Off-Broadway’s New York Theatre Workshop, which will welcome a new artistic director in summer 2022, has announced its complete 2021–2022 season as well as initial productions for the 2022–2023 season.
The 2021–2022 lineup begins this summer with Obie winner Whitney White’s Semblance, a filmed theatrical experience that asks audiences to examine how Black women are perceived. The production will be presented both as a virtual experience and an intimate, immersive theatrical installation at the Off-Broadway venue.
Pulitzer Prize winner Martyna Majok’s Sanctuary City, which was halted in March last year due to the pandemic, will subsequently return to NYTW under the direction of Rebecca Frecknall (Summer and Smoke). The play, about dreamers, lovers, and life-long friends, examines what people are willing to sacrifice for someone they love.
A new project from NYTW Usual Suspect Kristina Wong, directed by Obie winner Chay Yew (Oedipus El Rey), will follow, building on Wong’s Artistic Instigator project Kristina Wong, Sweatshop Overlord, which explores how Wong went from an out-of-work artist to overlord of a homemade face mask empire in just 10 days at the start of the pandemic.
The season will continue with the world premiere of On Sugarland, by Obie winner Aleshea Harris (What to Send Up When It Goes Down). White, following Semblance, will direct 14 ensemble members in a drama focusing on 12-year-old Sadie, who calls on generations of matriarchal ancestors to find the truth about her mother while the denizens of Sugarland rise each day to holler for the dead in a ritual reclamation of timeless grief.
The 2021–2022 season will conclude with Dreaming Zenzile, based on the life of South African musical legend and activist Miriam Makeba. Penned by Grammy nominee Somi Kakoma and directed by Obie Lileana Blain-Cruz (The House That Will Not Stando), the world-premiere musical, which brings together seven producers (Octopus Theatricals, National Black Theatre, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, McCarter Theatre Center, Arts Emerson, Apollo Theater, and NYTW), is set at Makeba’s final concert as she delivers the performance of her life, raising the conscience and the consciousness of a people.
NYTW’s previously announced production of Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters, featuring a new adaptation by Pulitzer Prize finalist Clare Barron (Dance Nation), will now be mounted as part of the 2022–2023 season. Tony winner Sam Gold (Fun Home) directs.
The 2022–2023 season will also include Victor I. Cazares’ american (tele)visions, a memory play about an undocumented Mexican family. Rubén Polendo (</remnant>) will direct the production, described as a collision between the American Dream and the American nightmare. The multi-media production includes live performance, live camera feeds, and pre-recorded video.
Liliana Padilla’s How to Defend Yourself, winner of the 2019 Yale Drama Prize, is also on the 2022–2023 roster. Co-directed by Tony winner Rachel Chavkin (Hadestown), Padilla, and Helen Hayes Award winner Steph Paul (The Last Match), the play is set in a DIY self-defense workshop following the rape of seven college students’ sorority sister. Self-defense becomes a channel for their rage, anxiety, confusion, trauma, and desire.
The 2022–2023 season will also feature The Half-God of Rainfall by Inua Ellams (Barber Shop Chronicles) plus an additional production to be announced. Ellams’ play transports audiences from a village in South West Nigeria to an NBA arena to the hallowed halls of Mount Olympus, where the mothers, daughters, and goddesses take a stand against the fragile, furious, and entitled gods.
Performance schedules, casting, and full creative teams will be announced at a later date.
“As we considered our return to live performance, we realized that in addition to the interrupted commitments we'd made, the artists in our community had not stopped creating—there was even more work that demanded our attention,” says Artistic Director James C. Nicola and Managing Director Jeremy Blocker. “Theatre as an art form is in defiance of the virus’ attempt to silence us—the darkness and stillness has only made our voice stronger and more urgent. After being kept from our spaces for so long, to adhere to our usual practice of announcing one season of work felt insufficient in honoring the artistic community we're so grateful to be a part of. We want to return with confidence, with joyfulness—to be bold with our artmaking but still cautious with our approach to public health.
“Additionally, since we'll be welcoming a new artistic director in summer 2022, we wanted to give them—not to mention the whole organization—some breathing room. Setting out plans for our next two seasons will give the gift of time to just be present, without the pressure to compose a season. Time to listen, to observe, and formulate a plan for change and growth.”