On Monday night, Howard Shalwitz played master of ceremonies for Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company’s Season 33 announcement, an upcoming year of productions he called the company’s “most passionate season” to date.
Unsurprisingly, given Woolly’s embrace of social media, tweeting was not only kosher but encouraged — #Woolly33 to stay in the know! — and fans could follow along as Woolly live-tweeted the event.
“What you’re about to see is completely spontaneous and unrehearsed,” said Shalwitz (though he was holding notes, which indicated otherwise).
Though Woolly doesn’t yet have “the secret magic phrase” for next season, the focus is “cultural excavations and collisions. Where do our culture and values come from? [And] how do they collide in relation to each other and within our own souls?”
The evening that followed was like a live version of the coming attractions you get before the movies: snippets of dialogue from some of the shows, video clips from others and interviews with a couple of playwrights.
“The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity,” a 2010 Pulitzer Prize finalist by Kristoffer Diaz, will open the season. Directed by company member John Vreeke, the play gets inside the guts of the world of professional wrestling. Jose Joaquin Perez, recently seen at Woolly in “Oedipus el Rey,” performed a monologue his character delivers early in the show.
He was followed by Mia Chung, the playwright of “You for Me for You,” the story of two North Korean sisters who try to immigrate to America. It is Chung’s first professional production — she just completed her MFA at Brown University — and she said she was inspired by the idea of using Stockholm Syndrome “as a paradigm for looking at North Korea. . . . My goal was to write a play that confronted North Korea and make it funny.”
“The Convert,” by Obie Award-winner Danai Gurira and directed by company member Michael John Garces, is set in 1895 and follows a young African girl who converts to Christianity to escape from an arranged marriage.
Mike Daisey’s new effort, “American Utopias,” will follow. Shalwitz, Woolly’s artistic director, described the world premiere as “using Disney and Burning Man as a platform for analyzing the Zuccotti Park movement . . . as an expression of American utopian impulse.”
The season will close with “Stupid F---ing Bird,” Aaron Posner’s adaptation of Chekhov’s “The Seagull.” Posner was on hand to read a scene with Shalwitz, who will direct.
At first, he said, he thought this was a play “that nobody will ever do.” Then he reconsidered. “No one will ever do this play — except Woolly Mammoth.”
Picture George Washington.
The first thing you see probably isn’t his mouthful of wooden teeth hidden behind his thin-lipped non-smile that faces you, deadpan, on the front of every dollar bill.
The thing you likely think of is his hair. It’s always the hair, that go-to iconic feature. Which is why the wigs of Ford’s Theatre’s “1776” are central to the production.
“There are 24 wigs in the show,” said Cookie Jordan, the wig and makeup designer who is dressing the wigs for the show. (To make custom-built wigs from scratch, she said, could cost $2,400 — per wig.)
Her decisions are all informed by the vision of the costume designer, Wade Laboissonniere, who is Ford’s Theatre’s associate artist. This is Laboissonniere’s ninth show with Ford’s; recently, he worked on “Parade,” “Sabrina Fair” and “Little Shop of Horrors.”
For “1776,” he said, “it’s about historical accuracy, to a degree. We look at a lot of primary research, real paintings, etchings and go from there.” A few of the most beloved Founding Fathers, such as Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, will wear their famous styles. “I think people need to see that.”
While doing his research, Laboissonniere found that preconceived notions of how these people might have looked completely clashed with, well, reality. For instance: the powdered wig.
“It’s a little bit earlier than this particular time period, [and] it’s also a little more formal,” he said. “I know in a lot of previous ‘1776’ productions they’re all very fancy. And these men, though some of them were well-to-do and aristocratic, for the most part they had an American sensibility.
“We really want the audience to see these people as human beings who have come from different places in the country. . . . The challenge that I gave myself was, ‘We will not repeat a hairstyle, ever.’ So there are 24 different looks on that stage.”
In addition to the past, there is the present to consider. “One of the things about actors it you’ve got to actually make them look good,” he said. “The historical research is a map. It just gives you a direction to go in. And then you have to tweak it to have the feeling, the flavor. We’re not doing Disney’s Hall of Presidents.”
Through May 19, 511 10th St. NW, www.fords.org, 202-347-4833.
The play is Christopher Gallu’s directorial debut at Keegan. Cast member Dave Jourdan is reprising his Helen Hayes-nominated role from 2001. The 11 other angry men are played by Colin Smith, Tim Lynch, Rich Montomery, Bradley Smith, Michael Innocenti, Mike Kozemchak, Jon Townson, Mark Rhea, Richard Jamborsky, Andres Talero and Kevin Adams.
Through March 31, Church Street Theater, 1742 Church St. NW, www.keegantheatre.com , 703-892-0202.