Spring Green's American Players Theatre has revealed its roster of plays for 2008 -- hot on the heels of the 2007 season, which satisfyingly combined classic 20th-century fare (works by Tennessee Williams and George Bernard Shaw) with Shakespeare plays famous (The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing) and less famous (Timon of Athens).
There'll be a little less Shakespeare next year, just two productions by the Bard: the perennial crowd-pleaser A Midsummer Night's Dream and a show that combines Henry IV, Part 1 and Henry IV, Part 2. The latter is an adaptation by two APT regulars, actor James DeVita and director James Bohnen.
Meanwhile, there is more Shaw in store with Widowers' Houses -- the master's first play, from 1892. And the incomparable American dramatist Eugene O'Neill is represented with Ah, Wilderness!, a comedy from a writer better known for bitter family drama.
But perhaps the season's most intriguing offering is the The Belle's Stratagem, the 1780 play by the English playwright Hannah Cowley. It is the first woman-penned play the troupe has staged, and it dates to a rich period in British letters that is too often overlooked amid the triumphs of the greats who came before and after.
The full list and press release descriptions of APT's 2007 productions follows:
A Midsummer Night's Dream
By William Shakespeare
The quintessential APT comedy. On the eve of the Duke of Athens' wedding, four young lovers escape to the woods. Unbeknownst to them, they stumble into the middle of a feud between the King and Queen of the Fairies. Mix in a bumbling troupe of actors and a love potion that goes awry, and the evening is filled with mirth and merriment. William Brown directs this high-spirited comedy.
By Eugene O'Neill
The only comedy O'Neill wrote is an exuberant look at coming of age. Nat Miller's family gathers for an Independence Day celebration. His 17-year-old son Richard is in love with the neighbor girl, Muriel. When Muriel's father forbids the courtship, Richard rebels with adolescent fervor. John Langs returns to direct this affectionate story about family and the idealism of youth.
Henry IV, parts 1 and 2
By William Shakespeare
Adapted by James Bohnen and James DeVita Director James Bohnen and playwright and APT core company member James DeVita bring Shakespeare's Henry IV parts 1 and 2 together for one compelling story full of intrigue, war and a ribald Falstaff. After assuming the throne, Henry Bolingbroke must defend his precarious position while trying to reconcile his relationship with his son. As one rebellion is quieted, new ones begin and a wanton prince must amend his ways to win his father's affection and the throne.
By George Bernard Shaw
When a young doctor learns his future father-in-law has earned his wealth through questionable means, he refuses the dowry that awaits. But when he discovers the true source of his own family's income, he must reconsider his righteousness. A scathing yet humorous look at the ethics of making money as only Shaw can do. Kenneth Albers returns to direct.
The Belle's Stratagem
By Hannah Cowley
For the first time, APT will bring the work of a female playwright to the stage with an enchanting comedy of manners directed by Producing Artistic Director David Frank. Letitia Hardy schemes to win the heart of her betrothed, Doricourt, while he conspires to have the engagement annulled. Meanwhile, jealousy threatens another couple as Lady Touchwood is introduced to London society much to her husband's dismay. A witty look at marriage and the roles men and woman play.
Casting for all five productions is currently underway, with details to be announced by APT come spring.
Attendance was down slightly in 2007 in comparison to the previous year's figures, with a total of 107,626 people attending shows, including students, at the outdoor theater just south of Spring Green. More information about American Players Theatre is available online, including a visitor's guide, as well as details on how to support and get involved in the company's productions.