Stepping Out

Pandemic prompts TheatreWorks to revamp upcoming season

Madhuri Shekar
Niyantha Shekar/Special to the Town Crier
The drama “Queen” – written by San Jose’s Madhuri Shekar, above – is slated to kick off TheatreWorks Silicon Valley’s 2020-2021 season in October.

Town Crier Report

TheatreWorks Silicon Valley last week unveiled changes to its 2020-2021 season. Originally slated to begin in July, the company’s 51st season has been postponed until October due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are all in this together and it will be our shared spirit that brings us through this challenging time,” founding artistic director Robert Kelley said in a statement. “We want to thank our patrons for all of the calls, emails of support, and donations over the last few weeks. They have meant a lot to all of us and we are grateful for your encouragement and well wishes.”
Tim Bond, replacing the retiring Kelley in June, added, “Thank you for believing in the importance of theater to provide a place to laugh, reflect and celebrate the human spirit. We will be ready to serve our community in October and invite you to our reimagined upcoming season.”

The season will include the regional premiere of a hit Broadway play, another musical by acclaimed performer Hershey Felder, the regional premiere of a Jane Austen musical by Tony Award-nominated composer Paul Gordon, a high-stakes environmental drama, a timely Tony-winning musical, an onstage adaptation of a beloved holiday film and a personalized portrait of a century of American history.

TheatreWorks also announced it will begin the following season in July 2021 with a world premiere developed in its New Works Festival. This year’s New Works Festival, originally slated for Aug. 7-16, has been postponed to early 2021; exact dates have not yet been announced.

Tim Bond
Bond

Here’s a rundown of the upcoming season:

• “Queen,” Oct. 7 through Nov. 1 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St. Written by San Jose native Madhuri Shekar, the environmental drama follows female doctoral candidates Sanam from India and Ariel from the United States, who are on the brink of publishing groundbreaking research about the rapid global honeybee demise. When Sanam discovers that their numbers don’t quite add up, she grapples with a moral dilemma: publish the paper and face humiliation if the truth is discovered, or stand by her scientific principles, ceding ground to an ecological disaster and jeopardizing her career and friendship. Jeffrey Lo directs.

• “It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play,” Dec. 2-27 at the Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. Adapted by Joe Landry from the screenplay by Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Frank Capra and Jo Swerling, the holiday production offers the beloved 1946 film as a 1940s-era radio play, complete with live Foley-style sound effects. Five nimble actors take on dozens of roles, immersing audiences in the iconic story of George Bailey as he considers suicide on Christmas Eve but discovers the impact of his life. Giovanna Sardelli directs.

• “Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years,” Jan. 13 through Feb. 7 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. Adapted by Obie Award winner Emily Mann from the best-selling memoir by Sarah L. Delany, A. Elizabeth Delany and Amy Hill Hearth, the drama features two centenarian sisters sharing the lessons they’ve learned over their exceptional century on Earth. Bearing witness to formative events from the Jim Crow era to the 1990s, the trailblazing sisters provide a vibrant and personal perspective on U.S. history. The Broadway play received three Tony nominations. Bond directs.

• “Sense and Sensibility,” March 10 through April 4 at the Lucie Stern Theatre. The regional premiere of the musical features book, music and lyrics by Paul Gordon. Based on the Jane Austen novel, “Sense” follows sisters Elinor and Marianne Dashwood through their change in fortune after their father’s untimely death and ensuing romantic trials, events that test and affirm the bonds of sisterhood. While Elinor is prudent in matters of life and love, not revealing her heart’s true desire, Marianne is wildly impulsive, falling head-over-heels for a dashing but unscrupulous suitor. Kelley returns to TheatreWorks to direct.

• “Hershey Felder as Monsieur Chopin,” March 17 through April 18 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. Felder, who has sold out shows performing as Irving Berlin, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky for TheatreWorks, returns to the stage as famous Polish composer Frederic Chopin. Felder tells Chopin’s story while sharing virtuoso performances of his compositions. Joel Zwick directs.

• “The Lifespan of a Fact,” late April through early May (exact dates to be announced) at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. The regional premiere of the Broadway hit – written by Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell and Gordon Farrell – is based on the book of the same name by John D’Agata and Jim Fingal. War is waged between fact and fiction when an eager journalism intern is assigned to fact-check a respected author’s groundbreaking essay for a top magazine and the piece’s “truths” don’t all align. In the current era of “alternative facts” and “fake news,” the comedy calls into question the importance of ethics versus artistic liberty. Bond directs.

• “Ragtime,” June 2-27, 2021, at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. Featuring the Tony-winning book by Pulitzer Prize finalist Terrence McNally and the Tony-winning score by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, the musical is based on E.L. Doctorow’s best-selling novel. It paints a portrait of America at the dawn of the 20th century, interweaving the lives of three families – white, African-American and immigrant – finding their places and pursuing the American dream in a rapidly changing world. Kelley directs the production, which was originally scheduled to run last month.

Tickets are not yet available.

For more information, call 463-1960 or visit theatreworks.org.

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