The Yale Rep has announced its 2013-14, choosing the day of the first performance of one of the biggest hits the theater has experienced perhaps ever—Paul Giamatti in Hamlet—to make the announcement.
No Giamatti next season, but many other familiar faces from the Rep’s own past.
The season opens with director Mark Rucker, who graduated from the Yale School of Drama just a year or two before Giamatti, returning to the site of many directorial triumphs (Rough Crossing, Twelfth Night, Landscape of the Body… right back to his student thesis show Stage Door) helming a new production of A Streetcar Named Desire, Sept. 20 through Oct. 12. There have been several student productions of Tennessee Williams’ classic at Yale over the years, but not at the Rep. Rucker did a tricky late-career Williams drama, Kingdom of Earth, for the Rep in 2001. (It was the first Rep show to be staged in what is now called the Iseman Theatre at 1146 Chapel Street.) He showed he could navigate the highs and lows of Williams’ precarious playwriting. One suspects that there’s a casting surprise or two to come with this one, but I’m excited already.
The second show of the season (Oct. 25-Nov. 16) is Owners, Caryl Churchill’s 1972 satirical drama about property-owning and powermongering. Churchill is a goddess to college drama departments. There was a Yale School of Drama production of her best-known work, Cloud Nine, this past semester, and her shows turn up regularly at the Yale Cabaret and in undergraduate Yale productions. Evan Yionoulis, who teaches in the YSD Acting program, directs. Her range of Rep shows might be even broader than Rucker’s—everything from a slapstick King Stag and George F. Walker’s tragicomic Heaven to Ibsen’s Master Builder and Shakespeare’s Richard II to the premiere of Kirsten Greenidge’s Bossa Nova. Yionoulis is responsible for this past season’s production of Marie Jones’ Stones in His Pockets.
Some will greet the return of Steven Epps and Christopher Bayes with huzzahs. The actor/director/co-adaptor team brought their studious clowning overlays to Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters in 2010 and followed it with a stylistically similar romp through Moliere’s A Doctor in Spite of Himself a couple of seasons later. This time (Nov. 30-Dec. 21) they’re tackling a much more modern farce, Accidental Death of an Anarchist, by a writer who was very near and dear to the Yale Rep’s heart in the 1980s. Dario Fo, the political comedy titan who’s celebrating his 87th birthday later this month, performed at Yale with his wife Franca Rame in 1986 on their first U.S. tour. The Rep staged Fo’s Almost by Chance a Woman: Elizabeth (starring Joe Morton) in 1987. Dario Fo is beloved at universities and regional theaters throughout Connecticut: one of the playwright’s great champions and translators, Ron Jenkins, teaches at Wesleyan, and the Long Wharf Theater did Fo’s We Won’t Pay! We Won’t Pay! in 2004.
If you’re thinking that at this point the Rep season is crying out for a play that’s less than 40 years old, the second half of the season is a one-two-three punch of new works by alums of the Yale School of Drama playwriting program. All three shows were developed through the largesse of Yale’s Binger Center for New Theatre, founded in 2008 with the largest grant ever given to any theater for the development of new works.
Recent grad Meg Miroshnik, whose basketball drama Tall Girls was part of the YSD’s 2011 Carlotta Festival of New Plays (and was later further developed at the O’Neill Playwrights Conference in Waterford) has her The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls happening Jan. 31-Feb. 22, followed March 14-April 5 by These Paper Bullets, Rolin Jones’ fresh update of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, with new songs by Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong. Jones’ The Intelligent Design of Jennie Chow premiered at the Rep, went on to a long run Off-Broadway and was shortlisted for a Pulitzer. Jones distinguished himself in television with writing or producing credits on such shows as Weeds, Friday Night Lights and the first season of Smash. Jackson Gay, who directed Jennie Chow both at Yale and in New York, and recently reunited with Jones for an Off-Broadway production of The Jammer, another script from his and her Yale days, will direct These Paper Bullets.
The season ends April 18-May 10 with the poetic drama The House that will not Stand, by another mid-2000s YSD grad, Marcus Gardley. The Rep did Gardley’s dance of the holy ghosts in 2006, and he was also well produced at the Yale Cabaret while he was a student. The House that will not Stand is to be directed by Patricia McGregor, well-remembered for her rousing rethinking of the musical Jelly’s Last Jam, her thesis project in the YSD directing program in 2009. Gardley is known for history-based African-American dramas, but this one is inspired by the classic Federico Garcia Lorca novel The House of Bernarda Alba.
Wow. Not a single To-Be-Announced on the list, all the directors in place, and the biggest star name announced so far (Billie Joe Armstrong) behind the scenes as a songwriter. This is a sizzling schedule of new directions, renewed relationships, sentiment, satire and sass. Some season.
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