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American Repertory Theater Announces Three Festivals for 2009/10 Season

The American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.), under the Artistic Direction of Diane Paulus, is pleased to announce its 2009/10 Season, which is also the A.R.T.’s 30th year in Cambridge.

The season will be focused on three theatrical festivals:

Festival #1: Shakespeare Exploded! is a festival of theatrical events inspired by three classic plays by Shakespeare. The Donkey Show, a disco adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, unfolds around the audience as a nightclub fantasy filled with hits from the 70s. Sleep No More takes the audience on a sensory journey in this immersive “adventure theater” work inspired by Macbeth and Hitchcock’s thrillers. Celebrate the holidays with Best of Both Worlds, an R&B and gospel musical that takes its story from The Winter’s Tale.

Festival #2: America: Boom, Bust and Baseball explores the hopes, disappointments, and triumphs of the past American century from the roaring twenties to the Great Depression to the Boston Red Sox’s stunning 2004 World Series victory. It begins with the boom – Gatz brings every word of Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby to life in this once-in-a-lifetime marathon theatrical experience. The bust is Clifford Odets’ Paradise Lost, a powerful drama about an American family that loses everything in the throes of economic crisis. Spring is baseball season, with the world premiere of Red Sox Nation, an exhilarating new musical that explores the source of the infamous Curse and the secret to its end by blending fiction, fact, and the mystical power of the game.

In addition to these productions, the A.R.T. joins forces with the Huntington Theatre Company and the Institute of Contemporary Art to create Emerging America, an annual festival of performance and readings. Held from May 14-16, 2010, Emerging America is a landmark festival of theater devoted exclusively to supporting and launching the new American voices of tomorrow. Boston and Cambridge will become cultural destinations for the best and brightest new American work. The festival will provide many forums for dialogue and late-night parties, along with a competition for favorite new work based on votes by the audience. Experience the energy, imagination, and creativity of some of the country’s hottest young performers, writers, companies, and directors during a weekend filled with excitement and drama.

Diane Paulus explains:

“As a director, my driving source of inspiration is the audience. Theater is more than simply a play on the stage: it’s a ritual, a social occasion for people to come together and experience community. Our new initiative, Experience the A.R.T., seeks to revolutionize the theater experience by giving audiences a voice, a sense of ownership, and a feeling of importance in the theatrical event. This season there will be opportunities to gather, dine, socialize, and even dance with the performers and with each other. In 2009/2010, all of our productions are programmed as festivals, encouraging audiences to experience our work as part of larger cultural events. We are actively reaching outward — producing some of our shows off-site in unusual locations and partnering with other cultural institutions in Boston and New York City, while strengthening our connections to Harvard University. The entire season speaks directly to the A.R.T.’s core mission — `to expand the boundaries of theater.’ We can do this by expanding our idea of what makes up the theatrical event. Audience members will be the focus for the A.R.T. as we move forward in the twenty-first century. Together we will redefine and revitalize theater for our community. I want to make greater-Boston a thriving arts landmark for the most cutting-edge and important new work in the country.”

Details about the 2009/10 Season:

Festival # 1: Shakespeare Exploded!

The Donkey Show
Directed by Diane Paulus and Randy Weiner
Conceived by Randy Weiner
Opens August 21, 2009 • Zero Arrow Theater

From its six-year run in New York City to a world tour from London to Seoul, the celebrated smash hit The Donkey Show now takes Boston by storm, bringing the ultimate disco experience – a crazy circus of mirror balls and feathered divas, of roller skaters and hustle queens. Come party on the dance floor to all the 70s disco hits you know by heart as the show unfolds around you. The Donkey Show tells the story of A Midsummer Night’s Dream through the great 70s anthems, including “We are Family,” “I Love the Nightlife,” “Car Wash,” “Ring My Bell,” and “Last Dance.” The enchanted forest of Shakespeare’s classic comedy becomes the glittered world of retro disco as the lovers escape from their real lives to experience a night of dream, abandon, and fantasy.

