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TheatreWorks Silicon Valley Unveils 2020-21 Season

TheatreWorks Silicon Valley Unveils 2020-21 Season

Theatre enthusiasts packed the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts tonight to hear Founding Artistic Director Robert Kelley, incoming Artistic Director Tim Bond, and Executive Director Phil Santora of TheatreWorks Silicon Valley announce the lineup for the 2019 Regional Theatre Tony Award-winning company's 2020-21 season, which launches this summer.

Among the works announced for TheatreWorks's 51st season were: a World Premiere play developed in TheatreWorks's New Works Festival, the Regional Premiere of a hit Broadway play, acclaimed performer Hershey Felder with another musical masterpiece, a Regional Premiere of a Jane Austen musical by Tony-nominated composer Paul Gordon, a high-stakes environmental drama, a stunning stage adaptation of one of America's favorite films, a groundbreaking and timely Tony-winning musical, and a personalized portrait of a century of American history.

This season will Mark Bond's first at the helm as Kelley will retire in June 2020 at the conclusion of the 2019-20 season, ending what is believed to be the longest current tenure of any LORT (League of Resident Theatres) Artistic Director in the nation. For more information or to purchase subscriptions ($115 - $591) the public can call 650-463-1960 or visit Subscriptions are on sale now; single tickets will go on sale in late spring 2020. Special pricing is available for seniors (65+), educators, and patrons 35 and under.

TheatreWorks's 51st season launches with Queen (July 8 - August 2, 2020). Written by San Jose-born emerging playwright Madhuri Shekar, whose House of Joy recently dazzled Bay Area audiences, this high-stakes environmental drama follows two female PhD candidates, Sanam from India and Ariel from the United States, who are on the brink of publishing groundbreaking research in one of America's leading science journals about the rapid global honeybee demise. When Sanam discovers that their numbers don't quite add up, she grapples with a moral dilemma: publish the paper and face humiliation if the truth is discovered, or stand by her scientific principles, ceding ground to an ecological disaster and jeopardizing her career and friendship. An Edgerton Foundation New Play Award Winner, Queen received its World Premiere at Chicago's Victory Gardens Theater, where it was nominated for a Joseph Jefferson Award for Best New Play. Chicago Sun-Times called it "A winning story about science, conscience, and the heart," while Stage and Cinema Chicago lauded it as "taut and truthful...a credit to our hive." It will be directed by TheatreWorks Casting Director Jeffrey Lo, who recently helmed TheatreWorks Silicon Valley's hits The Language Archive and The Santaland Diaries.

Queen will be followed closely by TheatreWorks Silicon Valley's 2020 New Works Festival (August 7 - 16, 2020) at which leading playwrights and composers from across the country share developing work with audiences, presenting book-in-hand readings and sing-throughs of new plays and musicals.

Following the New Works Festival is the return of TheatreWorks favorite Hershey Felder in the hit musical masterpiece Hershey Felder as Monsieur Chopin (August 26 - September 20, 2020). Felder's prior productions at TheatreWorks (Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin; Hershey Felder, Beethoven; Our Great Tchaikovsky; Hershey Felder: A Paris Love Story) have shattered box office records for the Silicon Valley theatre company. Now, Felder returns as brilliant Polish composer Fryderyk Chopin, illuminating an exclusive piano lesson with this musical master. In this stunning solo show, the "Poet of the Piano" tells his romantic story while sharing virtuoso performances of his exquisite compositions of unparalleled beauty. Hershey Felder as Monsieur Chopin has delighted audiences across the country in critically-acclaimed sold-out runs. The Mercury News lauded Felder's performance as "Enchanting... Genius seemed an apt description." Chicago Sun-Times called the show "emotionally charged and glorious," while The San Diego Union-Tribune deemed it "inviting and absorbing...full of vibrant life."

