As audiences continue making their way back to in-person performances, Peninsula theater companies this summer have been sharing plans for fall and beyond, announcing their 2022-23 seasons and looking ahead to full seasons of shows that celebrate the experience of coming together to watch live theater. Here's what's on tap at four local companies.
TheatreWorks Silicon Valley announced its 52nd season last week. For 2022-23, the company will present six shows, including two world premieres — both developed as part of the company's New Works Initiative — and a west coast premiere, plus new spins on a couple of well-known shows.
"We really wanted to uplift community and multicultural experiences that represent the beautiful diversity of Silicon Valley and the Bay Area — to start conversations and lift voices," TheatreWorks Artistic Director Tim Bond said of the company's recently announced slate of shows for 2022-23.
The season opens in time for the holidays with a seemingly unusual pick for the "most wonderful time of the year:" "Little Shop of Horrors," (Nov. 30-Dec. 24). The campy sci-fi musical, with book and lyrics by Howard Ashman, and music by Alan Menken, was adapted for the stage from the Roger Corman film. Director Jeffrey Lo will give the show a new setting, moving the action to San Francisco's Chinatown.
"It's going to really open up our casting and create a nice local connection around the show as well as celebrate community. (Setting the show in) this cross-cultural and intersectional community of marginalized people of color is, I think, a great way to go at what the original intent was," Bond said.
"It's also one of my favorite B-movies. I'm a big sci-fi fan and I've always had a place in my heart for this piece," he added.
Four millennia worth of Passover celebrations are at the heart of "In Every Generation" by Ali Viterbi, which will make its west coast premiere Jan. 18-Feb. 12.
"(Viterbi) is looking at these Passover seders, past, present and future, so she goes from B.C. all the way into the 22nd century. It's a pretty amazing journey that she takes the audience on and asks some really deep questions," Bond said.
Bond will direct "Fannie: The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer," (March 8 – April 2) a one-person musical play by Cheryl L. West about civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer that sees the return to TheatreWorks of actress Greta Oglesby, who starred as Aunt Ester in the 2021-22 season's production "Gem of the Ocean" and is a longtime collaborator with Bond. The show features Oglesby on stage with a band, echoing the way that Hamer traveled around and campaigned for voting rights, giving speeches but also incorporating music — and rousing the crowd to sing with her, Bond said.
"It's like a rally. It's like revival. It's a very powerful journey. And I really love how she involves the audience in the experience, so it's a very interactive, spiritually uplifting piece that is a call to action — inspiring audiences to stand up for what's right and to lift their voices and deal with what's going on yet again, which is the suppression of votes," he said.
The first of the company's two world premieres, "A Distinct Society," (April 5-30) by Kareem Fahmy is a family story inspired by a real-life place, a library located on the border between the United States and Canada that unexpectedly became a meeting place for a loved ones separated by the U.S.' "Muslim Ban," the executive order enacted in 2017 that barred people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S.
Bond noted that Fahmy hails from the actual Canadian border town that shares the library with a town in Vermont. With the building straddling the border, people separated by the ban could still meet in the library.
"It's a beautiful metaphor and a beautiful play about love, and family and times where politics are tearing people apart," Bond said.
Up next comes a well-loved show, "Steel Magnolias" by Robert Harling, which captures the triumphs and tribulations of a tight-knit group of women in a small Southern town (June 7-July 2) that inspired the 1989 film of the same name. The season concludes with another world premiere, "Alice Bliss," (July 12-Aug. 6) a new musical set in upstate New York about a teenager who tries to hold her family together while her father has gone to fight in the Iraq War. The show is based on the novel by Laura Harrington with book by Karen Hartman, music by Jenny Giering and lyrics by Adam Gwon.
TheatreWorks partnered with Saratoga's Montalvo Arts Center in 2021 to host a residency to help develop the show, following a similar process that works typically go through for the company's New Works Festival, though due to the pandemic, the piece ended up being developed as a stand-alone project. Though "Alice Bliss" is set 20 years ago, Bond said that its themes are likely to feel familiar.