Sleep No More
By Punchdrunk
Devised and directed by Felix Barrett, Maxine Doyle, and The Company
A co-creation with the A.R.T., produced in Association with Punchdrunk and
Hammerstein WT
Opens October 8, 2009 • location TBA

The award-winning British theater company Punchdrunk makes its U.S. debut with Sleep No More, an immersive production inspired by Shakespeare’s Macbeth, told through the lens of a Hitchcock thriller. An extraordinary, unexpected location will be exquisitely transformed into an installation of cinematic scenes that evoke the world of Macbeth. The audience will have the freedom to roam the environment and experience a sensory journey as they choose what to watch and where to go in this unique theatrical adventure.

Best of Both Worlds
Book & lyrics by Randy Weiner
Music by Diedre Murray
Co-written and directed by Diane Paulus
Opens November 21, 2009 • Loeb Stage

Bursting with the sounds of R&B and gospel, Best of Both Worlds is a soulful re-envisioning of The Winter’s Tale, Shakespeare’s timeless story of heartbreak and redemption. Clap your hands, jump out of your seat, and feel the power of love with this holiday treat for all ages. Best of Both Worlds takes us on a journey through the rich musical tapestry of R&B, rediscovering Shakespeare’s characters with smooth sounds and funky beats. When jealousy rips apart love and friendship, only the revelatory power of gospel can restore the enduring bonds of faith, family, and forgiveness. The production will feature a rotating roster of Greater Boston’s most celebrated gospel choirs, including community, university, and church choirs.

Festival # 2: Boom, Bust, and Baseball

Gatz: Parts 1 & 2
By Elevator Repair Service
Directed by John Collins
Opens January 8, 2010 • Loeb Stage

One morning in the low-rent office of a mysterious small business, an employee finds a copy of The Great Gatsby in the clutter of his desk. He starts to read it out loud, and doesn’t stop. At first his co-workers hardly notice. But after a series of strange coincidences, it’s no longer clear whether he’s reading the book or the book is doing something to him and his colleagues. An audacious theatrical tour de force performed in two parts, Gatz is not a stage adaptation of Fitzgerald’s novel, but a reading of the entire book — brilliantly brought to life by one of New York’s most exciting and acclaimed theater companies, Elevator Repair Service.

Paradise Lost
Written by Clifford Odets
Directed by Daniel Fish
Opens February 27, 2010 • Loeb Stage

The American economy is on the edge of catastrophe and futures are at risk. The Gordon family, losing all they have worked for, strive to preserve their trust in each other and in the promise of their nation. Written by one of the greatest twentieth-century playwrights, Paradise Lost is a poetic, humane, and distinctly American drama that examines the impact of money and greed on family, business, and love. First produced by the Group Theatre in 1935, the play voices the suffering, hope, and shattered dreams of a country in the throes of financial crisis. Three-quarters of a century later, Americans are still wrestling the demons of nihilism and idealism, charity and greed, self-interest and compassion. Visionary director Daniel Fish creates a bold new production of this powerful play that grabs hold of the American dream and asks if our optimism is a force for good or merely a delusion, a means of survival or one of escape.

Red Sox Nation
World Premiere
Book by Richard Dresser
Music by Robert Reale
Lyrics by Willie Reale
Directed by Diane Paulus
Opens May 8, 2010 • Loeb Stage

After the stunning Red Sox collapse in the 2003 playoffs, a baseball-obsessed team of musical theater writers (one long-suffering Sox fan and two smug yet oddly sympathetic Yankees fans) went in search of the reason for the Curse on the Red Sox. Their journey yielded surprising conclusions and a clever new musical. Red Sox Nation is an exhilarating blend of fact, fiction, and the mystical power of the game. It traces the origin of the Curse to a collision of three orphaned souls: Johnny O’Brien, a hard-luck right-hander on the 1919 Sox; his idol, the man-child Babe Ruth; and Daisy Wyatt, a dazzling African American blues singer and the love of Johnny’s life. These three lives contain both the reason for the Curse and the secret to its end off the bat of Big Papi in 2004. Red Sox Nation packs a thoughtful commentary on American social history into a fun and spirited musical that will bring cheers and tears to baseball fans everywhere.

To learn more about the A.R.T. and its upcoming season log on to the A.R.T. website at or call the A.R.T. InfoLine at (617) 547-8300.

Compiled from the press release courtesy of the American Repertory Theater (website | profile | tag archive). Your source for news and information about Boston Theatre. Join our email list, follow us on Twitter @exploretheatre and become a fan on Facebook.

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