IRT’s 2008-2009 Season

This morning I went to my first media event as a theatre reviewer.  It was an unveiling of the Indiana Repertory Theatre’s 2008-2009 season.

I think I am going to have to write a separate and more personal “Reflections” post about how thrilling it was to attend my first press breakfast.  (I felt so shy, but it was so much fun!)   However, first I am making a new post category – “Season Previews” – and giving you the scoop about what is coming up at the IRT.

There will be ten shows next year instead of nine, to give theatre goers even more choice.  As usual, a lot of thought went into selecting those ten shows.

Steven Stolen, the IRT’s Managing Director, said that unlike a sports franchise, a theatre has to plan its next season without having the immediate feedback of a win-loss record.   In other words, they won’t have all the data about the effectiveness of their choices this year until this year’s shows are over, but they have to set next year’s season way before then.  It is quite a challenge.

However, Stolen said that they do know several things for sure.  For example, single ticket sales are increasing.  Season subscribers are still important, too, of course, and 40% of their audience comes from student audiences.  Through its education program, the IRT serves sixty (60!) of Indiana’s  ninety-two counties.   Their season has to somehow appeal to all of these audience segments.

By the way, Stolen also shared some statistics about the IRT’s financial success over the past five years, but I need to confirm some of the notes I took before I share them here.  Let’s just say that his talk appealed to the investor in me.

Artistic Director Janet Allen spoke of “sculpting the season” (I love that expression!) and shared with us some of the thinking that went into it.  As Allen spoke, Director of Marketing Jennifer Mead Gervasi unveiled the preliminary poster for each show.  Their presentation brought out the collector in me: I want to see every single piece!  Here is the line-up:

Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure, adapted by Steven Dietz, based on the original 1899 play by William Gillette and Arthur Conan Doyle.  9/16-10/11.  Mainstage.  I immediately thought of several teens I know who are Holmes fans.

Macbeth, by William Shakespeare.  10/8-11/9.  Upperstage.  A 90-minute adaptation with modern touches. I enjoyed the IRT’s “Hamlet” in 2007.  I am looking forward to seeing their “Scottish play,” too.

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, adapted by Tom Haas.  11/3-12/28.  Mainstage.  I hope that Chuck Goad plays Scrooge again!  Last year was only my first year to see this IRT tradition, but already I am looking forward to this year.

This Wonderful Life, written by Steve Murray, conceived by Mark Setlock.  11/25-1/4.  Upperstage.  A funny one-man show in which the actor not only plays the 32 characters from the film, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but also comments on the film as a cultural icon.

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, adapted by Christopher Sergel.  1/21-2/21.  Mainstage.  I laughed when Allen said that TKAM is “touted by librarians as one of two books that everyone should read, the other being the Bible.”  But it’s true: we librarians do love it!  It is a very discussable book: great for book clubs and satisfying to read again and again.

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, adapted by Marilyn Campbell and Curt Columbus.  2/10-3/8.  Upperstage.  Another 90-minute adaptation.  Allen said that this taut play “takes an introspective book and makes it actional…a rush of power.” 

Interpreting William, by IRT’s playwright-in-residence James Still.  3/3-3/22.  Mainstage.  The IRT has been working with Conner Prairie Living History Museum for five years to bring this story of Indiana settler William Conner to life.

Crowns, by Regina Taylor, adapted from the book by Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry.  4/7-5/2.  Mainstage.  Allen said this is the “musical installation” of the season.  The piece, which is based on a coffee-table book that celebrates and explores African-American women’s use of hats, includes a rich selection of Gospel music.

Rabbit Hole, by David Lindsay-Abaire.  4/21-5/17.  Upperstage.  This 2007 Pulitzer Prize winning family drama is perfectly suited for the IRT’s intimate Upperstage space.  It is a Broadway show that would probably not be available to Indy theatre-goers otherwise.

The Ladies Man, by Georges Feydeau, freely translated and adapted from Taillieur Pour Dames by Charles Morey.  5/12-5/31.  Mainstage.  My first thought when I heard about this show was “uh-oh.”  My admittedly limited experience of farce makes me think it is not my favorite thing.  However, I agree with Allen that farce is one of the hardest forms of theatre for actors to do well because of its demanding pace and because of the precision it requires.  

And if anyone can convince me to give a theatrical form a second chance, it’s the IRT, so I am game for “Ladies Man,” too.

I love that this is a season of literature-based theatre and that there are a lot of what could be called old favorites but with what promise to be fresh, exciting interpretations.

Hope Baugh – www.indytheatrehabit.com

6 thoughts on “IRT’s 2008-2009 Season”

  1. Many good things to look forward to. I am curious why IRT would put “Crowns” on their schedule. The Phoenix had a fantastic production of this musical not too long ago. With soooo many great works by/for the African-American community, I am surprised that IRT wouldn’t bring us something new.

  2. Janet Allen mentioned that the Phoenix had already done “Crowns,” but I don’t remember what she said about why the IRT wanted to do it, too. Maybe they just want to give their own interpretation of it. I am sorry I missed the Phoenix production. It would have been fun to compare the two.

    Thanks for reading and commenting, Adam!

  3. Crowns! Been looking forward since I first heard of this show. Next to shoes, my favorite item of apparel is a big ole hat, and while red, ankle-strap stilletos can make your feet hurt, nothing is painful about a Garbo-style felt or a straw Scarlett hat.

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