The Public Theater announces 2021-22 season, featuring new musicals by Tom Kitt and Shaina Taub

The season will also include plays from Erika Dickerson-Despenza, Lloyd Suh, and Suzan-Lori Parks.

Photo credit: Tom Kitt, Shaina Taub and Erika Dickerson-Despenza (Photos courtesy of Tom Kitt, Shaina Taub and Erika Dickerson-Despenza)

The Public Theater has announced its 2021-22 season, returning to in-person productions at its Astor Place theatre for the first time since the pandemic began. The lineup includes seven new productions, including multiple world and New York premiere plays and musicals.

The season opens with The Visitor, initially scheduled for the Public’s 2019-20 season. Daniel Sullivan directs the world-premiere musical based on the independent film of the same name about a college professor seeking renewed purpose in life. The show features music by Tom Kitt, lyrics by Brian Yorkey, and a book by Yorkey and Kwame Kwei-Armah. Performances begin on Oct. 7 ahead of an opening date of Nov. 4.

Initial casting includes Jacqueline Antaramian, Robert Ariza, Anthony Chan, Alysha Deslorieux, Delius Doherty, C.K. Edwards, Will Erat, Sean Ewing, Ahmad Maksoud, Dimitri Joseph Moïse, Takafumi Nikaido, David Hyde Pierce, Paul Pontrelli, and Ari’el Stachel.

The production will be followed by the world premiere of Erika Dickerson-Despenza’s play Cullud Wattah, another carryover from the 2019-20 season. The show, which follows three generations of Black women facing the Flint, Michigan water contamination crisis, won the 2021 Susan Smith Blackburn prize.

Initial casting includes Crystal Dickinson, Lizan Mitchell, Andrea Patterson and Alicia Pilgrim, and Candis C. Jones will direct. Cullud Wattah begins performances Nov. 2 with an opening date of Nov. 17.

The next scheduled production is Out of Time, a world-premiere collection of monologues written by Jaclyn Backhaus, Sam Chanse, Mia Chung, Naomi Iizuka, and Anna Ouyang Moench. The production is conceived and directed by Obie Award winner Les Waters and commissioned and produced by NAATCO. Actors 60 and older will perform these monologues, all by Asian American playwrights, in a run scheduled for February 2022. Specific dates have yet to be announced.

The Barrington Stage Company and Ma-Yi Theater Company Production have partnered with the Public for the next production of the season: The Chinese Lady by Lloyd Suh. The play about Afong Moy, the first Chinese woman to come to America and who became a public spectacle, will be directed by Ralph B. Peña and begin performances in February 2022. Casting and performance dates will be announced at a later time.

The world-premiere musical Suffs will follow, with a book, music, and lyrics by Shaina Taub and direction by Leigh Silverman. Taub’s show follows a group of suffragists, or “suffs,” who undertook the public fight for women’s right to vote. The production is scheduled for March 2022, with casting and dates to be announced.

The Public will then present the New York premiere of The Vagrant Trilogy by Public Emerging Writers Group alum Mona Mansour. Originally scheduled for the theater’s 2019-20 season, her play about a family affected by war over Palestinian displacement is now set to open in March 2022. Mark Wing-Davey will direct, and dates and casting will come at a later date.

Lastly, the Public and The National Black Theatre will co-produce James Ijames’ play Fat Ham, a reimagining of Shakespeare’s Hamlet centered around a modern-day Black college student seeking to avenge his father’s murder. Saheem Ali will direct the New York-premiere play set for May 2022. Casting and performance dates will be announced at a later date.

The Public’s season will also feature multiple ongoing performance series. These include weekly releases from a new digital album by Daniel Alexander Jones, Altar No. 1 - Aten, beginning Sept. 22, as well as various performances at Joe’s Pub beginning in October. Niegel Smith will also direct Plays for the Plague Year, a work resulting from Suzan-Lori Parks’s endeavor to write one play a day for a year beginning on March 13, 2020. This work will be presented throughout the season.

Other programming includes the Under the Radar Festival from Jan. 12-23, 2022 and a May 2022 performance of Twelfth Night by The Hunts Point Children’s Shakespeare Ensemble.

Photo credit: Tom Kitt, Shaina Taub and Erika Dickerson-Despenza (Photos courtesy of Tom Kitt, Shaina Taub and Erika Dickerson-Despenza)