The Hypocrites Announce 20th Anniversary Season

The Hypocrites Announce 20th Anniversary Season

(Andra Velis Simon – adaptor of CINDERELLA AT THE THEATER OF POTATOES, based on the opera Cendrillon and other compositions by Pauline Viardot-García. Photo: Joe Mazza)

The Hypocrites announced its 20th Anniversary Season, featuring five productions, including a world-premiere musical adaptation and two Chicago premieres – all by female creators. The company is also launching a new play development initiative, with its first-ever new play commissions.

The 2016-17 season kicks off this fall with the Chicago premiere of YOU ON THE MOORS NOW, Jaclyn Backhaus’ comical mash-up of mythology and 19th-century literary heroines, directed by Devon de Mayo.

For the holidays, a new spin on a fairy tale classic drives Andra Velis Simon’s musical adaptation CINDERELLA AT THE THEATER OF POTATOES, based on the opera Cendrillon and other compositions by Pauline Viardot-García and directed by Artistic Director Sean Graney. In signature Hypocrites’ style, the performers will act as the orchestra.

Next winter, director Marti Lyons helms a new production of Margaret Edson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama WIT, promising to pay homage to the many recent losses in the Chicago theater community.

In the spring, Geoff Button directs the musical epic THE HO– USE OF MARTIN GUERRE by Leslie Arden and Anna Theresa Cascio. Inspired by the famous 16th-century French court case about Martin Guerre and his wife Betrande, the musical drama returns two decades after its world premiere at the Goodman.

The Hypocrites’ season concludes with the Chicago premiere of LAS MENINAS, the rarely performed memory play by Pulitzer Prize-winner Lynn Nottage. Jess McCleod directs this true story of an illicit affair between Queen Marie-Theres, wife of King Louis XIV, and an unlikely love interest that scandalized the French court.

The Hypocrites also enters new territory this season, with the commissioning of writers Lavina Jadhwani and Rohina Malik to create three new plays that reflect the company’s mission. Jadhwani will adapt the classic Sanskrit drama, Shakuntalā by Kālidāsa and Malik’s new work is inspired by Syrian musicians facing the current international refugee crisis, a follow-up to her highly successful Jasmina’s Necklace and Mecca Tales.

“Our 20th anniversary season is about looking to the future, not the past,” says Artistic Director Sean Graney. “In deciding what to program, I asked myself, ‘What will the next 20 years look like?’ This season is the next step on a pathway of permanent and exciting change for the company. We will be producing and commissioning more new work in order to focus on contemporary voices and the theater-makers of the future. We want to encourage new artists to work in dialogue with historical theater, questioning its relevance for us living today.”

The Hypocrites’ 20th Anniversary Season will be presented at The Den Theatre’s Heath Main Stage, 1329 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Wicker Park, with the exception of THE HO– USE OF MARTIN GUERRE, which will be staged at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood.

Season subscription packages for all five 20th Anniversary productions are currently on sale at Single tickets are also available for all productions, with the exception of THE HO– USE OF MARTIN GUERRE, which will go on sale Sunday, May 1, 2016.

From The Hypocrites’ press release:

September 9 – October 30, 2016
YOU ON THE MOORS NOW – Chicago Premiere
By Jaclyn Backhaus, Directed by Devon de Mayo
The Den Theatre’s Heath Main Stage, 1329 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago

This crazy, funny show sets heroines from the 19th-century novels of Louis May Alcott, Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters in a mythical place of Moors. When our heroines receive proposals of marriage, they decide to escape. The men wage war on the women starting the Moors Wars. Jaclyn Backhaus’ ultimately moving and inventive play ends in beautiful prose like a chapter from the books these women originated.

You On the Moors Now excites me because it is a feminist re-imagining of the lives of the heroines of four of the greatest literary novels by women,” comments director Devon de Mayo. “It reminds us of the specific importance of the strong, female protagonist, and asks ‘What if she didn’t need the dude? Like, at all?’ And ‘What if a woman’s friendship with other women is what drives her? Not her relationship with men.’ It’s so exciting to see these classics ripped apart and exploded into new, imagined circumstances. It’s witty, unpredictable and empowering. I think of it as Masterpiece Theatre meets Charles Mee meets Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play. Every time I read the play it makes me laugh, it surprises me and I find it touching.”

