Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Annual "Eat Your Theater Vegetables" List: 2011-2012

I'll get to that classic play eventually.

Instead of penning a memoir about how I spent a year seeing classics of the theater and learned how to get a book contract, I thought I would just post my annual list of canonical theatrical productions.

This list is not risky, but remember that it is being compiled by a man whose job in the military was making sure he never engaged the enemy.

We all have those shameful admissions, you know the ones I'm talking about, don't you? You hate all over Flaubert, but have never cracked the spine of Madame Bovary. You were supposed to read at least sections of The Illiad in high school, but you got the Cliff Notes instead, (younger readers may have even rented Troy, starring Brad Pitt as Achilles.) A DVD of Citizen Kane still sits in the shrink wrap on your bookshelf, and you downloaded the MP3 album for Don Giovanni, but you can't remember on which drive it resides.

This list is for you!

The ephemeral nature of theatrical productions provides added challenges to the already fragile self esteem of the cultural poseur. You can, of course, pick up a copy of The Misanthrope by Moliere, but it may be years before a production will come to the area. If you miss that one chance, your guilt may eat away at you for another five years.

Fear not! Below is a list of Boston area productions of canonical theatrical works that are coming up in the 2011-2012 season.

Some of these are very rare, indeed. For instance, Porgy and Bess is not produced all that often. However, some are staples of large and small theaters, (The Crucible, Chicago, A Streetcar Named Desire,) but if you haven't seen them, you probably should.

The emerging playwright of this list is Euripides! Boston audiences will see three stagings of his work in the upcoming season. Two of these will be by Whistler in the Dark.

Audiences will have two chances to see Anton Chekhov's Three Sisters, although the production at Yale Repertory Theater is subtitled "A New Version by Sarah Ruhl".

I have also included a new play on this list. Performing artist Laurie Anderson is an influential part of the late Twentieth century American theater and her new piece Delusion is at ArtsEmerson this fall.

So, here it is.

August: Porgy and Bess by George and Ira Gershwin at American Repertory Theatre

September: Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett at Boston Conservatory

September: The Crucible by Arthur Miller at Hartford Stage

September: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard at The Footlight Club

September: His Girl Friday by John Guare, adapted from The Front Page by Ben Hecht/Charles Macarthur and Columbia Pictures at Trinity Rep

September: Candide Music Leonard Berstein. Lyrics Richard Wilbur, Book by Hugh Wheeler at Huntington Theatre Company

September: The Bacchae by Euripides at Whistler in the Dark

September: Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov (Translation Sarah Ruhl) at Yale Repertory

September: Delusion by Laurie Anderson at ArtsEmerson

September: The King and I by Rodgers and Hammerstein at North Shore Music Theatre

September: Tiny Kushner; An Evening of Short Plays at Zeitgeist Stage

October: Chicago by Kander and Ebb at MetroStage Company

October: Cloud Nine by Caryl Churchill at Emerson Stage

November Mabou Mines Dollhouse at ArtsEmerson

November: Lend Me a Tenor by Ken Ludwig - Longwood Players

November: The Balcony by Jean Genet at Boston Conservatory

November: Noises Off by Michael Frayn at Quannopowitt Players

November: Ain't Misbehavin' at Lyric Stage Company

November: A Doctor in Spite of Himself by Moliere at Yale Repertory

December: The Imaginary Ivalid by Moliere at Boston University School of Theatre

January: Fen by Caryl Churchill at Whistler in the Dark

January: The Play About the Baby by Edward Albee at Equisite Corps Theatre

January: The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard at Salem Theatre Company

January: Absurd Person Singular by Alan Ayckbourn at The Footlight Club

January: Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller Arlington Friends of the Drama

February: Medea by Euripides at Actors Shakespeare Project

March: Ma Rainey's Black Bottom by August Wilson at Huntington Theater Company

April: Boeing, Boeing by Marc Camoletti at Trinity Rep

April: Long Day's Journey Into Night by Eugene O'Neill at New Rep

April: The Miracle Worker at Wheelock Family Theater

May: A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams at Vokes Players

May: Anything Goes by Cole Porter at Longwood Players

May: Trojan Women by Euripides at Whistler in the Dark

May: Private Lives by Noel Coward at Huntington Theatre Company

June: Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov at The Footlight Club

So I should say that there is always some debate about this list. Some plays were enormous hits in their times, but maybe aren't really canonical, (as you can tell, I'm using that term loosely.) For instance, Bell, Book and Candle is on at Hartford Stage next Spring, but is that frothy Broadway smash of the 1950's really essential viewing? Then again, I have included the sexy farce Boeing, Boeing at Trinity Rep. I am not a fan of The Play About the Baby, but it is one of the few Albee plays on offer this year. Tony Kushner is not really known for his short plays, but when else are you going to see a whole evening of them, like you will at Zeitgeist Stage this fall?

The companies presenting these works range from large to small, and from professional to community to student. While I cannot, of course, vouch for these particular productions, I can say that all of the companies listed have done great work in the past. Boston has some of the oldest community theaters in the country, and you will often find some of hottest fringe actors from downtown at Arlington Friends of the Drama or at the Footlight Club in Jamaica Plain. In fact, directors from Boston's best professional companies are called upon to helm productions at the local universities.

By the way, I don't include Shakespeare on this list, because it goes without saying, I hope.

So, there it is, and let me know your thoughts, or clue me into anything I've missed - the comments section was invented for that kind of thing.


Esther said...

Wow, great list!

I saw Porgy and Bess last week and loved it. I'd never seen it or even heard the music before.

It's not canonical but Trinity Rep is also doing Bruce Norris' Clybourne Park, this year's Pulitzer Prize winner for Drama.

I skipped The Crucible at Trinity Rep this winter. I saw it in high school. That counts, right? ;-)

knezmom said...

I see that you don't have national traveling on your list, but can we make an exception for Les Miserables? November at PPAC and in the Spring in Boston. Can't wait to take my kids to see it.

Go see as much theatre as you possibly can! My daughter and I have seen 36 different productions in the past 15 months. Yup, we're hooked.

Art said...

Thanks Esther.

I am certainly looking forward to Clybourne Park. I have often thought about putting recent Pulitzer winners on the list, (Proof, Doubt, Next to Normal, etc.)

Art said...

@knezmom That's great that you're seeing so much theater.

I love Les Miserable, but there is a lot that I love that doesn't quite make this list either.

I did, however, think about adding South Pacific - it is coming in on a touring production this fall as well.

Thomas Garvey said...

I know I'm different, but I just have trouble thinking of most of the plays listed as 'vegetables.' To me, they're more like dessert - it's the new plays that are the vegetables, except for the Ruhl translation, which sounds like roadkill.