Fall Theater Preview

As the trees shed their leaves, we witness a form of change and renewal. The same can be said for the fall theater line-up. With a 90th anniversary, fresh takes on the classics and new play spaces, autumn is the perfect backdrop for the Rhode Island theater season.


by Michele Graf

2nd Story Theatre brings us a new approach to two well-known plays. Ed Shea states, “One of the things we love to do here at 2nd Story is to reexamine popular plays and present them in a way that is respectful of the playwright’s intent. In doing so, we ferret out the humanity and the humor that is sometimes overlooked in other approaches. We resurrect, reinvigorate and rejuvenate plays that have been either taken for granted or overlooked. The Boys Next Door and Crimes of the Heart are two perfect examples of plays that deserve an enthusiastic, in-depth exploration.”

For a new twist on an old classic, The Gamm takes on Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. Gail Hulbert, communications and marketing director of The Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre says, “Director Fred Sullivan, Jr. is putting a bit of twist on this beloved masterpiece by having Wilde himself appear as a character in the play. As Fred puts it, Wilde will be ‘hosting his last masterpiece in a drawing room toy theater acted by his friends for invited guests.’ The friends, of course, are the cast and the guests are the audience. The play’s subtitle, A Trivial Play for Serious People, kind of says it all. The audiences should prepare for a real treat!”

The Wilbury Theatre Group’s season opener, Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker, is presented in their new home in Olneyville. Founder and artistic director Josh Short says, This is a play that transcends the time it was written in with themes of loneliness, delusion and the necessity of human connection that echo so strongly today. To be able to open our beautiful new performance space with this work, with these incredibly talented actors and designers, with Steve [] at the helm, is an absolute privilege. We couldn’t more excited to share our new space with audiences, and I can think of no better way to introduce them to it then with this team we’ve assembled and this incredibly funny and heartbreaking work by one of our favorite playwrights.”  

At the PPAC, “The theatre’s 90th Anniversary will be a special milestone for our subscribers and patrons, our board of directors and staff, as well as for many in Providence and throughout  Rhode Island who have fond memories of attending shows, concerts and seeing movies here. We hope to announce celebratory events as we get closer to firming up shows and details for the 2018/2019 season,” according to marketing director, P.J. Prokop. The current season opens with the National Tour of Les Miserable and continues with “seven shows that are brand new to Providence audiences,” according to Caitlyn DiPompo, marketing projects specialist. “These are Fun Home, Finding Neverland, Love Never Dies, The Bodyguard (starring Deborah Cox), On Your Feet! The Emilio & Gloria Estefan Musical, An American in Paris, and Something Rotten!.”

Trinity Rep takes on the American dream. Curt Columbus says he is “particularly excited about Fall Rep, where we have a great American classic, Death of a Salesman, next to a great American contemporary play, Skeleton Crew.  Having these two plays about American labor and the American dream side by side, performing on the same stage, will spark a really interesting conversation in our community. Also, audiences coming to see these two great plays will be greeted by a totally revamped Dowling Theater lobby, a brand new bar with great new drinks, and comfortable, new seats throughout the theater.  Fall at Trinity is going to be incredible.”

Semi-Pro and Community

By: Leann Heath, Shannon McLoud and Joe Siegel

Academy Players have a busy year ahead!  Lion King Jr. will run for two weekends in September with a cast of amazing young talent. In October, Bridges of Madison County will be performed by opera-trained professionals who promise to stun audiences. In November, Academy will close down to begin the expansion of the theater into the new Cultural Art Center. Luckily for audiences, construction won’t slow them down! They will go into rehearsals for 13 the Musical, a musical about bullying, at North Providence High School. Academy hasn’t yet decided what show will open their new theatre, but they’ve assured us it will be BIG!

This year is one of Attleboro Community Theatre’s most ambitious and thought-provoking seasons to-date. ACT is excited to license the works of Rhode Island’s own Kevin Broccoli (American Strippers) and Lenny Schwartz (Co-Creator) this year, not to mention two directorial debuts from Megan Ruggiero of Pawtucket and Dave Almeida of N. Providence. These two productions are sure to cap off an amazing and truly outside-the-box season!

Providence’s Bravo is offering its Murder On Us dinner theater this fall. First up is The Godfather Murder, billed as an hysterical spoof of the movie classic. The show runs in September and October. Next up is The Haunted Murder Mystery in October and A Deadly Christmas Carol in November.

When asked what Burbage Theatre Company is most excited about in their upcoming season, artistic director Jeff Church replied, “What aren’t we excited about?!” Burbage is moving to a new space at 249 Roosevelt Avenue in Pawtucket (it has parking!) and kicking off a new partnership with TEN31 Productions. All this while producing a great season of work that includes Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, David Ives’ Venus in Fur, Twelfth Night, Burbage’s first Shakespeare production since Titus Andronicus and Melissa Ross’ Thinner than Water.

