T2 Designs Eclectic Season

T2 Designs Eclectic Season

‘Designing Women’ reincarnated in new comedy



Last Sunday night was a big night for TheatreSquared: Northwest Arkansas’ only professional regional theater announced its new season — its 15th, as a matter of fact — in its new space at the corner of Spring and West streets in Fayetteville. Fifteen years is quite a milestone in the regional theater world, where longevity is not always a given, and announcing a new season in a 50,000-square-foot, $34 million building is not too shabby. But, as Associate Artistic Director Amy Herzberg said, they had something even more exciting to share with the loyal group of donors gathered for the occasion.

“We are thrilled to announce that we are working with series creator Linda Bloodworth-Thomason on the world premiere of a new theatrical incarnation of ‘Designing Women,’ bringing the megahit television series to life on stage for the modern day,” said Herzberg. “The critically acclaimed and multi-Emmy nominated series was not only famous for its razor-sharp Southern dialogue, but also its surprising ability to cut across political, cultural and social factions that rarely agree on anything. The show has millions of fans, and many of us would love to know what these wonderful women would have to say in the era of Kardashian world dominance and the #metoo movement.”

“It is often that we do work that is locally significant, and, based on the feedback that people give us, it’s fair to say the shows they’re seeing are also of national quality,” noted T2 Executive Director Martin Miller. “This particular bit of news goes a little further in that it has national interest, which is lovely.”

Miller said the connection between T2 and Bloodworth-Thomason was made in November 2019 when her husband, Harry Thomason, visited Fayetteville’s Nightbird Books to read from his new memoir, “Brother Dog.”

“[T2 Artistic Director] Bob [Ford] stopped by to chat with him, gave him a tour of the theater, and it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” said Miller. “He loved the new space, and he was really excited about this project they had been thinking about. We’ve been developing the script with Linda here, and, soon, we’ll be doing a workshop in Los Angeles.”

The show will open at T2 in August and will then head off to several other high-profile theaters after it closes — including the Dallas Theatre Center, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and Little Rock’s Arkansas Rep.

T2 regularly workshops the newest theatrical scripts during the Arkansas New Play Festival, but this newest high-profile move for T2 has already garnered the company attention on the national stage, with an article about the new work appearing in The New York Times this week.

“We were very excited for the attention, and to sort of have this on our resume — developing work here that has gone on to a future life,” said Marketing and Communications Director Joanna Sheehan Bell. “We’ve done lots of world premieres here, but we’ve never quite had something catch fire the way this has where other regional theaters are asking to have access to the script and to our work. We’re super excited about that opportunity to share this more widely.”

“Designing Women” is the first of an eight-show season — the largest season T2 has ever announced, made possible by the dual Spring and West theaters in the new building. The second show on the schedule doesn’t let the momentum slow: It’s the award-winning Broadway musical “Violet,” featuring music by Jeanine Tesori, who was also the composer for T2’s 2017 hit production of “Fun Home.”

“It’s 1964. When Violet hops onto a Greyhound bus traveling across Arkansas towards a miracle in Tulsa — the healing touch of a TV evangelist who she hopes will make her beautiful — it turns into the journey of a lifetime,” said Ford. “In its Critics’ Pick review, The New York Times called it ‘a terrific, heart-stirring, enduringly rewarding musical with tangy flavors of country, gospel, blues and honky-tonk rock.’”

The third show of the season is another brand new script that T2 had a hand in developing: “At the Wedding” by Bryna Turner.

“Thanks to our relationship with the playwright, we’ve gotten special permission to produce it in Northwest Arkansas just weeks after its New York debut,” said Miller. “Here’s the playwright’s description: ‘Carlo is going to be really well behaved today. She’s not going to get drunk. She’s not going to give any long-winded speeches. And she’s definitely not going to try to steal the bride back.’”

For the traditional holiday show, T2 announced plans to bring back the Amy Herzberg- and Robert Ford-adapted version of “A Christmas Carol” produced last year — but there’s a new twist.