In the fall, TheatreWorks will present the Regional Premiere of the thought-provoking comedy Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (October 7 - November 1, 2020), written by Todd Kreidler and based on the screenplay Guess Who's Coming to Dinner by William Rose. Incoming Artistic Director Tim Bond makes his TheatreWorks debut directing this adaptation of the Academy Award-winning film of the same name. A liberal white San Franciscan family's world is turned upside down when their daughter Joanna announces her engagement to John, an African American doctor. Though set in the 1960s, this funny and poignant play confronts the prejudices that still run rampant today. It has received hit productions at leading regional theatres across the country, including the Guthrie Theater production, also directed by Bond, called "a beautifully captures so much of what continues to roil the American soul" by The Star Tribune.

For the holidays, TheatreWorks presents the Regional Premiere of the musical Sense and Sensibility (December 2 - 27, 2020). Based on Jane Austen's beloved novel, this sensational work features book, music, and lyrics by Paul Gordon, whose musicals include last season's World Premiere Pride and Prejudice, which shattered TheatreWorks box office records, as well as TheatreWorks favorites Jane Austen's EMMA and Daddy Long Legs, and the Tony-nominated Broadway musical Jane Eyre. Sense and Sensibility follows sisters Elinor and Marianne Dashwood through their change in fortune after their father's untimely death and concurrent romantic trials. While Elinor is prudent in matters of love, Marianne is impulsive and falls for the dashing but untrustworthy Mr. Willoughby. The charming new musical's World Premiere at Chicago Shakespeare Theater was called "nothing less than sublime" by Chicago Daily Herald and "a beguiling show that bursts with wit and heart" by Chicago Sun-Times. TheatreWorks Founding Artistic Director Robert Kelley returns to helm Sense and Sensibility.

TheatreWorks launches the new year with the Regional Premiere of the Broadway hit The Lifespan of a Fact (January 13 - February 7, 2021), written by Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell, and Gordon Farrell. Based on the book of the same name written by John D'Agata and Jim Fingal, this hilarious comedy based on a "true-ish" story will be directed by Artistic Director Tim Bond. War is waged between fact and fiction when an eager journalism intern is assigned to fact-check a respected author's groundbreaking essay for a top magazine, and the piece's "truths" don't all align. In the current era of "alternative facts" and "fake news," this hilarious and timely comedy calls into question the importance of ethics versus artistic liberty. The Broadway Premiere of The Lifespan of a Fact starring Daniel Radcliffe, Bobby Cannavale, and Cherry Jones was highlighted as a New York Times Critic's Pick, which called it "a terrifically engaging topical comedy." The Hollywood Reporter proclaimed, "The laughs are explosive. Ingenious, entertaining, and truly scintillating."

Spring brings the World Premiere of Jessica Dickey's Nan and the Lower Body (March 10 - April 4, 2021), an audience favorite developed at TheatreWorks's 2019 New Works Festival. When Pap smear inventor Dr. George Papanicolaou takes on a brilliant new assistant, Nan Day, he senses that she is hiding a secret. As Dr. Pap discovers the truth, he learns that he may hold the key to solving her greatest mystery. Directed by TheatreWorks Director of New Works and Artistic Associate Giovanna Sardelli, this frank and funny play explores the mysteries of the heart and provides a personal perspective to the revolutionary technology which has saved the lives of millions but caused moral dilemmas along the way.

TheatreWorks will then present Man of La Mancha (April 7 - May 2, 2021), the Tony Award-winning hit musical inspired by the classic Miguel de Cervantes novel Don Quixote and adapted from Dale Wasserman's teleplay "I, Don Quixote." Imprisoned for heresy, Cervantes must defend his work to prevent it from being destroyed. He shares the adventures of Don Quixote, a delusional dreamer who believes he is a knight and embarks on an impossible quest, engendering hope in Cervantes's fellow detainees. Last seen at TheatreWorks in 1981, this stirring musical classic celebrates courage in the face of despair. With a book written by Dale Wasserman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest), music by Mitch Leigh, and lyrics by Joe Darion, Man of La Mancha's original 1965 Broadway production received five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. World-Telegram & Sun said, "To reach the unreachable star-what a soaring aspiration for an indestructible dreamer, and what a glorious summation for a bold and beautiful new musical," and New York Post deemed it "A triumph of creative imagination and stagecraft." Performed in hit productions across the globe for more than 50 years, a recent production was called "truly a musical for our times" by Hartford Courant.

