Next Season Preview: Studio Theatre

Studio Theatre‘s 2014-15 season is the subject of today’s gaze into the dramatic future, and it includes the world premiere of a comedy, “Laugh,” by Beth Henley (“Crimes of the Heart”) and the introduction to Washington audiences of the work of New York actor-playwright Taylor Mac. We’re up to No. 9 in our looks at D.C. theater seasons, as we’ve previously explored the agendas of Shakespeare Theatre Company, Woolly Mammoth Theatre, Arena Stage, the Kennedy Center, Round House Theatre, Synetic Theater, Signature Theatre and Ford’s Theatre.

Company trademark: Contemporary American, British and Irish plays.

The season:

– “Belleville,” by Amy Herzog, directed by David Muse (Subscription series)

– “Bad Jews,” by Joshua Harmon, directed by Serge Seiden (Subscription series)

– “Choir Boy,” by Tarell Alvin McCraney, director TBA (Subscription series)

– “Laugh,” by Beth Henley, directed by David Schweizer (Subscription series)

– “The Wolfe Twins,” by Rachel Bonds, director TBA (Lab)

– “Murder Ballad,” by Julia Jordan and Juliana Nash, directed by Muse (Special event)

– “Terminus,” by Mark O’Rowe, director TBA (2ndStage)

– “Hir,” by Taylor Mac, directed by Holly Twyford (2ndStage)

– “Silence! The Musical,” by Hunter Bell, Jon Kaplan and Al Kaplan, directed by Keith Alan Baker (2ndStage)

–  A play TBA (Subscription series)

[The company is also unveiling a redesigned website and logo design:]


(Courtesy of Studio Theatre)

NOTE: The five-play subscription series is the company’s “main stage” presentations. The Lab is its $20-ticket new play offering. The three-play 2ndStage offers alternative programming. Special events, too, are scheduled outside the subscription series, and Studio’s artistic director David Muse says he may add one more special event to the season. (Got all that?)

Highlights: Two world premieres by female playwrights, one by the veteran Henley, the other by the up-and-coming Bonds, figure prominently in Studio’s 10-play season. Henley’s satirical “Laugh” is a tonal departure for her, as was her splendidly dark “The Jacksonian,” produced wonderfully in the fall by New York’s New Group, and the highly thought-of Bonds debuts in Washington with “The Wolfe Twins,” about siblings traveling in Italy. Dramatists McCraney (“The Brother/Sister Plays”), O’Rowe (“Crestfall“) and Herzog (“4000 Miles”) return to Studio with plays recently produced elsewhere. Harmon’s bristling comedy “Bad Jews” was an off-Broadway hit for Roundabout Theatre Company. Twyford, who made her Studio directorial debut this season with “Edgar & Annabel,” has as her sophomore effort the reins of “Hir” (pronounced HERE), a word coined for, as the San Francisco’s Magic Theatre put it for the play’s premiere, “a third-sex gender identity.” The work of the gifted Mac, who appeared winningly at the Public Theater in The Foundry Theatre’s revival of “The Good Woman of Szechwan,” is being introduced to D.C. audiences with this family comedy. “Silence! The Musical” is a spoof of the Oscar-winning “The Silence of the Lambs.” And for the first time, too, Muse himself will direct a musical, “Murder Ballad,” a well-received off-Broadway show that was described by Variety as “a violent tabloid tale of love, lust and betrayal.”

Analysis: Fresh off the success of his production of “Tribes” – the highest earning show in Studio’s history — Muse seems to be firmly establishing his artistic voice at the helm of one of Washington’s premier outposts for modern drama. The company’s founding artistic director, Joy Zinoman, found her inspiration in the plays of, among others, Tom Stoppard, Samuel Beckett, David Mamet and Caryl Churchill. Muse, her successor, reveals in this fourth season fully programmed by him his appetite to build a new stable of writers. Fascinatingly, the most widely-known playwright on his roster is Henley, who herself is not exactly a household name; the fact that she has come to Studio with a new work, though, is highly significant, an emblem of the company’s stepped-up efforts to be a showcase for first glimpses at American plays. This is important, and has to be encouraged. That he’s providing for Twyford’s development as a director is commendable, too. With the new look to its graphics, the company seems to be trumpeting the settling in of the Muse ethos.

Peter Marks joined the Washington Post as its chief theater critic in 2002. Prior to that he worked for nine years at the New York Times, on the culture, metropolitan and national desks, and spent about four years as its off-Broadway drama critic.
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