Court Theatre announces 2013–14 season
Court Theatre, the longstanding professional institution on the University of Chicago's campus, has announced the lineup for its 59th season, beginning with the Chicago premiere of The Mountaintop, Katori Hall's popular two-hander that imagines the last night of Martin Luther King Jr.'s life. Ron OJ Parson will direct (September 5–October 6).
In the season's second slot, Timothy Edward Kane will reprise his 2011 performance in An Iliad, which earned a spot on my top-ten list for that year. The remount will run just four weeks (November 13–December 8). In the new year, Parson will helm Seven Guitars—the only remaining work in August Wilson's ten-play "Century Cycle" he hasn't yet directed (January 9–February 9).
Court follows with the Chicago premiere of Water by the Spoonful, the winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, directed by Henry Godinez (March 6–April 6). It's the second piece in a trilogy that will run here out of order—the final play, The Happiest Song Plays Last, has its world premiere at the Goodman Theatre this month. (The first play in Hudes's triptych, Elliot, a Soldier's Fugue, was co-produced by Rivendell Theatre Ensemble and Teatro Vista in 2006). The season closes with a new production of David Henry Hwang's M. Butterfly, helmed by Court artistic director Charles Newell (May 8–June 8).
The slating of new works like The Mountaintop and Water by the Spoonful is somewhat unusual for Court Theatre, which has a mission of producing classic texts and isn't often among the contenders for Chicago premieres. "Each show that we choose, the first criteria is always about the quality of the text, the quality of the language, the quality of the writing itself," Newell said in an interview today. "Both of those plays, when I read them I was just blown away. And part of when we think about 'classics' is, what do we think is going to survive the test of time? What will we be wanting to produce in 20 and 40 and 100 years? I think there are timeless, classic themes in both of those plays, in the same way that M. Butterfly has proven itself a modern classic."
Of An Iliad, Newell says, "This is a show that needs more life, that we couldn't figure out a way to make happen when it was playing. Luckily, Tim Kane said, 'Yeah, I want to come back and do it again.'" Revisiting the piece isn't just about meeting audience demand; it will also allow for more fully realized tie-ins to complementary U. of C. programming, Newell says.
M. Butterfly will also play a part in the larger university world, coinciding with "a major exhibit the University of Chicago's going to be doing around visual representation of performance in Chinese opera," Newell says. "This production will be a sort of centerpiece for that art exhibit that is going to be at the Smart Museum. It's a unique opportunity we have here at Court, to integrate into the intellectual firepower here at the university—to make art while scholarship is being made."