The final selection of the season offers Having Our Say, The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years (June 2 - 27, 2021). Adapted by Obie Award winner Emily Mann from the best-selling memoir by Sarah L. Delany and A. Elizabeth Delany written with Amy Hill Hearth, this heartwarming play features two centenarian sisters sharing the lessons they've learned over their exceptional century on earth. Bearing witness to formative events from the Jim Crow Era to the 1990s, these trailblazing sisters provide a vibrant and personal perspective to American history. Its acclaimed Broadway run received three Tony Award nominations including Best Play, and was called "provocative and entertaining" by The New York Times.

Five productions will be mounted at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts and three will be staged at Palo Alto's Lucie Stern Theatre. In chronological order, the TheatreWorks Silicon Valley 2020/21 season is as follows:

For the Sake of the Hive


By Madhuri Shekar

Directed by Jeffrey Lo
July 8 - August 2, 2020 (opening night: July 11)


What if all the bees abandoned their Queen? In this high-stakes environmental drama, best friends Sanam and Ariel, PhD candidates from India and the U.S., research the collapse of bee colonies worldwide, dreaming they might break the glass ceiling of academia. When a flaw emerges in their research, their friendship, careers, and even an arranged marriage are at risk. With ecological disaster on the horizon, should they withdraw their findings or compromise them to protect the planet?

Madhuri Shekar's plays include House of Joy; Bucket of Blessings; Antigone, presented by the girls of St. Catherine's; Queen; In Love and Warcraft; A Nice Indian Boy; and Dhaba on Devon Avenue. She has been commissioned by the Kennedy Center, South Coast Repertory, and Victory Gardens Theater, and her work has also been produced at The Old Globe, Center Theatre Group, Alliance Theater, the Hedgebrook Playwrights Festival (in conjunction with Seattle Repertory Theatre), Oregon Shakespeare Festival, California Shakespeare Theater, and EnActe Arts. Her honors include the Suzi Bass Award for Outstanding Original Work - Theatre for Young Audiences for Bucket of Blessings and she won the Kendeda Graduate Playwriting contest held by the Alliance Theatre for In Love and Warcraft. She is a 2018 alumna of the Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program at Juilliard. Shekar is a member of New Dramatists, an alumna of the Ma-Yi writers lab, the Ars Nova Play Group, and the Center Theatre Group Writers Workshop. Her audio play Evil Eye debuted on the Audible best-seller list in May 2019 and was named one of the "Best Audiobooks of 2019" by Audible. Shekar is also a co-creator of the Shakespearean web series, "Titus and Dronicus," and a staff writer for the upcoming HBO show "The Nevers," created by Joss Whedon.

A Master at Work

Hershey Felder as Monsieur Chopin

By Hershey Felder
Directed by Joel Zwick

August 26 - September 20, 2020 (opening night: August 29)


In a stunning, tour de force performance, virtuoso actor/pianist Hershey Felder creates Fryderyk Chopin, the "Poet of the Piano," welcoming gifted students to his Paris salon on the 4th of March, 1848. The students? The audience. Maestro Chopin hosts an intimate evening of enthralling music, sharing secrets of his little-known romances, exuberant personality, and intense vision of the art of the piano. The spirit and insight of a genius are brought to life onstage in this moving and entertaining production.

An actor, pianist, writer, director, composer, conductor, and producer, Hershey Felder has created lauded shows about Claude Debussy, George Gershwin, Fryderyk Chopin, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Liszt, Leonard Bernstein, Irving Berlin, and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Felder's solo shows have been seen across America at The Geffen Playhouse, Pasadena Playhouse, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Hartford Stage, San Diego Repertory Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, Old Globe Theatre, American Repertory Theater, and Cleveland Playhouse, and have received long runs at Chicago's Royal George Theatre and engagements at New York's Town Hall, 59E59, and the Streicker Center. Felder has become an enormous Bay Area favorite and has set all-time TheatreWorks box office records with his hit productions at the company, including the 2019 World Premiere of Hershey Felder: A Paris Love Story as well as Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin; Hershey Felder, Beethoven; and Our Great Tchaikovsky. Hershey Felder as Monsieur Chopin marks Felder's fifth appearance with TheatreWorks.

