Olney Theatre Center’s 83rd season fulfills ambitious commitments made prior to the pandemic, and furthers its vision of reflecting the whole community. In addition to its six-play membership season, the Montgomery County institution returns with an equally busy schedule of concerts, special productions, presentations, and even more curated programming to build off of the success of its summer series, Olney Outdoors.
As previously announced, OTC will produce three musicals on its mainstage beginning with the Marcia Milgrom Dodge–helmed production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (November 5, 2021 – January 2, 2022), featuring local breakout star Jade Jones as Belle and Evan Ruggerio, a one-legged tap-dancer, as the Beast. Ushering in 2021 is the long-awaited world premiere of Cinco Paul (Despicable Me, Schmigadoon) and This is Us Executive Producer, Rebecca Brunstetter’s musical AD 16 (February 4 – March 6, 2022), an R&B and pop-inspired biblical tale featuring a lovestruck teenage Mary Magdalene who falls in love with the boy next door … a carpenter’s son named Jesus. The final, ambitious musical of the season will be a ground-breaking production of Meredith Willson’s The Music Man (June 7 – July 14, 2022) with a bilingual deaf/hearing cast and production team.
Maintaining their place on the schedule of the newly renovated Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab are the DMV premieres of Larissa FastHorse’s The Thanksgiving Play (September 29 – October 31, 2021) directed by Raymond O. Caldwell, and Clare Barron’s acclaimed Dance Nation (March 2- April 3, 2022) directed by Jenna Place. New to the schedule is the world premiere of The Joy That Carries You (May 11 – June 12, 2022), a drama about an interracial couple in crisis by local playwriting team Awa Sal Secka and Dani Stoller (Easy Women Smoking Loose Cigarettes) that melds sharp comic dialogue and moving spoken-word poetry. This new play about love and family, privilege and responsibility, was workshopped this past summer with support from Olney Theatre’s Vanguard Arts Fund, and takes the slot previously held by Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express.
The holiday season at Olney offers something for every audience, for the first time activating all three of its indoor theaters with its own productions. In addition to Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, OTC offers two special events that demonstrate the broad range of Olney’s audiences and artistic ambitions. Returning to the Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab will be Paul Morella’s annual solo performance of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Meanwhile, back in the 1938 Original Theatre, Hedwig and the Angry Inch will offer audiences a tale of redemption more of the sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll variety. Both productions begin their runs on November 26, 2021, with Carol continuing through December 26, and Hedwig finishing on January 2, 2022.
The Applause Concert Series, created by Associate Artistic Director for Music Theatre Christopher Youstra expands its place on the calendar with two full-weekend presentations of Pippin (April 1–3, 2022) and Brigadoon (April 8–10, 2022). Pippin had been scheduled for a full production as part of the pandemic-canceled 2019–2020 season, and the concert version assembles much of that cast, including Felicia Curry as the Leading Player. Brigadoon was also announced as part of the Applause Series for 2019–20 and sold out its one scheduled, never-to-be-realized date. The popularity of both titles spurred the notion to present both multiple times over separate weekends. The Applause Series will also grow in ambition as it presents its first musical-in-progress, Lautrec at the St. James (March 11, 2022) with music by Julianne Wick Davis (Southern Comfort), book and lyrics by John Dietrich.
Olney’s National Players, who led the return to live performance this summer with their production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, continue preparations for their 72nd Tour with a weekend of pay-what-you-want performances of A Raisin in the Sun (September 2 – 4, 2021). The BIPOC-majority ensemble will be directed by NP alumna Christopher Michael Richardson.
OLNEY SEASON DETAILS
On the Mainstage
Marcia Milgrom Dodge, whose re-envisioned production of Once in 2019 transported the musical from a pub to Dublin’s Grafton Street, and was nominated for 4 Helen Hayes Awards including Outstanding Production and Outstanding Ensemble, returns to direct Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. She’s signaled that this production will chart its own path by casting Jade Jones, who turned heads in Ford’s Theatre’s Into the Woods, as the Disney Princess Belle; and Evan Ruggerio, an actor and dancer who after losing one leg to cancer recreated himself as one-legged tap-dancer. Her production took Once out of the pub to include Dublin as its own character in the musical. Likewise, casting a curvy, plus-sized African American as Belle and an amputee as the Beast will enable this production to be more inclusive and original in its portrayal of beauty, explore more deeply the show’s themes of loneliness, and interrogate from whence “beastly” behavior arises. Milgrom Dodge is the perfect person to undertake this innovation, being no stranger to the Mouse House brand as she was a featured director on the Disney+ show Encores. Milgrom Dodge is joined by choreographer Josh Walden, who worked with her as Associate Director/Associate Choreographer on her Tony-nominated revival of Ragtime. Also featuring Jessica Lauren Ball (Wardrobe), Iyona Blake (Mrs. Potts), Hailey Ibberson (Babette), Connor Reilly and John Sygar (Lefou). Disney’s Beauty and the Beast runs November 5, 2021 – January 2, 2022.