November 12, 2016 – January 8, 2017
Adapted by Andra Velis Simon
Based on the opera Cendrillon and other compositions by Pauline Viardot-García 
Directed by Artistic Director by Sean Graney
The Den Theatre’s Heath Main Stage, 1329 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago

Adapted from Pauline Viardot-García’s 1904 opera Cendrillon and many of her other compositions, Andra Velis Simon’s musical-play is an elegantly irreverent exploration of the classic fairy tale. Here, Cinderella’s version of happily-ever-after does not include acceptance by the Prince. In the actor-as-orchestra style of The Hypocrites’ Gilbert & Sullivan opera work, Artistic Director Sean Graney directs this fun holiday-time show, perfect for the whole family.

“I wanted to take the next step in exploring opera with my long-time collaborator Andra Velis Simon,” comment director Sean Graney. “When we came across Viardot-García’s Cendrillon, we knew we found the right project. Cinderella at the Theater of Potatoes is elegant in its exploration of the classic fairy tale; also it manages to present the main character as an independent person rather than one completely tied to acceptance by the Prince. When we explored more of Viardot-García’s life and compositions, we discovered a deep love for the composer and her interesting life.”

January 20 – March 12, 2017
By Margaret Edson, Directed by Marti Lyons
The Den Theatre’s Heath Main Stage, 1329 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago

During her final hours, Dr. Vivian Bearing, recounts her battle with cancer and struggles to accept her approaching end. Winner of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Margaret Edson’s play is a haunting tale of loss and meditation on life. In 2015, The Hypocrites were not alone in losing many beloved collaborators and friends, most of whom were taken by illness. This production of Wit will be our exploration of the complicated feelings that seized us all and an homage to those we lost.

Wit is one of the bravest plays I have ever read,” comment director Marti Lyons. “In it, Margaret Edson, the playwright faces illness, mortality and death head on through her lead character, Dr. Vivian Bearing. Through Vivian’s bout with ovarian cancer and her life-long exploration of John Donne’s Holy Sonnets, the play is an investigation of what it means to live, a meditation on what it means to die, and a mourning for the deep loss inherent in the brevity of our time on this earth.”

February 18 – April 2, 2017
Book by Leslie Arden and Anna Theresa Cascio, Music and Lyrics by Leslie Arden
Directed by Geoff Button
Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago

In the remote village of Artigat, an arranged marriage is taking place between underage Bertrande and Martin Guerre. Unhappy with his quiet life and fertile wife, Martin leaves to explore new worlds across the ocean. When he returns years later, a changed man, he is accepted by some but accused and taken to trial for being an imposter by others. Will the real Martin Guerre please stand up?

The House of Martin Guerre is an epic in the same style as the mega-musicals I grew up with, but it’s an epic with an intimate, smart and heart-breaking core,” comments director Geoff Button. “On a purely artistic level, I’m excited at the opportunity to take such a sprawling story and focus in on the relationships and ideas, and let the scale be guided by the necessities of the narrative. This show uses its story of an impostor to dissect the way that any couple must create and decide on the shared story of their relationship. Every romance has three stories, the subjective ‘truth’ for each individual, and the agreed-upon truth of their love. I think every couple in the audience will feel a sigh of recognition at the realization that even if the stories we tell ourselves are merely stories, that doesn’t make them any less true.”

March 24 – May 21, 2017
By Lynn Nottage, Directed by Jess McLeod
The Den Theatre’s Heath Main Stage, 1329 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage’s beautiful, rarely-performed memory play recounts a taboo romance in the court of the Sun King Louis XIV. Nabo, an African dwarf, is delivered as a gift to the Queen Marie-Therese, and the two find a deep and unlikely connection mostly erased from history books. On the eve of her wedding, a novice nun, Louise Marie-Therese, narrates this story shadowed in gossip, intrigue, and faith.

Las Meninas possesses Lynn Nottage’s trademark personal/political depth, linguistic elegance and unforgettable imagery with surprising doses of frank humor and provocative whimsy,” comment’s director Jess McLeod. “The play explores the impact of an affair between the lonely Spanish Queen of France and the African little person captured and shipped to her in an ornate gift box. The narrator, a fragile, joyful young nun who simultaneously spins a great yarn, shakes our thirst for scandal, exposes the privileges and perils of monarchic rule, and asks if those born at the bottom of the sociopolitical ditch can ever actually climb out.”

