Guthrie Theater's 2015-16 season gives a taste of new artistic director Joseph Haj

The new artistic director will direct two shows in a 2015-16 season that mixes the familiar with more adventurous works.

GRAYDON ROYCE
Updated 5/19/2015

The new Guthrie Theater season announced Wednesday gives the theatergoing public its first glimpse at some of the work that interests new Artistic Director Joseph Haj. The nine-play 2015-16 subscription season includes pieces that already had been in the pipeline and some contributions from Haj, who takes over from Joe Dowling on July 1.

The slate pushes more-challenging work on the proscenium stage and then balances that with familiar chestnuts on the larger thrust stage. This is somewhat consistent with Dowling’s programming.

“The coming season will offer our patrons an exceptionally rich variety of theater-going experiences and I can’t wait to get to know our Guthrie community this fall,” Haj said in a statement. He remains at his post as producing artistic director at PlayMakers Repertory Theatre in Chapel Hill, N.C., until July 1.

Haj will direct two productions in the season. His first is Shakespeare’s “Pericles,” which he staged at Oregon Shakespeare Festival earlier this year. It will run Jan. 16-Feb. 21 on the thrust stage. Haj will then direct Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific” on the thrust stage June 18-Aug. 28, 2016.

The thrust stage will open with “To Kill a Mockingbird” Sept. 12-Oct. 18, directed by John Miller-Stephany. “Harvey,” playwright Mary Chase’s Pulitzer-winning play that has become staple of community and academic theaters will run there April 9-May 15.

Proscenium stage

That leaves five shows for the proscenium stage. The season opens there with a WorldStage Series presentation of “The Events” by Scottish playwright David Greig, Sept. 30-Nov. 1. This is a production by Actors Touring Company, based in the United Kingdom. Greig was moved to write by the terrorist attack that left eight people dead in Norway in 2011. The play is about a community searching for peace in the aftermath of violence. It will include a soundscape sung by choirs drawn from the Upper Midwest.

While “A Christmas Carol” plays the holiday season on the thrust stage (as usual that show is not part of the subscription package), director David Ivers will stage the old Marx Brothers vehicle “The Cocoanuts” in the proscenium, Nov. 14-Jan. 3. Irving Berlin wrote the music and George S. Kaufman the book for the zany comedy that takes place in a Florida hotel. The Guthrie will use an script adaptation by Mark Bedard and musical arrangements from Gregg Coffin.

The Guthrie will then present “The Real Inspector Hound” by Tom Stoppard and “The Critic” in association with Shakespeare Theatre Company, based in Washington, D.C. The two one-acts will run in repertory Feb. 23-March 27, 2016. Minnesotan Jeffrey Hatcher will adapt “The Critic,” which was written by Richard Brinsley Sheridan. Both plays, which revolve around backstage theater stories and critical response, will be directed by Michael Kahn, artistic director at Shakespeare Theatre.

“Trouble in Mind” by Alice Childress is also a backstage comedy, but with greater bite and a stinging look at racism. It will run May 7-June 5 in the proscenium. Childress wrote the story about a racially integrated production hoping to be a Broadway hit. But trouble hits when an African-American actor struggles with her conscience regarding material that reveals prejudice and stereotypes.

The proscenium season concludes with “Disgraced” by playwright Ayad Akhtar, July 16-Aug. 28. This play deals with ethnicity through the experience of a Pakistani-American lawyer on the cusp of a job promotion.

Programming for the 9th-floor studio theater has not been announced.

Season packages go on sale Friday. Information is at 612-225-6238 or guthrietheater.org.

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