Tony Award-winning musical ‘Into the Woods’ is paired with theater’s first ‘fairy tale’ ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

PlayMakers Repertory Company takes audiences into the darker reaches of the forest with two tales of magic and transformation in the theater’s annual rotating repertory event. The professional theater in residence at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill performs “Into the Woods” by Tony Award-winner Stephen Sondheim and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by William Shakespeare Nov. 1 to Dec. 7.

Special events associated with the productions begin Oct. 13.

“Into the Woods” is a multiple Tony Award-winning musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine. The show was originally directed on Broadway by James Lapine with orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick.

Beginning with a childless couple, a witch and a curse, “Into the Woods” reveals the shadow side of classic fairytales by the Brothers Grimm in a funny and poignant exploration of the wishes we make, and what happens when they really do come true.

“At once magical and scary… [‘Into the Woods’ leaves you] restored, amazed and gasping for air,” said the Los Angeles Times.

Producing Artistic Director Joseph Haj directs “Into the Woods.” He has directed some of PlayMakers’ most popular entertainments including musicals “Cabaret” and “Big River.” Mark Hartman is music director. His Broadway credits include “Sondheim on Sondheim,” “Avenue Q,” “Miss Saigon” and “1776.” He served as music director for PlayMakers’ productions of “Cabaret” and “Assassins.”

Lisa Brescia will be featured as The Witch. She has appeared on Broadway as Donna in “Mamma Mia!,” Elphaba in “Wicked” and Amneris in “Aida,” and played Sally Bowles in PlayMakers’ hit production of “Cabaret” (2012).

“Into the Woods” is paired with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” reputed to be the theater’s first “fairy tale.” Shakespeare’s lyrical comedy weaves together a trio of stories set in a magical wood. During the course of a moonlit evening, four young lovers escape to the forest on a fantastic adventure, changing them forever.

“Midsummer” is directed by Shana Cooper, fresh from her acclaimed production of the Bard’s magical comedy at California Shakespeare Theater, which was praised as “bold, brilliant…an audacious blast of inventiveness” and “a complete joy” by the Los Angeles Times.

PlayMakers performances will be in the Paul Green Theatre in UNC’s Department for Dramatic Art on Country Club Road. Show times will be 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and on Sundays, Nov. 2, 16, 23, 30 and Dec.7, and 2 p.m. on Saturdays (except Nov. 1) and Sundays (except Nov. 2.) There are no performances Nov. 15, 27 or 29. There are opportunities to see the two plays on the same day on Nov. 8 and 22 and Dec.6.

For a complete schedule, more information and to purchase tickets, call (919) 962-PLAY (7529) or visit www.playmakersrep.org. Tickets are available for every budget with three price levels at each performance starting at $15. Tickets may also be purchased as part of PlayMakers’ 2014/2015 subscription packages.

In conjunction with the plays, UNC’s Program in the Humanities and Human Values will host “Table Talk: A Journey Inside Sondheim’s ‘Into the Woods’,” an evening of dinner, drinks and conversation Nov. 13, 6 to 9:30 p.m., at the Rizzo Conference Center in Chapel Hill. The event pairs a four-course meal with stimulating conversation exploring fairy tales, the meaning of wilderness, magic and producing the musical. Tickets are $80. Pre-registration is required. For information or to register, visit http://humanities.unc.edu/tabletalk or call (919)962-1544.

PlayMakers will host “The Vision Series-Directors in Conversation,” a behind-the-scenes preview with directors Haj and Cooper, Oct. 22 at 6:30 p.m. in the Paul Green Theatre. The event is free to the public. Participants share coffee and hors d’oeuvres provided by series sponsor Jujube Restaurant, learn about the vision for the show and get a sneak peek at the sets and costumes in progress. Reservations are appreciated. Call PlayMakers’ box office at 919.962.7529 to RSVP.

Other special events will include:

  • Oct. 13, 6 p.m.: a discussion with the directors and cast at McIntyre’s Books, Fearrington Village, Pittsboro;
  • Nov. 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7: preview performances at 7:30 p.m.;
  • Nov. 8: opening day performances with “Woods” at 2 p.m. and “Dream” at 7:30 p.m.;
  • Nov. 11 (“Woods”) and 18 (“Dream”): all-access performances for attendees with special needs, with sign language interpretation and audio description;
  • Nov. 12 and 30 (“Woods”) and 19 and 23 (“Dream”): free post-show discussions with the creative team;
  • Nov. 22 (“Woods”) and 23 (“Dream”): open captioned performances; and,
  • Dec. 6 (“Woods”) and 7 (“Dream”): free post-show “Mindplay” discussions sponsored by the North Carolina Psychoanalytic Society.

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has recognized PlayMakers with a $50,000 “Art Works” grant to support the plays and accompanying outreach activities. An additional $25,000 grant from the NEA in partnership with Arts Midwest supports the production and educational programs for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” This award is part of the “Shakespeare for a New Generation” program supporting Shakespeare productions and related educational activities by professional theater companies.

Galloway Ridge at Fearrington and Counter Culture Coffee are co-producing sponsors.

PlayMakers’ 2014/2015 Mainstage Season continues with “Trouble in Mind” (Jan. 21-Feb.8); “An Enemy of the People” (Feb. 25-March 15); and “4000 Miles” (April 1-19). 

Based in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences, PlayMakers has been named by The Drama League as one of the “best regional theatre companies in America.”

Coverage note: Media are welcome to cover “The Vision Series” preview with the directors and members of the design team at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 22. Photography, videography, lights and flashes are not restricted. For assistance, call (919) 962-5359.

PlayMakers website: www.playmakersrep.org

PlayMakers contact: For press information, interviews, photos or poster art, contact Connie Mahan, (919) 962-5359, cmahan@email.unc.edu.