Whether you prefer the rock musical “Rent” or Shakespeare’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor” – or both – there’s an exciting round of shows ahead as Wayne State University launches its new season in anticipation of the opening of its new Hilberry Gateway Theater in late winter.
Department Chair Mary Anderson said she is both proud and humbled by the tenacity and creativity of the faculty, staff and students who have weathered the COVID-19 pandemic and developed a vision for the department’s upcoming season.
“The 2022-23 season will engage and enchant us with the beauty and power that only dance and theater can express,” she said.
Anderson expressed appreciation for the community partners and patrons who have continued their support throughout the challenges of the last few years, amid a pandemic and the construction of the Hilberry Gateway Theater.
“We are all building the Gateway together,” she said. “We are all entering into an extraordinary new chapter of collective creation.”
Anderson said her motto for the upcoming year is “only here.”
“I cannot wait to see what we are able to do together,” she said. “What are the things we can do only here, only now, in this moment in time? What will be our gifts and contributions to the future? What can only we imagine, create, transform?”
The season begins with Jonathon Larsen’s “Rent” Sept. 23 to Oct. 2 on the Hilberry stage, directed by Michael Barnes. The Tony and Pulitzer Prize winning musical, set in New York City, and loosely based on Puccini’s “La bohème,” follows a group of struggling artists trying to survive and create art in the shadow of HIV/AIDS, as they learn to celebrate life one day at a time.
The season continues with Alice’s Birch’s “Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again.,” Oct. 21 to 29 at the Underground Theatre at the Hilberry. The play explores the conundrums of being female in the 21st century, and explores the relationships women have with men and each other amid a world in turmoil. Through a series of vignettes, the story devolves from the narrative structure to portray raw emotion and action.
Next at the Underground Theater is the world premiere LaRaisha Dionne’s “The End of Society” Nov. 4 and 5, an Afro-futuristic adventure that blends different cultures and mythologies with the poetry of Alice Dunbar Nelson and William Shakespeare, as a group of Black women travel to their homeland in the final days of human existence to determine the fate of the world.
Heading back in time, next up is Shakespeare’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor” Nov. 11 to 20 on the Hilberry stage. The comedy features Falstaff, a partying reprobate intent of wooing wealthy women for their money, who is put in his place by the wiser and wittier women.
Borrowing from Shakespeare, the Underground performs Ron West and Phil Swann’s “The People vs. Friar Laurence, the Man Who Killed Romeo and Juliet” Nov. 18 to 19 at the Underground Theater at the Hilberry. While it may sound serious, it’s not: It’s a musical comedy with vaudeville, catchy songs and lots of laughter.
After the winter break, the theater program presents Tarell Alvin’s “Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet” Feb. 24 to March 5 on the Hilberry Gateway stage. The story follows a gay 16-year-old Black teen on the eve of Hurricane Katrina in a coming-of-age story in the South.
Next up, the musical “Cabaret,” with book by Joe Masteroff, music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Webb, runs April 7 to 15 on the Hilberry Gateway stage. Set in Berlin during the rise of Nazism, the Kit Kat Club offers an escape from reality while it offers bawdy songs and wry commentary.
A week later, Qui Nguyen’s “She Kills Monsters” runs April 14 to 15 at the Underground Theater. Set in the world of Dungeons and Dragons, a young woman embarks on a quest to try to understand what influenced her deceased younger sister. The show explores family bonds, LGBTQ+ issues and the struggles of being an outcast.
The Freedom Players and the Motor City Cabaret present two-shows-in-one April 28 and 29 at the Allesee Dance Theater, performing musical theater numbers and scenes from its outreach program, which addresses issues of social justice.
Closing out the theater season is Virginia Woolf’s “Orlando,” adapted by Sarah Ruhl, May 5 to 14 on the Hilberry Gateway stage. The story of a nobleman in a love affair with Queen Elizabeth I is a sophisticated and poetic stage adaption, with shifting gender and gender preferences hilariously intersecting.
Subscription and season tickets are available. For more information about tickets and the shows, go to theatreanddance.wayne.edu/buy-tickets.