Monday, March 19, 2012

The Tony Award-winning musical “Cabaret” plus premieres of two specially commissioned works are some of the highlights of the 2012-2013 Season for PlayMakers Repertory Company, the professional theater company in residence at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The season will also feature Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun” playing in rotating repertory with 2011 Pulitzer Prize-winner “Clybourne Park.”

On its Mainstage, PlayMakers will premiere “Imaginary Invalid,” a newly-commissioned adaptation of the classic comedy by Molière. The Mainstage Season opens with the 2010 Tony Award-winner for best play, “Red” by John Logan.

PlayMakers will also present three thought-provoking shows in its second stage season, the PRC2 series. The series will include Obie Award-winner “And God Created Great Whales,” conceived and performed by Grammy Award-winner and Pulitzer Prize finalist Rinde Eckert, and a commissioned piece inspired by Igor Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” to be written and performed by innovative hip-hop theater troupe Universes.

A third play is yet to be announced. Each PRC 2 performance includes engaging post-show dialogue between the artists and the audience. These conversations have become the hallmark of the series.

“Our new season features plays that touch all the senses and explore the emotional landscape of the human experience,” said PlayMakers producing artistic director Joseph Haj. “There are stories of artistic and racial struggles, heartwarming family drama, scathing social commentary, and dancing while the world burns. It’s an exciting lineup of plays, which we’re thrilled to bring to life for Triangle audiences.”

All performances will be presented in UNC’s Center for Dramatic Art on Country Club Road. Mainstage productions will be in the Paul Green Theatre; PRC2 shows, in the Elizabeth Price Kenan Theatre.

Season ticket packages for 2012-2013 are available for purchase. To secure the theater’s lowest season ticket prices, new and renewing purchasers can take advantage of PlayMakers’ Early Bird Discount rates through May 4. Call (919) 962-PLAY (7529) or visit http://www.playmakersrep.org for information.

Dates and descriptions of the 2012-2013 Mainstage plays:

“Red” by John Logan: Sept. 19 to Oct. 7

As PlayMaker’s 2009 hit “Opus” took audiences behind the music of a world famous string quartet, “Red” goes into the studio of Mark Rothko, pioneer of abstract expressionism, and into the mind of an artist wrestling with the eternal struggle between art and commerce. Seen through the eyes of his young, increasingly challenging assistant, Rothko agonizes over a lucrative project painting murals for the new Four Seasons Restaurant. The Tony Award-winning play asks, has the artist sold out to fame and fortune or is he still pursuing genuine artistry?

Variety said “Logan sends…Rothko into battle with his demons in this electrifying play of ideas, and the artist’s howls are pure music.” The Washington Post review said the play has a “spiritual intensity and an almost sexual energy…the artist consumed by the physical demands of his work.”

“Imaginary Invalid” by Molière, adapted by David Ball: Oct. 24 to Nov. 11

In this commissioned adaptation of a timeless classic, a rich hypochondriac surrounds himself with a host of veritable quacks eager to take his money by promising cures to an array of suspect illnesses. This “Invalid” is smart, in your face, and wickedly funny, taking the audience from a Parisian drawing room to Purgatory for an epic battle between the forces of good and evil.

“The passing of years has only heightened the absurd accuracy of this dead-on take on health care as a system where no one is blameless – neither the doctors nor their patients,” Haj said.

Visionary director Dominique Serrand, artistic director/co-founder of Tony Award-winning Theatre de la Jeune Lune, helms this irreverent PlayMakers commission. His longtime collaborator, Steven Epp, will be featured as the “Invalid.” Their celebrated production of “The Miser” seared stages from Berkeley Repertory Theatre to Boston’s American Repertory Theatre.

“It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” by Joe Landry: Nov. 28 to Dec. 16

The beloved holiday film comes to life right before the audience’s eyes, first as 1940s radio players perform a Christmas Eve broadcast with music and sound effects, and then, as the characters themselves, they step into the iconic scenes that have warmed hearts for generations. A story of redemption that resonates with all ages, “It’s a Wonderful Life” has become the American “Christmas Carol,” with George Bailey, Clarence the Angel, little Zuzu and all the citizens of Bedford Falls.

“Embodying the true spirit of the season, ‘Wonderful Life’ will be must-see holiday entertainment, a special gift for the entire family,” Haj said.

