UNC-Chapel Hill’s PlayMakers Repertory Company has announced its 2019-2020 season, “Legacy |Now,” featuring world premieres, new interpretations and classic plays with the goal of opening hearts and minds to new perspectives. Each show will challenge audiences to explore diverse ways of analyzing and telling history.
“The tradition of theater that spans social justice and humanitarianism goes back a hundred years at Carolina and is thriving today,” said Interim Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz. “PlayMakers enhances the university’s vibrant arts environment by continuing that legacy while also looking to the future as they develop new works for the stage. The Company is another reason why the arts and the sciences aren’t separate and distinct at Carolina. It’s a great example of our ‘synergy unleashed’ approach to higher education.”
The Mainstage season will welcome one of the Bard’s best tales of political intrigue; a sweeping Tony Award-winning musical; a seminal American novel in a theatrical re-imagining; a comedy about why fences make terrible neighbors; a fresh take on the age-old morality play; and a world-premiere comedy about a farm-to-table food fight.
The PRC2 Kenan Stage series, curated to spark conversation, employs the voices of two North Carolina writers who explore two vastly different women of substantial legacy. A third story will examine a community’s path to forgiveness after unthinkable tragedy.
“Some of the brightest and most thought-provoking theater-makers of today like Karen Zacarías, Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins, Jacqueline E. Lawton and Heidi Armbruster will engage and collide with some foundational stories and storytellers,” said producing artistic director Vivienne Benesch. “This season includes two world premieres by astonishing female writers alongside PlayMakers’ first production of Julius Caesar in its history. 2019-2020 will be full to the brim with great theater.”
2019-2020 Mainstage Productions
“Native Son,” by Nambi E. Kelley, Sept. 11-29, 2019. The season opens with an American literature classic, adapted by Nambi E. Kelly into a theatrical and psychological kaleidoscope for a new generation. The first adaptation of Richard Wright’s “Native Son” was written at UNC-Chapel Hill as a collaboration between Wright and Pulitzer Prize-winner Paul Green. In Kelley’s searing new adaptation, Bigger Thomas still struggles to find his place in a world whose prejudice has shut him out. Is Bigger’s slide into violence an inevitable outcome of the racism and poverty that surrounds him?
“Dairyland,” by Heidi Armbruster, Oct. 16-Nov. 3, 2019. A world premiere comedy invites audiences to experience an epic farm-to-table food fight. Allie, a food writer in New York City, is raw from a failed office romance, journalistic rivalry and baby shower crafts. When she finds herself on the wrong side of the food scene, will her father’s dairy farm and Patches the cow show her the way home?
“Ragtime,” book by Terrence McNally, music by Stephen Flaherty, lyrics by Lynne Ahrens, Nov. 20-Dec. 15, 2019. Based on the novel of the same name by E.L. Doctorow, the Tony Award-winning musical about the American experience and the volatile “melting pot” in turn of the 20th century New York weaves a tale that is as relevant today as ever. Sweeping melodies tell three distinctly American stories: a determined Jewish immigrant and his motherless daughter; a daring Harlem musician; and a well-off white family from New Rochelle. “Ragtime” paints a powerful picture of the American Dream as “some of the most breathtaking musical theater writing of the last 25 years” (Los Angeles Times). This production will feature the long-anticipated PlayMakers debut of Lauren Kennedy as Mother.
“Everybody,” by Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins, Jan. 22-Feb. 9, 2020. This existential comedy updates the medieval morality play “Everyman” to take audiences on a life-affirming journey of love. Hounded by Death, the character of Everybody desperately searches everything and everyone in life with the hope of finding something to take to the grave. Five brave actors will be assigned their roles by lottery each night — 120 possible combinations — as they fight to cheat Death.
“Julius Caesar,” by William Shakespeare, March 4-22, 2020. The Bard’s classic play of politics and power hits the stage at PlayMakers for the first time ever. When Julius Caesar’s heroic magnetism tips the scale and threatens to undo four centuries of republican rule in Rome, a small band of patriots are determined to put things right. But is their concept of right any better?
“Native Gardens,” by Karen Zacarías, April 8-26, 2020. This comedy underscores why good fences don’t always make great neighbors. An attorney on the rise and his very pregnant wife could not feel more welcomed by their new neighbors. But a friendly disagreement about the lay of the land quickly spirals into a war of taste, class and entitlement.
2019/20 PRC2 Kenan Stage Productions
Every PRC2 performance is followed by a “second act” of discussion.
“No Fear & Blues Long Gone: Nina Simone,” by Howard L. Craft, Aug. 22-25, 2020. Our PRC2 series opens with Howard Craft’s tale of storytelling and song that celebrates the music, loves and losses of legendary North Carolina singer Nina Simone.
“The Amish Project,” by Jessica Dickey, Jan. 8-12, 2020. This timely drama is a fictionalized exploration of an all-too-real scenario today: a schoolhouse shooting. When an Amish community is shaken by violence, the community finds a path of forgiveness and compassion in its wake.
“Edges of Time,” by Jacqueline E. Lawton, April 29-May 3, 2020. PlayMakers’ company member Jacqueline Lawton premieres her “dramedy” about the life and times of Marvel Cooke, pioneering journalist and activist who was the first African-American female writer to work for a mainstream newspaper. Company favorite Kathryn Hunter Williams takes on the title role.
All performances will be presented in the Joan H. Gillings Center for Dramatic Art in Chapel Hill. Mainstage productions will be in the Paul Green Theatre. PRC2 shows will be in the Elizabeth Price Kenan Theatre.
Subscription packages are now available for purchase, and renewing subscribers can secure current seats for the new season through May 1. Single tickets go on sale July 1. Call (919)962-7529 or visit www.playmakersrep.org for information.