2016-17 Season Directors:

Geoff Button is a member of The Hypocrites’ Artistic Council, and directed their productions of Adding Machine: A MusicalInto the WoodsCoriolanusDesire Under the ElmsTrue West (Non-Equity Jeff Nominations – Best Play, Best Director), as well as his own adaptation of Three Sisters. He received his MFA in Theater Directing from Northwestern University, where he directed Angels in America: Millennium ApproachesThe Who’s Tommy and Spring Awakening. Also an actor, he has performed in several Hypocrites’ productions, including All Our Tragic (Equity Jeff Awards – Best Midsize Play, Best Ensemble), Sophocles: Seven SicknessesWoyzeckMudBalm in Gilead and Equus (Non-Equity Jeff – Best Actor). He is currently teaching at the Chicago Academy for the Arts, and assistant directing Barbara Gaines’ upcoming history cycle, Tug of War, for Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

Devon de Mayo most recently directed Animals Out of Paper for Shattered Globe Theatre and You Can’t Take it With You for Northlight Theatre. Last year, Devon worked as the Resident Director under Stephen Daldry on the Broadway production of The Audience. Other directing credits: Jet Black Chevrolet (side project), Compulsion and Everything is Illuminated (Next Theatre), An Actor Prepares (Logan Center), Roadkill Confidential, The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler, Clouds (Dog & Pony), Infiltrating Bounce (Luminaria, San Antonio), and 52 (Canal Café, London). Directing and devising credits: Guerra: A Clown Play (performances in Chicago, New York, Albuquerque, Madrid, Bogota, and Mexico City), The Whole World is Watching, As Told by the Vivian Girls (Dog & Pony) and The Twins Would Like to Say (Dog & Pony, Steppenwolf Garage Rep). She received her MFA from Middlesex University in London.

Sean Graney has directed over 30 productions for The Hypocrites since 1997, including the critically acclaimed All Our Tragic. He recently returned from a Fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. In 2004, Graney was a participant in the NEA/TCG Career Development Program for Directors. He has won four Joseph Jefferson Citation awards for the Direction and Adaptation for Sophocles: Seven Sicknesses, and Directing of Equus and Machinal. He has directed Edward II (Chicago Shakespeare Theater), The Hairy Ape (Eugene O’Neill Festival at Goodman Theatre), The Comedy of ErrorsThe Mystery of Irma Vep and What the Butler Saw (Court Theatre), Yankee Tavern (Milwaukee Rep) and The Elephant Man (Steppenwolf for Young Audiences). Graney currently serves as the Hypocrites’ Artistic Director.

Marti Lyons is a freelance director based in Chicago. She is currently directing Wondrous Strange by Meg Miroshnik, Martyna Majok, Jen Silverman and Jiehae Park for the Humana Festival at Actors Theatre of Louisville, starring the theater’s Apprentice Company. Most recently she directed Will Eno’s Title and Deed for Lookingglass Theatre Company and a reading of Martín Zimmerman’s On The Exhale for the Goodman Theatre, where she received the 2015 Maggio directing fellowship. She has directed Laura Marks’ Bethany and Mine and Will Nedved’s Body and Blood for The Gift Theatre, where she is an ensemble member. Other credits: Catherine Trieschmann’s Hot Georgia Sunday for Haven Theatre; 9 Circles by Bill Cain, Maria/Stuart by Jason Grote, and co-directed The Golden Dragon for Sideshow Theatre, as well as The Peacock by Calamity West for Jackalope Theatre. Marti just opened Mai Dang Lao by David Jacobi for Sideshow Theatre, and next up will direct Prowess by Ike Holter for Jackalope, and City of Conversation by Anthony Giardina for Northlight Theatre Company. 

Jess McLeod specializes in new plays and musicals about underrepresented Americans. Chicago credits include Lauren Yee’s in a word (Strawdog), For Your Art: portrait of a young blu artist (Lyric Unlimited), Shawn Pfautsch’s Season on the Line (The House Theatre), Kevin Coval’s L-vis Live! (Victory Gardens Theater); Emily Schwartz’s Funeral Wedding: The Alvin Play (Strange Tree Group); Suzan-Lori Parks’ Venus (Steppenwolf Next Up!); Kin (Griffin Theatre); Babes In Arms (Porchlight Revisits); The Wedding Singer (Haven Theatre) and The 48-Hour Musicals: Encore!The Pajama Game, and Fugitive Songs (The Music Theatre Company). New York credits include Joyce Carol Oates’ The Corn Maiden, Harrison David Rivers’s Fell, Rachel Axler’s Kitchen Sink, Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years, Brad Ross & Joe Keenan’s The Times and The Unauthorized Musicology of Ben Folds (NYMF). McLeod served as Co-Artistic Director of The Music Theatre Company from 2014-15 and Director of Programming of The New York Musical Theatre Festival from 2005-08, and has led workshops at the Goodman Theatre, ATC, The House, Steep Theatre and the American Music Theater Project. She is currently developing the new musical Mill Girls with playwright Samantha Beach and composer/lyricist Diana Lawrence. M.F.A., Northwestern University.

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