Stephen Brackett (Broadway’s Be More Chill) helms the World Premiere of A.D. 16, a new musical with music and lyrics by Cinco Paul, the genius behind Despicable Me and the new Apple TV hit Schmigadoon, and book by Bekah Brunstetter, playwright (The Cake) and a writer/producer of the hit tv series This Is Us. This whimsical musical asks, “What if your first crush really was perfect?” The result is the delightfully witty, sublimely inspiring story of teenaged Mary Magdalene, who falls in love with the rebellious boy next door… who just happens to be a carpenter named Jesus. With a lush R&B score and a riotous cast of characters, A.D. 16 achieves the rare feat of being both funny and sincere at the same time. A thrilling and fun musical for people of all faiths, or no faith at all. A.D. 16 runs February 4 – March 6, 2022. Invited press on February 10, 2022.
The final musical of the 2020–2021 season in the Mainstage will be a groundbreaking production of Meredith Willson’s The Music Man featuring a deaf and hearing cast, co-directed by Michael Baron, the Artistic Director of the Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma, and Alexandria Wailes, Director of Artistic Sign Language for the Broadway revival of Children of a Lesser God and associate choreographer on the acclaimed Deaf West production of Spring Awakening. Other members of the production team will include choreographer Karma Camp, director of artistic sign language Michelle Banks, and music director Christopher Youstra. This innovative production is the result of Olney Theatre’s first round of Vanguard Arts Fund workshops held during the 2018–19 season. Through the Fund, a fully 50-50 deaf-hearing artistic team, accompanied by over a dozen sign-language interpreters, were brought together for a week in a workshop setting. The time was used as a kind of beta test to see if a production like this was viable, and included staging numbers like “Rock Island,” “Lida Rose,” and “Til There Was You.” Meredith Willson’s The Music Man runs June 17 – July 24, 2022.
In the newly renovated Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab
Construction on the improved facilities in the Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab was completed during the pandemic, and visitors to the airy, light-filled lobby and spacious backstage accommodations will enjoy a truly upgraded theatre-going experience.
We inaugurate the space with the country’s most-produced comedy of 2019: The Thanksgiving Play by Larissa FastHorse and directed by Raymond O. Caldwell. This hilarious sendup of “white wokeness” features an undaunted theater teacher desperately trying to create a culturally sensitive play celebrating Thanksgiving: one that challenges stereotypes, meets all the requirements of a Native American Heritage Month grant, and pacifies the parents. Larissa FastHorse’s groundbreaking satire on the politics of representation throws together the overly ambitious drama teacher, her yoga-bro actor friend, a history teacher with playwriting aspirations, and an “ethnically ambiguous” L.A. actress to devise their Thanksgiving play, only to find themselves quickly sabotaged by myth, confounded by history, and drawn into a hysterical project of dramatic pretzel-twisting. FastHorse is a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe of the Lakota people, and The Thanksgiving Play made her the first Native American playwright ever to make American Theater’s annual list of “most-produced plays.” Featuring: Parker Drown (A Chorus Line), David Schlumpf (Elf the Musical) and Dani Stoller (The Humans). The Thanksgiving Play runs September 20 – October 31, 2021.
OTC Associate Artistic Director/Casting Director Jenna Place (nee Duncan) directs Clare Barron’s explosive Dance Nation. The pre-teen dance team from Liverpool, Ohio, is primed for competition: with the other teams at the regionals in Philly, with each other, and with the doubts and demons inside themselves. In this show, the stakes are much higher than just a first-place trophy. Lives are at stake, future happiness lies in the balance, emerging sexuality strikes with the power of a thousand lightning bolts, and every interaction in the tight-knit group is suffused with threat, risk, and the urgency of adolescence. Adult actors of all ages portray the girls (and one boy) amidst their tween confusion and as their future adult-selves in a dream play with moments of true terror, complete with fangs, blood, and wild, stylized, dance. Featuring Megan Graves, Shubhangi Kuchibhotla, and Tracy Lynn Olivera. Dance Nation runs March 2 – April 3, 2022. Invited press on March 5 & 6, 2022.
