Sunday, May 22, 2011

Choosing the 2011 Season

So. Here we are. Welcome to the 2011 BRSTF season. This week we begin rehearsals, staff begin to arrive on the Sweet Briar campus, and spring begins to turn to summer.

I thought for this post I would discuss the process I went through selecting this year's season. The process of selecting a season has a lot of factors. Mission, artistry, logistics, budget, human resources, and audience wants (and their needs).

This year's season includes a play for young audiences that was written and developed through our playwright's initiative, a play about environmental issues facing the Appalachian Mountains, a musical that tackles history and the dark side of human behavior, and a Shakespearian comedy that will keep with our tradition of outdoor performance. All of these shows are like ingredients in a stew. Each balancing each other and working to create an over all rewarding experience for our audience and artists.

Our playwright's initiative is heading into its third year. This initiative was founded by company members Josh Mikel and Michael Stablein and its goal is to foster the development of young playwrights and to promote the creation of new theatrical work. Good Good Trouble on Bad Bad Island was written by Josh during the initiative in 2009. Josh's work for children is really incredible. It has a unique voice and is fun for both children and adults. In 2010, Michael Stablein produced the piece in the New York International Fringe Festival. I felt that we could continue the development of the piece by producing it again in this year's festival. I am trying some new things with the piece this season by exploring its interactive nature and working to promote the piece's self awareness. I know audiences, both young and old, will have a lot of fun at the performances for this show.

Next up is a really special work that a group of us traveled to Charlottesville to see at the end of last year's festival. Our lighting designer Dan Gallagher cares deeply about the issues of mountain top coal removal and it is an issue that is greatly effecting communities very near our own in the Appalachian Mountains. Actor Adelind Horan has created a wonderful theatrical work, Cry of the Mountain, in which she portrays a myriad of individuals she personally interviewed who are effected by this issue. We are excited to play host to Adelind and the Whole Theatre Company with this production that will hit very close to home, both emotionally and literally.

A preview video for a recent performance of Cry of the Mountain in NYC

Next up is our very first musical. This was the toughest slot to decide on. We knew we wanted to work with some of the guys from the local Lynchburg theatre company Wolfbane and we knew we wanted to bring in director Chad Larabee. We already had the rest of the season selected. We knew we had a new work for children, a new work about our region, and a Shakespearean comedy. This year marks Stephen Sondheim's 80th birthday and he is with out a doubt, our greatest living musical theatre artist. Assassins is a very exciting work that I have always been attracted to. Its subject matter and conventions are profound. This will be a challenging work for our audience, but an enjoyable one. It does not set out to simply entertain but to ask questions about society and human nature. This piece became particularly profound with the recent attack on Gabrielle Giffords. I think we all struggle to understand how something so horrific could happen and yet it did.

Opening number from the 2004 revival of Assassins

Our last show of the season is something that has become a staple of our summers at Sweet Briar, the site specific Shakespeare. This year I believe we have the most beautiful location yet. We are located by the old Sweet Briar train station and the view is stunning. Every night the audience will watch a sunset behind the mountains.

The Twelfth Night Location

This year's play is Twelfth Night. This is one of my favorite of Shakespeare's plays. It is hilarious but it is also filled with some incredibly poignant moments. It is crammed with "quotable" Shakespeare lines. The characters are also so rich and complex and we have a great cast. I can't wait to begin rehearsals tomorrow night.

Please join us for all the shows this summer. I know you will have an incredible time.

Geoffrey Kershner
Artistic Director

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