The Community Players open their 97th season with the wonderful classic musical Annie, which celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2017. The show is especially meaningful, as the writer of the book, Thomas Meehan, passed away recently. The Players continue in January with Joseph Bologna and Renee Taylor’s comedy Lovers and Other Strangers and finish the season in April with Forever Plaid, a fun-filled musical featuring the harmonies of the great “guy groups” of the 1950s.

Counter-Productions Theater Company say they make theater because they “feel compelled to do so.” And this fall, they won’t keep audiences waiting for compelling theater, starting with their October production of Waiting for Godot.

Daydream Theatre Company is venturing away from the Artic Playhouse this season. Fearless leader Lenny Schwartz ran an Indiegogo campaign that had short original plays as the reward for donating. The higher the donation, the higher the word count. He wrote 22 plays as a result! The series, now titled Stray Happy, Stray Hopeful, Stray Lucky will run one night only on Sep 9 at 8pm at Academy Players. Also look for a political reworking of Accidental Incest at The Rise Playhouse in November.

Epic Theatre Company‘s artistic director, Kevin Broccoli, says of the upcoming season that it deals with “speaking truth to those in high places.” The first show of the season is House Arrest, by Anna Deavere-Smith. Broccoli says, “Deavere-Smith is a true genius, and her complex examination of how people in power affect those without any power is the perfect opener for our season.” Next up is Barbecue, and we hear straight from Broccoli that “we’re hosting a real live barbecue at every performance.” Next, the theater dives right in with Red Speedo. “We’re doing this show in an actual pool,” says Broccoli. “I think it’s going to be the highlight of the Rhode Island theater season.”

Summer may be winding down, but Granite Theatre’s 2017 season in Westerly is not stopping! Not only does Granite Theatre have a crowd-pleaser, Arsenic and Old Lace, beginning Sep 15, but they have two special events this fall! On Sep 8, Lon Cerel is bringing his Extrasensory Deception show to Granite, and Ace Aceto is bringing his Royal Flush Comedy, with new comedians on Oct 13! And for you bargain hunters, Granite is having a tag sale on Sep 9!

With today’s society, artists are going to feel drawn to respond the best way they know how: by creating art. Head Trick Theatre is answering that call as they put together a season “with plays by, and about, the people marginalized by policies and rhetoric that repress difference.” In December at AS220’s Black Box, Head Trick will open their season with Gabriel by George Sand (pseudonym of Aurore Dupin). Artistic director Rebecca Maxfield chose the play, and will be offering talkbacks. “George Sand is such a big name for her life as well as for her writing, and when I read the play I really loved it — it offers a lot for us to work with and think about as directors and actors, and even for audience members.”

Kaleidoscope Theatre is presenting Cinderella’s Christmas on Dec 2 at the Scottish Rite Auditorium in Cranston. The show is at 11am and is open to all. The troupe is also offering touring services with Little Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, I’m Special, You’re Special and B.U.L.L.Y.

Newport Playhouse is presenting Self-Help Sep 7 through Oct 8. ​A married couple of second-rate theater actors cast themselves as nationally renowned self-help gurus. Their lives unravel in a farce as they try to conceal a body and hold on to their falsely won fame. The Crazy Time, a laugh-filled look at the joys and perils of May/December romances, will be performed from Oct 12 through Nov 19.

Throughout Out Loud’s five seasons, they have made their mark with their sweeping seasonal themes. This fall they conclude season five, and their three-part series, The Way Madness Lies with Alan Hawkridge as King Lear. Kira Hawkridge, Out Loud’s artistic director, exudes excitement when speaking of the season. “Our adaptation puts our ensemble and our audiences alike inside of Lear’s mind – creating an incredibly visceral, sensory and immersive experience for all involved.” Out Loud will being their sixth season in January with Seeing is Believing: An Exploration of Fantasy and Unreality.

Rhode Island Stage Ensemble (RISE) is presenting Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street from Oct 13 through 22. Gordon Dell will direct a cast that includes Robert Grady in the title role, David Read, Rachel Hanauer, Preston Arnold, Mahria Trepes and Kevin Hernandez.

The Stadium Theatre in Woonsocket is featuring a trio of high-profile musicals as part of the fall season. The Hunchback of Notre Dame will be performed Oct 20 – 22. Based on the Victor Hugo novel and featuring songs from the Disney animated feature, Quasimodo, the deformed bell-ringer who longs to be “Out There,” observes all of Paris reveling in the Feast of Fools. Held captive by his devious caretaker, the archdeacon Dom Claude Frollo, he escapes for the day and joins the boisterous crowd, only to be treated cruelly by all but the beautiful gypsy, Esmeralda. Footloose: The Musical is based on the smash movie about teenagers who fight for the right to dance in a small Midwestern town. Disney’s Mulan Jr. will be performed next. The Huns have invaded, and it is up to the misfit Mulan and her mischievous dragon sidekick, Mushu, to save the Emperor. Defying the village matchmaker, Mulan takes up arms and disguises herself as a boy in order to spare her father from having to serve in the army.

