The Alliance Theatre has announced its 2022-23 season, a lineup its artistic director Susan V. Booth calls “a celebration of joy.” The 54th season of Atlanta’s largest theater will feature nine productions including four world premieres on its two stages, the Coca-Cola Stage and Hertz Stage.
The season opens with a family show in mid-July, the world premiere musical The Incredible Book Eating Boy, inspired by Oliver Jeffers’ children’s book. Another world premiere musical based on a hit book, Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, bookends the season, opening in Summer 2023 (date to be determined). Highlights in between include the regional premiere of the Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy-drama The Hot Wing King, directed by its playwright, Katori Hall; and Everybody by Pulitzer finalist Branden Jacobs-Jenkins.
The full schedule:
- The Incredible Book Eating Boy, July 13-August 14, 2022: Jamil Jude, artistic director of Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company, directs this Family Series show. The world premiere musical is about a boy’s insatiable appetite for knowledge, based on the book of the same name by Oliver Jeffers. Book by Madhuri Shekar, music by Christian Magby, lyrics by Christian Albright.
- Everybody, September 2-October 2, 2022: Inspired by the 15th century morality play Everyman, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ Everybody explores the meaning of life and the roles we play along the way. In keeping with life’s random twists and turns, the play’s performers draw names on stage each night to determine which actor will play each character. Co-directed by Susan V. Booth and Tinashe Kajese-Bolden.
- A Christmas Carol, November 12-December 24, 2022: The Alliance’s latest wide-screen adaption of the beloved Charles Dickens story, which premiered for the 2021 holidays, returns. Adapted by David H. Bell, directed by Leora Morris.
- Club Hertz Presents: A Gift of Love with Adam L. McKnight, December 7-23, 2022: The Atlanta singer performs original songs and holiday classics in styles from R&B to gospel and pop to opera.
- The Hot Wing King, February 10-March 5, 2023: Katori Hall”s 2021 Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy-drama finds barbecue ace Cordell readying for Memphis’ annual Hot Wang Festival, aided by his beau Dwayne and best friends who serve as his fry crew, The New Wing Order. But the heat rises on a fun night of pre-competition prep when a family emergency forces Dwayne’s troubled nephew into the mix. Suddenly, the first-place trophy isn’t the only thing that Cordell might lose.
- The Many Wondrous Realities of Jasmine Starr-Kidd, March 1-26, 2023: Winner of the Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition, this world premiere by Stephen Brown centers on a 12-year-old computer genius who can manipulate most everything in the virtual realm but can’t resolve her parents’ separation in the earthbound one.
- The Boy Who Kissed the Sky, April 1-16, 2023: This Seattle-set world premiere Family Series musical is inspired by the early life and influences of rock icon Jimi Hendrix. Commissioned by Seattle Children’s Theatre in partnership with the Alliance, play by Idris Goodwin celebrates young artists who follow their muse. Book by Goodwin, music by Eugene H. Russell IV and Divinity Roxx, directed by Tim Bond
- Lonely Planet, April 26-May 21, 2023: Written by Stephen Dietz nearly three decades ago, this is an intimate portrait of two friends navigating life at the height of an epidemic. Jody becomes increasingly fearful of the world outside and the dangers it poses, refusing to leave his shop, while his spirited friend Carl begins filling the store with a variety of mysterious chairs. The Alliance calls it a “commentary on the value of friendship and community during uncertain times.” Directed by Susan V. Booth.
- Water For Elephants, summer 2023: Based on Sarah Gruen’s best-selling novel, this world premiere musical tells the story of a young man who, running away from tragedy, hitches a ride on a mysterious train and finds himself amid a traveling circus. He ends up working as the show’s vet and falls in love with the ringmaster’s wife while they train a new star attraction, Rosie the elephant. The Alliance promises “an adventure filled with romance, deception and a little bit of magic, all under the big top of a traveling circus.” Directed by Jessica Stone (Kimberly Akimbo), book by Rick Elice (Jersey Boys, Peter and the Starcatcher), score by PigPen Theatre Co.
