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Majestic Reader’s Theatre Company 2017-2018 Season Announcement

From MRTC Artistic Director Mike Aronson

Variety marks the 2017-18 season of the Majestic Reader’s Theater Company. Our lineup includes thirteen plays, five comedies, seven dramas and one family holiday classic. The playlist stretches from very prestigious to just plain goofy fun. We have playwrights from Barlow and Churchill to Vogel and Ziegler. Our plays have won drama critic awards plus Tony and Pulitzer Prize nominations. Join us for our fifth season of high quality staged readings as trained actors, with scripts in hand make the play come alive through vocal talent, facial expressions and minimal staging. Reader’s theater plays are a fun, accessible way to experience works that might not otherwise be performed here.

September 24, 2017 The Cemetery Club by Ivan Menchell directed by Leigh Matthews Bock. Three Jewish widows – Doris, Lucille and Ida – meet once a month for tea before visiting their husbands, who are all buried in the same cemetery. Each woman is in a different stage of healing and moving on with her life. Lucille and Doris are at odds over how to handle widowhood as Ida longs to give love another chance. When Sam, a recent widower, meets the three widows at the cemetery, Ida is given a chance for new love until Doris and Lucille interfere. This dramatic comedy has just the right amount of poignant drama, loads of laughs and plenty of heart. “Very touching and humorous. An evening of pure pleasure that will make you glad you went to the theatre.” -Washington Journal

October 22, 2017 The 39 Steps by Patrick Barlow directed by Richard Wagner Richard Hannay, a man with an unexciting life is forced on the lam after helping a woman who is murdered in his apartment. In order to clear himself he must find a deadly group of spies called “The 39 Steps”. From the ethereal streets of 1930s London to the moors of Scotland Richard races to keep government secrets out of the wrong hands. Along the way he comes across an assortment of unusual characters and is reluctantly accompanied by Pamela, who inadvertently finds herself handcuffed to Hannay. A handful of actors portray dozens of parts in this reworking of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 tour de force which was based on John Buchan’s spy novel. The play script may say “thriller” but the actors play it strictly for laughs. The 39 Steps is Broadway’s longest running comedy. The play won the Olivier Award for Best Comedy in 2007.

November 26, 2017 Orphans by Lyle Kessler, Directed by Maxine Agather Two young men who have lost their parents survive alone in a Philadelphia row house. The oldest, Treat, supplies a subsistence living by petty thievery. The youngest, Phillip, is confined to the house by fear of his brother and an allergy that makes it impossible to travel outdoors. Treat kidnaps a drunken man, Harold, with a briefcase full of stocks and bonds and starts looking for someone to pay them a ransom. Harold is also an orphan and when no one offers to purchase his freedom he helps the two boys; supporting them with parental care, a job for Treat and confidence building for Phillip. But is Harold really a kindly rich uncle or just a common criminal with a sinister motive? Even though all three characters come from rough backgrounds, one can identify with them because we all need someone to care for us. Orphans premiered in 1983 and quickly earned a reputation as a play with strong emotional power, wit and misfortune. Two actors have won awards for their portrayal of Harold, John Mahoney of Frasier fame, and Albert Finney in the London production. The play also won two Tony nominations for its 2013 revival with Alec Baldwin.

December 17, 2017 It’s a Wonderful Life adapted by either Joe Landry or Bill Hill and Mike Aronson directed by John Sams George Bailey, a businessman in the small town of Bedford Falls, has led a life of sacrifice and doing good things for others. Upon the death of his father he took over the family business losing his chance to go to college and travel around the world. When $8,000 turns up missing from his business, however, he faces bankruptcy and contemplates suicide. It takes an intervention from his guardian angel, Clarence, to help George reflect upon his life and to eventually realize he’s a valuable person. The story expresses human worth and the value of human life. At the final scene there won’t be a dry eye or a cold heart left in the house. It’s the Christmas classic brought to life on stage.

