With Broadway-credited artistic director Hunter Foster at the helm, the Redhouse Arts Center plans to take on the theme of family in 2019-2020 season, exploring how its different iterations inform the American and human experience.
The season includes a number of names even causal theater-goes will recognize, as it opens with Jonathan Larson’s “Rent,” followed by “God of Carnage” by Yasmina Reza, the premiere of “A Syracuse Christmas Carol” by LJ Flecho and Michael O’Flaherty, Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” “Fences” by August Wilson and closing with Alison Bechdel’s “Fun Home.”
The theme of family was chosen not only to keep the variety of shows cohesive, said Executive Director Samara Hannah, but also to engage the Syracuse community in a way that represents Redhouse’s goals.
“A part of what I think we’re trying to demonstrate to people is, you know, theater isn’t what you thought it was 20 years ago or 30 years ago. What it is today is just a family place,” said Hannah. Though not all shows in the season are friendly for the entire family, they all explore the theme in a different ways, says Foster.
Foster himself is a name the theater-inclined might recognize, as he is known for a number of credits in the theater world.
He has a resume in the industry that includes a list of off and on Broadway appearances, roles in national tours and, most notably, originating the role of Bobby Strong in “Urinetown.” Foster also received a Tony nomination for his performance as Seymour in “Little Shop of Horrors” and has directed shows at the Bucks County Playhouse and other regional theaters. He has writing credits as well, which include a libretto for an off-broadway musical, “Summer of ‘42,” and an adaptation to stage of the film “Bonnie and Clyde.”
So how did he end up taking a job in the cold upstate city of Syracuse? In Foster’s own words, “It just felt so right.”
“Once I got to know the Syracuse community, I realized it was the place for me. It felt like the theatre was on the cusp of becoming something with the new space and having the opportunity to be downtown,” said Foster. “I felt like it was a really good way to give back to the theater community and the Syracuse community as a whole.’
Though not a Syracuse native himself, Foster’s wife, Jennifer Cody, is from Rochester and known for her frequent appearances at Geva Theatre. This familiarity with the central and western New York regions was not only part of Foster’s draw to Redhouse, but Redhouse’s decision to choose Foster from a pile of qualified candidates.
“it was easier for him to transition into our community than I think it would have been for people coming in from just different either weather markets or demographic, we’re a small city and he gets it,” said Hannah. “It was just a natural fit, we wanted someone whose learning curve would be shorter so having that natural understanding of our demographic and location fit really well.”
Foster was on the hunt for the role of an artistic director, and Redhouse was on a national hunt for a new one after Laura Austin stepped down last summer after 15 years with Redhouse. Upon visiting Syracuse to check things out in-person, Foster was struck by Redhouse’s new building and the promise of the space itself. Considered an asset both by Foster and Hannah, freedom to work with the space is a big part of the upcoming season.
“Hunter really wants to showcase this new facility to the best of its ability so he wanted a season that provides the opportunity for us to recreate the space on a show by show basis,” said Hannah. “We’re not really be limited to a standard theatre layout. One of the things that makes us super unique is the fact that all of our spaces are fully reconfigurable.”
Foster plans to use the reconfigurable space to create an immersive theater experience, saying that he wants the show to start for each audience member the moment they walk through the doors.
As far as the theme of the season, Foster wanted to tie everything together and use some shows that kept popping up in surveys that put out to the community. He also wanted to keep to the history of the sorts of shows Redhouse likes to put on and make sure he wasn’t repeating something that had been done in Syracuse recently. More than anything, he wanted to speak to his new audience in a way that let them know he’s listening.
“We decided upon a few of [the shows] and then the rest started to fall in place because they felt like they were in the same world. It was pretty easy once we established that was our theme,” said Foster. “We also want to make sure its representation of a diverse audience, all sorts of people, representing all sides of the American life.”
“Fun Home,” the season closer, was actually the first show that Foster decided upon, and then the rest followed. “Fun Home” concerns memories of a dysfunctional family that come to a poignant end, whereas “Romeo and Juliet” examines the effect of family on their youth and “RENT,” according to Foster, shows the important of our chosen family.