A Thought-Provoking Comedy

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

By Todd Kreidler

Based on the screenplay Guess Who's Coming to Dinner by William Rose

Directed by Tim Bond

Regional Premiere

October 7 - November 1, 2020 (opening night: October 10)


This funny and poignant adaptation of the Academy Award-winning film resonates eloquently today-its wit and wisdom capturing the defining conflicts of America's soul. In 1960s San Francisco, a liberal family learns that its boomer daughter is engaged to an African American doctor of international acclaim. In the TheatreWorks directing debut of new Artistic Director Tim Bond, the parents of both lovers confront America's lingering prejudices with heart and humor, wondering who will share the dinner table of tomorrow.

Todd Kreidler worked with August Wilson to develop Wilson's famed American Century Cycle. Together, they conceived Wilson's acclaimed solo show How I Learned What I Learned, which Wilson originally starred in and Kreidler directed. On Broadway, Kreidler was also the dramaturg for Wilson's Gem of the Ocean and Radio Golf, as well as the associate director of Fences starring Denzel Washington. Kreidler collaborated with Kenny Leon, Eric Gold, and Afeni Shakur to create the book of Broadway's Holler If Ya Hear Me, featuring the lyrics of Tupac Shakur. He also collaborated with Leon as the Associate Artistic Director of The Kennedy Center's 20th Century Festival, where Kreidler directed Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone. His adaptation of the Academy Award-winning film Guess Who's Coming To Dinner into a stage play has been seen at regional theatres including Arena Stage, Huntington Theatre Company, Guthrie Theater, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. He is currently working with Mötley Crüe songwriter Nikki Sixx on a musical based on Sixx's music and autobiography The Heroin Diaries.

A Musical Romance for the Holidays

Sense and Sensibility

Book, Music, and Lyrics by Paul Gordon

Based on the novel by Jane Austen
Directed by Robert Kelley

Regional Premiere

December 2 - 27, 2020 (opening night: December 5)


Echoing his triumphant hits Pride and Prejudice and Emma, Tony Award nominee Paul Gordon brightens the season with a glorious musical of Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen's beloved romantic classic. With fortune lost to fate and passion lost to folly, two captivating sisters must sail the unpredictable seas of courtship and convention. Overflowing with intrigue and humor, this enchanting adaptation sparkles with unforgettable songs, stunning sets, and gorgeous costumes - a festive gift for the holidays.

Paul Gordon (Book, Music & Lyrics) received a Tony Award nomination in 2000 for composing the music and lyrics for the acclaimed Broadway musical Jane Eyre, seen at TheatreWorks in 2003. Gordon penned the music, lyrics, and book for last season's World Premiere Musical Pride and Prejudice (TheatreWorks 2019) and the sensational TheatreWorks hit, Jane Austen's EMMA (TheatreWorks 2007 & 2015), and the music and lyrics to the TheatreWorks holiday favorite Daddy Long Legs (2010 & 2016). His other credits include writing music and lyrics for Greetings From Venice Beach and The Magnificent Ambersons. Gordon has written for and collaborated with numerous recording artists, including Bette Midler, Quincy Jones, Alanis Morissette, Smokey Robinson, and Dionne Warwick, has several hit songs to his credit, and is the recipient of nine ASCAP awards for songwriting.

A "Truthy" Comedy

The Lifespan of a fact

By Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell, and Gordon Farrell

Based on the book by John D'Agata and Jim Fingal

Directed by Tim Bond

Regional Premiere

January 13 - February 7, 2021 (opening night: January 16)


This hilarious Broadway hit takes on the high-stakes world of publishing when a determined millennial fact-checker questions the integrity of one of the country's premier magazines. His assignment: check the veracity of a groundbreaking article by a legendary author. What will prevail: picayune truth, laid back "truthiness," or unabashed creative license? An ultimate showdown between false news and fact is launched-with indisputably delicious results.