"The uncertainty that sits in this play feels very much like the uncertainty we've been in the last two years, but it's got a very hopeful and uplifting message about family and the multicultural community that surrounds this family, helping to keep the whole family together," he said.
For more information, visit theatreworks.org.
For its 28th season, Los Altos Stage Company earlier this summer announced a lineup of five plays and musicals for 2022-23 that draw on literary and cinematic inspirations.
The company opens its season with "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" by Simon Stephens, based on the novel by Mark Haddon (Sept. 8-Oct. 2) and marks the holidays with a musical inspired by a classic children's novel, "The Secret Garden," with music and lyrics by Marsha Norman and music by Lucy Simon (Dec. 1-23).
The new year brings actor and comedian Steve Martin's "Picasso at the Lapin Agile," envisioning an imaginary meeting between Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein (Jan. 26- Feb 19); and celebrates making the most of life with Colin Higgins' "Harold and Maude," a stage adaptation of the 1971 cult film about a friendship between a morbid teenager and a cheery octogenarian (April 13- May 7). The season concludes with "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" (June 1-25), a jukebox musical inspired by the 1994 film of the same name, with book by Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott, that chronicles a trio of friends' desert road trip trying to get to a drag performance in a remote town.
For more information, visit losaltosstage.org.
The Pear Theatre in Mountain View last month announced its 2022-23 slate of shows. The season will continue a new feature from the company's recently concluded 20th anniversary season: "Pear Pairings," with two plays running in repertory, doubling up on the stories to be shared on The Pear's stage for some productions.
The season opens with a pairing: "Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Betties" a comedy by Jen Silverman about five women named Betty who find themselves transformed as they rehearse a play, runs Sept. 9 - Oct. 2. in repertory with "Bull in a China Shop" by Bryna Turner, a comedy inspired by the real-life letters between educators and romantic partners Mary Woolley and Jeannette Marks, who sought to reform women's education in the late 19th and early 20th century.
Heading into the holidays, the Pear will stage "Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune" (Dec. 1-18), Terrence McNally's thoughtful two-person play about co-workers at a restaurant who begin to explore the possibility their one-night stand could turn into more.
"Dontrell Who Kissed The Sea" by Nathan Alan Davis tells of an 18-year-old who decides to journey into the Atlantic Ocean in search of an ancestor who was lost during the Middle Passage. The show is running in repertory Feb. 3-26 with Mary Shelley's gothic horror tale "Frankenstein" in a new adaptation that emphasizes the important role of community in the story. The spring brings an important staple of the Pear season, "Pear Slices," which each year features new short plays by members of The Pear Playwrights’ Guild, April 21-May 14; and the season concludes with "Falsettos," book and lyrics by William Finn and James Lapine, music by William Finn, in a story set in late 1970s/early '80s New York about a man trying to keep his family together and maintain ties with his ex-wife and young son after he comes out as gay (June 30-July 23).
For more information, visit thepear.org.
The company marks its 92nd season with a lineup of Broadway-focused shows announced this spring. The season gets underway next month with "School of Rock - The Musical" (Aug. 26-Sept. 11) based on the 2003 film of the same name about an unemployed musician who cobbles together a band of promising young musical talents while pretending to be a sub at a prep school. The show features music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Glenn Slater and a book by Julian Fellowes.
Setting a fairytale tone ahead of the holidays will be "Disney's Beauty and the Beast" (Nov. 4-20), based on the 1993 Disney animated film, with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, and book by Linda Woolverton. To start off the new year, everything going amiss on stage means it's actually all going to plan in Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields' comedy "The Play That Goes Wrong" (Jan. 20-Feb. 5) about a theater company's disaster-prone production of a classic murder mystery.
The Players take a lighthearted cruise to Bikini Bottom with "The SpongeBob Musical" (April 28-May 14), based on the animated series by Stephen Hillenburg, with book by Kyle Jarrow and an array of original songs by an eclectic lineup of artists that includes John Legend, Sara Bareilles, The Flaming Lips, Lady A, Panic! At the Disco and They Might Be Giants.
And to wrap it all up, who doesn't love a little mystery? The company has not yet announced the show that will close the season, slated for next June.
For more information, visit paplayers.org.