Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company Announces 35th Season: MARIE ANTOINETTE, CHEROKEE & More
Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company's 35th anniversary season is one of inward and outward revolution, of daring and breakthroughs in style, content, process, and even international borders for the Company's biggest, most ambitious season yet!
The apocryphal quip by Marie Antoinette-"Let them eat cake!"-sparks a deliciously decadent Season 35, but also one in which we skewer our leaders and walk the widening divide between the haves and the have-nots. The cast of characters include queens and presidents, boomers and hustlers, the living and the living dead, and all of the works explore societies and individuals under attack from outside and inside forces, breaking down, breaking out, and groping toward new solutions.
Season 35 begins and ends with two plays about governments under siege: Marie Antoinette by David Adjmi and Zombie: The American, a World Premiere, and Woolly's first "Free the Beast!" commission by Andrew W. Mellon Playwright in Residence Robert O' Hara. Both show conflicted and complicated leaders attempting to keep the hordes at bay, even as rebellion is inevitable.
But if the above present the world from the point of view of those with power, the four works between them present stories of societal attack and change by everyday individuals who struggle to rise up and take down the established order. The Russians Are Coming! A Festival of Radical New Theatre from Moscow showcases new work by four innovative companies using revolutionary and inventive theatrical approaches to investigate the urgent concerns of contemporary Russia, questioning authority, and shattering the old rules. Canada's Old Trout Puppet Workshop comes to Woolly in December with Famous Puppet Death Scenes about a hapless parade of characters who are captivating, goofy, and helpless against the power of the ultimate overlord-death. Cherokee by Lisa D'Amour-a companion piece of sorts to last year's hit play Detroit-presents two couples whose break from society finds them scrabbling toward a whole new way of life. And the three underdogs in Lights Rise on Grace by Chad Beckim have no choice but to go their own way-societal transgressors due to who they are, who they love, and where they've been.
"This landmark season is a culmination of our thinking over the last few years about what it means to make theatre," says Woolly Artistic Director Howard Shalwitz. "With the expansion of our Company of Artists to include directors, designers, and playwrights, we have been using new processes for production development that harness meaningful and early collaborations among all the artists involved in a production. With our focus on Connectivity, we are asking more probing questions about the relevance of our work in our community. And with scripts like Bootycandy, Mr. Burns, and Stupid Fucking Bird, we have continued to seek out writers who are re-inventing the traditional idea of a play. These three threads have been the biggest influences on my thinking about the direction of Woolly. They have seamlessly combined in Season 35 for our boldest season to date, one which will engage and challenge our audience in new ways."
ABOUT SEASON 35*
"Let them eat cake."
By David Adjmi
Directed by Yury Urnov
September 15-October 12, 2014
On the surface, Marie Antoinette is the famous story of the rise and fall (mostly fall) of the iconic and controversial Queen of France. But was Marie just a shallow, rich party girl, or a tragic figure constructed by a culture of luxury and celebrity?
"Through David Adjmi's incisive contemporary lens, history's most notorious queen becomes a full-blooded, complex, and tragic heroine who realizes too late that there's an unstoppable revolution brewing outside her window," says Woolly Artistic Director Howard Shalwitz. "This is a Marie Antoinette for today: a potent symbol of all the things that keep us from seeing the real forces bearing down on us: our cult of celebrity, our fatuous politics, and a pace of change we can hardly fathom. I am thrilled to welcome David back to Woolly, along with visionary director Yury Urnov and Woolly Company Member Kimberly Gilbert as Marie."
"Let them eat...caviar."
THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING!
A FESTIVAL OF RADICAL NEW THEATRE FROM MOSCOW
Created and performed by artists from
The Meyerhold Centre, Dmitry Krymov Laboratory, Gogol Center, and Praktika Theatre
Presented in partnership with Philip Arnoult's
Center for International Theatre Development
October 25-November 9, 2014
Over 75 Russian artists will descend on Woolly Mammoth to present four new works from distinct companies representing the cutting edge of Moscow's theatre scene. The pieces will include works by famous international directors-Dmitry Krymov and Kirill Serebrennikov-and young upstarts-Svetlana Zemlyakova and Yury Muravitsky-who are galvanizing audiences in astonishing new ways.
Says Shalwitz: "Russian artists have had a profound influence on American theatre since the time of Chekhov and Stanislavsky. Over the past ten years, however, an iconoclastic group of Moscow directors, writers, designers, and actors have been standing the old ideas on their heads. This is work that leaves room for the audience's imagination and sense of fun by rebelling against the traditional realism that we associate with Russian theatre. At the same time, these works push against the limits of state sponsorship by provocatively addressing the urgent social and political questions of Russian life today. I have been traveling to see theatre in Eastern Europe for the past four years, and these are the works that inspire me when I think about the evolution of our own work at Woolly Mammoth. We are honored to host this historic encounter between Russia's most path-breaking theatre artists and Washington's adventurous audiences. "
"Let them eat...worms."
