In their next season, 1st Stage’s eclectic, collaborative twelfth season will take on air guitar wizards, race in the squared circle, aging in (a bad) place, brain surgery and the Attorney General — but not the one you’re thinking about — the company announced.
1st Stage starts things out with Trying, Joanna McClelland Glass’ story about a young woman, recently out of the home of her bullying father, who takes a position as personal secretary to an even bigger bully: Francis Biddle, the 45th Attorney General (1941-45); Judge during the Nuremburg Trials — and the man who defended the Japanese internment for the Roosevelt Administration. Glass based this story on her own experiences as Biddle’s personal secretary. “[T]he play turns out to be a masterpiece,” says Colin Seymour of the San Jose Mercury-News, and, indeed, Trying won a Joseph Jefferson Award as the best new play in Chicago. 1st Stage Artistic Director Alex Levy directs; from September 19 to October 20, 2019.
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From Attorneys General to Air Guitars: Chelsea Marcantel’s Airness will bring us into the unique world of air guitar competitions, in which contestants strut and strum, contort and howl, without an instrument in their hands. Young Nina goes to a Staten Island bar, where she finds her colorful competitors, as well as last year’s champion, who has graduated to doing soda commercials. “The eccentric yet heartfelt characters, the physical antics, a good dose of rock music and the feel-good story — with some romantic heartbreak — make for great fun in this play,” says Elizabeth Kramer of the Louisville Courier-Journal. In collaboration with Keegan Theatre; directed by Christina Coakley, December 5-29 of this year.
1st Stage will kick of the new year with another collaboration — this one with Olney Theatre Center. Marco Ramirez’ The Royale describes an unthinkable event in 1905: that an African-American man might become heavyweight boxing champion of the world. Yet here he is: Jay “Sport” Jackson, impossibly skilled and powerful — so much so that an undefeated, White champion steps out of retirement to take him on. “For the great subject of ‘The Royale,’ which has been given such original and graceful theatrical form, is the selfish single-mindedness required of champions, and the repercussions such a focus has when it’s exercised by a black man in a white man’s world,” Ben Brantley of the New York Times observed. Paige Hernandez will direct; from January 30 to February 23, 2020.
In 1992, the lyricist and musician William Finn had a life-threatening incident related to an arteriovenous malformation of his brain stem. The ensuing musical, which he wrote with James Lapine (who wrote, among other things, the book for Into the Woods), is called A New Brain, and 1st Stage will be producing it between March 26 and April 19, 2020. The story focuses on a lyricist and musician, career in the doldrums, who discovers, through his recovery from a life-threatening brain disease, how sweet his life has been. Charles Isherwood, reviewing for Variety, called it “consistently fleet, flashy and charming.” From March 26 to April 19 of next year; Kate Bryer will direct.
1st Stage concludes the formal portion of its season with The Waverly Gallery, the tale of an elderly woman, staving off the ravages of dementia, who tries to keep her art gallery although her landlord is trying to turn it into a coffee shop. Reviewing a production twelve years ago, DC Theatre Scene observed, “Subtle, precise and honest, The Waverly Gallery…fulfills the highest moral purpose of theater: to promote understanding.” From May 7 to June 7, 2020; Levy will direct.
In the summer of 2020, 1st Stage will present their annual Logan Festival of one-actor plays; the company will announce the specifics of the Festival at a later time.