Shakespeare and contemporary theater lovers alike will be able to enjoy Pioneer Theatre Company's 2011-2012 lineup as the theater celebrates its 50th anniversary.
"We're always trying to find a balance between what we think will be commercially viable and what will be artistically exciting and challenging," said Charles Morey, artistic director of the theater. "Sometimes those things come together, sometimes they're divergent and this season I think it will be both."
The upcoming season will be Morey's last at the PTC, capping his reign at 28 years. During his career, Morey has directed more than 80 productions at the PTC, authored nine play adaptations and written several of his own plays, including "Laughing Stock," which will be on PTC's stage March 23-April 7, 2012.
"I wrote it 12 or 13 years ago and we produced it here in 2001," Morey said. "Since that time, it has gone on to be produced over 100 times around the country."
"Laughing Stock" takes place in small New England theater and boils down production to show audience members what theater is really about.
"It's a theater farce," Morey said. "It's really funny, but it's also a very affectionate look at the world of theater."
Aside from Morey's play, the PTC season lineup is packed with classic and contemporary productions. Opening the season will be "Next to Normal" (Sept. 16-Oct. 1), the Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway musical.
According to a news release, the play follows the unraveling of the Goodmans, a seemingly perfect family that falls on hard times as the mother suffers from bipolar disorder. The popular Broadway piece contains strong themes and language.
"It's a very edgy contemporary musical," Morey said. "It's an adventurous piece of musical theater."
Next on the lineup is Shakespeare's classic tale "The Tempest" (Oct. 21-Nov. 5). Prospero, the Duke of Milan, finds himself stranded on a deserted island with his daughter. Angry at being marooned, Prospero raises a tempest to get even with the man responsible for exiling him — his brother.
As the holiday season starts up, the American classic "Annie" will take the stage (Dec. 2-23). Charles Strouse's heartwarming musical score brings to life orphaned Annie, as she experiences Christmastime with Daddy Warbucks, her dog, Sandy, and Miss Hannigan.
PTC will also be the first stage in the world to premiere "Find a Sign" (Jan. 13-28) by Wendy MacLeod, who has been noted among the most talented up-and-coming playwrights, according to a news release. The play is set in New York City and takes the audience through the romance of a young record executive and a schoolteacher.
"(MacLeod) is very smart and very talented," Morey said. "We're lucky to have the rights to produce it."
PTC will then travel back to the 18th century with a new adaptation of Jane Austen's matchmaker romance "Emma" (Feb. 17-March 3). Emma prides herself on her matchmaking skills, but when it comes to love in her own life she's often conflicted and clueless.
The final production of the season will be "Man of La Mancha" (May 4-May 19), which shadows Don Quixote as he tries to reach his dreams. Winner of five Tony Awards, including best musical, this production will be packed with romance and adventure to the tune of a powerful score.
For more information about the theater, tickets or productions, visit pioneertheatre.org or call 801-581-6961.
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