“I chose shows that resonated with me and stayed with me after I saw them,” said Foster. “The goal is to have people still thinking about them after they leave the theater and to stick with them for a very long time.”
Here’s the list of shows planned for the 2019-20 season at the Redhouse Arts Center.
Discounted season pass tickets to the Redhouse are available until until March 1 on their website. More information about each show can be found at http://www.theredhouse.org.
By Jonathan Larson
Sept. 19-29, 2019
Set in the East Village of New York City, “Rent” is about falling in love, finding your voice and living for today. Winner of the Tony Award for Best Musical and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama “Rent” has become a pop culture phenomenon. With songs that rock and a story the resonates with audiences of all ages, “Rent” follows a year in the life of a group of impoverished young artists and musicians struggling to survive and create in New York’s Lower East Side, under the shadow of HIV/AIDS. The physical and emotional complications of the disease pervade the lives of Roger, Mimi, Tom and Angel. How these young bohemians negotiate their dreams, loves and conflicts provides the narrative thread to this groundbreaking musical.
“God of Carnage”
By Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton
Nov. 7-17, 2019
In its original Broadway run, the three-time Tony Award winning play featured James Gandolfini, Hope Davis, Marcia Gay Harden and Jeff Daniels. This 90-minute thrill ride takes you into the most dangerous place on earth: parenthood. An innocent squabble over playground incident between eleven-year-old boys brings together two sets of Brooklyn parents for a meeting to resolve the matter. At first, diplomatic niceties are observed, but as the meeting progresses, tensions emerge and the gloves come off leaving the couples with a little more than just their dedicated principles in shreds. This comedic play will take audiences on an entertaining journey with an all-out, fur-flying, hilarious brawl between two couples.
“A Syracuse Christmas Carol”
Book by LJ Fecho and Music/Lyrics by Michael O’Flaherty
Dec. 12-22, 2019
A brand new musical written just for Central NY, “A Syracuse Christmas Carol” puts a new twist to the classic Charles Dickens tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, featuring many Syracuse landmarks and historical figures resurrected on stage. It’s a fun filled show with songs, laughs and recognizable Syracuse icons from the past and present.
“Romeo & Juliet”
Feb. 13-23, 2020.
Set in Verona where the rival houses of Capulet and Montague have had a long-standing feud, “Romeo & Juliet” is Shakespeare’s famous tragedy of star-crossed lovers, filled with all the passion of young love. Underscored by ingenious wit and astonishing beauty, the play pits the bitterness of resentment against the intensity of romance. Ultimately catastrophic choices and tragic twists proper them toward a final confrontation with fate.
By August Wilson
March 26 – April 5, 2020
Fences is the sixth chapter in August Wilson’s groundbreaking ten-play cycle of the African-American experience in the 20th century. The play depicts the life of Troy Maxson, a former Negro League baseball player, thwarted in his dreams of a Major League career, who struggles to provide for his family and break free from the boundaries imposed upon him. But in 1957, his son Cory, an emerging football star, sees the world through very different eyes, and his wife Rose yearns for an outlet for her love. With the intersection of old prejudices and changing opportunities, “Fences” is a powerful drama filled with passionate love and thundering rage, generous laughter and searing pain. Chances are you will be challenged to leave the theatre with your emotions in tact with this powerful play. “Fences” was most recently made into and Oscar nominated film starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis who took home the award for Best Supporting Actress.
By Alison Bechdel
May 28 – June 7, 2020
This Pulitzer Prize winning Drama won 5 Tony Awards including Best Musical. When her father dies unexpectedly, graphic novelist Alison dives deep into her past to tell the story of the volatile, brilliant, one-of-a-kind man whose temperament and secrets defined her family and her life. Moving between past and present, Alison relives her unique childhood playing at the family’s Bechdel Funeral Home which brings to light her growing understanding about her father’s hidden desires. “Fun Home” is a refreshingly honest, wholly original musical about seeing your parents through grown-up eyes.
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