The theater’s new artistic head, John Langs, plots a 2016 season of edgy shows, including a rock musical about the notorious Abu Ghraib prison and a production about political advertising.
A notorious Baghdad prison, mad men and 1960s politics, an African-American boxer ahead of his time and a deconstruction of Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull.”
All will be in the mix at ACT Theatre in 2016, in the first season presided over by a new artistic director, John Langs.
“We want to do a really visceral, exciting season,” said Langs, ACT’s associate artistic director since 2013. He will officially succeed outgoing artistic head Kurt Beattie next January. “I like theater that’s about what’s happening right now, but you may not know it until the end of the show.”
Langs will be serving up a full plate. He’s going bolder and bigger with scripts mostly new to Seattle audiences, and adding two ACTLab co-productions to ACT’s customary six-show mainstage season. To boot, he’ll be directing four of the eight works himself. (The theater also will present its annual holiday chestnut, “A Christmas Carol.”)
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Operating on an annual budget of about $6 million, ACT has quietly been conducting a major fundraising campaign to retire an accumulated $3 million debt and to cover needed capital improvements and other expenses. So far it has raised $2 million toward a $5 million goal, according to the theater.
By the end of 2015, the theater estimates it will top the previous year’s attendance figure of more than 133,000.
The 2016 ACT roster:
“Buzzer” by Tracey Scott Wilson (Feb. 2-21, 2016). This coproduction with AJ Epstein Presents considers urban gentrification as an upwardly mobile young professional moves backs to his childhood neighborhood. Anita Montgomery directs.
“Assassins” (Feb. 27-May 8, 2016), Stephen Sondheim’s favorite (and darkest) Broadway musical about successful and would-be assassins of American presidents. Copresented by 5th Avenue Theatre, directed by Langs.
“Stupid F–king Bird” by Aaron Posner (April 8-May 8, 2016). A touted, freewheeling adaptation of “The Seagull,” Chekhov’s tale of love, art, family and ambition among Russians on a country estate. (Director to be announced.)
“The Mystery of Love & Sex” (May 27-June 26, 2016). This recent play by Bathsheba Doran (who has written for TV’s “Masters of Sex” and “Smash”) considers a tangle of relationships in two generations. Allison Narver directs.
“Daisy” (July 8-Aug. 7, 2016). Sean Devine’s world-premiere docudrama about advertising geniuses who helped LBJ beat Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential race with a chillingly effective ad. Langs directs.
“Bad Apples” (Sept. 6-25, 2016). Copresented with Sidecountry Theatre and California’s Circle X Theatre, this edgy rap-and-rock musical by Jim Leonard, Beth Thornley and Rob Cairns focuses on American military personnel at the notorious Abu Ghraib detention center in the U.S.-Iraq war. Langs, who staged it in L.A. earlier, will direct.
“The Royale” (Sept. 9–Oct. 9, 2016). In racially segregated 1905, a black boxer gets a shot at fighting a former heavyweight champ in this one-act ”thrill ride” by Marco Ramirez, based loosely on the saga of Jack Johnson. (Director to be announced.)
“Dangerous Liaisons” (Oct. 21–Nov 20, 2016). Christopher Hampton’s eloquent study of sexual politics among the 18th-century Parisian elite returns. Langs, who’ll direct, lauds its “strong roles for women.”
Subscriptions for 2016 and ACTPasses are on sale now, as are single tickets for “Assassins.” Other mainstage single tickets go on sale in February (206-292-7676 or acttheatre.org).