January 28, 2018 Boy by Anna Ziegler directed by Robert Leff Inspired by a true story, Anna Ziegler’s BOY explores the tricky terrain of finding love amidst the confusion of sexual identity, and the inextricable bond between a doctor and patient. In the 1960s, a well-intentioned doctor convinces the parents of a male infant to raise their son as a girl after a terrible accident. Two decades later, the repercussions of that choice continue to unfold. The play was a nominee for the 2016 Outer Critics Circle John Gassner Award.

February 25, 2018 Two one act plays: No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre directed by Scott Trout and Aria Da Capo by Edna St. Vincent Millay directed by Sarah Sheldrick. No Exit, written in 1943 during the German occupation of France, is Sartre’s play about the torture that humans can direct at each other without assistance from satanic beings. It is held up as a classic example of existentialism. Human beings, through their own consciousness, create their own values and determine a meaning to their life. Strangely, Sartre’s first existentialism play deals with people who are already dead. Each of the characters enters a room that they assume to be hell but their expectations of tortures are misguided. Indeed there will be no outside interference with whatever interaction the principals determine is appropriate. And therein lies the rub. They cannot stop criticizing one another. And in a room where there is no day or night and no sleep, that is truly torture.

Aria Da Capo is unique in that it was supposed by most to be an anti-war statement, and yet can also be seen as a more universal portrayal of the human condition. Millay’s Aria da Capo is a one-act morality play divided into three parts. The characters are Thyrsis and Corydon, young shepherds; Pierrot, an artist; Columbine, a young woman; and Cothurnus, stage manager. Pierrot and Columbine begin by caricaturing the bohemian types Millay knew in Greenwich Village and commenting on the radical movements of the era. Then Cothurnus interrupts them so that the shepherds can come onstage and perform their pastoral scene. Cothurnus manipulates the simple and idyllic shepherds into depicting a scene in which territories are marked off, possessions are horded, and the long-time friends become enemies, filled with suspicion and greed. The play ends as it began, with Pierrot and Columbine carrying on their empty lives although now the bodies left on the stage are covered with a table cloth.

March 25, 2018 Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo by Rajiv Joseph directed by Ajai Tripathi A tiger in the Bagdad Zoo tells the audience that most of the animals have fled to “freedom” because of the Iraq Invasion, only to be shot dead by soldiers. That night, two US soldiers, Tom and Kev, come to guard the zoo. While stationed in front of the tiger’s cage, Tom shows Kev a gun layered in gold he found during a raid of one of the Hussein family mansions. Carelessly, Tom places his hand near the cage and the hungry tiger bites his hand. Kev responds by shooting the tiger with the golden gun. There after the ghost of the tiger wanders about Baghdad seeking the meaning of life and making comments about the absurdities of war and most often haunting Kev’s dreams. Bengal Tiger at the Bagdad Zoo was nominated for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Robin Williams won the Audience Choice Award for Favorite Actor in a Play for his portrayal of the Tiger. The show is for mature audiences only due to strong language and the dramatization of a very specific sexual act.

April 29, 2018 Shakespeare in Love adapted for the stage by Lee Hall Based on the screenplay by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard directed by Rachel Kohler. The play’s the thing, but the thing is, Will Shakespeare hasn’t got one. Oh, he’s got a title (Romeo and Ethel the Pirate’s Daughter), but what’s in a name if there are no speeches to speak, trippingly or otherwise? Even fellow playwright Christopher Marlowe can offer no succor until a muse of fire appears in the form of Viola de Lesseps, a young noblewoman promised to another. Viola longs to be a player, but as all occasions do inform against a woman’s appearance on the stage, she must disguise herself as a boy. One pair of star-crossed lovers begets another, and Will Shakespeare ascends the brightest heaven of invention to write Romeo and Juliet. Director Rachel Kohler promises a cast of thousands represented by eleven actors through the magic of doubling and humorous dialogue sparkling with wit through the magic of Tom Stoppard, who, she would like you to know, is “bloody brilliant.”

