Three world premieres, a Shakespearean tragedy, and an acclaimed production from London will mark Diane Paulus’s 10th season as artistic director of the American Repertory Theater.
“Sometimes I have to pinch myself because I can’t believe it’s been 10 years,” Paulus said before stepping into a rehearsal for “Jagged Little Pill,” currently receiving its world premiere at the ART. “But it’s also been long enough so that we’ve been able to develop shows over a three-year cycle and now have a stable of projects and can decide which one is ready.”
A highlight of the season, announced Monday, will be “Extraordinary: A Celebration of Music Theater at ART” (Nov. 16-30), a musical revue directed by Paulus.
“Over the years, we’ve worked with a company of artists and want to celebrate them,” she said. “We’d like to include selections from ‘Pippin,’ ‘Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess,’ ‘Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet,’ and other shows, but we’re not ready to announce details yet. So many of these artists are now busy on Broadway and elsewhere.”
The season opens at Loeb Drama Center with “The Black Clown” (Aug. 31-Sept. 21), a world premiere musical commissioned by the ART and adapted from the Langston Hughes poem by Davone Tines and Michael Schachter, both Harvard graduates. Composer Schachter describes the music as a blend of early-20th-century jazz and ragtime, African-American spirituals, and his own compositional language. “The Black Clown” will feature bass-baritone Tines in the title role. Zack Winokur directs.
In December, the ART hosts “Barber Shop Chronicles” (Dec. 5-Jan. 5), which arrives after acclaimed runs at London’s National Theatre and the West Yorkshire Playhouse. Inua Ellams’s play traces the unique environment of the barber shop as a place for African men to banter about the state of the world, here shifting from London to Johannesburg, Harare, Kampala, Lagos, and Accra.
The new year opens with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival production of “Othello” (Jan. 13-Feb. 9) directed by Bill Rauch (“All the Way,” “Fingersmith”). Shakespeare’s powerful tale of xenophobia is placed in a contemporary setting meant to add a layer to the story of an intelligent, charming leader brought down by jealousy and lies.
The mainstage season closes with two more world premieres, “Endlings” (Feb. 26-March 17) and “We Live in Cairo” (May 14-June 16), with stories from Korea and Egypt.
“Endlings,” by Celine Song, follows three elderly women living on the island of Man-Jae, whose tradition of diving into the ocean to harvest seafood is dying with them. Sammi Cannold directs.
“We Live in Cairo,” directed by Taibi Magar, is a coming-of-age story set during the Arab Spring of 2011, when Egyptians took to the streets to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak. The musical, which won the Richard Rodgers Award for Musical Theater in 2016, is written by brothers Daniel and Patrick Lazour of Boylston, who focus on six revolutionary students and the 21st-century weapons they employ for their cause: laptops, cameras, guitars, and spray paint.
The ART’s second stage season at Oberon, rechristened ART Breakout, will feature “Borrowed Cash: Busted! The Reunion Tour (Sept. 13-23), a concert that reunites estranged lovers Ann Marie Mayfield (Melissa van der Schyff) and Harper Stanton (Daniel Jenkins) for a multimedia performance of their versions of hits by Randy Newman and Lucinda Williams; Daniel Alexander Jones performing as his alter ego, Jomama Jones, in “Black Light” (Nov. 7-11); a continuation of Sara Porkalob’s “Dragon Cycle” (March 20-April 6), including “Dragon Lady,” back for a return engagement, and “Dragon Mama”; and “Clairvoyance” (April 24-28), featuring musical performances by acclaimed queer Korean-American artist Diana Oh.
The ART also welcomes back the Afterglow @ Oberon series, the extension of Provincetown’s successful Afterglow series curated by Quin Cox. The 2018-19 season includes “Tori Scott Is Thirsty” (Oct. 11), Taja Lindley in “The Bag Lady Manifesta” (Nov. 15), “Dan Fishback Alone!” (Jan. 17), “Hyperbolic” from the Illustrious Blacks (Feb. 21), “The Bearded Ladies Cabaret” (March 14), and Sven Ratzke’s “Amsterdam to Mars” (April 18).Terry Byrne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.