Curtain Up! APT’s Season 37 includes world premiere

Curtain Up! APT’s Season 37 includes world premiere
BECCA MARTIN-BROWN
bmartin@nwadg.com

There’s an old saying that it takes a village, and it’s that community of volunteers that gets the credit for Arkansas Public Theatre’s survival — and success — during the pandemic, agree Kris Isham, president of the APT Board, and Ed McClure, APT artistic director. And it’s that commitment that has given APT a national name, Isham adds, and the relationships that will make the Victory Theatre home to another world premiere in Season 37.

The Season Leaks celebration Jan. 14 saw the announcement of a slate of shows for 2022-23 that includes “Survival of the Unfit,” written by Oren Safdie and debuting on the downtown Rogers stage.

“This will be our third show with Oren,” says McClure, pointing out that Safdie began his connection to Northwest Arkansas through his father, Moshe Safdie, the internationally renowned architect who designed Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. “Previously we did the world premiere of ‘Checks and Balances’ and also ‘Things to Do in Munich.’ Oren is a friend, and he is always so kind to allow us to premiere his amazing plays at APT.”

“Survival of the Unfit” is the story of Samuel, a 38-year-old substitute teacher / Uber Driver / supermarket bagger / hair stylist, still living at home with his parents. On this night, like many others in the past, he is bringing home his latest love interest to meet his parents and gain their approval. John, a doting father and failed poet, and Shirley, the bread winner and hyper-critical mother, offer up their own insight as to why their only child refuses to leave the nest, but it is only when Samuel’s new girlfriend shows up that we really come to understand the underlying dysfunction that has held him back from growing up, McClure explains the plot.

“‘Survival of the Unfit’ touches on themes of love, loss, loyalty, and coming to accept others for their shortcomings. It’s also a play that redefines what family means.”

The friendship with Safdie also called McClure’s attention to “Almost, Maine,” written by John Cariano, “an author/actor who is a friend of Oren’s,” McClure says. “Oren reminded me when we spoke recently what a great show it is.”

Almost, Maine, is a place that’s so far north, it’s almost in Canada. And it’s not quite a town, because its residents never got around to getting organized. So, it almost doesn’t exist, McClure explains. “One cold, clear, winter night, as the Northern Lights hover in the star-filled sky above, the residents of Almost, Maine, find themselves falling in and out of love in unexpected and hilarious ways. Knees are bruised. Hearts are broken. But the bruises heal, and the hearts mend — almost.”

Of course, a season requires a balance of “shows no one here has ever seen before, which really energizes the whole production,” as Isham says, and the tried-and-true hits audiences can sing along with. Season 37 will open with “The Music Man” — a classic approached with some modern flare, McClure says — followed in the February 2023 musical slot by “Little Shop of Horrors.” Both shows are currently playing in New York, he adds, and “we’ve had tons of requests for ‘Little Shop.’”

Musical No. 3 will be “It Shoulda Been You,” which McClure says feels like “a great Ken Ludwig farce with great music!” And rounding out the nonmusicals will be “A Tuna Christmas” — always a tour de force for the two actors playing multiple roles; “The Shadow Box” by Michael Cristofer, described as a compelling dramatic triptych about three terminal patients who dwell in separate cottages on a hospital’s grounds; and A.R. Gurney’s “Sylvia,” about a marriage “put in serious jeopardy” by a “street-smart mixture of Lab and poodle named Sylvia.”

Isham says “you can walk into a show you know or one you’ve never seen before and walk out having had a great experience.” And McClure says he can’t pick a favorite. “Why don’t you just ask me which of my nieces I like the best? Sheesh.”

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FYI

Arkansas Public Theatre

Season 37

“The Music Man” — Meredith Willson’s six-time Tony Award-winning musical comedy has been entertaining audiences since 1957 and is a family-friendly story to be shared with every generation, Sept. 16-Oct. 2. Auditions Aug. 1.

“Almost, Maine” — John Cariano’s “delightful midwinter night’s dream,” Oct. 28-Nov. 6. Auditions Sept. 19.

“A Tuna Christmas” — In this hilarious sequel to Greater Tuna, it’s Christmas in the third-smallest town in Texas, Dec. 9-19. Auditions Oct. 31.

“Little Shop of Horrors” — Howard Ashman and Alan Menken (Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and The Beast” and “Aladdin”) are the creative geniuses behind what has become one of the most popular shows in the world, Feb. 1-26, 2023. Auditions Dec. 12.

“Survival of the Unfit” — A world premiere by Oren Safdie, March 24-April 2, 2023. Auditions Feb. 13, 2023.

“The Shadow Box” — Michael Cristofer’s compelling dramatic triptych about three terminal patients who dwell in separate cottages on a hospital’s grounds, May 5-13, 2023. Auditions March 27, 2023.

“Sylvia” — A.R. Gurney’s tale of a childless couple who suddenly have a dog named Sylvia, June 16-25, 2023. Auditions May 8, 2023.

“It Shoulda Been You” — A world where nothing is what it seems, religions collide, Machiavellian plots are revealed, promises are broken, secrets are exposed and hope springs from the most unlikely of places — it’s the Steinberg wedding, July 28-Aug. 13, 2023. Auditions June 19, 2023.

INFO — 631-8988 or arkansaspublictheatre.org

Categories: Theater