An exciting new season of live theater was announced during a gala wine and cheese reception Thursday night at the Repertory East Playhouse – better known as the REP – in the downtown Newhall arts district.
REP Executive Director Ovington Michael Owston said that he and REP board members sorted through dozens of potential crowd-pleasers to select the season, which offers thought-provoking drama and side-splitting comedy along with some classic works and historical pieces.
Opening the season January 22 will be Neil Simon’s “Lost In Yonkers,” followed by “On Golden Pond” March 12. The first of the 81 Season offerings, “12 Angry Men” will open April 23 and will be followed by the REP’s annual musical, “The Wedding Singer,” opening May 21.
“There was a lot of cheering when that was announced,” Owston said. The REP had planned to present the show during its 2009 season, but were not granted the rights and ran “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” in its place.
The 81 Series continues into the summer, with a comedy and a drama. “The Last Days of Judas Escariot,” by Stephen Adly Guirguis, will open July 9 and “Side Man” by Warren Leight will open August 13.
On Sept. 17, a new adaptation of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher will open. Hatcher previously adapted the Mitch Albon novel “Tuesdays With Morrie” for the stage.
Closing the season (and opening November 12) will be the play “Amadeus,” which tells the story of musical genius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
“We’re excited about the season,” Owston said, allowing that selecting just the right shows for their 81-seat venue and the community is a full-time job.
“All I do all year long as a hobby is read plays, then I research different towns with similar population and infrastructure as Santa Clarita to see what community, regional and little theaters do there,” he said.
“The 81 series is a little bit harder to pick, because we have our own mission statement for the 81,” he continued. I’m always looking in Backstage West to see what people are doing and we read 30 different plays that were eligible for the 81 series. We actually picked an entire 81 season, then we read more plays and threw out the season for this one.”
The 81 Series usually involves productions that are edgier and a little more risk-taking, but not always.
“’12 Angry Men’ is a classic, but we weren’t sure we could bank on it as a mainstage show,” Owston said. “It’s a smaller production with a minimalist set and a great actor’s show. With its’ social relevance to today, it’s a fantastic piece.”
“‘The Last Days of Judas Escariot’ is a comedy about Judas in Purgatory fighting with his lawyers to get admittance into heaven. Imagine ‘Night Court’ in Purgatory. It’s basically the trial of the Bible’s most infamous sinner. It’a also extremely poignant and questions forgiveness and faith. It’s perfect for our series.”
“‘Side Man was a 1999 runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize, it’s a great memory play, very similar in structure to ‘The Glass Menagerie,” he continued. “It deals with music and the loss of a great era in music with the downfall of jazz and big bands due to the advent of Elvis and rock ‘n’ roll. It kind of follows one family and the coming of age of a young man and his relationship with his father.”
Currently, the REP is presenting “Sherlock Holmes, The Hound of the Baskervilles” which runs weekends until Oct. 17. Season subscriptions for the REP’s 2010 season will go on sale, Nov. 13, the opening night of the final production of the 2009 season, “M*A*S*H” by Tim Kelly. For more information, call (661) 288-0000 or visit their website here.