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PlayCo Announces 2020-2021 Virtual Season

PlayCo will test the boundaries of virtual theater, with works that extract new meaning from the pairing of distance and intimacy inherent to life during the pandemic.

PlayCo Announces 2020-2021 Virtual Season

PlayCo has announced the first installment of plays in its 2020-2021 season, kicking off the company's 20th year with works that continue and complement its legacy of showcasing bold international and American Playwrights whose works electrify with their immediacy and challenge with their complexity. As PlayCo and so many other theater companies have recalibrated, bent, and ultimately innovated new modes of connection for artists and audiences in this moment of distance, the idea of "virtual theater" has become not just a necessary challenge-but also a form that clearly brims with opportunity. Approached from varied perspectives, and brought to life in singular form-bending strokes, works this season build on and play with the inherent symbolism of virtual performance-how, by design, it reflects the everyday navigation of intimacy and isolation of lives lived on screen. True to PlayCo's history of international theatrical connection, these are works that resonate anywhere-across a disoriented world, divided by the pandemic and its exacerbation of political turmoil, yet hyper-connected by our technologies.

As they reach this 20 year milestone, PlayCo's staff and board are working to re-envision their organization looking to their future as an antiracist and anti-oppressive organization. Their mission to produce a dynamic global program of new plays lifts up marginalized voices on the U.S. stage and they commit to reflecting this value at every level of the organization. This ongoing work includes, but is not limited to fair and equitable wages, transparent hiring practices, antiracist training with board and staff, and an inclusive artistic curation process.

The season begins with PlayCo joining MAX (Media Art Xploration) to present MAX's English-language premiere of Onur Karaoglu and Kathryn Hamilton's Read Subtitles Aloud, an episodic hybrid video/performance work whose only live component is the viewer (November 12-23). Reading subtitles on the screen aloud, the viewer enters as character X into a crumbling theater collective, becoming the main character in a story that's unfolding across 13 episodes. Read Subtitles Aloud, a MAX production presented in association with PlayCo, offers a new form of "participatory theater"-one that evokes the queasy simultaneity of control and submission, loneliness and communion, that our screen-captured selves experience every day.

Amir Nizar Zuabi's This Is Who I Am, directed by Evren Odcikin, offers an almost-inverse experience: while in Subtitles, the audience member becomes a live participant in pre-recorded videos, in This Is Who I Am, they watch as two actors reveal the nuances and layered histories of a fraught father/son relationship as they cook a family recipe together. This Is Who I Am marks another exciting set of partnerships for PlayCo-who co-commissioned the play with Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, and present it in association with American Repertory Theater, Guthrie Theater, and Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Having presented his site-specific "wrenching and shrewd solo show" (The New York Times, in a Critics' Pick review) Oh My Sweet Land in kitchens across New York City with PlayCo, Zuabi expands the meaning of site-specificity with this new piece. Performed live in two actors' kitchens, the play is also set across the divide of two computer screens (connecting a father in Ramallah and son in New York City). Zuabi here deepens his exploration of the kitchen as a space of sensorial stimulation, familial legacy, and discussion that organically slips between intimate and external circumstances-and finds a new setting to consider: Zoom, over which the play's two actors perform a balancing act of care and resentment, closeness and vast separation.

The season also continues a project that began this Spring, not long after the beginning of theatrical shutdowns. In April 2020, as part of the company's #PlayFrom6FeetAway, PlayCo initiated a series of Mini-Commissions, which offered audiences digital access to new works from artists creatively navigating the constraints of our times. One of these projects, William Burke's Is It Supposed to Last, will be expanded into an iterative series presented live in monthly installments (co-directed by Burke and Bryn Herdrich) beginning in January. Each performance will progress from the last, incorporating the existing conditions at the time to play with our experiences of isolation and communing-with the hopes of incorporating in-person audiences to culminate the performance series.

PlayCo is further devoting time to planning for the moment when theater audiences can once again convene live and in-person by honing works that will be presented in the future, and continuing relationships with the artists they're committed to working with. The company's active commissions are to Abhishek Majumdar, for his play 9 Kinds of Silence, and to Lee Sunday Evans, to co-create a new piece with playwright Christopher Chen (whose Obie Award-winning play Caught, directed by Evans, PlayCo produced in 2017). PlayCo's studio program recently workshopped Corinne Jaber's play Munich Medea: Happy Family, also directed by Evans (who also helmed PlayCo's acclaimed production of Stefano Massini's Intractable Woman). PlayCo maintains its commitment to producing Sarah Einspanier's Lunch Bunch, directed by Tara Ahmadinejad, when it's safe and permitted for audiences to return to theaters. In the meantime, Einspanier and Ahmadinejad are developing a podcast series, which they'll launch with PlayCo, about the child welfare system that forms the background of Einspanier's play.