The Alliance also has announced the 2022-23 season of its Kathy & Ken Bernhardt Theatre for the Very Young, four productions presented in the Selig Family Backbox Theatre:
- Do You Love the Dark? September 28-November 16, 2022: Based on the book of the same name written by Maya Lawrence and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie and commissioned by the Alliance Theatre in partnership with the Mayor’s Summer Reading Club, this interactive play follows a young girl during a sleepless night trying to conquer her biggest fear of all: the dark. Direction by Alexis Woodard.
- (Knock, Knock), November 30-December 23, 2022: A holiday celebration with residents of an apartment building where surprises hide behind every door. Created and directed by Olivia Aston Bosworth and Samantha Provenzano.
- All Smiles, January 25-March 5, 2023: Created in partnership with the Marcus Center for Autism, this show explores how all smiles are different. Created and directed by Tinashe Kajese-Bolden.
- The Lizard and El Sol, March 15-April 30, 2023: An interactive adventure based on a famous Mexican folktale about a time when El Sol (the Sun) disappeared from the sky. With colorful puppets and Mexican-inspired music and dance, the play culminates in a festival celebrating the joy of sunshine and friendship. Directed by Rosemary Newcott.
Aris to mount the ever-challenging “Ulysses”
Beloved by literature lovers the world over, James Joyce’s Ulysses is widely considered one of the most difficult reads in any language, like conquering a literary Everest.
Now Aris Theatre, Atlanta’s troupe dedicated to Celtic culture, has announced that it will stage the North American premiere of Irish author-playwright Dermot Bolger’s adaption of Ulysses, June 16-26 at 7 Stages.
The pitch on Aris’ website is pretty funny: “It’s famous! Yet most of us have never read it. It’s BIG! So how am I ever going to get around to reading that?? It’s . . . steamy! Okay, go on . . .”
Steaminess and sex come up a few more times, which is probably a smart way to sell the challenge of what Aris succinctly summarizes as “[following] Leopold Bloom as he walks the streets of Dublin, encountering the challenges and trials worthy of an ancient epic:”
“Because the book is 18 episodes, a dazzling array of linguistic styles, covering 265,000 words,” he said, “you have to figure out what to cut.”
Bolger’s strategy was to hyper-focus on Ulysses’ emotional essence.
“Novels give you a lot of scope, because generally novels aren’t read in one sitting and you’re able to have subplots,” he said, “I just had to figure out the emotional journey of Bloom, and of [his marriage to Molly], what made their marriage. In the end I had to go into the areas of the book that most engaged my intellectual curiosity, but also most engaged my empathy.”
Atlanta winners of new monologue competition
LaNiyah Kelly of Dunwoody High School recently won the Atlanta Regional Finals of the Next Narrative Monologue Competition, a new national program for high school students in which they perform works by a host of contemporary Black playwrights.
Orchestrated by Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company, the program replaces the troupe’s longtime August Wilson Monologue Competition. In launching the Next Narrative competition, True Colors Artistic Director Jamil Jude sought to help bring new works by Black playwrights to American stages. The contestants are drawing from a 2022 compendium that includes 41 monologues by 20 playwrights created especially for the competition.
Kelly won a $600 cash prize and an all-expenses paid trip to New York City for the Next Narrative National Finals to be held at the historic Apollo Theater on May 2. Also heading to the Apollo will be Atlanta Finals second-place finisher Zaria Williams, who attends New Manchester High School in Douglasville. Williams won a cash prize of $400. Third place and a cash prize of $200 went to Jayden Griffin from Atlanta Classical Academy.
“Along with our publishing partner Theatrical Rights Worldwide, our vision was to develop a new repertoire of theatrical expression grounded in the Black aesthetic,” Jude said, “but uniquely crafted and available to young thespians everywhere seeking age-suitable and relevant audition content.”
Additional regional finals are being held in Boston, Dallas, Detroit, Milwaukee, New York, Pittsburgh, Seattle and New Haven, Connecticut. Some 18 students from across country are expected to compete in the inaugural national finals next month.