May 27, 2018 Sea Marks by Gardner McKay directed by Don Taco. A fisherman, Colm, living on a remote Irish island has fallen in love with a woman he’s seen only once. He begins the play with a long monologue. “I live by the sea. I have always lived by the sea. I can’t know what it would be like living anywhere else.” However he eyes a pretty girl from Liverpool, Timothea, at a wedding and begins correspondence via the post. (The time of the play is in the distant past, before e-mail.) She writes back. The letters begin formal and short until they grow longer and more personal. Timothea becomes enamored with Colm’s poetic musings about life by the sea. Shortly, two lonely people take a chance on love and they are living together in Timothea’s flat. The conflict arises when she publishes Colm’s letters without his permission. He doesn’t share her literary ambitions or her interest in city life. He must decide to stay or return to his isolation on the island. Does holding on to a way of life mean stagnation? Or should we all be encouraged to flow wherever and seemingly become whatever. Sea Marks won the Los Angeles Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play.

June 24, 2018 My Old Lady by Israel Horovitz directed by Mike Aronson. Mathias is an American writer whose deceased father has bequeathed him a large Parisian apartment overlooking the Luxembourg Gardens. The inheritance has arrived just in time as Mathias doesn’t even have enough money to purchase an airline ticket home. He plans to sell the building to a French developer and return to the States a rich man. Unfortunately, the apartment is occupied by a woman, Mathilde, in her 90’s and her daughter. The mother sold the apartment to Mathias’ father under a French law that allows her to live there until she dies plus she gets her expenses paid by the owner. My Old Lady is a charming character study about the relationships Mathias makes with Mathilde and her peculiarly vocal daughter Chloe. His father was not a good parent and Mathias blames him for decades of misfortune. Is it possible dad had some humane reason for wanting his son and these women to meet up? The play was made into a 2014 movie starring Kevin Kline and Maggie Smith in the lead roles.

July 29, 2018 Top Girls by Caryl Churchill directed by John Elliott. It’s 1980–or is it? Marlene is throwing a brilliant party to celebrate her promotion to managing director of the Top Girls Employment Agency—over a man vying for the same position. Marlene has invited only five others—all women—to her celebratory fantasia: famous women from history, fiction, and myth. Each of these women has faced adversity in her struggle to succeed. They all mingle over dinner and drink, and get to know each other’s histories. The stories they tell of their struggles through childbearing and loss toward success in a man’s world entertain and inform us…and the rest of the play—which takes place in Marlene’s present. What has changed—and what hasn’t—since 1980…or since the 12th or 13th or 16th or 19th Century? Or yet?

August 26, 2018 The Mineola Twins by Paula Vogel directed by Karen Emmons. Myrna and Myra Richards are “almost” identical twins. They differ only on two points-their outlook on life, and their chest size. As 1950s-era high school students in Mineola, Long Island, Myrna, the “good” twin, and Myra, the “evil” twin, share a special twin bond-they hear one another in their dreams. However, they also spend much of their time and energy defining themselves in opposition to one another. The sisters move farther apart as time leaps forward to the 1960s. Myrna has spent time in a mental institution for a nervous breakdown. Myra has just robbed a bank with a radical anti-war group. On the lam, she too is an emotional mess. The final showdown between the sisters happens in the 1980s. Having spent some time in prison for her part in the bank robbery, Myra now runs a Planned Parenthood clinic in Mineola. Myrna, now president of Concerned Americans for America, hosts the popular conservative talk show, Talk Back, Get Back, Bite Back. Director Karen Emmons says The Mineola Twins is “goofy fun for baby boomers.

The audition schedule for this season is as follows:

September, October and November shows are August 7-9 2017, 9th is for call backs.

December, January and February shows are November 6-8 2017, 8th is for call backs.

March, April and May shows are February 5-7 2018, 7th is for call backs.

June, July and August shows are May 7-9 2018, 9th is for call backs.

The 2017-2018 Majestic Reader’s Theatre Company season will also be available to purchase as two season packages beginning on August 1st, 2017. Patrons can choose between a full twelve play season package or a six play half season package. The half season is a flexible option that allows you to customize your experience, so that you can enjoy the performances in which you’re most interested. Pricing is Full Reader’s Theatre Package (Twelve performances) for $96 and Mini Reader’s Theatre Package (Six performances) for $48.

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