Michael Laun, executive producing director of Sacramento Theatre Company, is calling the 2014-15 slate of productions A Season of Legends, Epics and Icons.
The season will unfold as follows: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck and adaptation by Frank Galati, Kate by Rick Foster, Its a Wonderful Life The Musical, Nunsense The Musical by Dan Goggin, William Shakespeares Julius Caesar, The Whipping Man by Matthew Lopez, and The Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan.
Laun said the company is building on the successful slotting and scheduling of certain types of plays during the season while also identifying a theme to tie the different works together. The season opener of The Grapes of Wrath was the central piece of the season Laun wanted in place.
It was one of the first plays we picked for the season, and I was very interested in us doing it, he said.
That really did kind of spearhead the season, being the 75th anniversary of (the novels) publication and the 20th anniversary since we actually produced it here at STC.
Winner of the 1990 Tony Award and Outer Critics Circle Award, the sprawling production can use more than 20 actors and often includes live musicians as well.
Weve been trying here at the theater to build up the scope of the productions that were doing, Laun said.
Last years production of Pride and Prejudice showed him the company was ready to take on larger projects, he said.
The Grapes of Wrath was another big project we wanted to do and we felt that we were ready to be able to do it, Laun said.
Following The Grapes of Wrath the season takes a somewhat opposite tack with the intimate one-woman drama and world premiere of Kate.
The production stars Janis Stevens as Katharine Hepburn, reuniting Stevens with writer Foster and director Peter Sander.
Both Foster and Sander collaborated with her on the award-winning Vivien, a similar one-woman drama she has performed across the country.
Id been in discussion with Janis Stevens about that play for about nine months, Laun said.
The Legends, Epics and Icons idea then came to me and to us, and I thought what if we do a season that is kind of larger-scale, which deals with bigger issues? Laun said.
While there is some stretching to fit all the titles into the concept (Laun said the nuns of Nunsense are obviously icons), William Shakespeares Julius Caesar clearly fits the bill.
In bringing Lopezs complex The Whipping Man into the season, Laun said he was expressly looking to work again with director Buddy Butler, who staged STCs well-received production of Master Harold and the Boys two season ago.
I was looking to something similar in scope to that play something for our intimate Pollock Stage that would deal with issues that were surrounding a culturally significant time, Laun said.
The play deals with the immediate aftermath of the Civil War as a Jewish Confederate soldier and two former slaves raised as Jews celebrate Passover together.
It was fascinating to me when I read it, Laun said. Even though its a three-person play, it deals with very big issues.
After the dramas of Julius Caesar and The Whipping Man, Laun wanted something lighter to end the season. So Gilbert and Sullivans The Pirates of Penzance was added as something simply fun and frothy.
STC has never produced the musical, and Laun anticipates hiring a live orchestra for the production.
Based on classic James Stewart film, Its a Wonderful Life The Musical, which has performed well and pleased STC audiences, will be brought back in the December holiday slot.
Laun said he feels the theater, which had a 2013-14 budget of just over $1.4 million, has shown positive signs of growth over the past three years.
Our subscription numbers have pretty much stayed the same the last three years right around 1,800 subscribers, but what we have seen is a growing number of students and single-ticket buyers and people who are brand new to our theater, Laun said.
Our regular ticket sales have been growing over the last three years. We saw a 3 percent rise two years ago, a 5 percent rise last year, and it looks like this year were actually going to be close to a 10 percent risein ticket sales, he said.
It definitely means more people in our seats, more people in Sacramento getting to view and enjoy what were doing here, Laun said.
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