FAMOUS PUPPET DEATH SCENES
Created and Performed by Old Trout Puppet Workshop
December 9, 2014-January 4, 2015
Famous Puppet Death Scenes is a collection of twenty-two scenes of famous puppet deaths, spanning an array of theatrical styles and genres. Narrated by puppet Nathan Tweak, this unusual holiday show is in equal parts, hilarious and macabre, and uniquely reminds us of our own mortality.
"I saw Famous Puppet Death Scenes a few years ago at the Under the Radar Festival in New York and was blown away," says Shalwitz. "This show is riveting, hilarious, even profound, and I'm so thrilled that the Old Trouts-one of Canada's most original troupes-have agreed to re-mount it especially for Woolly's audiences. This is most definitely a puppet show for adults, and the parade of psychologically complex and original puppet characters is enthralling. A feast for the eyes, mind, and soul, it provides the intellectual heft and theatricality Woolly audiences demand, with the provocative, off-beat sense of humor for which we are known."
"Let them eat...s'mores."
By Lisa D'Amour
Directed by John Vreeke
February 9-March 8, 2015
Two couples from Houston go camping in Cherokee, North Carolina to get away from it all. But their lives are upended when Mike mysteriously disappears and is seemingly replaced by Josh, a young American Indian from the area.
"By yanking a diverse group of middle class characters out of their urban comfort zone and pushing their emotions to the limit, Lisa D'Amour is asking the big questions about America's lifestyle and values today," says Shalwitz. "Do the underlying premises of American capitalism doom us to unhappiness and our civilization to collapse? And is there any way for us, as individuals, to escape it? I'm delighted to re-unite playwright Lisa D'Amour and director John Vreeke following their brilliant collaboration on Detroit. If that earlier play was a diagnosis of the American problem, then Cherokee may be considered an exploration of a possible solution. But none of the answers come easily in this mysterious work, where nature has the upper hand and even our identity as human individuals is questioned."
Lights Rise on Grace is a hot-blooded stage event that has been exposed to its theatrical bones: an examination of race, sexuality, and family as unconventional as the relationships it depicts. Three actors bring to life the interwoven stories of a triangle of outsiders whose search for love takes them to places-and people-they didn't expect.
"Chad Beckim is a new writer to Woolly but we have a strong connection: his New York-based theatre company, Partial Comfort Productions, produced an early workshop production of Robert O'Hara's Bootycandy and the world premiere of Samuel D. Hunter's A Bright New Boise. I'm thrilled to introduce his work to Washington audiences. Lights Rise on Grace is an intimate play with a big social/cultural palette, an unabashed love story with a deep sense of longing and radiant language. The genre in itself is unusual for Woolly, but everything about this love story is dark, complicated, and unexpected, from the form in which it is told, to the marginalized characters it represents, to the unpredictable conclusion it reaches."
"Let them eat...brains."
ZOMBIE: THE AMERICAN
By Robert O' Hara
Directed by Howard Shalwitz
May 25-June 21, 2015
A "Free the Beast!" Commission and World Premiere
It's 2063, and as Thom Valentine-the first openly gay President of the United States-finishes a long reelection campaign, he is faced with an imminent Civil War, the threat of an African invasion, an adulterous First Gentleman, and Zombies in the basement of the White House. Amidst this chaos, Valentine must decide which institutions he cares most about saving, and at what cost.
"What does Robert O'Hara dream about at night?" wonders Shalwitz, who will also be helming this project. "The answer must be something like Zombie: The American, a play of reckless daring that comes from the recesses of a brilliantly warped imagination. The result-a Jacobean Dr. Strangelove of sorts-is tremendously fun and shocking, a bracing wake-up call that asks whether the seeds of our destruction are lurking in the closet of our own history. Robert and I will be working over the coming months with a superb team of artists -with the support of "Free the Beast!"-on the final development of the script and the production. It's tremendously exciting to be tackling a play commissioned exclusively for Woolly and for Washington's audiences-although creating a three-dimensional world to match Robert's fantastical text will be a feat!"
*All titles and dates subject to change.
Subscriptions for Season 35 will be available in the coming weeks and may be purchased online at www.woollymammoth.net, through the Box Office at 202-393-3939, or in person at 641 D Street, NW (7th & D). Single tickets will go on sale on July 1, 2014.