Tucked next to the woods along Country Club Road sits one of the great cultural treasures of our community. For $10 and a OneCard, Playmakers Repertory Company presents live theater that gives New York and the Durham Performing Arts Center a run for their money.
In her first curated season, recently appointed Producing Artistic Director Vivienne Benesch and her team offer her first salvo in an ambitious project: to reenergize the theatrical canon both in itself and in conversations with new work and forms. In stressing transformations, this season holds up a mirror to what changes in us, what stays the same and how we navigate that distance.
We encourage attendance of this lauded company’s work as an irreplaceable part of your education here. Better than most media, theater shows us what we are and who we can be. This display forms conditions of possibility for positive individual and social change. Although the first show of the season has come and gone (quite successfully), we can speak to the relevance of the rest.
“Detroit ’67” directly relates to the current state of affairs in our inner cities precisely by speaking through the past state of the music, culture and unrest it references in the title. In almost 50 years, what has changed and what has remained the same for African Americans?
Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” grimly calls out a warning against the combination of mass hysteria and personal weakness leading to shameful historical episodes where fear trumps reason, whether the other subjects to a purge are labeled “witches,” “communists,” “deplorables” or “immigrants.”
The questions of how one ends up working in an office and what happens to that certain someone in high school will creep up on you sooner than you think. With sharp comedy and a dramatic twist, “Orange is the New Black” writer Molly Smith Metzler’s “The May Queen” addresses both.
At the beginning of our current century, this election cycle largely revolves around voices from the margins being heard. “Intimate Apparel,” a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, gives a personal look at those living and working on the margins of America at the beginning of the last century, creating beauty out of the materials of life even as they struggle through grinding conditions.
William Shakespeare need not be a tedious resurrection of Old Globe London. The confusion and gender ambiguity that form the base of “Twelfth Night” will provide for a fantastical commentary on celebrity culture, hybridizing the 1950s with the Kardashians.
In “My Fair Lady,” underneath tune after infectious tune, a story unfolds about an upper middle class professor stamping a lively working class girl into a “proper” educated lady, with unforeseen consequences to her soul and his. If that is not relevant to the UNC community, what is?
The second stage will host two more shows. A developmental workshop of a liberal adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s “De Profundis” will encourage audience commentary and feedback. “Mr. Joy” will see Tangela Large enact the members of a Harlem community dealing with hate crime. Theater educates us about ourselves. Be part of the audience who wants to know.