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Syracuse Stage Announces 2018/2019 Season Bursting with Dynamic Stories, Vibrant Characters
Three comedies, a world premiere, a charming holiday musical and a critically acclaimed Tony Award winner for Best Play make up the 2018/2019 Syracuse Stage season.
“It is a season bursting with dynamic stories and vibrant characters,” says artistic director Robert Hupp, who notes the balance in the season between shows that are welcoming to a broad audience and shows that are not as well-known but are equally engaging. “We want everyone to come to Syracuse Stage, which means producing theater that speaks to people in a variety of ways.”
The 2018/2019 season line-up is “Noises Off,” “Possessing Harriet,” “Elf the Musical,” “Native Gardens,” “Pride and Prejudice,” and “The Humans.”
Artists new to Syracuse Stage in the season include playwright Kate Hamill and director Jason O’Connell. Hamill has been a red-hot writer in New York of late with her adaptations of “Vanity Fair” and “Sense and Sensibility.” Her latest adaptation, Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” opens at Syracuse Stage in the spring. O’Connell, who appeared in the Primary Stage’s New York City production at the Cherry Lane Theatre of “Pride and Prejudice,” will direct Syracuse Stage’s production. Also new to Stage is Melissa Crespo, who will direct “Native Gardens.” Crespo is a New York-based director of theater, opera and film, best known for the acclaimed opera “¡Figaro! (90210),” which premiered at LA Opera.
Returning artists include former Syracuse Stage artistic director Tazewell Thompson, who will direct the world premiere play “Possessing Harriet” by Stage associate artistic director Kyle Bass. Thompson served as Stage’s artistic director from 1992-95. Since then he has enjoyed a successful career in theater and opera, and has worked frequently at the Glimmerglass Festival. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for his direction of a televised production of “Porgy and Bess.” Donna Drake, who scored a triumph in the 17/18 season with the “Wizard of Oz,” returns for the holidays as the director of “Elf the Musical”.
The 2018/2019 season opens with what has been called “the funniest farce ever written,” Michael Frayn’s “Noises Off.” Premiered in 1982, Frayn’s famous comedy follows the door-slamming, prat-falling, comedic mishaps of a company of actors attempting to perform a comedy. As the action shifts from on stage to back stage, the mayhem multiplies and the laughter grows exponentially. Wildly popular with theaters large and small, professional and amateur, “Noises Off” has never been produced at Syracuse Stage.
“You may have seen ‘Noises Off,’” says Hupp, who is slated to direct. “But you haven’t seen Syracuse Stage’s ‘Noises Off.’”
October brings the world premiere of “Possessing Harriet,” a drama that has its inspiration in a chapter of Central New York history. Originally commissioned by the Onondaga Historical Association and written by award-winning playwright and Syracuse Stage associate artistic director Kyle Bass, “Possessing Harriet” imagines a conversation between an enslaved woman named Harriet Powell and a young Elizabeth Cady, the fierce advocate for women’s rights. The conversation takes place in an attic room in the Peterboro home of abolitionist Gerrit Smith as Harriet, having slipped away from a Syracuse hotel and the family who owns her, awaits her departure north on the Underground Railroad. This absorbing drama unfolds in real time, as danger nears and Harriet must make a life-altering decision.
“I am humbled and honored that Bob has chosen this play to be produced at Syracuse Stage,” says Bass, who has previously been represented at the theater with “Cry for Peace: Voices from the Congo,” co-written with Ping Chong, and “Separated,” based on the experiences of Syracuse University students in and out of military service.
The holiday season rings in cheer with “Elf the Musical.” Based on the New Line Cinema film starring Will Ferrell, “Elf the Musical” follows an oversized elf named Buddy on his search for his real family in New York City. Filled with humor and terrific songs, this heartwarming musical will be co-produced with the Syracuse University Department of Drama.
The New Year brings Karen Zacarías’ new play “Native Gardens” to Syracuse Stage. A winner of the National Latino Playwriting Award, Zacarías tackles such hot-button topics as privilege, prejudice and even border disputes and walls with a good natured and light-hearted touch. Set in adjoining backyards in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C., “Native Gardens” pits an older, established white couple against a new-to-the-neighborhood young Latino couple in an escalating fracas over two feet of property. Cordial welcome soon gives way to rivalry in a comedy/drama that has been called a play “we need right now.” “Native Gardens” is the first of two co-productions with Rochester’s Geva Theatre Center.
“‘Native Gardens’ director Melissa Crespo, who is a new director for Syracuse Stage, has a keen connection to the playwright’s voice. I look forward to sharing her insight into the play with our audience,” says Hupp.
With Hamill’s adaptation, Jane Austen makes her Syracuse Stage debut. “Pride and Prejudice” is the familiar and beloved story of independent-minded Elizabeth Bennet and the handsome Mr. Darcy. Love and marriage, family and social status get a good workout in this energetic production.
“This is Jane Austen for the 21st century,” Hupp explains. “It’s fast and funny and it is altogether true to the heart of the novel. Kate Hamill’s brilliance is that she can capture everything that’s great about the novel in a way that is very theatrical and very alive.”
The season concludes with the Broadway smash “The Humans” by Stephen Karam, a contemporary comedy/drama that won the 2016 Tony Award for Best Play. Centered around a family Thanksgiving gathering, “The Humans” also won the Drama Critics Circle, the Outer Circle Critics, the Drama League and the Drama Desk Awards for Best Play. It was named Best Play of the Year by the following media outlets: Newsday, The New York Times, New York Magazine, The Record, The Hollywood Reporter, The Chicago Tribune, Deadline and npr. “The Humans” is the second of the season’s co-productions with Geva and will be directed by Geva’s artistic director Mark Cuddy.
Hupp noted that, as with this season’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” “The Humans” will only be produced at select regional theaters next season, including Syracuse Stage.
The Cold Read Festival of New Plays also returns in early March to bring audiences into the process of creating new work. Associate artistic director Kyle Bass again curates the four-day festival, March 7-10, which will feature award-winning playwright, director and choreographer Larissa FastHorse.
“I’m excited and thrilled to announce a playwright of such accomplishment and national profile as the playwright-in-residence for Cold Read: Festival of Hot New Plays 2019,” says Bass.
FastHorse is an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Sicangu Lakota Nation, and her new comedy, “The Thanksgiving Play,” will be produced at Artists Repertory Theatre next season. Her work places an emphasis on cross-cultural community-engaged work between indigenous nations. Other produced works include “What Would Crazy Horse Do,” “Urban Rez,” “Landless,” “Average Family” and “Cherokee Family Reunion.”
Hupp noted the momentum Syracuse Stage has built with a string of critical and popular successes beginning with “The Three Musketeers” and carrying through the recently closed “Next to Normal.” He said the new season should continue to engage and entertain audiences with its promise of “passion, power and purpose.”
The 2018/2019 season opens Sept. 12, 2018, and runs through May 12, 2019. Subscriptions and Flex Packs are on sale now.
About Syracuse University
Syracuse University is a private, international research university with distinctive academics, diversely unique offerings and an undeniable spirit. Located in the geographic heart of New York State, with a global footprint, and nearly 150 years of history, Syracuse University offers a quintessential college experience. The scope of Syracuse University is a testament to its strengths: a pioneering history dating back to 1870; a choice of more than 200 majors and 100 minors offered through 13 schools and colleges; nearly 15,000 undergraduates and 5,000 graduate students; more than a quarter of a million alumni in 160 countries; and a student population from all 50 U.S. states and 123 countries. For more information, please visit www.syracuse.edu.