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Stage Presence

Kate Evans | May 19, 2017 | Story Galleries and Performance

Talking about his production company’s upcoming season, Robert Kelley, founding artistic director of TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, is noticeably giddy. And he has good reason to be: The 2017–18 season not only includes world and regional premieres, but, more importantly, it “overflows with music and celebrates the joy of the human spirit that dominates even in adversity,” he says. “We look at what’s going on in America and get a feel for what plays will be relevant and inspirational for Silicon Valley.” This means exploring issues such as immigration, class, disenfranchisement, identity, resilience and hope.

Several plays address the themes head-on, among them the season opener, The Four Immigrants: An American Musical Manga (July 12 to Aug. 6), which was incubated in TheatreWorks’ own New Works Initiative. It brings Min Kahng’s raucous ragtime score to life, following four immigrants from Japan to 1905 San Francisco. The production “manages to be a funny musical, comedy and drama with poignant human, political relevance,” says Kelley. “It offers this wonderful backdrop to see the American Dream through new eyes.” Another world premiere, The Prince of Egypt (Oct. 6 to Nov. 5), delivers similar levels of spectacle and emotion. Directed by Broadway’s Scott Schwartz, this bold and captivating telling of the story of Moses tackles complex issues in a fantastically entertaining way. Kelley promises that this will be “one of the greatest theatrical thrills of the season for us—for the whole Bay Area.”

Individual tickets for the 2017–18 season go on sale in May, with subscriptions available as well ($211 to $567). The lineup also includes the Bay Area debut of Nick Payne’s award-winning Constellations (Aug. 23 to Sept. 17), a smart and sexy love story between a beekeeper and a cosmologist; Around the World in 80 Days (Nov. 29 to Dec. 23), a family-friendly sensation that features larger-than-life characters (and even a few elephants); Hershey Felder’s Our Great Tchaikovsky (Jan. 11 to Feb. 5, 2018), a soaring musical tribute to one of the world’s greatest composers; Skeleton Crew (March 7 to April 1, 2018), focusing on the trials of the Great Recession with warmth, humor and heart; the musical romance The Bridges of Madison County (April 4 to 29, 2018), injecting Broadway credentials and a brilliant score into the roster; and Finks (June 6 to July 1, 2018), a comic drama based on actor Jack Gilford’s struggle against McCarthyism. During the holidays, don’t miss David Sedaris’ hilariously sardonic and subversive The Santaland Diaries (Dec. 5 to 23). All performances this season will take place at venues in Los Altos Hills, Mountain View or Palo Alto.

According to Kelley, for TheatreWorks, “one of our primary goals is to celebrate the diversity of our community. We want everyone to see themselves onstage; that’s how we learn more about ourselves.” At this intersection of music and drama, there is plenty to inspire, question, discover and celebrate. “What more,” adds Kelley, “can you ask for?”

Originally published in the May/June issue of Silicon Valley

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