Playwrights Horizons Announces Additional Details of Upcoming Season; Michael Gaston, Trip Cullman, and More
Playwrights Horizons announces additional details of its 2018-19 season, which comprises new works from a broad cross-section of the contemporary American theatre's most exciting writers and artists. Playwrights Horizons holds a steadfast commitment to identifying, cultivating, and championing vital talent. This coming season,the organization brings to life unique visions from Craig Lucas, Larisa FastHorse, Heather Raffo, Tori Sampson, Halley Feiffer, and Michael R. Jackson. Playwrights Horizons welcomes previously unannounced cast and creative team members including Michael Gaston and Kalen Feeney (joining the cast of Lucas' I Was Most Alive With You), Trip Cullman (directing Feiffer's The Pain of My Belligerence), and Raja Feather Kelly (choreographing Jackson's A Strange Loop).
"Topicality and risk" are on full display this season at Playwrights Horizons, one of "the most adventurous theaters Off Broadway." (The New York Times) The writers represented in 2018-2019 make compellingly varied stylistic choices. By turns, they elucidate and intriguingly complicate the socially hazardous terrain of the American present (and past). With two plays incidentally set around tense Thanksgivings and one at Christmas, these works all find their ways of prying into the cracks of life in this fractious, fraught environment.
I Was Most Alive With You, a Book of Job-inspired play written by Craig Lucas (Small Tragedy, Three Postcards, Prayer for My Enemyat Playwrights; Prelude to a Kiss, Reckless, Amélie, The Light in the Piazza) and directed by Tyne Rafaeli (The Rape of the Sabine Women by Grace B. Matthias, In a Word) kicks off the season, August 31-October 14. For the production, Michael Gaston (Lucky Guy on Broadway; The Leftovers, The Man in the High Castle) returns to Playwrights Horizons, where, over two decades ago, he performed in Neal Bell's Somewhere in the Pacific. Hejoins a cast that includes two-time OBIE winner Lisa Emery, Theatre World Award-winner Russell Harvard,and two-time Tony Award nominee Lois Smith. Gaston plays the role of Ash, a recovering alcoholic whose Deaf, also-recovering addict son Knox (Harvard) has brought a new boyfriend-himself a user-home for Thanksgiving.
When I Was Most Alive With You made its world premiere at the Huntington Theatre in Boston, the Boston Globe noted Craig Lucas' skill "at constructing a metaphysical framework that can contain and illuminate the deepest human dilemmas, such as how we sustain love, both as an emotion and an act of volition." They praised the play for its "intricate...innovative marriage of form and content," achieved by pairing hearing and Deaf casts simultaneously performing in English and American Sign Language as the play examines familial communication across a number of misfortunes. Kalen Feeney (Switched at Birth)joins and completes the previously announced ASL-performing cast.
Larissa Fasthorse's latest work also surrounds Thanksgiving-zeroing in, with a sharp satirical eye, on the ideological fissures provoked by the holiday's historical ugliness. The Thanksgiving Play, directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel, makes its world premiere at Playwrights Horizons, October 12-November 25. FastHorse, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Sicangu Lakota Nation, told HowlRound, "It's such a charged holiday, and I think most people aren't aware how charged it is for Indigenous people in this country. It's the first time I've tackled a really specific historical issue that everybody knows about, or they believe they know about."
Iraqi American playwright and actor Heather Raffo brings Noura to Playwrights Horizons November 27-December 30, following its explosive world premiere at Shakespeare Theatre Company for the Women's Voices Theater Festival (in association with Playwrights Horizons). She conceived the play after compelling Middle Eastern women in a workshop she led to adapt part of A Doll's House, and noting their unanimous desire to take on the final scene, in which Ibsen's protagonist, Nora, makes her exit from her stifling bourgeois life. As she recounted to The Washington Post, "All of them said, if you did this in the Middle East, you'd be dead. You can't just up and leave." She decided to loosely base a play of her own-about an Iraqi immigrant family in the U.S.-around Ibsen's classic, and ended up with a haunting "portrait of a woman torn between cultures and family members" and "the best premiere [from] the Women's Voices Theater Festival" (The Washington Post). Raffo, known for embodying the Iraqi women she interviewed over the course of 10 years in the stunning 2003 play Nine Parts of Desire, again takes on the roles of both actor and writer in this production reuniting her with Desire director Joanna Settle.
Kennedy Center's 2017 Paula Vogel Playwright Tori Sampson makes her Playwrights Horizons debut with the world premiere of If Pretty Hurts Ugly Must Be a Muhfucka (February 15-March 31, 2019), helmed by Tony Award nominated and Obie and Lucille Lortel awards winning director Liesl Tommy (Eclipsed, Relevance).Set in the village of "Afreakah-Amirrorkah," the play interweaves contemporary African and American cultures in its reinterpretation of a West African folk tale. Sampson uses this framework to trace the lengths to which people will go to fit into and uphold narrow beauty standards.
Trip Cullman, just off the acclaimed production of Kenneth Lonergan's Lobby Hero,will direct Halley Feiffer's The Pain of My Belligerence, a Playwrights Horizon commission. The two reteam for Feiffer's latest sharply comical production, following their critically acclaimed collaboration on A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center of New York City. Like Raffo in Noura, Feiffer acts in The Pain of My Belligerence. She takes on the role of journalist Cat in her play examining what's felt within the intimacy of a relationship against the changing nature of the country in which it's set. "My aim is to examine the corrosive effects of toxic masculinity on women, and men as well, on a microcosmic level within the larger framework of society," Feiffer told the New York Times. The Pain of My Belligerence makes its world premiere at Playwrights Horizons March 29-May 12, 2019.
Raja Feather Kelly choreographs 2017 Lincoln Center Emerging Artist Award-winner Michael R. Jackson's musical A Strange Loop, originally developed at Musical Theatre Factory (one of Playwrights Horizons' Resident Companies). Dance Magazine writes, "Kelly brings a vivid boundlessness to all he does... whether dancing for the likes of Reggie Wilson or cooking up his own darkly entertaining dance-theater productions."Directed by Stephen Brackett, with book, music, and lyrics by Jackson, A Strange Loop closes Playwrights Horizon's 2018-2019 season in a world premiere production May 24-July 27, 2019. The musical charts the inner life of a black, gay man writing a musical about a black, gay man.
A Six-Show Subscriptionpackage to Playwrights Horizons' 2018-19 season is now available ($310, four Mainstage and two Peter Jay Sharp Theater productions). In addition to discounts on all season productions, subscribers receive priority booking and seating, ticket exchange privileges, parking and dining discounts, and exclusive mailings of Playwrights Horizons Bulletins. Flex Passes (customizable bundle, $220+) and Memberships ($45 to join, $25 preview tickets) are also now on sale. Patron packages start at $1,750. Packages are available at www.phnyc.org.
Photo Credit: Jennifer Broski