Hartford Stage to Wrap 2019/20 Season with AH, WILDERNESS! and THE KING'S SPEECH
Hartford Stage announced today the last two plays of the 56th season. Incoming Hartford Stage Artistic Director Melia Bensussenwill stage the Eugene O'Neill coming-of-age comedy Ah, Wilderness! It will be Bensussen's first production as Artistic Director at Hartford Stage. Former Hartford Stage Artistic Director Michael Wilson will return to direct the original play that inspired the Oscar-winning film The King's Speech, written by its Oscar-winning screenwriter David Seidler.
"I'm extremely excited to direct the last play of the season, O'Neill's one truly celebratory treatment of family, his great comedy, Ah, Wilderness! - a production that I hope will, along with our other season offerings, remind us of the vitality and energy of live theatre, with its endless possibilities for discovering and reinventing ourselves," Bensussen said.
Ah, Wilderness! takes place in a picturesque Connecticut town at the turn of the 20th century and paints a nostalgic portrait of small-town values, teenage growing pains, and young love. The warm-hearted play centers on teenaged Richard Miller, an aspiring poet who falls in love with the "girl-next-door." His love letters and ensuing adventures lead his parents to recall their own romance and youth. Bensussen's adaptation of O'Neill's only comedy promises to be a joyous ode to Americana and the celebration of family, infused with period-appropriate live music.
Bensussen previously directed Ah, Wilderness! at Baltimore Center Stage in 2007. The production received praise from the Wall Street Journal, which called it "a model of what regional theatre can and should be."
Melia Bensussen is an award-winning director and artistic leader who has directed extensively at leading theatres throughout the country since 1984, including productions at the Huntington Theatre Company, Sleeping Weazel, Shakespeare & Company, Actors' Shakespeare Project, La Jolla Playhouse, Baltimore Center Stage, Hartford Stage, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the New York Shakespeare Festival, Manhattan Class Company, Primary Stages, Long Wharf Theatre, Cincinnati Playhouse, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Merrimack Repertory Theatre, People's Light and Theatre Company, Bay Street Theatre and Playwrights Horizons, among others. Her acclaimed work with new plays has taken her to the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, New York Stage and Film, PlayPenn, The Playwrights' Center, Sundance, and other new play programs across the country.
The King's Speech will make its North American premiere, under Michael Wilson's direction, at Chicago Shakespeare Theater in the fall of 2019 before coming to Hartford Stage. Other than the company's annual production of his A Christmas Carol-A Ghost Story of Christmas, Wilson most recently directed the East Coast Premiere of Ether Dome at Hartford Stage in 2014. He served as Hartford Stage Artistic Director for 13 years, from 1998 to 2011.
"It's a wonderful gift to our 2019/2020 season to welcome back Michael Wilson, especially with such an insightful and theatrical work. The King's Speech addresses the need for clarity and honesty, the importance of history (and wit!), and reminds us of the gifts our mentors and teachers bring us," Bensussen said. "In planning the 2019/2020 season alongside the brilliant Darko Tresnak, I'm grateful to have the opportunity to connect back to Michael's legacy at Hartford Stage and to welcome you to once again enjoy his work."
With international war looming, England's King George V dies, leaving the Crown and the crisis to his youngest son Bertie. Shy, fragile and afflicted with a profound stammer, Bertie is ill-equipped to inspire and lead a people now instantaneously informed by a new invention: the wireless radio. He seeks help from Harley Street doctor, Lionel Logue, and finds an unexpected friendship. But can Logue actually cure the King? Their success or failure as therapist and patient will seal their destiny, the destiny of England and, perhaps, the world. The King's Speech premiered at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in the UK before debuting on the West End. The film that followed the play won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay for David Seidler.
Ah, Wilderness! and The King's Speech join the four previously-announced mainstage plays for the 2019/2020 season, including Quixote Nuevo by Octavio Solis; Cry it Out by Molly Smith Metzler; an adaptation of Jane Eyre from Hartford Stage Associate Artistic Director Elizabeth Williamson; and Pike St. by Nilaja Sun. The beloved holiday classic A Christmas Carol-A Ghost Story of Christmas will return for its 22nd season on Thanksgiving weekend.
Subscriptions for the six-play mainstage season are currently on sale. Visit https://www.hartfordstage.org/show/subscribe, or call the Hartford Stage Box Office at 860-527-5151. Please note that titles and artists are subject to change.
Tickets for A Christmas Carol-A Ghost Story of Christmas are on sale to subscribers only. It is not part of a subscription series.
Single ticket and group sales for all shows will go on sale in July. For information on group sale discounts, visit www.hartfordstage.org/group-sales or call (860) 527-5151.