By Mark G. Auerbach
The 2020-21 season begins
It won’t be anything like the arts seasons of pre-Pandemic times. No “theatre evenings” preceded by dinner. No opening nights followed by receptions and parties. Performing arts groups around the country are re-imagining how and where they’ll present their offerings. Theatre companies are trying to take the pain of lessons learned (and some not realized) from this tumultuous year, and build seasons that foster awareness, provide healing, and entertainment, while keeping their actors, backstage folks, designers, house staff and audiences safe. So, in many cases, the route is unproven, so join the journey knowing that it may be different than what you’ve imagined.
Roe vs. Wade in the theatrical spotlight
WAM Theatre presents their first Fall production, the area premiere of Lisa Loomer’s well-received ROE, the story of the landmark US Supreme Court case, Roe vs. Wade which will be streamed Oct. 17-20. Kristen van Ginhoven, WAM’s co-founder and Producing Artistic Director, is specifically staging the large-cast production for streaming.
The cast is led by acclaimed actress and Berkshire resident Tara Franklin [Chester Theatre Company’s On The Exhale] as Norma McCorvey, the woman who became “Jane Roe” in the 1973 supreme court case, which still makes headlines every election cycle. Tracy Liz Miller [Saratoga Shakespeare Company’s The Tempest], who has previously worked with WAM as a Fresh Takes reading director, co-stars as lawyer Sarah Weddington. Susanna Guzmán [TV’s The Outsider and New Amsterdam] appears as Connie Gonzales, Norma’s longtime partner, Ryan Winkles [Shakespeare & Company’s Creditors] leads the large-cast ensemble.
For details: www.wamtheatre.org
TheaterWorks musicalizes the 1968 sanitation workers strike of 1968
TheaterWorks opens its new season, a hybrid of live and streamed performances of plays old and new, with the new in-development musical, At The River I Stand, which, inspired by an infamous labor dispute, follows an eclectic group of Negro musicians who travel to Memphis to perform a benefit concert to support local workers in the throes of a racially-charged strike. This streamed production becomes available to TheaterWorks members on Sept. 27. Taneisha Duggan, TheaterWorks’ Producing Associate, directs the new work, which features a book by Alani Ilongwe and music and lyrics by Rowan Casey. Sight unseen, I’m excited about this pr4oduction, since TheaterWorks has a great track record with intimate musicals on serious themes, and because I’ve had the opportunity to chat on-air several times with Ms. Duggan, who is committed to bringing new voices to Hartford audiences. For details: www.twhartfordorg.
‘Moving People, Moving Mountains’: The Big Mahaiwe 15th anniversary party
The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, Great Barrington’s cultural gem, celebrates its 15th anniversary with a streamed party on Oct.11. Moving People, Moving Mountains will be streamed free, so you don’t have to move out of your house, find a designated driver, or worry about social-distancing. The performer guest list includes: Broadway legend Brian Stokes Mitchell, The Paul Taylor Dance Company, Emanuel Ax, Roseann Cash, Michael Feinstein, Pink Martini’s China Forbes, John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey, Jason Daniely, The Fab Faux and more. The event honors Mahaiwe founder Lola Jaffe. Moving People, Moving Mountains replaces the theatre’s annual gala, so donations are encouraged. Most of the artists are semi-regulars at The Mahaiwe. The production is staged by Jeremy Handelman of Off The Leash Productions. For details: www.mahaiwe.org.
Robert Kennedy Campaigns at Playhouse on Park
Kennedy: Bobby’s Last Crusade, David Arrow’s portrait of Bobby Kennedy’s short, electrifying 1968 campaign for U.S. President, opens the Playhouse on Park season, with streaming available Sept. 16 through Oct. 4. The play, filmed at New York’s Theatre at St. Clements, where it had its world premiere, will be screened at Dunkin Donuts Park in Hartford on September 22, followed by a talk-back with David Arrow, who plays Bobby Kennedy in this one-man show. Eric Nightengale directs. For details: www.playhouseonpark.org.
Goodspeed Musicals has announced its 2021 season, featuring two musicals previously planned for 2020. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific, staged by TheaterWorks’ Artistic Director Rob Ruggiero, will play the East Haddam, CT venue from June 11 through Aug. 22. The world premiere of Anne of Green Gables runs Sept.10 through Nov. 14. Audiences will have the choice of attending a live performance or watch a streamed performance from home. Meanwhile, the launch of Goodspeed’s new Worklight Series at The Terris Theatre in 2021 has been postponed until 2022. For details: www.goodspeed.org.
Keep in Mind…
ArtsBeat TV/Radio chats with Hartford Stage’s Cynthia Rider and New England Public Media’s CEO Martin Miller, celebrating his 25th year in public radio and TV in Western New England. Tune in or stream Friday at 8AM on WCPC15, 89.5fm/WSKB, westfieldtv.org, wskb.org, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0iVC3o9nLY
Berkshire Theatre Group premiered a music series last summer, on the grounds of the Unicorn Theatre on their Stockbridge campus. The music continues into the Fall, and there are a good variety of music genres on Bobbie’s Fall Series. Samirah Evans and Franz W. Robert take center stage for some Sunday jazz on Sept. 20. Evans is known for her New Orleans sound, and she’s in demand nationally, since she made her 1990 debut at their New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. She relocated to Brattleboro, VT, after Hurricane Katrina. On Sept.26, Hannah Lynn Cohen and Jeremiah Blacklow present The Evolution of the Violin Duo. The Benny Kohn Trio perform jazz on Sept.27. Advance tickets required, and people can purchase food provided by KJ Nosh. For details:www.berkshiretheatregroup.org.
Thank you to outgoing Berkshire Theatre Group press rep Katie Watts, who has relocated to the West Coast and to Paul Marte, my Broadway “go to” guy at The Bushnell, who was furloughed while the theatre is dark. Both made my arts reporting work a joy.
Mark G. Auerbach studied theatre at American University and the Yale School of Drama. He’s worked for arts organizations and reported on theatre for newspapers and radio. Mark produces and hosts ArtsBeat TV/Radio for WCPC15 and 89.5fm/WSKB, and is a contributor to Pioneer Valley Radio.