From its very beginnings PlayCo has programmed works that exploratorily respond to immediate contemporary political and cultural contexts. This legacy-exemplified in works such as Vijay Tendulkar's Sakharam Binder, Jonas Hassen Khemiri's Invasion!, Toshiki Okada's Time's Journey Through a Room, and Aya Ogawa's Ludic Proxy-has gone hand in hand with PlayCo's consistent introduction of international playwrights to New York audiences. The company has also consistently engaged in stylistic and form-bending explorations, including Leah C. Gardiner's production of Debbie Tucker Green's unique, enveloping, multi-sensory theatre experience generations (a co-production with Soho Rep.); Yōji Sakate's The Attic, which memorably used staging and space, containing all action within a small box; Lauren Worsham and Kyle Jarrow's The Wildness (a collaboration with Ars Nova), which furthered PlayCo's exploration of form and the audience/ performance relationship; and Christopher Chen's reality-destabilizing Caught. PlayCo's interest in works that shed new light on contemporary realities-in both their words and formal experimentations-is all the more heightened in the 2020-2021 season, as our reality, and the ways we make and experience theater, have so drastically and rapidly shifted.

PlayCo Founding Producer Kate Loewald says, "There are new discoveries to be made out of this time in how we can think differently about international collaboration. The importance of live, in-person audiences to what theater is cannot be overstated, but over the course of 20 years of PlayCo so far, we have been able to go further and further into a form-investigating space that's offered us insight into what can be done in this moment. The works we're presenting, from artists around the world and with partners across the country, are playful and soulful, and innovative and celebratory."

Read Subtitles Aloud

Created by Onur Karaoglu

MAX (Media Art Xploration)

In Association with PlayCo

Written and Directed by Karaoglu and Kathryn Hamilton

Presented in Daily Episodes, November 12-23, here

Let's say you're X. You have all of X's talent and egotism, defensiveness and vulnerability. At least, the subtitles on your screen dictate that you do. You used to be the resident writer for a theater company. You moved to Hollywood, created a problematic TV series, and cultivated your Instagram activism. Sorry, you don't like being called an Instagram activist. The pandemic hit. Your collaborators Onur, Kathryn, Meera, and Fatih want you back-maybe grudgingly. They can't realize their project, giving voice to the behavioral peculiarities of this moment-where more than ever before, our digitized selves lead scintillating social lives and our physical selves sit and stare, red-eyed and envious-without your evocative words, your acute observations. And they're going to use one of your ideas, whether you participate or not. Your collaborators have a hard time resisting your allure, even over Zoom. They seem to want to do a lot of screen-kissing. It's unclear whether they want to work with you, have sex with you, or betray you. Can they be trusted? Can you? Perhaps this is fertile ground for a quarantine project.

Pairing soap opera-ish relational roller coasters with the flattened, dulled realism of Zoom sociality, Read Subtitles Aloud speaks with humor and immediacy to a moment when our physical selves have leapt further into virtual modes of connection than ever before.

This Is Who I Am

PlayCo and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

In Association with American Repertory Theater, Guthrie Theater, and Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Written by Amir Nizar Zuabi

Directed by Evren Odcikin

November 29-December 27

Separated by continents, an estranged father and son reunite over Zoom. From their respective kitchens in Ramallah and New York City, they recreate a cherished family recipe and struggle to bridge the gap between them, one ingredient at a time. Told through the intimacy of a video call with humor and humanity, Amir Nizar Zuabi's new play explores the unpredictable nature of grief and the delicacy of family connection across geographical and generational divides.

Preview performances begin November 29 at 4pm EST and continue December 1, 3 and 4 at 8:30pm EST and December 2 at 4pm EST. The opening night performance takes place December 5 at 8:30pm, followed by performances December 6, 8-12, 15-19, 22-23, 26-27 at 8:30pm EST and December 12-13, 19-20, and 26-27 at 4pm EST. Tickets to This Is Who I Am start at $15. Visit online at woollymammoth.net, by phone at (202) 393-3939, via email at tickets@woollymammoth.net. To make this production accessible for as many audiences as possible, special rates for tickets to preview performances will be offered; more details to come.

PlayCo Presents:

Is It Supposed to Last?

By William Burke

Co-Directed by William Burke and Bryn Herdrich

Dates & Ticketing TBA

What happens when the nurturers are unable to nurture the people who need them? We could utter this text at any time but our isolation and uncertain futures have amplified the need for us to take care of our brains and try to take care of others. A celebration of the good parts of people, a ritual of friendship, and an exorcism of the repeating bile that comes in between. It functions as a lecture by two performers but moves into a spoken and visual aria about the burden we take on as well-meaning people trying to help things that can't be helped. We'll try again, and again, and again, and again, and again. With Neil Diamond...and streamers...basically...You'll get it when it happens...We promise..."




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