Soft Power, The Visitor, and More Part of The Public's 2019–2020 Season | Playbill

Off-Broadway News Soft Power, The Visitor, and More Part of The Public's 2019–2020 Season The lineup also includes revivals of Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls and Tony Kushner’s A Bright Room Called Day.
Conrad Ricamora and Kendyl Ito Craig Schwartz Photography

The Public Theater has unveiled its 2019–2020 season, which will launch this fall with the New York premiere of David Henry Hwang and Jeanine Tesori's new musical-within-a-play, Soft Power.

Among other offerings, the lineup also features the world premiere of Brian Yorkey, Tom Kitt, and Kwame Kwei-Armah's musical adaptation of The Visitor starring Tony winners David Hyde Pierce and Ari'el Stachel, the first major New York revival of Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls, Mona Mansour's The Vagrant Trilogy, Erika Dickerson-Despenza's Cullud Wattah, and Tony Kushner's A Bright Room Called Day, to be helmed by Artistic Director Oskar Eustis.

Ntozake Shange Martha Swope

Kicking of the new season in September will be Soft Power, directed by Leigh Silverman with choreography by Sam Pinkleton. The show rewinds recent political history and plays it back, a century later, through the Chinese lens of a future, East-meets-West musical. The new collaboration from Tony-winning playwright Hwang (M. Butterfly) and Tony-winning composer Tesori (Fun Home) arrives Off-Broadway following a world premiere in Los Angeles and subsequent San Francisco production.

Reprising their roles will be Conrad Ricamora as Xue Xing, Francis Jue as DHH, Billy Bustamante as the Xue Xing Standby, Kendyl Ito as Jing/Ensemble, Austin Ku as Bobby Bob, Raymond J. Lee as Randy Ray/VEEP/Ensemble, Alyse Alan Louis as Zoe/Hillary, Jaygee Macapugay as Campaign Manager/Ensemble, Daniel May as Ensemble, Paul HeeSang Miller as Ensemble, Geena Quintos as Ensemble, Trevor Salter as Ensemble, and Emily Stillings as Female Swing. Kyra Smith (Ensemble), Emily Trumble (Zoe/Hillary Understudy), and John Yi (Male Swing) will aslo be a part of the cast. Performances will begin at The Public September 24 and continue through November 3.

Beginning October 8, The Public presents Shange’s groundbreaking work, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf, directed by Leah C. Gardiner (If Pretty Hurts) with choreography by Camille A. Brown (Choir Boy). Inspired by personal events—including Shange's multiple attempts to take her own life—the choreopoem weaves poetry, song, and movement to tell the story of seven Black women, each identified solely by a color. Performances will run October 8–November 17.

Also slated for October is the world premiere of Richard Nelson's The Michaels. Part of the writer-director's acclaimed Rhinebeck Panorama (which includes The Apple Family and The Gabriels), the drama will be another moving snapshot of modern-day America. The Michaels places us in the kitchen of Rose Michael, a celebrated choreographer. Dinner is cooked, modern dances are rehearsed, and the meal is eaten—all amidst conversations about art, death, family, dance, politics, and the state of America. Performances will run October 19–November 17.

Tony Kushner Walter McBride

Rounding out the October programming is Kushner's first play, A Bright Room Called Day. The 1985 drama, re-envisioned by Eustis, looks at the possibility of the Reagan counter-revolution eventually giving rise to American fascism. Agnes, an actor in Weimar Germany, is torn between protest, escape, and survival as the world she knew crumbles. Her story is interrupted by an American woman enraged by the cruelty of the Reagan administration, and a new character, grappling with the anxiety, distraction, hope, and hopelessness of an artist facing the once unthinkable rise of authoritarianism in modern America. Performances will run October 29–December 8.

The new year will launch with the return of the Under the Radar Festival, now celebrating its 16th year, followed by the world premiere of Coal Country, a Public Theater commission written by The Exonerated's Jessica Blank (who also directs) and Erik Jensen, with music by Grammy winner Steve Earle. The new work is based on first-person accounts of survivors and family members affected by the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine explosion. Performances will run February 18–March 29, 2020.

In the spring, The Public will present the New York premiere of Mansour's The Vagrant Trilogy, directed by Obie winner Mark Wing-Davey. Told in three parts and featuring six actors in 19 different roles, the drama delves into the Palestinian struggle for home and identity. In part one, a Palestinian Wordsworth scholar, with his new wife, goes to London in 1967 to deliver a lecture. When war breaks out at home, he must decide in an instant what to do—a choice that will affect the rest of their lives. The two parts that follow explore alternate realities based on that decision. Performances will run March 17–April 26.

Also in March will be the world premiere of The Visitor, the story of a widower who befriends a Syrian immigrant in post-9/11 New York City, based on the 2007 Thomas McCarthy film of the same name. The musical project reunites Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning Next to Normal and If/Then collaborators Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, who have teamed up with writer-director Kwame Kwei-Armah (also the artistic director of the Young Vic in London) as co-book writer, along with Tony-winning director Daniel Sullivan and choreographer Lorin Latarro.

Stachel and Pierce, who will star as Tarek and Walter respectively, will be joined by Jacqueline Antaramian as Mouna and Joaquina Kalukango as Zainab, with further casting to be announced. Performances will run March 24–May 10.

Rounding out the season next summer (along with yet-to-be-announced Shakespeare in the Park productions) will be Dickerson-Despenza's Cullud Wattah, directed by Candis C. Jones. The Afro-surrealist play traces three generations of Black women living through the current water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Performances run July 7–August 16.

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First Look at David Henry Hwang and Jeanine Tesori’s Soft Power


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