It’s a particularly exciting moment exciting when we get to share the news of our coming season. Behind the scenes we’ve been reading plays, talking with playwrights and agents and actors and directors and designers. But we’ve also been keeping our own counsel, limiting our conversations to a small group. Until we’re sure what the season will be, we can’t share much information.
At a summer theatre like Chester Theatre Company, that means there’s a stretch of time where you don’t hear as much from us. I’m looking in the future to explore ways to share more of the process with you, but it’s a complicated task for many reasons. We consider a lot of wonderful work before we make our choices. Sometimes we can’t make space for a terrific project; sometimes a play goes to another theatre; sometimes one small change starts a domino effect, and everything we thought we were doing gets thrown back up in the air.
Through it all, I have you–our audience–at the front of my thoughts. What are you seeing in the world? What are you thinking about? What stories can we share that will expand what we know of the world and of each other? What will move you, surprise you? What will allow us to have the conversations we meet here for.
Putting a season together also involves choosing some of the artists we’ll be lucky enough to bring back to Chester. When I considered doing Every Brilliant Thing, I knew right away that Joel Ripka was the actor I wanted to create this play with. (You may know Joel from: all three plays in The Nibroc Trilogy, or Wittenberg, or The Swan, or Blink. We think he’s pretty great.)
Knowing we were going to be lucky enough to produce the American Premiere of Folk, there were two artists I wanted to
bring together: as Winnie, the Guiness-drinking Irish nun I hoped we could have Michele Tauber (whom you may remember from Pride@Prejudice), and I hoped James Warwick (a former Associate Artistic Director, and known from Madagascar, Halcyon Days, and so many others) would direct it. I’m so grateful that they both said yes.
We’re also fortunate for the new artists we’ll be bringing to Chester. I and You will be directed by an artist well known in the Berkshires, but new to us: Kristen van Ginhoven, the Artistic Director of WAM Theatre. For Skeleton Crew, a young director on the rise–Awoye Timpo–will be coming to Chester for the first time.
The Town Hall is the perfect setting for Chester Theatre Company, because the theatre itself is a town hall. We come together to share with neighbors from near and far our stories, our fears, and our hopes. We listen to each other with respect for our differences and for our common humanity.
This year, I’ve been especially struck by the important role we play here. It’s a divisive time in this country. We have such different experiences, we hear such competing visions of what our country is, or what it could or should be. At the theatre we engage the acts of imagination, the acts of empathy, that allow us to listen, to reflect, and to engage.
I feel deeply fortunate that Chester Theatre Company attracts such thoughtful, curious, and enthusiastic audiences. The plays we’ve chosen for our 28th season will entertain you, move you, and generate the conversations you have come to expect from us. We’re also bringing back artists whose work you’ve seen and loved.
I’m excited about the stories we have the privilege to tell, and the conversations we will share this summer: Two teenagers discovering their deepest truths in Walt Whitman; blue collar Americans facing questions of loyalty and survival; a son’s gift of hope, told in partnership with the audience; love and family made through sharing music. Four remarkable plays, asking what do we owe one another, how can we care for one another?
I love each of these plays, and I feel confident you will, too.