“So many of you told us that you’d love for it to be a new Northwest Arkansas holiday tradition,” Herzberg told the crowd. “We are excited not only to bring back TheatreSquared’s own Christmas Carol, but also to bring it to another beautiful new performance space: the brand new Fayetteville Public Library.”

The first show of 2021, “School Girls, or, the African Mean Girls Play” was described as “a gleeful African makeover of an American genre” in The New York Times.

“It’s a brand-new play that turned into a surprise cultural phenomenon in its New York debut,” noted Miller.

The next show on the season’s schedule, said Ford, is a clever callback to last year.

“We opened this beautiful new facility this past fall with ‘Shakespeare in Love.’ In the closing scene, the Queen advised Viola, ‘Tell Master Shakespeare, something more cheerful next time — for Twelfth Night.’ We know better than to say ‘no’ to the Queen.” T2’s production of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” will be the first Shakespeare the theater has taken on since 2014.

Lauren Gunderson is currently the most-performed playwright in the United States, and, said Herzberg, for good reason.

“When we heard she had a brand new play, we went to great lengths to specially negotiate the rights to produce it even before they were generally available. This wonderful new work is called ‘The Half-Life of Marie Curie.’ Fresh from its New York debut, it mixes science, scandal, comedy and plenty of heart as it profiles two rock-star scientists, both women at the heights and depths of their lives and careers. It positively radiates warmth, inspiration and humor.”

The final show of this eclectic season will be “American Mariachi” by Jose Cruz Gonzalez, about an all-female mariachi band.

“We love to close the season with plenty of energy and live music, and we’ll have tons of both in ‘American Mariachi’,” said Miller. “This brand new, music-filled, hilarious and heartwarming story is about the freedom to dream big. Infused with live music, this play which The Denver Post called a ‘big-hearted, musical tug at the heartstrings’ reminds us how music and love can make just about anything possible.”

Ford closed out the evening by introducing a new piece of art, commissioned in honor of the theater’s 15th anniversary and created by Octavio Logo.

“Our 15th anniversary feels like a very special occasion — a testament to this region’s hunger and appreciation for remarkable live theater, done well and with passion,” said Ford.




2020-21 Season

Aug. 12-Sept. 13 — “Designing Women”: A world premiere of a new script by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason.

Sept. 30-Oct. 25 — “Violet”: From the Tony Award-winning composer of “Fun Home” comes a powerhouse Broadway musical about Violet, who travels across Arkansas in 1964 toward a miracle in Tulsa, Oklahoma — the healing touch of a TV evangelist who will make her beautiful.

Nov. 4-Dec. 13 — “At the Wedding”: Carlo is going to be really well behaved today. She’s not going to get drunk. She’s not going to give any long-winded speeches. And she’s definitely not going to try to steal the bride back.

Dec. 2-27 — “A Christmas Carol,” a reprise of the new script by Robert Ford and Amy Herzberg.

Jan. 27-Feb. 21, 2021 — “School Girls, Or, The African Mean Girls Play”: Paulina, the reigning queen bee at Ghana’s most exclusive boarding school, has her sights set on the Miss Global Universe pageant. But the arrival of Ericka, a new student with undeniable talent and beauty, captures the attention of the pageant recruiter—and Paulina’s hive-minded friends.

March 10-April 4, 2021 — “Twelfth Night”: When a shipwreck separates Viola and her twin brother, each fears the other dead. On unfriendly shores, Viola disguises herself as a page boy to a mysterious Duke, only to find herself at the vertex of an unlikely triangle of unrequited love in this Shakespearean comedy.

March 31-May 16, 2021 — “The Half-Life of Marie Curie”: Fresh from its New York debut, the newest play from the author of “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley” features science, scandal, comedy and plenty of heart as it profiles two rock-star scientists at the heights and depths of their lives and careers.

May 19-June 13, 2021 — “American Mariachi”: Lucha spends her days caring for her ailing mother, but longs to shake up her 1970s home life. When a forgotten record album sparks her mother’s memory, Lucha and her cousin strike upon a radical idea: to create an all-female mariachi band.

INFO — 777-7477 or theatre2.org

Categories: Theater