As Houston performing arts organizations continue to offer the city performances and moments of art from home, our theater companies also continue to prepare for a better theatrical future full of drama, comedy, and music. We’ve already taken at peek at what’s to come from Stages and the Alley Theatre.
Now, several other Houston favorites have recently revealed their upcoming 2020-2021 season. So let’s take a preview of the fall and times when we can hopefully come together to experience the immediacy and intimacy of live theater again.
Like several Houston theater companies, A.D. Players will be offering a whole new season in the fall, but include one previously canceled show from this spring, The Spitfire Grill. The musical, based on the inspirational film, now moves to March 2021. The company is calling the 2020-2021 season one of discovery, as the lineup includes world premieres and new works to Houston.
That first world debut, an A.D. Players commission, tells the out-of-this-world story NASA’s first mission to orbit the moon, Apollo 8 (September 11-October 4). For the holidays, open the gift of the second new work, The Christmas Shoes (November 27-December 23), based on the beloved best-selling novel by Donna VanLiere and adapted for the stage by Jessica Lind Peterson.
The next year begins with another true science exploration story with Photograph 51 (January 22-February 7), about Rosalind Franklin’s major role in the discovery of the shape of DNA. After Spitfire, comes a David Ives adaption for contemporary audiences of a recently discovered Mark Twain play, Is He Dead? (April 23-May 9). Written at the turn of the 19th century but not published until 2003, the farce depicts an artist staging his own death in order to increase the value of his paintings. The company rounds out the season with a visit from everyone’s most beloved flying nanny, Mary Poppins (June 18-July 18).
4th Wall Theatre
Houston’s most acting-centric company celebrates 10 years with a season of Houston premieres, and a lineup of very contemporary plays, many offering unique takes on urban life. They begin in late summer with a makeup run of Between Riverside and Crazy from Stephen Adly Guirgis (September 3-26). The company had to close the Pulitzer Prize-winning play in March after only a handful of performances. Now, Houston theater lovers get another chance for a look inside one retired NYC cop’s rent-controlled apartment on Riverside Drive in New York reveals a whole world of crazy ties, battles and relationships between family, friends and enemies.
The new year will bring and decidedly different New York story with Gloria by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. This satire on literary life pits an ambitious group of editorial assistants against each other at a cultural magazine. The Alley’s James Black will direct (January 14-February 6). In the spring, one of the stage’s most complex and still controversial women comes home in A Doll’s House, Part 2. Lucas Hnath’s new sequel to the Ibsen masterpiece imagines what happens when seemingly perfect wife and mother Nora Helmer walks back into the lives of her family she left 15 years before. 4th Wall co-founders Kim Tobin-Lehl and Philip Lehl play the classic estranged couple.
The season finishes with another view of New York magazine life with The Lifespan of a Fact by Jeremy Kareken and David Murrell and Gordon Farrell. The play is based on a book about the making of an essay between writer and fact checker. Kim Tobin-Lehl directs this comedy about the ethical blurred lines of truth and fiction.
Main Street Theater
No final word yet on the remaining shows from this season, but MST will forge ahead into its 45th season with a lineup of revealing perspectives on the past and future. We could all use some beach time right about now, so why not join Darwin in Malibu (September 12-October 11). Crispin Whittell’s comedy on faith, science and plastic surgery imagines Charles Darwin, Thomas Huxley, and the Bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce, hanging out at a beach house. Let the evolutionary theological debating begin.
After a celebrated run in December, MST brings back the holiday sequel to the sequel to Pride and Prejudice, The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley (November 21-December 20) for another awkward but mostly well-mannered family reunion.
In 2021, look for a new take on the Joan of Arc story, as playwright Jane Anderson shifts the point of view to Joan’s devoted mother in Mother of the Maid (February 6-28). Next, the company revives a hit from 2012, Dog Act (March 27-April 18). This comedy by Liz Duffy Adams offers a very different comic take on post-apocalyptic stories, following a performing troupe on journey to their next gig. The Alley Theatre produce the world premiere of Adams’s Born With Teeth around the same time.
MST is calling Julie Kramer’s adaptation of Rona Jaffe’s book The Best of Everything (May 15-June 13, 2021) a kind of Mad Men meets (or maybe crashing into) Sex and the City. In the late ’50s, a group of secretaries try to have it all in the big city.
It wouldn’t be a big anniversary season without one of MST’s favorite playwrights, Tom Stoppard, so look for one of his classics, The Real Inspector Hound (July 17-August 8). This sort of satire on whodunits plays with the very idea of plays and theater might be the perfect ending to a the ultimate season of comedy and ideas.