Utah's theatre season is clearly underway this fall; more than 30 professional productions offer something for everyone, from Shakespeare at Provo's Castle Amphitheatre with its stunning sunsets to cutting-edge new plays in Salt Lake City's nondescript smaller theatres. For one, Steven Fales recently returned to the Rose Wagner Black Box Theatre with his poignant one-man show, Confessions of a Mormon Boy (Sept. 19-22), exposing how it was to grow up being both gay and a Mormon.
The Salt Lake Acting Company is taking its audiences to St. Ives, England, for a tense tea party. Director Keven Myhre brings the eye of a designer to Lee Blessing's Going to St. Ives (through Oct. 20). Kimberly Scott is featured as May N'Kame, mother of a brutal African dictator. May's opponent in this politically charged two-hander is English eye surgeon Cora Gage (Anne Stewart Mark). During this apparent medical consultation, May and Cora play a highly personal power game that has its roots in colonialism. May is trying to save her sight, but Cora is attempting to save her vision of a world that no longer exists.
And across town, the Pioneer Theatre Company had a foolproof opening for its 40th anniversary season with David Auburn's Proof (closed Oct. 5). Charles Morey directed this dance of relationships that unfolded much like an elegant mathematical proof. Designer George Maxwell recreated with amazing detail the back porch of an old home near the University of Chicago. Michelle Six occupied that porch as troubled math whiz Catherine, her father's daughter. Noble Shropshire, Gloria Biegler, and Joey Collins completed the cast.
Then down south just outside St. George, Tuachan Amphitheater offered up yet another version of the perennial musical Utah (closed Oct. 12), complete with floods and fireworks and even horse-drawn covered wagons coming out of the sagebrush. Up the road in Cedar City, the Utah Shakespearean Festival has extended its fall season (Sept. 20-Oct. 19) to three productions: You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown and I Hate Hamlet are clear audience favorites. But this year, along with the usual light fare, USF has mounted a stunning Twelfth Night (Sept. 21-Oct. 18).
The Catalyst Theatre Company has a fresh and intriguing mission. They produce plays created at what they determine are seminal moments in the change of culture where they are written. Their second season has just opened with the Richard Wilbur translation of Molière's The Learned Ladies. The production, directed by Jeremy Skidmore, sets the play in present day Beverly Hills, and the cast is headed by two Washington stalwarts, Tim Carlin and Cam Magee. The play runs through Oct. 26.
Another European play will be featured in a Washington area premiere, when the Washington Stage Guild presents All the World by Hungarian playwright Ferenc Molnar. Directed by Guild Artistic Director John MacDonald, the play opens Halloween night. As the Stage Guild awaits a new performing space, they will be producing in the Arena Stage venue at 14th and T Streets, NW, a stones throw from the Source Theatre that generously shared its' space last season.
The League of Washington Theatres (LOWT), the association of professional, nonprofit theatres in the Washington Metropolitan Area, recently released the most current update of their membership, and the results are eye opening. Washington continues to grow theatrically, and the diversity of the producing companies is remarkable.
The LOWT has 40 theatre members, 32 of which are Equity theatres, including two LORT houses: The Arena Stage and The Shakespeare Theatre. Ten theatres have an ethnic focus that includes experiences from African-American, Hispanic, French, Asian, Russian, and Jewish communities. Four theatres produce works for children, while three others specialize in Shakespeare. Two other theatres are resident at institutions of higher learning: Theater of the First Amendment at George Mason University in Virginia, and Rep Stage at Howard Community College in Maryland.
It is no wonder more and more actors and designers are looking at Washington as their artistic home.