Earlier this month, the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse announced its 2018 season, and I can think of five reasons to mark your calendar.
Reason 1: a play called “Passionista.”
“Think Oscar Wilde or George Bernard Shaw,” playwright and Times contributing writer Gwyn McAllister said. “That’s the era I was going for.”
McAllister’s original script takes place in Edwardian England in a country manor house. She described the play as a romantic comedy with a Downton Abbey twist. Expect fast-paced banter, mid–20th century costumes, and some happily-ever-afters. McAllister divides her time between Martha’s Vineyard and New York City.
The play was read during last season’s Monday Night Specials, which is a series that features brand-new scripts every week. McAllister’s play was called “The Green Rose,” and has since been adapted to its final full-length version in “Passionista.” The world premiere is on Tuesday, June 26, and it runs through July 14. Preview dates are June 23, 24, and 25.
“The script is strong, and the story is interesting,” artistic director MJ Bruder Munafo told The Times. “The playhouse is known for not being afraid to put on new plays.”
Which brings up Reasons 2, 3, 4, and 5 to mark your calendar.
“Angela’s Mixtape” is an autobiographical play written by Eisa Davis. It’s about growing up black and bohemian in Berkeley, Calif. Davis is the niece of Angela Davis, a well-known African American activist. The play has been produced once before, and on Tuesday, July 24, it will make its New England premiere at the playhouse. “Angela’s Mixtape” runs through August 11, and preview dates are July 21, 22, and 23.
“Chilmark” is a brand-new play written by Catherine Rush, who is a longtime friend of Munafo and the playhouse. “Chilmark” tells the story of an up-Island utopian society where everyone speaks in sign language, and deafness isn’t perceived as a disability. Rush has spent years studying the deaf and sign community, and is fluent in sign language herself. The world premiere is Tuesday, August 21, and it runs through Sept. 8. Preview dates are August 18, 19, and 20.
The fourth and final production at the Patricia Neal Stage is David Zax’ original script, “The Room Where I Was Held.” The drama is about young journalist Josh Salazar, who escaped his Taliban captors in Afghanistan, and is now living at home with his doting parents. It premieres on Tuesday, Sept. 18, and runs through Oct. 6, with preview dates on Sept. 15, 16, and 17. This is another full-length production adapted from last year’s “Monday Night Specials.”
Every year, the playhouse produces a Shakespearean production at the Tisbury Amphitheatre. This year is “Hamlet,” and it’s never been done by the playhouse.
According to Munafo, the season’s lineup is determined after dozens of scripts have been read and discussed. New scripts are sent through agents and friends, and saved from previous years. According to Munafo, the playhouse receives about 50 new scripts per year. Seating, space, and cast size are also considered. The Patricia Neal Stage is a small venue, with only 98 seats. After plays and directors are decided, casting is the next beast.
Munafo goes to New York City and to Boston for open-call castings. She saw over 200 actors in New York, and about 75 in Boston. She also holds auditions here on-Island. Between all five plays, she has about 30 roles to fill.
Munafo may be harder to reach these days. “It’s a bit like getting on a roller coaster right now, and I can’t get off until the season is over,” she said. “But it’s fun. We’re a nontraditional theater, and we’re proud to find new voices and new works to present to audiences.”
For more information, tickets, and times, visit mvplayhouse.org or call 508-696-6300.