From little known Tennessee Williams works to edgy new plays delving into contemporary issues, The Vineyard Playhouse is setting the stage for a dynamic summer of theater. According to artistic director MJ Bruder Munafo the 2011 schedule offers a stimulating mix of the classic and the cutting edge, including the return of last year’s very successful African American Festival of Theater & Music, in August, with all new staged readings and performances of new plays and solo shows, concerts, and musical guests.
“Tape” launches the main stage season with performances from June 2 through June 18. Written by Stephen Belber in 1999, the play, directed by Claudia Weill, examines issues of memory, motive, and truth in the context of three high school friends who reunite 10 years after graduation and wrestle with their differing perspectives on past events. For more about “Tape,” see accompanying article.
From June 23 to July 9, Bill C. Davis, playwright, director, and recipient of the Outer Critics Circle Award, returns to the Playhouse to debut his new show, “Coming2Terms.” The play features two characters, best friends Jeremy and Sara, who meet monthly to explore the chaos and challenging variations of love, friendship, and longing.
Vineyard Playhouse Artistic Associate Joann Green Breuer will direct “Tennessee Williams: Original Acts” from July 14 to August 6 in celebration of the late playwright’s 100th birthday. Ms. Munafo describes the four rarely staged Williams’ works as “predecessors to his masterpieces,” and promises that they will introduce characters Williams later developed more fully in “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “The Glass Menagerie.”
From August 8 to September 3, the African American Festival of Theater & Music returns to the main stage with four separate performances and three stage readings of new works, including “5 Mojo Secrets,” a new play by Kathleen McGhee-Anderson that explores making a long-term marriage work. “Two Old Black Guys Just Sitting Around Talking,” a new play by Gus Edwards, portrays two curmudgeonly rivals who forge a bond as they meet on the same park bench every day to discuss the increasingly bewildering world. Ms. Munafo also hopes to bring back multi-disciplinary artist Vanessa German and Stan Strickland, singer, saxophonist, flutist, and actor, to round out the festival.
In addition to the major main stage events, the Playhouse will also continue its tradition of hosting Monday Night Specials, readings of new works held from late June through July. Outdoors, the theater will present Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors,” directed by Vineyard native Chelsea McCarthy, Wednesday through Saturday evenings at the Tisbury Amphitheater, from July 20 to August 14. Children will be delighted by The Fabulists, also presented at the Amphitheater, every Saturday morning at 10 am during July and August. Adult actors write and perform humorous adaptations and new scripts for children that involve improvisation, audience participation, and lots of laughter.
New this year, Ms. Munafo reports, is a special Playhouse membership opportunity: for $50 a year (tax deductible), patrons receive $5 off a ticket to any performance with no ordering fees. Tickets may be exchanged with 24 hours notice and members will enjoy special events and discounts on merchandise and concessions.
Ms. Munafo also says that she plans to focus her efforts this summer on achieving the Playhouse’s ambitious fundraising goals. Theatergoers will be greeted by new windows, clapboard siding, vertical trim, fresh paint on three sides of the building, and sprinkler system improvements, all accomplished as a result of the capital campaign launched last summer. Additional funds raised this season will go towards finishing the Playhouse’s extensive interior and exterior renovations.
Karla Araujo, who divides her time between Oak Bluffs and Washington D.C., is a frequent contributor to The Times.