“The essence of freedom…is something that is able to overcome its own boundaries.”
Frank Stella, abstract expressionist painter
Freedom is very much on our minds at Cape May Stage for this very special 2016 season. We will elect a new president in November and competing ideas of what freedom means in twenty-first century America will be at the heart of the debate. We will commemorate the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11, the four hundredth anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare and we just finished commemorating the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of our Civil War – Reconstruction began one hundred and fifty years ago and some of the same issues confront us as a nation.
Cape May Stage is poised to host our community’s discussion of all of the above issues. We’ll be offering “What You Will” – a collection of Shakespeare’s insults, favorite comedic passages, romantic passages, made-up words and even some songs to celebrate the greatest dramatist in the English language. Even if you don’t know his work, you’ll find this night entertaining and up-lifting. We’ll do a reading of “The Guys” with a real New York fireman to commemorate 9/11 and the heroic effort of our first responders.
Our main-stage season was chosen to provide the stimuli for questions even as we entertain you with comedies and stun you with our compelling dramas. “The Whipping Man” opens our season in a year when the “Black Lives Matter” movement brings new perspective to issues of race in our nation. That play explore the literal freedom of two slaves at the end of the Civil War who had the unusual experience of serving at the home of a Jewish family and have adopted the Jewish faith as their own. They are celebrating Passover – the Jewish holiday that tells of the Hebrews escaping slavery and their Egyptian masters. The parallels are stunning but that is not even the most shocking reveal in this powerful drama.
We move on to “Sex with Strangers” as we enter the summer months. Olivia asks “Is it porn?” and Ethan responds “No, it’s not porn”. Olivia says, “It sounds like porn”. That dialogue may be something like what you might be thinking when you read the title and I’m sure the author, Laura Eason, was having some fun when she wrote that dialogue. In fact, it is a play about artistic freedom and privacy at a time when technology has challenged all of us with questions of what is crossing the line. This hit comedy from last season is the most produced play in our country in 2016 and Cape May Stage is proud to bring it to our region.
“Barefoot in the Park” is the longest running comedy that Neil Simon ever wrote and the title refers to “buttoned- up” Paul being asked to take off his tie and dare to “run barefoot in Central Park”. Although the play was written in 1963, it resonates with a millennium generation that is often more conservative than their parents in some social values. The “Mad Men” design will be a delicious treat for the audience and Neil Simon is still one of the theatre’s great comedy writers.
As the leaves begin to fall and we hunger for more weighty fare, we present “Disgraced”, the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2013. With intelligence and humor, Ayad Akhtar explores Islamophobia and tribalism in this cautionary tale of an assimilated Muslim whose career and marriage are destroyed by a benign favor. Perhaps the most important play we will do all season, it is a “must-see” for all of us who live in a civilized society. Oscar Wilde said “Civilization is not by any means an easy thing to attain to. There are only two ways by which man can reach it. One is by being cultured, the other by being corrupt.”
In November, we present “Buyer and Cellar” that is simply hilarious and again explores the freedom to be who you are and make no apologies for it. That goes for the lady of the house as well as her newest hire. We have found that November’s cold and grey skies need a bit of levity as a balm.
“One Christmas Carol” re-tells Dickens iconic tale in a bold new way and this East Coast Premiere celebrates the freedom of letting go and experiencing the joy of the holidays. It is the perfect way to end our season and begin your holiday.
Live theatre is the only place where groups of strangers can sit together and become an audience that experiences the same thing in the same moment. There is something magical about that – it is many things to many people. Cape May Stage aspires to bring you all sorts of experiences that enrich your lives. As we develop and grow each season, we give thanks to the thousands of patrons who generously support us. We can share this work only because of the groups and individuals who embrace our theatre – and we are enormously grateful for that.
Roy B. Steinberg
Producing Artistic Director