The Public Theater announces its 2019-2020 season

Tony Award winner David Hyde Pierce and 5-time Tony Award nominee Estelle Parsons are among the stars lined up for the Public's 2019-2020 Off-Broadway season.

David Hyde Pierce & Estelle Parsons

The Public Theater revealed details of its upcoming 2019-2020 Off-Broadway season today, which will feature eight new productions, including a world premiere musical The Visitor, a New York premiere musical Soft Power, three world premiere plays (The MichaelsCoal Country, and Cullud Wattah), a New York premiere play The Vagrant Trilogy, and two major revivals (A Bright Room Called Day and For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf).

The Public's Artistic Director Oskar Eustis commented: “We are reviving two of the great works in The Public’s history, Ntozake Shange’s first legendary play for colored girls… and Tony Kushner’s first incendiary play A Bright Room Called Day. Both of these extraordinary works speak with astonishing directness to this exact contemporary moment. Surround those plays with brilliant new musicals like Soft Power and The Visitor, add incredibly diverse plays like The Vagrant Trilogy, Coal Country, The Michaels, and Cullud Wattah, and you have The Public’s must-see ‘19-20 season.”

The eight new productions will be presented in the following season order:

The 2019-2020 season kicks off with the New York premiere of Soft Power, featuring a book and lyrics by David Henry Hwang, music and additional lyrics by Jeanine Tesori and directed by Leigh Silverman.

Synopsis: "ony Award winners David Henry Hwang and Jeanine Tesori bring their groundbreaking new musical-within-a-play to The Public for its New York premiere. One of the most exciting theatrical collaborations in recent memory, Soft Power is an exploration of America's current place in the world, told through an East-West musical from China's point of view, in which a theater producer from Shanghai forges a powerful bond with Hillary Clinton. Soft Power is a fever dream of modern American politics amidst global conversations, asking us all—why do we love democracy? And should we?"

Initial casting for Soft Power includes Kendyl Ito (as Jing), Francis Jue (as DHH), Austin Ku (as Bobby Bob), Raymond J. Lee (as Randy Ray/VEEP), Alyse Alan Louis (as Zoe/Hillary), Jaygee Macapugay (as Campaign Manager), Conrad Ricamora (as Xue Xing), alongside Billy Bustamante, Daniel May, Paul HeeSang Miller, Geena Quintos, Trevor Salter, Kyra Smith, Emily Stillings, Emily Trumble, and John Yi.

The musical is is co-commission and co-production with Center Theatre Group and will also feature choreography by Sam Pinkleton. Performances will run at the Public's Newman Theater from September 24 through November 3, 2019.

Next up, the Public presents the first major New York revival of Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf, directed by Leah C. Gardiner and choreographed by Camille A. Brown.

Synopsis: "A groundbreaking work in modern American theater, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf, returns to The Public for the first time since it premiered in 1976, before its breakthrough run on Broadway. Filled with passion, humor, and raw honesty, legendary playwright/poet Ntozake Shange’s form-changing choreopoem tells the stories of seven women of color using poetry, song, and movement. With unflinching honesty and emotion, each woman voices her survival story of having to exist in a world shaped by sexism and racism. This seminal work speaks to our world today about women’s struggles, strength, desires, resilience, and the sanctified magic of love and possibility."

Previews begin at the Public's Martinson Theater on October 8, 2019, ahead of an official opening on October 22 and a limited engagement through November 17, 2019.

The Public continues its season with the world premiere of The Michaels, written and directed by Richard Nelson, which will play the Public's LuEsther Hall from October 19 through November 17, 2019, with an official opening set for October 27.

Synopsis: "Tony Award-winning playwright/director Richard Nelson returns to The Public with the world premiere of The Michaels. Part of Nelson’s critically acclaimed Rhinebeck Panorama, which includes The Apple Family and The Gabriels, this new drama places the audience directly into the kitchen of Rose Michael, a celebrated choreographer. Dinner is cooked, modern dances are rehearsed, and the meal is eaten—all amidst conversations about art, death, family, dance, politics, the state of America, and how the world sees our country...and a host of everyday questions that make up the richness of ordinary life. With grace and depth, Nelson once again creates an intricate, moving snapshot of modern-day America. Laced with humor and heartbreak, The Michaels is a beautiful new play, illustrating the rich humanity within the incidental moments of one day."

The complete cast of The Michaels includes Charlotte Bydwell (as Lucy Michael), Haviland Morris (as Irenie Walker), Maryann Plunkett (as Kate Harris), Matilda Sakamoto (as May Mary Jane Smith), Jay O. Sanders (as David Michael), Brenda Wehle (as Rose Michael), and Rita Wolf (as Sally Michael).

The season rolls on with the first major New York revival of Tony Kushner's A Bright Room Called Day, helmed by the Public's Artisic Director Oskar Eustis, with performances running at the Public's Anspacher Theater from October 29 through December 8, 2019, with an official opening set for November 19.

