Our theatre season runs from early fall to late spring and consists of four major works. Be sure to double-check performance dates, as they may change.
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No, we didnít plan that neat geographical distribution of our coming season that you see below. We donít select the plays for a season according to a theme or a concept. Hereís how we usually do it:
At an annual meeting each summer our members each suggest a couple of plays they would like us to do in the following season. Not the immediate coming season; we picked that season the year before. We add to that list plays that have been suggested for the last couple of seasons that we havenít yet done. Then our board of directors read the plays on the list and make choices.
Shakespeare is our favorite playwright, and we usually, but not always, begin by choosing which Shakespeare we will do. This season itís Richard III, one we have never done before.
The next choices are negative choices. We take plays off the list. Yes, this one is a good play but there are no female roles in it, and half of us are women. That one is a good play but it requires four box sets, which we could build, but cannot store in the theatre we will perform in. That one is just a lousy play: who the hell suggested it?
So, finally, we select a season by winnowing. We are now beginning the process of selecting plays for our 39õ season: 2018-19. And we are now, at this moment, faced with the yearly task of explaining why the four plays we selected a year ago are just the plays we know you would like to see in this coming season. A couple of years ago we picked four plays for our last season, and a year ago we wrote to explain those choices. We pointed out that the value of classical theatre is the fact that in spite of the funny clothes and the funny speech of the characters in an old play, the issues they dealt with cast a strong light on the issues we face today.
We noted that the three 20õ century American plays we had picked dealt with issues we thought might still be of interest in 2017: diversity and inclusivity. We were more right than we thought we would be. The Shakespearean play we had picked, King Lear, had nothing at all really to do with those themes. It was about a mad king. Well . . .
So: Is there a theme, a notion, a style, perhaps, that is somehow common to the four plays we picked a year and a half ago? No. Richard III is a historical tragedy; it may remind you of Game of Thrones. The other three are comedies: but that is hardly a unifying theme.
Richard III begins with a speech in which Richard tell us who he is, and what he has done, and what he plans to do. He is reviled and finally destroyed for what he does. Playboy begins with Christy Mahon telling us what he has done (he says he killed his father) and he is admired for it. But in fact he has not done what he said he did. (He tries to do it again and fails again.) Dear Brutus is about people who are given a chance to magically undo or redo the things they have really done, and the lives they have lived, and it turns out it makes no difference at all. Under Milk Wood is about 24 hours in the lives of a bunch of villagers who end up being exactly who they were 24 hours ago.
But what about style and tone? Well Richard III will look and sound like what you would expect in a Shakespearean history play: Spectacle and sword fighting and gorgeous language. Milk Wood could not be more different. It is a quiet and lovely play. It may bring tears to your eyes: not because it is sad, but because it is beautiful. Playboy comes close to farce. It is about as funny as a play can be. And finally, Dear Brutus, an intellectual comedy, is a study in ďwhat if.Ē What would your life be like if you had made a different choice at some crucial time. What if you had married her instead of her? (or him instead of him?)
So, although we cannot join these four plays in a thematic or stylistic unit, we can note an interesting geographical fact. They come from the four nations that made up The United Kingdom: England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. (Ireland was part of The United Kingdom when Playboy was written.) And the playwrights whose works we have selected were pretty much the best playwrights those nations produced.
Thatís easy with Shakespeare. He is, after all, regarded as the greatest playwright ever. Richard III is the culminating play in the great cycle of history plays that began with Richard II and included Henry V: both of which we have done recently and, if you saw them, will tell you that we know how to do the history plays.
Itís easy with the Scottish and Welsh plays. James Barrie, the author of Dear Brutus, is pretty much the only Scottish playwright to achieve any fame at all. You will know him best as the author of Peter Pan, but two of his plays, Dear Brutus and The Admirable Crichton are among the great theatrical works of the early twentieth century.
Under Milk Wood is a special case. Itís Dylan Thomasís only play and it is actually a radio play, but we have adapted it for the stage. No, we have not changed a single word in the play.