Theater patrons of Northwest Arkansas have yet to get a sneak peak inside the still-under-construction home of TheatreSquared. But they now know what they’ll see when the new season opens in the $30 million campus being completed in downtown Fayetteville.
2019-20 TheatreSquared Season
Aug. 14 – Sept. 8 – “Shakespeare in Love”
Oct. 2 – Nov. 10 – “Native Gardens”
Nov. 20 – Dec. 22 – “A Christmas Carol”
Jan. 22 – Feb. 16 – “The Royale”
Feb. 19 – March 22 – “Ann”
March 25 – April 19 – “My Father’s War”
May 20 – June 21 – “Matilda”
The 14-year-old theater organization has pulled the curtain on their first season in their new purpose-built home. The upcoming season, which begins in August, contains a mix of familiar titles and newer works. It also contains the first repeat performance of a show – “My Father’s War” – which was produced by T2 in 2008 but has been reworked for the 75th anniversary of World War II. It is the organization’s first seven-show season, an expansion of the typical six-show offering (and a big improvement over the first season, which featured three shows).
TheatreSquared’s current residency in Nadine Baum Studios across the street from their new home is a much more cramped operation. Martin Miller, T2’s executive direction, says there’s only a matter of hours before the end of one show and the start of the next. As the actors are removing their items from the dressing rooms, the strike team tears down the scenic elements and work begins on the next show.
“We’ve really packed the calendar over there,” Miller said.
The new building is considerably larger on several significant levels. The addition of a second theater allows the organization to rehearse one show while another is on stage.
“We can now rehearse a show in a space with an identical footprint,” Miller said.
That created the ability to add a seventh show to the roster, and it also allows T2 to extend the run of a show that’s selling out.
The physical size of the new theaters allows the organization to consider several shows that were previously outside of the group’s reach. It also allows scenic designers to build more elaborate stages, particularly as it relates to the height of the stage elements.
“It’s not just a few steps beyond, but a marathon beyond,” Miller said.
Miller said there’s always pressure to provide the perfect group of shows in each new season, but that everyone responsible for deciding this year’s slate felt the “extra spotlight” associated with it being the first season in a new home.
Considered as a whole, Miller said he’s proud of the range the shows provide and of the opportunities the new location will provide the actors, directors and other theater talents T2 has developed a relationship with over the years. The works include shows about a boxer, a politician, World War II, a Christmas classic (but with a new twist) and the world’s best-known playwright.
“They each have a different sort of ‘wow’ factor,” Miller said.
The first show of the season is “Shakespeare in Love,” a stage adaptation of the 1994 movie. The stage version debuted in London’s West End in 2014. It is part period piece, part comedy and part homage to the Bard and the theatrical arts.
Next is a new show about a new fence – and warring neighbors. Karen Zacarias’ new work “Native Gardens” explores topics such ageism and racism from the alleged safety of a pair of American backyards.
The theater company’s annual contribution to the Christmas season promises to visit previous territory in a new way. TheatreSquared associate artistic director Amy Herzberg’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” has been called a “bold reimagining” of the classic tale.
The first production of the new year follows the life of boxer Jack Johnson. “The Royale” by Marco Ramirez documents Johnson’s ascent towards becoming heavyweight champion during the Jim Crow era.
“Ann” is another play about a rise to fame. “Ann” is the tale of Ann Richards, the former schoolteacher who was elected to serve as the governor of Texas. This one-woman play about her life was written and brought to stage by film and television veteran Holland Taylor, who was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actress when “Ann” debuted on Broadway.
Making a return to TheatreSquared, although as a revised version, is “My Father’s War,” written by TheatreSquared artistic director Bob Ford. His play, which debuted with the original T2 version in 2008, is about Private Arthur Herzberg, the father of Amy Herzberg. In the original telling, Amy Herzberg visited many of the scenes of her father’s wartime experiences, living out the harrowing events from which he barely survived.
Closing out the season will be a musical – a relative rarity for T2 – recently off a successful West End production, a Broadway run and subsequent national tour. “Matilda,” based on the beloved children’s novel by Roald Dahl, ran on Broadway for nearly four years. It earned five Tony Awards and nine Olivier Awards, the latter tied for the most-ever with the smash “Hamilton.” Matilda is the tale of a talented girl with special powers that she must learn to harness.
Miller said the theater will “absolutely” be ready by August to host the new season and that the first events will start taking place in June before a series of public unveilings later in the fall.
Season subscription packages are on sale now and start at $110 for a seven-show package. Single session tickets go on sale in July.