in 1947
The plight of Galileo Galilei and the avant garde theatrical style of Brecht would resonate well with Austin audiences.
A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE
First Produced on Broadway in 1947
I'm sure that the talented actors and actresses of Austin could bring Tennessee Williams's masterpiece to life.
THE MERCY SEAT
By Neil LaBute
First Produced Off-Broadway in 2002
It's not as famous as his magnum opus, Glengarry Glen Ross, but with The Mercy Seat, LaBute offered the world one of the first major theatrical responses to 9/11. His visceral two-person play is filled with emotion, and not necessarily the emotions you'd expect in the wake of such a horrific tragedy as the attacks on the World Trade Center.
THE WOMAN IN BLACK
First Produced in London in 1989
The Woman in Black is still playing London's West End, making it the 2nd longest-running non-musical to play in London, and there's a reason why. The two-person play based on Susan Hill's thriller of the same name (which in turn inspired the recent film version featuring Daniel Radcliffe), is simple but terrifying. Anyone who sees this show will never look at a rocking chair the same way again.
First Produced on Broadway in 1980
While the versions are very different, the stage version of Amadeus is among my favorite plays and the film is among my favorite films of all time. The only reason why the show gets honorable mention this year is because ZACH Theatre will be producing the Beethoven-inspired 33 Variations this January, and a show about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart might not be as successful this year. Still, this brilliantly written costume drama would be a huge success in Austin.