Philadelphia 2018/2019 Season In Review by Majorie Bicknell
If you think Philadelphia theatre is a hidebound because we’re the birthplace of the Barrymores and home to the Walnut Street Theatre, the “oldest theatre in continuous use in the English-speaking world,” then it’s time to think differently. We’re one forward-looking town. Want proof? This season over fifteen local playwrights were among those that saw their new works produced here!
Theatres from A to Z are getting in the action. The Arden has produced 28 new works in their 30-year history and this year’s choice was playwright Kash Goins’ 74 Seconds…To Judgement, about a deadlocked jury in a justifiable homicide case.
The Drake Theatre houses four resident theatres and features several more. This season they’ve produced nine new works—eight by local playwrights.
Azuka Theatre brought us Emily Acker’s Boycott Esther, a Hollywood drama about the #metoo movement. 11th Hour commissioned Jesse Bernstein and Jake Blouch’s musical Something Like A War, about baseball, racism, and healing after the Civil War. InterAct Theatre Company partnered with Passage Theatre to produce Josh Wilder’s Salt, Pepper, Ketchup, about gentrification and set in the Philadelphia’s Point Breeze neighborhood. InterAct followed up with Gabriel Jason Dean’s Heartland, about politics, Afghanistan and unintended consequences.
At Simpatico Theatre, it was all Philly all the time. First, they gave us 4Solo, four one-person plays written and performed by local playwrights Thomas Choinacky, Armand Batista, Jeremy Gable, and J. Hernandez. Then they followed with Jacqueline Goldfinger’s Click, a feminist science fiction play about the internet and privacy, or the lack of it.
Leaving the Drake and downtown behind, Iron Age Theatre produced Philly playwright Daniella Vinitski Mooney’s Mountain Play in which two vagabonds reflect on the past.
Juniper Productions created a stir by taking Philadelphia playwrights to bars with the Cocktail Plays series, to restaurants with Appetizer Plays and culminating with a production of John O’Hara’s mother-daughter play, 12 Chairs, at the Buttonwood Theatre.
Back downtown, Philadelphia Theatre Company partnered with Baltimore Center Stage to bring us How to Catch Creation by Christina Anderson. Not to be left out, the Wilma Theater commissioned Dionysius Was Such A Nice Man, a comedy by Kate Tarker, especially for their Hothouse Company.
Outside the city limits, things are also hopping. In Lancaster, PA, children’s playwright Sandy Asher worked with the public library to produce her plays, Welcome Home, Bear! and Princess Bee and the Royal Good-night Story. Both plays were performed at the library and at schools around Lancaster ensuring that there will be a next generation of theatre fans. In Bethlehem, PA, playwright Ara Barlieb had two plays, A Softening of Eyes and Unspeakable, both produced at the Charles A. Brown IceHouse.
Finally, long before the 2018-19 season ended, Theatre Exile was preparing for the next with its Studio X-hibition New Play Development Series featuring readings of Babel by Jacqueline Goldfinger, Tank Stranger Sees the Face of The Cosmos in the Condensation of a Water Glass… by James Ijames and Good Americans by Bruce Graham