Contains mature language.

Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell, and Gordon Farrell wrote The Lifespan of a Fact, which won the 2019 John Gassner Award for New Plays from the Outer Critics Circle. Kareken's short plays Hot Rod, Big Train, and 80 Cards have been performed around the country and internationally. His awards include the Sewanee Conference's Dakin Fellowship for Farblondjet, and Guthrie/Playwrights Center's Two-Headed Challenge for The Sweet Sweet Motherhood. In 2018, PlayPenn shortlisted Kareken's play The Red Wool. The Hamptons Film Festival Screenwriters Conference selected Kareken and Murrell's play THESE! Conquered the Earth! A lifetime member of The Actors Studio, Kareken occasionally acts and is the researcher for Bravo TV's "Inside The Actors Studio." Murrell's play Ductwork was seen Off-Broadway and his other plays include E.T.D., and [Untitled Organic Winery Project]. Murrell's screenplays include Breed Ambassador, Chomper, The Cold Spot, Girl Gets Razor, Mission: Uncomfortable, A Radio Picture, and Walking Kane. Murrell's teleplays include "Dayton Ladies," "Down River," and "Space Station Malibu." Farrell's plays include With More Than Voices, In the Red Room/Every Woman Dances for Someone, Navigators, Alice Again, Tin Star Over Tombstone, and Voice of America. Farrell has worked as a screenwriter at Universal Pictures, Warner Brothers, and MGM, and has taught in NYU's Dramatic Writing Department for over 25 years, with students including Annie Baker and Lucas Hnath. Farrell's book The Power of the Playwright's Vision is now a standard playwrighting text in the U.S., England, and Canada.

Uncharted Territory

Nan and the Lower Body

By Jessica Dickey

Directed by Giovanna Sardelli

World Premiere

March 10 - April 4, 2021 (opening night: March 13)


A pioneering doctor wants a full-time successor. A loving husband wants a full-time family. And Nan wants it all. She is the brilliant lab assistant of good-humored Dr. Papanicolaou, the life-saving inventor of the Pap smear. In this frank, funny, and engaging audience favorite from TheatreWorks's 2019 New Works Festival, Nan has mysteries to unravel and life-changing choices to make. But who can unwind the mysteries of the heart?

Jessica Dickey's (Playwright) most recent plays are The Convent (premiered Off-Broadway with Rattlestick and Rising Phoenix) and The Rembrandt (sold-out run at Steppenwolf starring John Mahoney). Other plays Off-Broadway in New York and around the country: The Amish Project, Charles Ives Take Me Home, and Row After Row.

A Soaring Musical Reborn

Man of La Mancha

Written by Dale Wasserman

Music by Mitch Leigh

Lyrics by Joe Darion

April 7 - May 2, 2021 (opening night: April 10)


Audiences are invited to dream the impossible dream. More timely than ever, this inspiring musical masterpiece offers hope to uncertain times. Thrust into a forgotten prison camp, writer Miguel de Cervantes draws its desperate detainees into his tale of an addled dreamer, Don Quixote, his wry sidekick Sancho, and the fiery survivor Aldonza. Will honor overcome oppression, idealism outduel reality? Featuring a wealth of memorable songs, this stirring, groundbreaking hit celebrates courage in the face of despair.

Dale Wasserman wrote the book for Man of La Mancha and Livin' the Life, as well as adapting Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest into a play seen on Broadway and around the country. Writing for theatre, television, and film for more than 50 years, Wasserman created more than 30 television dramas, including Elisha and the Long Knives, which was seen in the Emmy Award-winning anthology Matinee Theatre. Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion composed the score for Man of La Mancha, winning the Tony Award for Best Original Score. Leigh also wrote music for Broadway shows Home Sweet Homer starring Yul Brynner, Cry for Us All, Saravá, Chu Chem, and Ain't Broadway Grand. Leigh directed the 1985 revival of The King and I, for which he was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical. Darion also wrote the lyrics for Broadway's Ilya Darling, as well as the book and lyrics for Shinbone Alley, and he wrote the lyrics for pop songs "Changing Partners," "Ricochet," and "Midnight Rain." He created with Ezra Laderman oratorio operas Galileo and And David Wept, cantatas A Handful of Souls and The Questions of Abraham, and mass A Mass for Cain.

