It’s been two months since “Pippin” wrapped up production at Lamb Arts Regional Theatre. Staff members can rest easy right? Oh wait. They have to get ready for the next season.
Jessica Wheeler, box office and marketing manager at Lamb, is eager to see the theater’s newest season unfold. Here’s what we can come to expect from Lamb within the next year:
(Sept. 15-Oct. 1)
The theater’s 38th season kicks off with “Alabama Story,” a new play that’s making its regional premiere in Lamb. Wheeler said the story is based on a real-life incident in the 1960s in which a children’s book caused a stir when it depicted a white rabbit and black rabbit getting married.
“The author wasn’t even trying to make a statement,” said Wheeler. “He just liked the artistic contrast. A senator in Alabama was trying to get the book banned. So the story is about this senator and this librarian who took a stand against censorship.”
It’s not a theater season without a bit of Shakespeare thrown in the mix.
“The show starts out with Viola and her twin brother Sebastian on a boat heading toward new land, but then the ship is wrecked,” said Wheeler. “Viola finds herself stranded on the shore and she is isolated and alone as a woman in a strange land. Rather than be this piteous creature, she decides she’s going to dress herself as a man to make her own way.”
Viola ends up this love triangle with a nobleman, who in turn is in love with a nobleman who happens to be in love with Viola (who is disguised as a man). Yup. That sounds like Shakespeare alright.
JAMES & THE GIANT PEACH
(Nov. 17-Dec. 10)
Ah, a story that us Weekender writers know all too well. The play is of course reminiscent to the 1961 novel of the same name by Roald Dahl, as well as the 1996 film. Wheeler said Lamb’s production of “James & The Giant Peach” will be a largely adult cast with the exception of James. Still months away from rehearsals, Wheeler said the theater is already preparing for this particular play.
“They are getting things ready in the shop so they can start building now,” she said. “There are things that are going to appear on this show that are in the process of being built right now. And we’re already talking costumes.”
This youth show is actually an original musical written and composed by the CEO of Lamb Arts Ltd. Diana Guhin Wooley. The story is based on the folk tale “Stone Soup,” in which a hungry stranger asks for food from refusing townsfolk but ends up convincing them to share small amounts of their food to add to a cauldron of stone soup.
The villagers learn lessons about “caring, sharing and community.”
THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES
The play that received a fair bit of criticism and controversy when it first premiered in 1996 will now be given new life at Lamb. “The Vagina Monologues” carries with it social and political themes that still resonate to this day.
Made up on various personal monologues read by a full cast of women, the play brings up stories of sex, body image, menstruation, genital mutilation and other striking topics. The play’s subject matter will likely leave an impact on audiences.
The 1953 play by Arthur Miller dramatizes a partially fictionalized story of the Salem witch trials that took place during the late-1600s. The trials were a series of prosecutions of people accused of witchcraft during the colonial era, many of which resulted in brutal executions. The show draws comparisons to McCarthyism, a time when the government ostracized people and accused them of being communists.
“It’s this parallel of that time in our country,” said Wheeler.
Wheeler is especially excited about “Aura.” Why?
“I’m directing this one!” she said. “I absolutely love the script. It starts with Earl and Mike. Earl likes to sit in the park and Mike just walks by and starts talking to Earl. Earl does not want to be talked to. Mike won’t take a hint to leave. Then he just blurts out that he can see people’s auras. And the story kind of starts from there.”
Wheeler won’t say too much more about the story for fear of spoiling the surprises. Dang it. I guess that’s OK.
If you’ve seen the movie starring the stacked cast of Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Daryl Hannah, Shirley MacLaine and Julia Roberts, then you already know all about this movie. The play the film was adapted from is a comedy-drama venturing into the bond amongst a group of Southern women.
“That is a classic,” said Wheeler. “It’s funny, funny, funny… not funny… and then funny again. These are really feisty ladies. It’s similar to ‘On Golden Pond’ in a way. The humor comes from not trying to be funny but because the characters are witty and real. It’s the reality of these women and their strength and watching the fireworks of their personalities and friendships that are funny.”
This newer musical by “Pippin” composer Stephen Schwartz pulls a set list of specific songs from shows created by the aforementioned lyricist and turns them into an entirely different play.
“They’ve reconfigured it into a new musical and wrote a new story,” Wheeler. “It’s a new musical with songs re-envisioned. So it’s changing the context and the character of who is singing the song and that changes the meaning of the song. It has a lot of really recognizable songs.”