Com­ing up in Philly the­ater: World pre­mieres, fam­i­ly plays, and a push toward accessibility

3 minute read
There's still more from August Wilson playing in Philly this spring. (Photo courtesy of the Huntington.)
There's still more from August Wilson playing in Philly this spring. (Photo courtesy of the Huntington.)

Spring officially sprang on March 20, and along with it comes the last push of offerings for the Philadelphia theater season. More than 40 shows will open between now and June, so there will surely be something to suit everyone

InterAct gets to the heart of the matter

InterAct Theatre Company continues a season of topical contemporary dramas with Heartland by Gabriel Jason Dean, running March 29 through April 21 at the Drake. The play examines the relationship between an aging American professor and an Afghan refugee in the wake of a shocking death. Heartland is the latest Philly staging from the National New Play Network Rolling World Premieres, a program that allows new works to be seen on multiple stages around the country over a year. InterAct’s production is the final stop on a tour that’s included Geva Theater Company (Rochester, New York), New Repertory Theater (Watertown, Massachusetts), and the Vortex (Austin, Texas).

The gift of Peter Pan

At People’s Light in Malvern, members of the resident acting troupe portray a creative family in Sarah Ruhl’s For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday (April 10 through May 12 on the Steinbright Stage). Ruhl wrote the play as a gift to her mother Kathleen, a longtime amateur actor in Iowa who made a specialty of the title sprite. Kathleen Ruhl won’t be appearing in the People’s Light production as she did when the play premiered in Chicago, but you will get company stalwarts Marcia Saunders, Leonard C. Haas, Peter DeLaurier, Mary Elizabeth Scallen, Graham Smith, and Stephen Novelli. Appropriately, the show gives its final performance on Mother's Day.

Partying with Oedipus

The Wilma Theater closes its season with Kate Tarker’s Dionysus Was Such a Nice Man (April 23 through May 12). A commissioned world premiere, the play riffs on classical Greek theater, imagining what would happen if the family of Oedipus partied a bit too hard after his coronation at Thebes. The production, under Dominique Serrand’s direction, draws from the HotHouse, the Wilma’s standing company. Familiar faces include Ross Beschler, Taysha Marie Canales, Matteo Scammell, Melanye Finister, and Keith Conallen.

More August Wilson, please

Those who didn’t get enough of August Wilson after his twin productions at the Arden have another chance to relish the American master’s words. The Resident Ensemble Players (REP), the permanent company of the University of Delaware, stages Fences from April 25 through May 12. The compelling family drama brought Wilson his first Pulitzer Prize in 1987, and more recently brought Viola Davis an Academy Award for the 2016 film adaptation. Walter Dallas, former artistic director of Philly’s Freedom Theatre, directs REP’s production.

Curio Theatre Company advocates for access

The invaluable West Philly-based Curio Theatre Company returns to Shakespeare with The Winter’s Tale (April 24 through May 18). With this production, it also becomes the latest local theater to adopt a pay-what-you-decide ticketing structure. CuriosiTix will allow patrons to make reservations for performances without paying any money up front. Audience members can decide to donate any amount toward their ticket and can also offer to “play it forward,” putting money toward other reservations. This initiative will surely help make theater more inclusive and accessible to all.

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