Fort Worth — The 38th season for Stage West, the largest Actor’s Equity Association Small Professional Theatre in Fort Worth, has been announced. The 2016-17 lineup of six subscription shows, plus a season extra, is exciting in that there are four regional premieres and a world premiere of a play called Deer by New York-based playwright Aaron Mark. All works on the season premiered in the current decade.
But it’s even more notable for the fact that it’s the first season picked by Dana Schultes, who was promoted to Executive Producer in January. Schultes has been involved with Stage West in some capacity for about 20 years, and she and longtime Artistic Director Jim Covault, along with Managing Director Mark Shum (recently given that title) have been navigating the ship since the death of SW founder Jerry Russell in 2013, who was advising Schultes and Covault. Last year, the retirement of Covault was announced, but he remains in the A.D. position through the end of this season in September; he will continue to occasionally act and direct at Stage West.
Although Schultes had help with reading plays, from Shum, Artistic Associate Garret Storms and Covault, the shows were all given the stamp of approval by her.
“I really have a firm belief in collaboration and investing in the people around me,” she says. “While I do think it’s important to lead artistically I don’t want to give the impression it’s all about me.”
The season kicks off with the season extra, the North Texas debut of Holland Taylor’s one-woman play Ann, about Texas governor Ann Richards. Taylor played the role in Austin, then on Broadway, and back to Austin this year. The play is not open for licensing, but Schultes worked out giving the play its first production without Taylor with the producers.
“We are the first producing company to license it,” she says. “I’ve been trying to get my hands on my play, since we did Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins,” a one-woman show about another Texas firebrand. Strong political women run in Stage West’s history, considering that the late Jerry Russell’s daughter is former Texas state representative and gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, known for her pink-sneakered filibuster to try and prevent the Texas legislature from passing a bill that would essentially close Planned Parenthoods and other facilities where abortions are performed.
That show happens before the November presidential election.
The regular season begins with the two-man musical mystery Murder for Two (seen last year in Dallas on the AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Off-Broadway on Flora Series). Following that is the regional premiere of Aaron Posner’s Stupid Fucking Bird, a riff on Chekhov’s The Seagull; and then the world premiere of Aaron Mark’s Deer, about two recent empty nesters who hit a deer on the road which leads to a series of clashes. Then comes Annie Baker’s The Aliens, which was done twice in Dallas a few years ago (this is the Fort Worth premiere); the area premiere of Laura Eason’s social media commentary Sex with Strangers; and closes with the regional premiere of Mat Smart’s The Royal Society of Antarctica, which was suggested to Schultes by Dallas Theater Center Director of New Play Development Lee Trull, who will direct this Stage West production.
In the area of parity, that’s three plays by women out of seven, but no writers of color. “My goal is to have minimum 40 percent of all artistic contribution, including actors, designers, writers and others comprised of women, persons of color, and minorities, to make sure we are hearing from all sides of the audience and reflecting the community,” Schultes says.
As for directors this season, four will be directed by women—two by Schultes, plus Lindy Heath Davis and Emily Scott Banks—and the other three by Storms, Covault and Trull.
Schultes says that future seasons might see an occasional return to some of the playwrights Russell and Covault loved, such as Alan Ayckbourn (“I love Ayckbourn, too,” Schultes says). There could be more titles announced for Stage West’s studio theater, but Schultes says there’s a big interest in rentals for that space, so they are exploring options. She also wants to collaborate with more types of arts organizations, such as film and spoken word, and keep Stage West’s programs such as Festival of the Kid, Community Open Mic Nights and the Southwest Playwriting Competition going.
Below is the full press from Stage West, with dates, descriptions and subscription information:
Stage West is pleased to announced the lineup for its 38th season! The new season will offer six plays plus a season extra, and patrons purchasing season tickets before October 1 will be offered a discount on the season extra. It’s an exciting mix of shows, featuring fresh takes on classic stories, cutting edge regional premieres, and a daring, not-to-be-missed world premiere.
Ann (The Ann Richards Play)
by Holland Taylor
October 6 – November 6
Directed by Dana Schultes
Tough as nails. Funny as hell.
Our brassy blue governor Ann Richards is back and brought to vivid life in a tour-de-force one woman show. Ann is an inspiring and hilarious new play that brings you face to face with a complex, colorful, and captivating character bigger than the state from which she hailed. This election season, get an up close and personal visit with one of politics’ most unforgettable characters.
Murder for Two
Book & Lyrics by Kellen Blair and Book & Music by Joe Kinosian
November 17 – December 18
Directed by Lindy Heath Davis
A killer musical comedy.
A fateful night. A surprise party. A great American novelist is killed…fatally. A small town policeman, with dreams of making detective, jumps at the chance to prove his sleuthing skills and find the killer before the real detective arrives! Murder for Two is the perfect blend of music, mayhem, and murder with a twist - one actor investigates the crime, the other plays all of the suspects, and they both play piano. A witty and winking homage to old-fashioned murder mysteries.
Stupid Fucking Bird
by Aaron Posner, sort of adapted from Chekov’s The Seagull
January 19 – February 19
Directed by Emily Scott Banks
If you don’t like your story, rewrite that sh*t.
Dev loves Mash. Mash loves Con. Con loves Nina. Nina loves Trig. But so does Emma. Thus, the stage is set for sidesplitting heartache. An irreverent and unabashedly provocative riff on Chekhov’s classic of the timeless battle between young and old, past and present, at the search for the true meaning of it all - only this time, convention gets shot to f*cking hell.
by Aaron Mark
March 9 – April 9
Directed by Garret Storms
A grisly, pitch-black comedy.
Ken and Cynthia have been married for thirty years. Ken and Cynthia drive to their vacation home for the weekend. Ken and Cynthia hit a deer. Ken just wants to spend the weekend alone with his wife, but Cynthia will not abandon their lifeless, bloody new pet. As the carcass begins to take over their lives, secrets surface, sanity slips, and someone may not be quite as dead as they should be.
by Annie Baker
May 4 – June 4
Directed by Dana Schultes
Life, disenchantment, & rock and roll. And fireworks.
At a table next to the dumpster behind a Vermont coffee shop, two friends straddling youth and adulthood, spend their days pondering life, music, and Bukowski. When a lonely high-school student arrives on the scene, they take him under their wing and teach him everything they know. A play-with-music about connection, creation, and what it takes to grow up.
Sex with Strangers
by Laura Eason
June 22 – July 23
Directed by Jim Covault
Sex plus the internet. What could go wrong?
When twenty-something star sex blogger and memoirist Ethan tracks down his idol, the gifted but obscure nearing-forty novelist Olivia, in the middle of a blizzard, they find they each crave what the other possesses. As attraction turns to sex, and they inch closer to getting what they want, secrets surface and both must confront the dark side of ambition and the difficulty of reinventing oneself when the past is only a click away.
The Royal Society of Antarctica
by Mat Smart
August 24 – September 24
Directed by Lee Trull
What do you find at the bottom of the world?
A young woman seeking to understand her mother’s disappearance joins the ragtag ranks of the misfits and scientists who serve at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. Amidst janitorial duties, never-ending daylight, and subzero temperatures, this lonely and rugged bunch become an escape from the world and a home for each other. A striking and luminous story about why we run away and what happens when we finally come face to face with what we’ve been running away from.
Season tickets range in price from $135 to $175 with discounts for students, seniors, and teachers. Subscribers purchasing season passes prior to October 1 may purchase up to 2 tickets for Ann at $25 each. For more information, call Stage West at (817) 784-9378. Tickets will be available online at www.stagewest.org/season-tickets.