Arts & Theater

Michael Stevenson picks first Capital Stage season as artistic director

The honeymoon is now officially over for Capital Stage producing artistic director Michael Stevenson. In his first year running the company, he has produced shows chosen by his predecessor, Jonathan Williams. But now as Capital Stage announces the first season put together by Stevenson, he fulfills what is arguably an artistic director’s most important role.

“It was a challenge to find a group of pieces that complemented each other, but my bottom-line test was every play had to take my breath away at some point,” he said.

Stevenson’s seven-show 2016-17 season includes four Sacramento area premieres and winners of the Pulitzer, Tony and Laurence Olivier awards.

The season: “How To Use a Knife” by Will Snider; “August: Osage County” by Tracy Letts; “Santaland Diaries” by David Sedaris; “Betrayal” by Harold Pinter; “Guards at the Taj” by Rajiv Joseph; “Stupid F*cking Bird” by Aaron Posner; and “Bad Jews” by Joshua Harmon.

“I’d say there are several shows I think are thrilling because they’re so challenging,” Stevenson said.

Tracy Letts’ Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning “August: Osage County” certainly qualifies as that with both a large cast and large set, which figures to test the limits of the intimate Capital Stage space.

Rajiv Joseph’s two-man “Guards at the Taj” is set in 17th-century India as two soldiers await the unveiling of the Taj Mahal. It combines Samuel Beckett and Martin McDonaugh in a bloody black comedy Stevenson called “crazy, crazy.”

Harold Pinter’s 1978 classic of a relationship’s unraveling told in reverse chronology was a must-do for the artistic director. “It’s one of my favorite plays of all time, period,” Stevenson said. “I always said to myself, ‘If I ever get to choose a play I’m going to do that play. I think it’s timeless.’ 

Stevenson said he felt there was a simple theme running through all the plays.

“Obviously there’s drama and comedy that have to balance out – but also what’s central to all of these, for me, is the conflict inside of all of us,” Stevenson said. “That’s endlessly fascinating to me, so that’s what the bottom line was.”

Marcus Crowder: 916-321-1120, @marcuscrowder

Capital Stage ‘Love & War’ 2016 -17

  • “How To Use a Knife” by Will Snider, Aug. 3-Oct. 2; National New Play Network Rolling world premiere
  • “August: Osage County” by Tracy Letts, Oct. 19-Nov. 20, winner of five Tony awards and the Pulitzer Prize
  • “Santaland Diaries” by David Sedaris, Dec. 7-Dec. 31
  • “Betrayal” by Harold Pinter, Jan. 25–Feb. 26, Laurence Olivier Award for best new play
  • “Guards at the Taj” by Rajiv Joseph, March 15-April 16, 2017, Sacramento premiere
  • “Stupid F*cking Bird” by Aaron Posner, May 3–June 4, 2017, Sacramento premiere, winner of Charles MacArthur Award for outstanding new play
  • “Bad Jews” by Joshua Harmon, June 21–July 23, 2017, Sacramento premiere, Lucille Lortel & Outer Critics Circle Awards nominee

Cost: $120-$195 subscriptions for the seven plays

Information: 916-995-5464;