An American Century of Hope

Having Our Say

The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years

By Emily Mann
Adapted from the book by Sarah L. Delany and A. Elizabeth Delany with Amy Hill Hearth

June 2 - 27, 2021 (opening night: June 5)


Meet sisters Sadie and Bessie, vibrant, strong, full of joy and wisdom - and each 100 years young. From the world of Jim Crow to the Harlem Renaissance and beyond, these delightful, inspiring trailblazers triumph over a sea of obstacles, navigating world wars, civil rights, and women's liberation to achieve exceptional lives. A welcoming feast of love and laughter, their 'say' is an irresistible celebration of our potential. As Sadie says, "Life is short, it's up to you to make it sweet!"

Emily Mann is an award-winning director, playwright, and screenwriter. Completing her final season as Artistic Director of McCarter Theatre Center in 2020, she has led the Tony-winning New Jersey-based theater company for 30 years, overseeing more than 160 productions including more than 40 World Premieres. Mann's Broadway credits include writing and directing Having Our Say, writing Execution of Justice, directing A Streetcar Named Desire and Anna in the Tropics, and directing Christopher Durang's Miss Witherspoon Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons. Her plays include Having Our Say; Execution of Justice; Still Life; All Over; Greensboro (A Requiem); Mrs. Packard; Annulla, An Autobiography; A Seagull in the Hamptons; Gloria: A Life; and The Pianist. Mann won Obie Awards for Still Life and All Over, received Tony Award nominations for directing and writing Having Our Say, and was nominated for Drama Desk Awards for directing Having Our Say and writing Execution of Justice. The screenplay for the television adaptation of Having Our Say received Peabody and Christopher Awards. Other awards and honors include HBO New Plays USA Award, Helen Hayes Award, Bay Area Critics Circle Award, Dramatists Guild Hull-Warriner Award, and an honorary doctorate from Princeton University.

In June 2019, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley received the Regional Theatre Tony Award, the highest honor bestowed on an American theatre not on Broadway. In June 2020, at the conclusion of the 2019-20 Season, Founding Artistic Director Robert Kelley will retire. The 2020-21 Season will be the first under his successor, Tim Bond. Since its founding in 1970, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley has become one of the nation's leaders in cultivating and producing new musicals and plays, developing and premiering 70 works by new and veteran artists and 173 Regional Premieres. The company's New Works Festival and Writers' Retreat programs attract authors and composers of national stature (Rajiv Joseph, Stephen Schwartz, Beth Henley, Paul Gordon, Marsha Norman, Henry Krieger, Duncan Sheik, Jules Feiffer, Joe DiPietro, and Andrew Lippa, among many others), providing an artistic home in which America's theatre artists can create new works. In addition, the company has developed scores of works which have gone on to both regional and Off-Broadway productions. It was at TheatreWorks that the 2010 Best Musical Tony Award-winner Memphis was first workshopped and received its World Premiere. Stephen Schwartz's The Prince of Egypt based on the DreamWorks movie of the same name also made its World Premiere at TheatreWorks and will debut in London's West End later this month.

With over 100,000 patrons per year, Tony Award-winning TheatreWorks Silicon Valley has captured a national reputation for artistic innovation and integrity, often presenting Bay Area theatregoers with their first look at acclaimed musicals, comedies, and dramas, directed by award-winning local and guest directors, and performed by professional actors cast locally and from across the country.

For more information or to purchase subscriptions ($115 - $591), the public can call 650-463-1960 or visit Subscriptions are on sale now; single tickets will be on sale in late spring 2020. Special pricing is available for seniors (65+), educators, and patrons 35 and under.

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