Don’t let the ride to Foster scare you — Swamp Meadow Community Theatre has a lovely season ahead, with an original adaptation of  Kimberly Newton Fusco’s award-winning YA novel Tending to Grace. An added delight is that the award-winning author is local to Foster! It’s about a smart teen who, due to her stuttering, doesn’t speak, and how she goes on to find her voice. The show opens Nov 10, and with two teachers behind the directing chairs, it is sure to be a night that teaches while entertains.

Also up north, expect The Theater Company of Rhode Island to present Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs during the last two weekends of September in Harrisville.


By Ted Clement

Brown University will begin its season with a production of Octavio Solis’ dramatic comedy Dreamlandia. Based on the classic Spanish language drama Life Is a Dream, the play is set in the borderlands between Texas and Mexico, and explores cultural conflict and illegal immigration. They’ll follow with Lives of the Great Poisoners by Caryl Churchill, then close the semester with I Want a Country by Andrea Flourkis.

The Community College of Rhode Island begins its season with the delightfully snarky ART by Yasmina Reza. “What excites me about the play,” says director/scenic designer Luke Sutherland, “is that it raises several unresolved questions about viewing and understanding modern art. More importantly, it examines the relationship between personal taste and friendship. Can friends whose perspectives differ severely on the arts (religion and/or politics) have a meaningful friendship?” This comedy, lacking in manners, will be presented in the Bobby Hackett Theater at the Warwick campus, followed by Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead at the Providence campus. They’ll return to Warwick for the spring musical, Tim Acito’s Zanna, Don’t, then it’s back to Providence to close out the season with The Student Production.

Providence College kicks off its season with Rachel Sheinkin’s widely embraced comedic musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. “We have been producing big spectacular musicals,” says Director Jimmy Calitri, “and I love the chance to give the students this endearing, offbeat and hilarious show to work on complete with celebrity spellers, audience participation and improv. The show is very funny without sacrificing important messages about acceptance and friendship.” They’ll follow this with a diverse array of plays including the light-hearted Almost, Maine, an experimental treatment of the prince of Denmark entitled Target Hamlet, an independent student production of Falling by Deanna Jent, and finally The Moors by Jen Silverman.

Rhode Island College will open with Will Eno’s “deeply moving, funny new play,” Middletown. Directed by Casey Seymour Kim, the play tells the story of the residents of a small American town, and how their lives intersect in many strange and poignant ways. “Middletown demands that we examine what it means to be human,” says Kim, “to be an individual and to nonetheless need community.” Following this is Ken Ludwig’s Leading Ladies, directed by Patricia Hawkridge. “I’m thrilled to be back at RIC,” says Hawkridge. “Leading Ladies is a fast-paced, fun adventure that will, no doubt, tickle the funny bone.” They’ll close the semester with George Reinblatt’s horror movie adaptation, Evil Dead: The Musical.

Roger Williams University opens with Heidi Schreck’s Creature, based on the life of religious mystic Margery Kempe, described by Robin Stone as a “witty examination of the intersection of past and present.” Following this will be William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. According to Stone, they’re particularly excited to embrace “gender exploration as a way to find contemporary connections to the play.” After R&J comes Kate Hamill’s “playful new adaptation” of the Jane Austin classic, Sense and Sensibility, and they’ll close with an as yet undetermined musical.

Salve Regina University will open their season with The Elephant Man by Bernard Pomerance. This nearly true story, based on the life of Joseph Merrick, explores the social bias that can be faced by people with visible physical disabilities. “There are so many wonderful challenges for the actors,” says director Reggie Phoenix, “both physical and artistic, and I am drawn to telling the story of a man who moves from a life of total alienation to one of acceptance and care. I believe this will speak so powerfully to our students.” The Elephant Man will be followed by John Guare’s The House of Blue Leaves, and they’ll close the season with Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret: The Musical.

The University of Rhode Island will kick-off the season with Sara Ruhl’s Eurydice, a brilliant retelling of the mythical tale of Orpheus and his journey to the underworld, told from the perspective of his lost love. The production is directed by 2012 URI alumna Kira Hawkridge, artistic director of Out Loud Theatre. “What has always struck me about this piece,” says Hawkridge, “is the flow from ‘overworld’ to ‘underworld’ and the visceral connection and relationship to water – both natural and unnatural. Rain in an elevator. A water pump. Rusty and exposed pipes. The river of forgetfulness. The nature and potential that water provides – both in its literal form and in our physical and emotional expression of the essence of flowing, uncontrollable, temperamental, and inconsistent water.” The URI Honors Colloquium is co-sponsoring the production in its investigation of Origins: Life, the University and EverythingEurydice will be followed by Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan, William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, and finally the Disney musical version of Mary Poppins.

Upcoming theater in Rhode Island is surely to bring us the same beauty of autumn. “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” –Scott Fitzgerald


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