The Public Theater announces 2015-2016 Season


The off-Broadway non-profit Public Theater has announced its 2015-2016 Season, which will include five world premieres, a US premiere and a New York premiere.

Artistic Director Oskar Eustis released the following statement:

“The Public Theater’s new season reflects all the core values of the organization Joe Papp founded: inclusion, dramaturgy, fearlessness, artistic excellence, and continuity. New friends and old family members, experimental theater and musicals, classics and new plays. The new season is a brilliant continuation of The Public’s story.”

The season will begin in September with the return of Public Works which features over 200 actors and community members in a free world premiere musical adaptation of Homer's The Odyssey. Conceived and directed by Public Works Director Lear deBessonet, and featuring music, lyrics and a book by Todd Almond, the production will run for four nights only, 4 to 7 September 2015, at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park.

Synopsis: "Inspired by the historical pageantry movement of the early 1900s - known for blending mass spectacle with community engagement - the musical reimagines the Greek epic with Public Works' signature blend of professional actors, community members and special guests. Man-eating Cyclops, a sorceress that turns sailors to beasts, and the deadly sweet song of the Sirens explode onto the stage with dance in this musical about finding your way home - no matter where fate may lead you."

The season will then continue with the world premiere of Barbecue, written by Robert O’Hara and directed by Kent Gash. Performances run from 22 September to 1 November 2015.

Synopsis: "The O'Mallerys have gathered in their local park to share some barbecue and straight talk with their sister Barbara, whose spiral of drugs and recklessness has forced her siblings to stage an open-air intervention. But the event becomes raucous and unpredictable as familial stereotypes collide with hard realities, and racial politics slam up against the stories we tell - and maybe even believe - about who we were and who we become. Kent Gash directs this new play that proves family can be a bigger vice than any other addiction."

The first original musical in the season will be the world premiere of Tony nominee Michael John LaChiusa's First Daughter Suite, directed by Kirsten Sanderson. This is a follow-up to LaChiusa's 1993 Public musical 'First Lady Suite,' which will run from 6 October to 15 November 2015.

Synopsis: "A historical fantasia in four parts, First Daughter Suite follows Patricia Nixon and daughters Tricia and Julie, Roselyn and Amy Carter, Betty and Susan Ford, Patti Davis and mom Nancy Reagan, and Barbara Bush and daughter-in-law Laura as they strive to live meaningful lives in the public eye, while dealing with the complex private relationships all of us face with our parents and children. This new musical is a deeply felt new work about mothers, daughters and the surprising discoveries we make about one another as we grow."

Initial casting includes Rachel Bay Jones, Theresa McCarthy, Betsy Morgan, Isabel Santiago, Carly Tamer, Mary Testa and Barbara Walsh.

The Gob Squad also returns to the Public this season with the American premiere of Before Your Very Eyes, which runs from 17 October to 29 November. The show previously premiered in Belgium in 2012.

Synopsis: "From behind the safety of one-way mirrors, the audience witnesses seven lives lived in fast forward, from angst-ridden teens to hunched geriatrics. As we adults try to stop the process of aging and preserve youth as long as we can, the children peer into the future and nostalgically back at their recent past, as they prepare to leave childhood behind forever."

The season then continues in Spring 2016 with the world premiere of Sarah Burgess' comic-drama Dry Powder, directed by Hamilton's Thomas Kail. Performances run from 1 March to 10 April 2016.

Synopsis: "Dry Powder is about the people molding and messing with the American economy. The same week his private equity firm forced massive layoffs at a national grocery chain, Rick threw himself an extravagant engagement party, setting off a publicity nightmare. Fortunately, Seth, one of Rick’s managing directors, has a win-win deal to invest in an American-made luggage company for a song and rescue his boss from the company's PR disaster. But Jenny, Seth’s counterpart, has an entirely different plan: to squeeze every last penny out of the company, no matter the human toll. The game is on in Sarah Burgess’ new play about the price of success and the real cost of getting the deal done."

This will be followed by a co-production with Berkeley Repertory Theatre. The New York premiere of Tarell Alvin McCraney's drama Head of Passes, directed by Tina Landau, will run from 15 March to 24 April 2016.

Synopsis: "This new drama is about family, acceptance and the power of faith. At the mouth of the Mississippi River, Shelah's family and friends have come to celebrate her birthday and save her from a leaking roof. But in this contemporary parable inspired by the Book of Job, unexpected events turn the reunion into the ultimate test of faith and love. As her world seems to collapse around her, Shelah must fight to survive the rising flood of life's greatest challenges."

Finally, the previously announced world premiere musical The Total Bent will close the season. Featuring text by Stew and music by Heidi Rodewald and Stew, and directed by Joanna Settle, performances will run from 10 May to 19 June 2016.

Synopsis: "When a British record producer arrives in Montgomery, Alabama to hook Marty Roy, a young black musical prodigy rebelling from the constraints of the world around him, he launches us back into Marty’s tumultuous musical upbringing. The son of a gospel star and self-proclaimed healer, Marty spent his childhood writing the songs that have made his charismatic father famous. But in an America on the verge of social upheaval, Marty finds himself at odds with his complicated and spiritually forceful father, desperate to make his own way and his own sound."

The Public Theater's 2015-2016 season will also include the 12th Annual Under The Radar Festival from 6 to 17 January 2016, as well as two Mobile Shakespeare Unit tours: All's Well That Ends Well from 2 to 22 November 2015, and Romeo & Juliet from 10 to 29 May 2016.

- by Tom Millward