Unveiling Emily Mann’s final season as Artistic Director and Resident Playwright, McCarter Theatre Center has announced the full schedule for its upcoming 2019-20 Theater Series, dubbed “Signature Emily.”
The series pays homage to Mann’s trailblazing career, embodying the powerful themes that have cemented her personal legacy and influenced the American theater at large: giving a voice to women and people of color, embracing risk in pursuit of art that inspires social dialogue, discovering and mentoring emerging talent and championing inventive cross-company collaborations.
“It is by listening that we can change – and change others,” Mann said. “The theater is live; it’s about the connection between the audience and what’s on the stage; it’s a forum to take on big conversations. I never want to play it safe. I want to put on unforgettable theater, real works of art, and that is risky. This season celebrates the rewards of taking risks through a collection of life-affirming stories and experiences that I hope will fill audiences with energy, hope and joy.”
Following is the full 2019-2020 series:
“Gloria: A Life” (From Sept. 6 through Oct. 6)
The daughter of an American historian, Mann was exposed to the intersection of political consciousness and storytelling at an early age. These formative experiences inspired a “quietly radical” undercurrent in her artistic voice that manifested in documentary plays exposing a host of controversial, politically tinged themes.
It is in that spirit that McCarter opens the 2019-20 Theater Series with Mann’s “Gloria: A Life,” which weaves a richly detailed tapestry about one of the most inspiring and remarkable women of our time: Gloria Steinem.
The show will be produced in association with the A.R.T. (American Repertory Theater at Harvard University), directed by Tony Award-winner Diane Paulus, and restaged for McCarter by Emily Mann.
Five decades after Steinem began raising her voice for equality, her clarion call is as urgent as ever. The first act is Gloria’s story; the second is our own, as a talking circle emerges and the audience joins in conversation.
Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” (Oct. 15 through Nov. 3)
Throughout Mann’s tenure, collaboration in the creation of new stagecraft has brought a wide variety of artists and celebrated theater companies to Princeton, including Steppenwolf, Fiasco, Bedlam, A Red Orchid Theatre and more.
In 2007, Chicago’s celebrated Lookingglass Theatre Company partnered with McCarter on its groundbreaking production of “Lookingglass Alice,” a high-flying reinterpretation of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” stories, written and directed by Lookingglass ensemble member David Catlin.
Twelve years later, Lookingglass returns to McCarter with a galvanic production of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.” In this new invention—written and directed by Catlin — an eerie evening of ghost stories crackles to life as Shelley unspools her tale of love, horror, power and unholy experimentation.
Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” (From Dec. 10 – 29)
The importance of McCarter’s relationship with the local community is synonymous with Mann’s leadership.
David Thompson’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” directed by Adam Immerwahr, continues the annual tradition of Ebenezer Scrooge’s magical journey through Christmas past, present and future.
With beloved carols and original music, 35 members from the greater Princeton community share the stage with a professional cast, bringing this story to life. This holiday tradition ushers in the community spirit with all the joy, wonder and generosity that Scrooge ultimately discovers.
“Goodnight Nobody” (From Jan. 10 through Feb. 9, 2020)
Mann’s early career established one of the few female voices in a male-dominated industry and solidified her commitment to mentor subsequent generations of women artists. Among the scores of playwrights influenced and inspired by Mann is Rachel Bonds, who returns to the main stage with “Goodnight Nobody,” a McCarter commission directed by Tyne Rafaeli.
Bonds’ deeply moving and funny play about becoming an adult and the complexity of new motherhood involves a group of old friends—once as close as family—who struggle to stay connected as their lives change and their paths diverge.
“Sleuth” (From March 10 – 29, 2020)
Across the theater industry, McCarter connections abound thanks to Mann’s support of the next generation of theater artists. Alumni of McCarter’s lauded internship program have risen to the top in every discipline. Adam Immerwahr, McCarter’s former Associate Artistic Director, began his professional journey as a McCarter intern in directing and producing and has since forged a career filled with innovative and community-oriented projects. Now the Artistic Director of Washington, D.C.’s Theater J, Immerwahr returns for the 2019-2020 season with a new take on Anthony Shaffer’s “Sleuth.”
A suspenseful game of cat-and-mouse, “Sleuth” is a wicked parody of the Agatha Christie thriller filled with plotted murders, jealousy and revenge. McCarter’s “Sleuth” is the latest in a string of mystery masterpieces that has included Ken Ludwig’s “Baskerville” (2015), and Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap” (2016) and “Murder on the Orient Express” (2017).
“The Refuge Plays” (From May 8 through June 7, 2020)
The final production in the “Signature Emily” season features a world premiere from rising star playwright Nathan Alan Davis. Davis’ connections with McCarter and Princeton have included a high-profile work as part of the 2017 Princeton and Slavery Project, along with his role as a lecturer in theater for Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts.
“The Refuge Plays” follows an eccentric, mystically-inclined Black family over four generations, as they carve out an existence in a southern Illinois forest.
Davis’ trilogy of plays traverses sixty years of family history with his trademark combination of allegory and plain truth, deftly laying bare the hopes and dreams of his characters. Directed by Patricia McGregor, this final flourish highlights Mann’s role as an ally, collaborator and champion for African American voices and artists.
In addition to the theater series, other McCarter events over the coming season will honor Mann’s contributions to the American stage, celebrate what makes McCarter a unique destination, and highlight its bright future ahead.
“As we discover in our community and education work, theater can, in fact, save lives,” says Mann. “All our stories have value; when we tell our stories to each other, we can be transformed. Theater is not a luxury—it’s essential to the health of the soul. The work we do helps people find their voices and understand their neighbors. We all become better citizens. In this final season at McCarter, this is a message I want to impart.”
Ticket and Subscription Information
Subscription packages for the 2019-20 Theater Series, as well as package options for McCarter’s Dance, Music and Signature Events – are available now by calling 609-258-5050, visiting mccarter.org, or visiting the McCarter Ticket Office, located at 91 University Place in Princeton.
About McCarter Theatre Center
McCarter Theatre Center’s mission is to create world-class theater and present the finest performing artists for the engagement, education and entertainment to the community. Under the artistic leadership of award-winning playwright and director Emily Mann and Managing Director Michael S. Rosenberg, McCarter produces a vibrant six-play Theater Series each season. Through the leadership of Special Programming Director William W. Lockwood, McCarter brings the finest artists from around the world to Princeton. Education and outreach efforts serve tens of thousands through student matinees, in-school residencies and adult education classes. McCarter is supported by contributions from Princeton University, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, corporations, foundations and from over 2,000 individuals.