Olney Theatre Center will continue its three-tier approach to programming next season by producing nine full-run plays at Olney, co-producing Tony Kushner’s two-play cycle Angels in America with Round House Theatre in Bethesda, doing brief runs of three plays for young people and three productions by the National Players, and sponsoring a reading of six Pulitzer-winning plays to celebrate the Pulitzer’s 100th anniversary. Whew!
Last year, Artistic Director Jason Loewith introduced the concept of three different series of theatrical productions in Olney’s production year: a Classic series, producing familiar and revered plays; a Family series of plays which adults can enjoy with children, and a Contemporary series, which features cutting-edge new works. The move was fiscally and artistically successful, as Olney recovered some of its financial robustness and won twelve Helen Hayes nominations.
Olney will continue this strategy, offering six classic shows, three family shows, and four contemporary plays (some plays count in more than one category.) Olney does not sell season tickets by series but does offer discount packages for various set numbers of plays.
Olney’s season will open at Round House, with the Kushner classic which Loewith will co-direct with Round House Artistic Director Ryan Rillette and which will feature Kimberly Gilbert, Mitchell Hébert, Sarah Marshall, Jon Hudson Odom, Tom Story, and Dawn Ursula. Angels in America will run from September 7 to October 30 of this year as part of Olney’s Contemporary series.
Meanwhile, at Olney’s Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab, Derek Goldman will be directing The Diary of Anne Frank, with Eric Hissom, Paul Morella, Susan Rome, Michael Russotto, and Kimberly Schraf. This is Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett’s theatrical translation of a diary kept by a Jewish teenager hiding from the Nazis in the attic of a sympathetic Dutch family. Anne Frank, which is part of both the Classic and Family series, will run from September 14 to October 23, 2016.
Mary Poppins gets a two-month run on the Olney Mainstage, beginning on November 2 and running through New Year’s Day, 2017. If you are freshly arrived from Mars, this is the story of a new nanny for the Banks children, who are, shall we say, a bit rambunctious. Mary and her friend, the chimney sweep Bert, help put things to order, aided by her umbrella and her ability to fly. Part of the Family series.
Morella returns for the seventh year with his solo version of A Christmas Carol, in which he performs all forty characters, between November 25 and Christmas Day of this year. “My goal is that they [the audience] will never look at the story the same way again. This is not your Mama’s Christmas Carol,” Morella told DCTS’ Christopher Henley. Olney tabs Morella’s show as part of its Classic series.
Olney rolls in another Classic with the Hugh Wheeler-Stephen Sondheim collaboration, Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. This memorable combination of tonsorial excellence, murder and meat pies will run from February 1 to March 5, 2017. Loewith will direct, with Christopher Youstra providing the musical direction.
On March 1, 2017, Olney will present the world premiere of Meg Miroshnick’s adaptation of Pierre de Marivaux 18th-century farce, The Double Inconstancy. In the original, a prince kidnaps a young peasant girl; though she already has a beau, the prince means to marry her. Since this is a French play, he does, and her beau goes and marries somebody else. But I don’t know what Miroshnick (The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls), a well-regarded playwright, will do with the script. Through March 26, as part of both the Classic and Contemporary series.
The Magic Play, another world premiere — this one of the rolling debut variety — comes to Olney on April 12, by Andrew Hinderaker (Colossal.) This is a story of a magician whose control over his show is complete but whose life is quickly becoming a big fat mess. Featuring Jon Hudson Odom and Brett Schneider, through May 7. This is part of the Contemporary series.
Then, on May 17, 2017, Olney will commence a production with a unique take on Susan Lori Parks’ Topdog/Underdog — a production of the Pulitzer-winning drama in which the two African-American brothers, Lincoln and Booth, are played by women. And not just any women: Jessica Frances Duke and Dawn Ursula. “What, at first, starts off as a rousing comic drama makes a conversion to searing social commentary, all in the span of its last few moments,” DCTS’ Amitra Khalid said of this play at Everyman in Baltimore. This Contemporary series play, which Timothy Douglas directs, runs through June 11.
Olney returns to the Classics — with a vengeance — with a production of the Lerner and Lowe megahit, My Fair Lady, in which a caddish linguist seeks to teach a Cockney flower girl the Queen’s English, to win a bet. Alan Souza, whose Camelot the Chicago Tribune called “genuinely revisionist… fascinating and fresh,” directs, and Youstra once again provides musical direction. From June 21 to July 23.
The Olney season concludes with the one-actor bioplay, Thurgood, which presents the life of the remarkable lawyer and jurist, Thurgood Marshall. The lead attorney for the plaintiff in Brown v. Topeka Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), and the first African-American Supreme Court Justice was also a remarkable man — indescribably brave and also prone to hijinks. [Marshall’s] “amazing life is sufficient to stuff George Stevens, Jr.’s fine play with anecdote, humor, excitement, horror and triumph,” DCTS said in this review of the Kennedy Center’s production. From July 19 to August 20, 2017; Walter Dallas directs this production, which is in both the Classic and the Family series.
In addition to all this, Olney will present family touring shows in three short runs — Rainbow Fish (January 28 and 29, 2017, by ArtsPower National Touring Theatre); The House on Pooh Corner (April 8 and 9, 2017, by Virginia Rep on Tour) and Anne of Green Gables (May 20 and 21, by ArtsPower National Tour Theatre) — and three shows from the National Players: The Grapes of Wrath, July 28-31 (Colin Hovde directs); Hamlet, August 18-28, and The Giver (Eric Coble’s adaptation of the Newberry Prize-winning dystopian novel for young adults about a society which prizes blandness and sameness to protect against envy) from September 15 to 25, 2016.
Finally, Olney will stage a reading of six Pulitzer-winning plays to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Pulitzer on September 30-October 2, 2016 — A Streetcar Named Desire, The Gin Game, Fences, Fiorello!, Water by the Spoonful and The Bridge over San Luis Rey (Derek Goldman’s adaptation of Thornton Wilder’s play).
Olney has not yet made tickets or memberships available for the 2016-2017 season.