The Boston Globe called it “magic…a ‘wonderful’ night at the theater.”  

“A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry and “Clybourne Park” by Bruce Norris: Performed in rotating repertory Jan. 26 to March 3, 2013

Debuting in 1959 and nominated for multiple Tony Awards, “A Raisin in the Sun” was the first play written by a black woman to be produced on Broadway. The New York Times proclaimed that it “changed American theater forever.”

In the groundbreaking drama proceeds from a life insurance policy give the Younger family hope for a better life. Can their “dreams deferred” be realized by moving into a home in an all-white neighborhood when they are confronted with conflicting desires within the family and racial prejudice outside their door?

Written 50 years later, “Clybourne Park” takes up where “Raisin” leaves off: in 1959 with a white couple selling their home to the Youngers and causing uproar among their middle-class neighbors. The second act fast forwards 50 years with neighborhood demographics radically shifted and the first family of gentrifying whites about to move into what is now a predominantly black community. Times have changed, but what about the no-holds-barred conversation about race and the politics of community?

New York Times critic Ben Brantley called “Clybourne Park” “the year’s slyest and bravest political comedy.” The San Francisco Chronicle said it “articulates brilliantly, wittily and painfully our inability to talk about race.”

“Cabaret” book by Joe Masteroff, music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb: April 3-21, 2013       

Enter the tantalizing world of The Kit Kat Klub in 1930s Berlin, where beguiling, self-destructive chanteuse Sally Bowles lives life with no thought for tomorrow. One of the defining musicals of all time, “Cabaret” intertwines social history with dazzling entertainment. The decadence of a Weimar nightclub becomes a shattered mirror reflecting a society spiraling toward disaster with the rise of Hitler’s Nazis.

[“Cabaret” is] “a daring and great musical that combines unforgettable songs with genuinely gripping and disturbing drama” said The Daily Telegraph of London.

PlayMakers’ Joseph Haj will direct the musical, which will feature Obie Award-winning Taylor Mac as the lasciviously charming Emcee. Mac appeared in the PRC2 series in 2009 with his solo show “The Young Ladies Of…”

Dates and descriptions of the plays in the PRC2 second stage series:   

“And God Created Great Whales” created, written and composed by Rinde Eckert: Jan. 9-13, 2013

This frenzied, funny and moving play is a haunting musical adventure into the psyche of a composer trying to create an opera based on the classic novel “Moby Dick.” Desperately fighting a degenerative disease eating away at his mind, each day the artist must rely on a tape recorder hung around his neck and a muse born of his imagination to instruct him on his work.

“Every element of Eckert’s play is masterly – his performance…poignant, his music varied and lovely, his dancing divine, his musings profound,” raved The New Yorker. “Dazzling” said The Los Angeles Times.

The New York Times has called Eckert “an American loner – eccentric with touches of Bertolt Brecht, Samuel Beckett and Tom Waits.”

Untitled “Rite of Spring” Project written and performed by Universes: April 24-28, 2013

Acclaimed international musical/spoken word ensemble Universes returns to PRC2 using Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” as a springboard to investigate rites of passage. They’ll bring their unique talents to an exploration of the groundbreaking composition and create a daring 21st century soundtrack on ritual and revolution, breaking cultural barriers anew. The performance is a world premiere commission by PlayMakers and Carolina Performing Arts as part of the “Rite of Spring” project celebrating the classic ballet’s 2013 centennial.

The Los Angeles Times wrote of the New York-based Universes, “These performers are fierce, funny and bitingly intelligent.” The Boston Globe called Universes “a headlong explosion of poetry, percussion, and multi-culti musical exploration that absolutely demands to be seen.”

PlayMakers is finalizing plans to present another play in the PRC 2 series, to be staged Sept. 5-9, 2012. The title and additional information will be released and posted on www.playmakersrep.org when available.

Based in the College of Arts and Sciences, PlayMakers is the Carolinas’ premiere resident professional theater company. New York’s Drama League has named PlayMakers one of the “best regional theatres in America.”

PlayMakers contact: For more information on PlayMakers’ 2012-2013 season and for a picture of Joseph Haj, contact Connie Mahan, (919) 962-5359, cmahan@email.unc.edu