American Players Theatre artistic director Brenda DeVita is excited and urgent when she says, “It’s time to go to the woods.”
For audiences who are familiar with APT, “going to the woods” means getting tickets for one of the outdoor classical theater’s productions, packing a picnic and some other essentials in the car, and traveling to Spring Green for an incredible evening of theater — Shakespearean or otherwise.
But for those who have paused attending live performances for the past two years; or meant to see a show or two, but haven’t put any dates on the calendar; or who’ve always heard good things about APT but never ventured out to see a play, DeVita insists that the time is now. “More than ever, we need audiences to come back and experience new characters, new plays, both in the Touchstone and Up the Hill,” she says referring to APT’s indoor and outdoor theaters, respectively. “This 2022 season feels like it’s the most powerful, the most passionate, the ‘most APT’ that it can be. It is full of everything we’re known for and everything we want to be — incredible, poetic, beautiful, classical stories.”
After an entirely virtual season in 2020 featuring 11 staged readings, presented online due to COVID-19, American Players Theatre welcomed audiences back in 2021 with a scaled-down roster of plays featuring smaller casts. Playgoers returned tentatively to socially distanced seating and mask and vaccine mandates, per CDC recommendations.
Although the threat of COVID still lingers, this year APT is back to a full company of actors, and a full season in rotating repertory that includes several canonical works in the vein that built the company’s national reputation: William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Love’s Labour’s Lost; Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s post-Restoration era comedy of manners The Rivals; and an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. It also includes the 20th century classic A Raisin in the Sun (by Lorraine Hansberry), along with The Brothers Size (by Tarell Alvin McCraney), and The River Bride (by Marisela Treviño Orta), which explore Black and Latinx stories.
“The link between our classic and contemporary offerings is mission-driven. They are poetic stories that illuminate what it is to be a human being,” DeVita explains. “The best stories are specific ones that become universal. We can attach ourselves to those people’s journeys because they are so well crafted and the words are so well chosen. Words are transformative. In our tradition, that’s who we are — a company that is all about great writers, great actors, and great stories. That’s at the heart of everything we’re trying to be.”
Two comedies, The Rivals and Sense and Sensibility, begin the season in the Hill Theatre in June, and DeVita suggests that they are good choices for seasoned APT fans as well as new theatergoers.
“These two plays are incredibly funny period pieces — they’re each a really good time,” says DeVita. “The Rivals is so ridiculous — this kind of Restoration comedy is what we’re known for and what we’re good at. And Sense and Sensibility has a great amount of humor, but it’s also a beautiful story about family, about sisters. We knew at the first read-through this was going to be incredibly fun.
“I always feel confident in our casting, but the casting in Sense and Sensibility is absolutely exquisite, and as diverse as we’ve ever had,” she adds. “Samatha Newcomb, who plays Marianne, is basically a Jane Austen character. It’s like she was pulled out of a novel.”
DeVita says there are also lots of good reasons to check out this season’s Shakespearean standard, Hamlet, whether you’ve seen the play before or not.
American Players Theatre performed this weighty classic last in 2013. DeVita insists that although the world has changed profoundly since it was originally written, and even since APT last mounted it, the text still has a great deal to offer audiences.
“It is as great a play as we think it is. I was reminded of that in the read-through. Great plays still have something to say to us. They have remarkable insight into humanity.
“Hamlet requires embodiment by human beings who can really question what it is to be alive today. That is what this cast brings to the text.”
For those who may be intimidated by the play they likely read in school, DeVita is confident that seeing this production will be transformative. “I believe Hamlet was never meant to be read. It’s meant to be experienced, created by confident, authentic actors. That is what we have here. I want people who think they don’t want to see it, to come see this Hamlet. They will be transported by Nate Burger in the lead role. And if you’ve never seen it, allusions to the play are everywhere in our culture, in our language. It’s already part of our lives. Come see it done well.”
June 11-Sept. 17
by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, directed by Aaron Posner
Lydia Languish wants to marry for love, and assumes that means her beau will be poor. How far will wealthy Jack Absolute go to convince her of his affection?
Sense and Sensibility
June 17-Oct. 9
adapted by Jessica Swale from the Jane Austen novel,
directed by Marti Lyons
When the Dashwood family is disinherited in Regency-era England, there is even more pressure for Marianne and Elinor to marry well. But should these women follow their hearts or their heads in finding a match?
The River Bride
June 17-Sept. 30
By Marisela Treviño Orta,
directed by Robert Ramirez
Helena is conflicted about her sister’s upcoming wedding, but then the whole family’s plans are thrown into disarray when her father rescues a man from the Amazon river.
June 24-Oct. 8
By William Shakespeare,
directed by James DeVita
The young Prince suspects something is rotten in the state of Denmark when his father’s ghost appears, urging him to avenge the monarch’s murder. The play’s the thing in this extraordinary tale of love, family, betrayal and revenge.
The Brothers Size
June 28-Oct. 8
By Tarell Alvin McCraney,
directed by Gavin Lawrence
Two brothers try to reconnect after they have taken very different paths in life — one works hard as a garage mechanic, the other has just been released from jail.
A Raisin in the Sun
Aug. 5-Oct. 7
By Lorraine Hansberry,
directed by Tasia A. Jones
A family in 1950s Chicago wrestles with big questions of race, identity, racism, and what to do with a life insurance check.
Love’s Labour’s Lost
Aug. 12-Oct. 2
By William Shakespeare,
directed by Brenda DeVita
A king and his retinue commit to three years of distraction-free study, but regret that commitment when a princess and her party arrive; an early Shakespeare comedy.
Aug. 13-Oct. 9
By Jen Silverman,
directed by Keira Fromm
A young governess arrives at an English manor and finds nothing is as expected. This is a delightful and sharp satire of the gothic novels of the Brontë sisters.
Stones in His Pockets
Oct. 27-Nov. 20
By Marie Jones,
directed by Tim Ocel
Two locals from a middling Irish town are cast as extras in a Hollywood movie that’s being shot nearby. But as cultures clash, most of the drama occurs off-screen.