Synopsis: "Tony Kushner, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, reunites with longtime collaborator and Public Theater Artistic Director Oskar Eustis in a scorching new version of his first play, the prescient 1985 masterwork suggesting the possibility of the Reagan counter-revolution eventually giving rise to American fascism. Agnes, an actress in Weimar Germany, and her cadre of passionate, progressive friends, are torn between protest, escape, and survival as the world they knew crumbles around them. Her story is interrupted by an American woman enraged by the cruelty of the Reagan administration, and a new character, grappling with the anxiety, distraction, hope, and hopelessness of an artist facing the once unthinkable rise of authoritarianism in modern America. Funny, brilliant, and devastating, this new production of A Bright Room Called Day revisits an epic work that takes a piercing look at the vulnerability of American democracy, and demands to know: when the devil takes up residence in your country…will you act?"

Initial casting for the revival includes Jonathan Hadary (as Xillah), Linda Emond (as Annabella Gotchling), and Estelle Parsons (as Die Alte).

The next world premiere production will be Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen's Coal Country, directed by Ms. Blank, which will also feature original music by three-time Grammy Award-winning country/folk legend Steve Earle.

Synopsis: "In 2010, the Upper Big Branch mine explosion killed 29 men, and tore a hole in the lives of countless others. In this riveting, emotionally stunning new work based on first-person accounts by survivors and family members, Coal Country digs deep into the lives and loss of the most deadly mining disaster in recent U.S. history. This haunting world premiere gives voice to those yet unheard and shines a piercing light on the deadly forces of greed and the enduring power of love."

This Public Theater commission will play the Anspacher Theater from February 18 through March 29, 2020.

Following this, the Public presents the New York premiere of Mona Mansour's The Vagrant Trilogy, directed by Mark Wing-Davey, which will play a limited engagement at the Public's LuEsther Hall from March 17 through April 26, 2020.

Synopsis: "Mona Mansour delves into the Palestinian struggle for home and identity in The Vagrant Trilogy, a single epic story told in three parts. In 1967, Adham, a Palestinian Wordsworth scholar, goes to London with his new wife to deliver a lecture. When war breaks out at home, he must decide in an instant what to do—a choice that will affect the rest of his life. The two parts that follow explore alternate realities based on that decision. Each part in the trilogy speaks to the others, together painting a rare and moving picture of Palestinian displacement and a refugee’s life of permanent impermanence. Featuring six actors in 19 different roles, Mansour’s drama spans four decades and three generations of a family uprooted by war and politics. The Vagrant Trilogy is a sweeping new epic about the poetry and pain of losing the place called home."

The penultimate production of the season - and perhaps the most eagerly anticipated - will be the world premiere musical The Visitor, featuring music by Tom Kitt, lyrics by Brian Yorkey, and a book by Kwame Kwei-Armah & Brian Yorkey.

Synopsis: "With heart, humor, and lush new songs, Pulitzer Prize and Tony-winning team Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey with Kwame Kwei-Armah bring their soul-stirring new musical based on the acclaimed independent film, The Visitor by Thomas McCarthy, to The Public for its World Premiere. Widowed and living alone, Walter is a college professor whose life has lost a sense of purpose. When he discovers two young undocumented immigrants living in his New York apartment, the drummer Tarek and jewelry maker Zainab, Walter finds himself in the middle of their battle to stay in an America that’s lost its better angels. The Visitor is an unforgettable new musical about friends and lovers caught between two worlds."

Initial casting includes Jacqueline Antaramian (as Mouna), Joaquina Kalukango (as Zainab), David Hyde Pierce (as Walter), and Ari’el Stachel (as Tarek).

The tuner will be directed by Daniel Sullivan, choreographed by Lorin Latarro, and will play the Public's Newman Theater from March 24 through May 10, 2020.

The final production of the 2019-2020 season will be the world premiere of Erika Dickerson-Despenza's Cullud Wattah, directed by Candis C. Jones.

Synopsis: "Cullud Wattah is a new Afro-surrealist play about three generations of Black women living through the current water crisis in Flint, Michigan. It’s been 936 days since Flint has had clean water. Marion, a third generation General Motors employee, is consumed by layoffs at the engine plant. When her sister, Ainee, seeks justice and restitution for lead poisoning, her plan reveals the toxic entanglements between the city and its most powerful industry, forcing their family to confront the past-present-future cost of survival. As lead seeps into their home and their bodies, corrosive memories and secrets rise among them. Will this family ever be able to filter out the truth? Cullud Wattah blends form and bends time, diving deep into the poisonous choices of the outside world, the contamination within, and how we make the best choices for our families’ future when there are no real, present options."

Cullud Wattah will be staged at the Public's LuEsther Hall from July 7 through August 16, 2020.

Further casting and creative team information for all of the productions of the Public's 2019-2020 Off-Broadway season will be announced in due course.