Madison's newest theater group, Forward Theater Company, has announced its 2009-10 season schedule, only four months after the company's formation.
While the season is somewhat abbreviated (three plays), it's not lacking ambition. One show in particular is quite a coup: the first staging of the new Christopher Durang play outside of New York City. Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them just ended an acclaimed, sold-out run in New York. It's a comedic look at "homeland insecurity," torture, shadow governments, and what we as a nation want to be.
Says Forward Theater's artistic director, Jennifer Uphoff Gray, "We're really kind of proud we got the rights to do this play. Chicago won't have seen it. The Twin Cities won't have seen it...We read about this play when it opened in New York, and we thought that it's exactly the kind of thing we want to do. It's topical, funny and by a really well-established, wonderful playwright."
Forward will produce Why Torture this winter in the Overture Center's Playhouse, the former home of the now-defunct Madison Repertory Theatre.
How did Forward land the show? "We reached out to Chris Durang directly. He actually responded the next day and was really supportive. He said, 'Oh, I had heard about the [closing of the] Rep,' and he was really upset about it," says Gray.
Forward's season kicks off in November with All About Eve, the Lux Radio Theater adaptation of the classic Bette Davis film from 1950. Lux Radio Theater was a long-running series that adapted Broadway shows and, later, films for the airwaves.
All About Eve will be a one-night-only event at the Playhouse featuring veteran Wisconsin actress Colleen Burns. It will include vintage commercials, sound effects, period costumes and more. A post-show celebration and fundraiser will follow at Fair Trade Coffee House on State Street.
Kiritsis, by local playwright and Wisconsin Supreme Court clerk David Schanker, concludes Forward's inaugural season. It will be presented as a staged reading in Overture Center's Rotunda Studio.
Schanker's script is based on the real-life case of Tony Kiritsis, an Indiana man who, in 1977, abducted and held hostage for 63 hours a mortgage broker who had foreclosed on his property. Schanker's play imagines the interactions between Kiritsis and his captive.
All in all, Forward's season looks like an inviting and varied introduction to a new company looking to fill the gap left by the dissolution of the Madison Rep (for which Gray directed The Diary of Anne Frank).
Comments Gray, "It was important to all of us -- if we were going to be, at least for the time being, Madison's only Equity, fully professional theater company and perform in Overture -- to do a broad spectrum of plays."
So, from a vintage radio play to the Midwestern premiere of the latest from a major contemporary playwright to a thought-provoking drama by a local writer, Forward is off and running in a promising direction.
As Gray sums it up, "We're only four months old. We're trying to step in where there seems to be a void. We want to keep professional theater artists able to live in this area."