T2 announces season of thrills, laughter, lessons and tears

T2 announces season of thrills, laughter, lessons and tears

Choosing shows for the upcoming season at TheatreSquared begins with a lot of reading, according to the director of new play development, Dexter Singleton. And that’s not just Singleton reading; it’s the staff.

“It takes six months or so to come up with each year, and we’re just trying to always leave no stone unturned to find that gorgeous play and [to have] a mix of musicals, older plays that people may be familiar with, plays that have just come off of runs in New York or Off-Broadway that people may know from that extent, and then new plays and plays we’ve developed, so just a wide range of things [that] create a really diverse lineup of comedy and drama and things that make you think about the world that we live in,” Singleton told us during a podcast with What’s Up!

“The tricky part is coming up with the balance,” adds Bob Ford, artistic director and one of the founders of T2. “It’s like a meal, really. You might sit down, like, ‘Oh, this is six desserts, and one bowl of peas,’” he says of the process of finding the right balance. Ford adds that they always find that play that perfectly balances their season right at the end of their selection process.

“I think maybe this year, it was ‘Dial M for Murder,’” which Ford says was suggested by Martin Miller, executive director and producer, at the last minute. “I thought, ‘wow, I never would have thought of that piece,’ but somehow, at that moment, it was perfect,” Ford says.

“The play ‘Dial M for Murder’ is going to open our season next year,” Singleton picks up the story. T2 will use a version that was adapted and updated by Jeffrey Hatcher, who wrote “Columbo: Dial M for Murder.” The original play was penned by Frederick Knott.

“It’ll be a really fresh way to see a classic that people may remember from black and white days,” Singleton says. “Who doesn’t love a thriller? Right?”

Following the murder mystery will be “The Band’s Visit,” a musical that was slated for the Walton Arts Center but canceled because of the pandemic.

“It’s a rare moment for us where we get to do the Northwest Arkansas premiere of a piece,” Ford adds. “Actually our production — which will be a co-production with this amazing theater just outside of Chicago called Writers Theater, will be the first non-Broadway touring production of this show in the country.”

“We want to bring a lot of work that people were seeing for the first time to this area,” Singleton says. Another first-timer for this area is “Fat Ham,” which will come to the T2 stage after its Broadway run.

Written by James Ijames, whom Singleton calls “an underrated playwright [who] should really be recognized as one of the best in the nation,” the play is a comedy loosely based on “Hamlet.” In this version, set partially during a family cookout, a queer, Black southern college student — Juicy — is visited by his father’s ghost, who is seeking to be avenged. The play won a 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and will make its Broadway debut this year following a sold-out run at The Public Theater in New York City.

Ford and Singleton acknowledge that getting “Fat Ham” for Northwest Arkansas was a rare and wonderful opportunity.

“We know it’s going to be amazing on Broadway and probably super well-reviewed. We may be coming around this time next year after we do the show, and maybe there will be Tony Awards and all types of things for that production. Who knows?” adds Singleton.

In keeping with T2’s mission “that theater done well and with passion can transform lives and communities,” Ford says: “Every one of these titles does what theater does beautifully, which is embrace an audience with a story that draws them in and connects them to the characters. … We believe really strongly that it is through that connection, which really involves both the heart and the mind but especially the heart, that brings an audience into that world and on that journey — that’s where people start to connect with the other [which] may be a family or a community that they don’t see in their everyday walk of life.”

In “What the Constitution Means To Me,” the viewer is taken to a world of a 15-year-old debate student and the lives of her mother and grandmother. In “A Christmas Carol,” a T2 tradition, the audience is transported to the past to watch as a cruel miser faces his misdeeds and finds salvation. In “Cambodian Rock Band,” the audience meets a survivor of the Khmer Rouge who returns to Cambodia to find his wayward daughter. Two dark comedies, “Laughing In Spanish,” and “The Responders,” feature characters trying to do the right thing despite grisly circumstances.

“You always want to have work that is thought-provoking. Where people are entertained — whether they are laughing or crying — but when they leave the theater you always want them to be engaged in conversation, right?” Ultimately, Singleton says he hopes those conversations lead to bigger ones about where we are in the world.

“It’s really that universal connection to people and story,” Singleton says. “Even if somebody that’s on stage doesn’t look like you, there is a way to connect to them because at the heart, we’re all people, and we all want love. We all need and want certain things, and we’re all living in this world and trying to navigate it together as the human race. So that’s really at the heart of it for the work.

“You want work that says something. That resonates with people. That’s why people come to the theater. If you leave your house and you come out and sit with us for a couple of hours, we want to give you something to really think about — something that’s exciting, something that you’re not going to see anywhere else.”




Season 18

“Dial M for Murder” — Aug. 9-Sept. 3. Written by Frederick Knott and adapted by Jeffrery Hatcher, this is an updated take on the story that inspired Hitchcock.

“The Band’s Visit” — Oct. 4-Oct. 29. Music and lyrics by David Yazbek and book by Itamar Moses. A band winds up in a town off the beaten path in this 10-time Tony Award winning musical that’s finally coming to Fayetteville.

“A Christmas Carol” — Nov. 29-Dec. 24, adapted by Amy Herzberg and Bob Ford from the novel by Charles Dickens. The story of Ebeneezer Scrooge and the three spirits who teach him a lesson is a Christmas tradition at TheatreSquared.

“What the Constitution Means to Me” — Jan. 17-Feb. 25, 2024 After earning her college tuition by winning debate competitions around the world, the playwright Heidi Schrek re-imagines how this living document has served four generations of women and what it will mean for the future in this comedy.

“Cambodian Rock Band” — Feb. 28-March 17, 2024. Lauren Yee’s dark comedy about a survivor of the Khmer Rouge who returns to Cambodia 30 years later to find his wayward daughter is a thrilling mystery meets rock concert featuring a live band playing Cambodian oldies and contemporary songs by Dengue Fever.

“Laughs in Spanish” — March 27-May 5, 2024. In this part caper comedy, part telenovela by Alexis Scheer, an art gallery director is all set to open her showroom, but it’s an active crime scene. The director will stop at nothing to reopen the gallery — even if that means taking help from her spotlight-stealing mother.

“Fat Ham” — April 17-May 12, 2024. Juicy — a sensitive, queer Black college student — is visited by the ghost of his father who demands to be avenged. Set during a family cookout, this show is an homage to “Hamlet” by James Ijames and will be on Broadway before landing in Northwest Arkansas.

“The Responders” — June 5-June 30, 2024. Two paramedics are the first to arrive at a deadly scene because the cops got a flat. Then they find out that every school bus in town will soon drive by and the local star reporter — also the ex-wife to one of the paramedics — arrives to film the fiasco in this comedy about just trying to do the right thing. This play by Joseph Scott Ford will be presented as part of the 2024 Arkansas New Play Festival, in co-production with Arkansas Repertory Theatre.

Find out more at theatre2.org.


Listen Here!

Dexter Singleton, director of new play development, and Bob Ford, artistic director for TheatreSquared, discuss the upcoming season for a podcast with Monica Hooper at nwaonline.com/313theatresquared/

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