Michael Friedman's UNKNOWN SOLDIER and More Set for Playwrights Horizons Season
Playwrights Horizons announces today its 2019/20 season, featuring new works from Jaclyn Backhaus (Men On Boats, India Pale Ale), Will Arbery (Plano, Evanston Salt Costs Climbing), Lucas Hnath (The Christians; A Doll's House, Part 2), Michael Friedman (Mr. Burns, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) & Daniel Goldstein (Row, Unknown Soldier), Sylvia Khoury (Against the Hillside, The Place Women Go),and Jeremy O. Harris (Slave Play, "Daddy").
This series of premieres includes some of today's most groundbreaking playwrights pushing their singular styles to new heights as they cross historic, geographic, political, and even spiritual spheres in the creation of complex human stories. From a gathering of alums of a Red State college in today's America; to a Chateau in the Loire Valley in the 1500s and the jungles of India in the early 1900s; to a living room in 2013 Kabul; to New York during World War I; to a ripe queer idyll; and to what may be another realm of existence entirely; the season displays theater's startling capacity to transcend the worlds we think we know, and to create new worlds we've never imagined.
Tim Sanford says, "The playwrights featured this season are pursuing remarkably fresh and wildly varied artistic styles. Even as the plays are in dialogue with pressing conversations happening all around us, what feels so exciting about these works is how many of them do so with a super-aesthetic approach that pushes the theatrical form to new heights while perpetuating our curiosity rather than offering easy answers. Playwrights Horizons is known for fostering idiosyncratic voices, and the range of styles at play this season-in shaping language into works that will linger in people's minds-feels wholly representative of our mission."
Jaclyn Backhaus's uproarious Wives (August 2019), directed by Margot Bordelon (Do You Feel Anger?, Plot Points in Our Sexual Development) stretches across time and place (the 1500s, early 1900s, 1960s, in France, India, and America-as well as "an intermingled time space continuum at Oxbridge University" that exists within both the present moment and all time). In this Jody Falco and Jeffrey Steinman Emerging Playwright Commission for Playwrights Horizons, Backhaus undermines immemorial gender archetypes in stories that characterize women only in relation to "Great Men." Wives marks Backhaus' return to Playwrights Horizons following 2016's acclaimed Men On Boats.
Will Arbery's Heroes of the Fourth Turning is contained within one drunken evening, where alumni at a reception for the just-appointed first female president of a conservative Wyoming Catholic college get shockingly candid. This bold new play, directed by Danya Taymor ("Daddy," Pass Over), begins performances in September 2019, sending audiences and its characters on a challenging, unsettling, and eye-opening ride through festering preconceived notions of our divided nation.
Lucas Hnath's The Thin Place, commissioned by The Actors Theatre of Louisville and directed by Les Waters (The Christians; In the Next Room...), is eerily situated along the precipice of our world and another. It opened in March 2019 for the Humana Festival of New American Plays, where Arts Louisville called it "supremely unsettling" and Insider Louisville deemed it "a marvel...[that uses] and subvert[s] the conventions of theater in a way that is delightful and uniquely theatrical."
The late, celebrated composer and lyricist Michael Friedman's final musical, Unknown Soldier, with book and lyrics by Daniel Goldstein, opened in 2015 at Williamstown Theatre Festival and makes its New York premiere at Playwrights in February 2020, in a production directed by Trip Cullman (currently at Playwrights: The Pain of My Belligerence; Choir Boy). The work follows a woman who inherits her grandmother's home-and, with the discovery of a 1915 magazine clipping within it-a trove of new questions about her family's past, and her present.
Sylvia Khoury's Selling Kabul (March 2020), produced in association with Williamstown Theatre Festival, offers a stingingly intimate glimpse at the destructiveness of American foreign policy and immigration laws from within the confines of a Kabul apartment in 2013. Tyne Rafaeli (Usual Girls; The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias) returns to Playwrights Horizons to direct following her intricate, emotional powerhouse production of Craig Lucas's I Was Most Alive with You in 2018. Breakout playwright
Jeremy O. Harris's A Boy's Company Presents: "Tell Me If I'm Hurting You" -aJody Falco and Jeffrey Steinman Emerging Playwright Commission-concludes the season with the author's riff on Jacobean revenge tragedy (May 2020). In his acclaimed Slave Play and "Daddy," Harris dissected various charged and often malignant sociopolitical undercurrents of romantic relationships, rendering "subconscious trauma into provocative theatrical expression, as potentially unsettling as entertaining...startlingly sexual and demanding and funny" (The New York Times). In "Tell Me If I'm Hurting You," his focus remains on the complexity, ecstasy, and brutality of sex and love. However, rather than using desire (and specifically here, queer desire) as a point of entry into fraught social contexts, this violently beautiful play makes queer desire itself the context.
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