The Joy That Carries You is a drama about an interracial couple in crisis by local playwriting team Awa Sal Secka and Dani Stoller (Signature’s Easy Women Smoking Loose Cigarettes) that melds sharp comic dialogue and moving spoken-word poetry. This new play about love and family, privilege and responsibility, introduces us to Shiri and Alaia, navigating their first year together as a couple. Over the course of a few days, their relationship is tested by events that underline the radically different ways each experiences the world. Strikingly personal in its intimacies, this world premiere is a poetic reckoning with love and the pain woven through it. Writers Awa Sal Secka and Dani Stoller also star as Alaia and Shiri. The Joy That Carries You runs May 11 – June 12, 2022.
OLNEY THEATRE CENTER 2021–2022 SEASON AT-A-GLANCE:
The Thanksgiving Play
September 29 – October 31, 2021
Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab
by Larissa FastHorse
Directed by Raymond O. Caldwell
Disney’sBeauty and the Beast
November 5, 2021 – January 2, 2022
Music by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Howard Ashman & Tim Rice
Book by Linda Woolverton
Directed by Marcia Milgrom Dodge
Choreography by Josh Walden
Music Direction by Walter “Bobby” McCoy
February 4 – March 6, 2022
A World Premiere Musical
Music & Lyrics by Cinco Paul
Book by Bekah Brunstetter
Directed by Stephen Brackett
Music Direction by Christopher Youstra
March 2 – April 3, 2022
Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab
Winner of the Relentless Award established in honor of Philip Seymour Hoffman and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize
by Clare Barron
Directed by Jenna Place
The Joy That Carries You
May 11 – June 12, 2022
Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab
A World Premiere
By Awa Sal Secka and Dani Stoller
The Music Man
June 17 – July 24, 2022
Book, Music, and Lyrics by Meredith Willson
Story by Meredith Willson and Franklin Lacey
Directed by Michael Baron & Alexandria Wailes
Choreography by Karma Camp
Direction of Artistic Sign Language by Michelle Banks
Music Direction by Christopher Youstra
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
November 26 – January 2, 2022
1938 Original Theatre
Book by John Cameron Mitchell
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Trask
Directed by Johanna McKeon
A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas
November 26 – December 26, 2021
Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab
by Charles Dickens
Adapted and Performed by Paul Morella
APPLAUSE CONCERT SERIES
Lautrec at the St. James
Friday, March 11, 2022
1938 Original Theatre
Music by Julianne Wick Davis; Book and Lyrics by John Dietrich
April 1-3, 2022
April 8-10, 2022
Nine weekends of presented work, ranging from jazz to gospel to dance and beyond, will be selected by Kevin McAllister, Director of Curated Programs, and announced later in the summer.
Celebrating its 72nd season, National Players is a unique ensemble bringing innovative theater to communities large and small across the United States. Founded in 1949, National Players stimulates youthful imagination and critical thinking by presenting classic plays in invigorating ways for modern audiences. National Players is the hallmark outreach program of Olney Theatre Center, and this year takes a majority actors-of-color company on the road.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
by William Shakespeare
Directed by Danielle Drakes
(premiered during Olney Outdoors)
A Raisin in the Sun
by Lorraine Hansberry
Directed by Christopher Michael Richardson
September 2-4, 2021
ABOUT OLNEY THEATRE CENTER
Olney Theatre Center for the Arts produces and curates theatrical performance for the diverse audiences in our community, and educates, learns from, supports and inspires a more inclusive generation of theater-makers.
We strive to become an arts and culture powerhouse, redefining the American regional theater movement by cultivating and sharing the creativity of our community.
Once a summer stock retreat in rural Maryland, Olney Theatre Center is now an award-winning, year-round regional theatre surrounded in a 15-mile radius by 1.6 million people representing three of the most ethnically diverse counties in America. Since our founding in 1938, some of the biggest names in theatre have appeared on our stages: from “Golden Era” stars like Helen Hayes and Tallulah Bankhead to contemporary artists like Sir Ian McKellen, Robin De Jesús, and many others. OTC welcomed Artistic Director Jason Loewith and Managing Director Debbie Ellinghaus in 2013 and 2014, respectively, who established a new artistic strategy to broaden programming with the goal of nurturing a diversity of voices and audiences. Olney Theatre Center now produces musicals and plays under the three rubrics of Classic, Contemporary and Family programming. Since 2013 Olney Theatre Center has twice won the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Musical Production, the Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play and presented six world premieres. Complementing this work, OTC fulfills its mission as a teaching theater with educational programs like the Our Play program in local 5th grade classrooms, a summer camp and a year-round professional apprentice program. National Players, now in its 72nd Season, is the hallmark outreach program of OTC, a unique ensemble touring innovative theater to communities large and small across the United States.
For more information, visit olneytheatre.org/history.