In the midst of tremendous growth and giant strides towards newness in a myriad of realms, the creative team at Pittsburgh’s City Theatre remains stalwart in their commitment to setting the standard of radical new dramaturge that exemplifies the intersection of local and global theatrical communities and interests. With the thrilling 2018-2019 lineup peaking eagerly around the corner, I spoke with members of the company’s stellar creative team—Marketing Director Nikki Battestilli; Director of New Play Development Clare Drobot; Artistic Producer Reginald L. Douglas; Managing Director James McNeel; and new Artistic Director Marc Masterson—about the planning and exciting highlights of the imminent season.
From a behind-the-scenes perspective, the folks at City Theatre are overjoyed to welcome back Marc Masterson to the top-notch team. Having served as City Theatre’s Producing Artistic Director from 1981-2000, Masterson was announced as the new Artistic Director earlier this year, following his tenure as Artistic Director at the well-established South Coast Repertory Theatre in Costa Mesa, California (where he helmed world premieres including A Doll’s House, Part 2 and Vietgone). Masterson’s indomitable flair for combining astute creative discernment and strategic planning acumen makes him not only the ideal fit for the position in City’s evolution but allows for his nimble transition back into the company in one of the most bustling and frenetic times of the dramatic year. Speaking with Masterson, he spoke of the dazzlingly unique character of City Theatre as a whole that provided for such a smooth transition back into the swing of things. Though the season was planned before Masterson’s arrival, Masterson is “excited by the dynamic range of different kinds of stories on [the] stages this year” and “love[s] the community that [he] finds here, in the City, in the audience, and inside the organization…I feel at home and also challenged.”
Masterson’s addition was the exquisite icing on the dramaturgical cake, so to speak. Clare Drobot detailed the months-long, meticulous and deeply involved reading and selection process for the upcoming season that has resulted in the fascinating and phenomenal array of shows coming to City’s stages. The season opens September 8th with The Revolutionists, an uproarious and determinedly badass piece focusing on four women’s trailblazing paths in the French Revolution. Revolutionists, directed by Jade King Carroll and performed at City’s main stage, will be the Pittsburgh premiere for playwright Lauren Gunderson, America’s most produced contemporary playwright in 2017. Following Revolutionists, Dominique Morisseau’s poetically poignant and piercingly relevant racial commentary Pipeline (directed by City’s own Reginald L. Douglas) will run from October 27th – November 18th at the main stage, and will feature partnerships with Carnegie Mellon University and Point Park University, as well as an electrifying and infectious collaboration with 1Hood Media for the show’s score. Where Did We Sit on the Bus, directed by Chay Yew and written by Brian Quijada, is an inventive hip-hop autobiography that explores the passion and tumult of a Latino upbringing and will run January 19th -February 24th (2019) at the Lester Hamburg Studio. These three provocative and multicultural frontrunners are followed by the equally profound plays The Roommate (written by Jen Silverman, directed by Reginald L. Douglas, and performed at the main stage March 2nd-24th); The Burdens (written by Matt Schatz, directed by Tyne Rafaeli, and running April 6th-May 12th at the Lester Hamburg Studio); and We Are Among Us (written by Stephen Belber, director TBA, running May 11th-June 2nd).
Emphasizing the need to select shows that challenge them, make them laugh just as easily as they can make them weep, Drobot stated that, “one commitment that we made for the 18-19 [season] was to ensure that the productions we chose truly reflect the world we live in. All of our productions have diversity of race and gender on their creative teams. It was also important that the productions, while distinct, felt in conversation with one another. So, I hope you can see how four women fighting for recognition during the French Revolution feels like they’re talking directly to Nya’s hopes for her son Omari in Pipeline and the need for camaraderie that brings Sharon and Robyn together in The Roommate.” This harmoniousness between vividly unique works, and the commitment to upholding the panoply of voices and identities, forge a deep, intrinsic connection between all the creative energies at City, and allow for a season that scintillates audiences in the most beautifully complex ways.
The 2018-2019 City Theatre season is replete with the provocative and evocative works that engage not only with the audiences’ emotions and political sensibilities, but challenge the internal community to perpetually strive towards a sense of cohesiveness, representation, and astronomically entertaining theatre. In addition to the stupendous upcoming works, City Theatre will feature a smattering of Pick-Your-Price Previews at the beginning of the season (September 8th-13th), that are aimed to foster the ecumenical and supportively accessible elements of the theatrical community. Moreover, the initiatives to have POC-centered and all-female cast/creative teams, place City Theatre among the ranks of Pittsburgh’s aggressively socially and politically conscious dramaturge collectives. City’s upcoming season promises to be one of the more invigorating and hugely entertaining on the theatrical docket.
For tickets and more information about City Theatre’s season click here.
Eva Phillips is celebrating her third year in Pittsburgh, third year writing for PGH in the Round, and twenty-seventh year not getting murdered (shockingly, despite all odds). She relocated to the brittle Steel City from Virginia to pursue her Masters in Literary and Cultural Studies at CMU (with a concentration in film theory and film criticism, and intersections with feminism and gender), and has spent the past few years in Pittsburgh cultivating her writing career, developing her blog https://www.tuesgayswithmorrie69.net/, raising two show cats, and widening her perspectives on the ever-evolving spectrum of theatre. She only has one Les Miserables tattoo out of her 32 tattoos, and she finds that morally reprehensible.