A.R.T. Guide: Spring 2014-2015

Page 1

14 15


January – June

american repertory theater

Suzan-Lori Parks Heroes and Homecomings

The Civil War Stages of Conflict

Matthew Aucoin The New Face of Opera

give and receive income for Life Do both with a charitable gift annuity (cga) to benefit harvarD MeDical School.

you will receive: • Guaranteed fixed income for life, a portion of which may be tax-free


AGE 70: 6.0%

• Support for up to two beneficiaries • A charitable income tax deduction

it’S a win-win:

AGE 80: 7.7% Assets are backed by Harvard University, which maintains an AAA credit rating

Your gift advances our work together to alleviate human suffering caused by disease

Calculate your fixed income for life using our free online gift calculator at http://hms.harvard.edu/art

Or contact Mary Moran Perry or Carolyn Stone in confidence at 1-800-922-1782 or giftplanning@hms.harvard.edu

americanrepertorytheater.org 2014/2015 SEASON


A.R.T. BOARDS BOARD OF TRUSTEES Steve Johnson, Chair Amy Brakeman Laurie Burt Paul Buttenwieser Kevin Cole Costin RoAnn Costin Mike Dreese Zita Ezpeleta Michael Feinstein Provost Alan M. Garber Rebecca Grafstein Lori Gross Ann Gund Sarah Hancock Jonathan Hulbert Alan K. Jones Fumi Matsumoto Thomas B. McGrath Rebecca Milikowsky Ward Mooney Robert Murchison Andrew Ory Diane Paulus

Mike Sheehan Diana Sorensen BOARD OF ADVISORS Rachael Goldfarb, Co-Chair Ann Gund, Co-Chair Frances Shtull Adams Yuriko Jane Anton Robert Bowie, Jr. Philip Burling* Greg Carr Antonia Handler Chayes* Lizabeth Cohen Kathleen Connor Rohit Deshpande Susan Edgman-Levitan Jill Fopiano Erin Gilligan Candy Kosow Gold Barbara Wallace Grossman Peggy Hanratty

Horace H. Irvine II Emma Johnson Dean Huntington Lambert Ethan W. Lasser Travis McCready Karen Mueller Irv Plotkin Ellen Gordon Reeves Pat Romeo-Gilbert Linda U. Sanger Maggie Seelig Dina Selkoe John A. Shane Michael Shinagel Lisbeth Tarlow Sarasina Tuchen Stephen H. Zinner, M.D. *Emeriti


Professional, Affordable Theatre for every Generation.




An original adaptation by Wendy Lement and Steve Bogart, influenced by Japanese traditions of Kabuki, Noh, and Bunraku puppetry.

Part two of Suzan L. Zeder’s WareTrilogy, presented for the first time in its entirety in Boston Spring 2015 with Emerson Arts (Mother Hicks, February 2015) and Central Square Theatre (Edge of Peace, April 2015)

The beguiling myth of “happily-ever-after” is turned upside down in this singing and dancing extravaganza.

Jan. 30 – Feb. 22, 2015

March 13 – 22, 2015

April 17- May 24, 2015

617-879-2300 · 617-879-2147 · www.wheelockfamilytheatre.org

LOEB DRAMA CENTER 64 Brattle St., Cambridge | OBERON 2 Arrow St., Cambridge

Over the past three seasons, the A.R.T. has commemorated the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War by developing new work that grapples with the enduring legacy of this national conflict. This initiative, which also featured a series of roundtable discussions with artists and Harvard professors as well as the creation of new educational programs in our community, culminates this season with two world premiere productions here at the A.R.T. I am thrilled to welcome the extraordinary playwright Suzan-Lori Parks back to the A.R.T. for the first time since our collaboration on The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess. Her new trilogy, Father Comes Home From The Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3), a co-production with The Public Theater, is a stunning examination of the cost of freedom, inspired by the epic sweep of Homer’s Odyssey. Read on in this Guide for an interview with director Jo Bonney, and an article about how this play and production were developed. This spring, I will be directing the world premiere of a new opera by the talented young composer and Harvard class of 2012 graduate, Matt Aucoin. One of the most dynamic and exciting new voices in the music world, Matt is the Solti Conducting Apprentice at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, has served as Assistant Conductor at the Metropolitan Opera, and is the Composer-in-Residence at the Peabody Essex Museum. His opera, Crossing, is inspired by the journal Walt Whitman kept as a volunteer nurse during the Civil War. Read on in this Guide for more about the opera in Matt’s own words, and an excerpt from This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by author and Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust, in which Faust describes Whitman’s experience in Civil War hospitals. Be sure to flip this Guide over to read more about our other spring shows: Mandy Patinkin and Taylor Mac’s zany and poignant song cycle, The Last Two People on Earth: An Apocalyptic Vaudeville, as well as The Hypocrites' return to OBERON with Mikado, and two productions performed by our graduating students in the A.R.T. Institute for Advanced Theater Training. I look forward to seeing you at the theater!


National Civil War Project



Over the past three seasons, the American Repertory Theater has

commemorated the 150th anniversary of the Civil War by developing new work that reexamines this critical moment in our nation’s history. Through a series of roundtable discussions, readings, and world premiere productions, this initiative has explored not only the Civil War itself, but also the ways in which that conflict continues to resonate in our lives today. Since 2012, the A.R.T. has been a part of The National Civil War Project, a multi-year, multi-city collaboration among five performing arts organizations and four leading universities: A.R.T. and Harvard; Alliance Theatre and Emory College Center for Creativity & Arts at Emory University in Atlanta, GA; Arena Stage and The George Washington University in Washington, D.C.; Center Stage in Baltimore, MD; and The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland in College Park, MD. Inspired by choreographer Liz Lerman (who was in residence at Harvard in 2011 to develop her own Civil War dance project, Healing Wars), The National Civil War Project brought together a range of artistic and academic voices with the goal of commissioning new work that speaks to the themes of the Civil War and civil strife as it continues today. As the professional theater at Harvard University, the A.R.T. is in a unique position to explore the ways in which artistic innovation and scholarly research can inform each other. Guided by Harvard President Drew Faust’s idea that the arts should play a central role in the cognitive life of the university, the A.R.T. convened a series of Civil War roundtable discussions that brought scholars from Harvard and beyond into dialogue with directors, choreographers, writers, composers, and performers, with the goal of generating public dialogues, readings, and productions at the A.R.T., and new courses in the university curriculum. The first roundtable, a conversation co-hosted by the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, explored Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Subsequent roundtables focused on “Medicine, Weaponry, War Wounds, and The Soldier’s Body,” and “Documenting the Civil War through Photography, Letters, Memoir, and Painting,” a discussion cohosted by the Harvard Art Museums. The National Civil War Project is supported, in part, by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation


2014/2015 SEASON 617.547.8300 | americanrepertorytheater.org



Father Comes Home


americanrepertorytheater.org 2014/2015 SEASON

World Premiere Productions:

The Boston Abolitionists Project, an ensemble-devised piece about the trial of fugitive slave Anthony Burns, featuring the A.R.T. Institute Class of 2013. (May 2013, The Ex) Father Comes Home From The Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3), the first three parts of an epic new play by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan Lori Parks. (Jan. - Mar. 2015, Loeb Drama Center)


Crossing, an opera written and composed by Matthew Aucoin (Harvard '12), inspired by the journal Walt Whitman kept as a nurse during the Civil War. (May - June 2015, Citi Shubert Theatre)

New Courses at Harvard University: “History and Literature 90x: Staging the Civil War—From the Archive to the A.R.T.” This new seminar taught by Professor Timothy Patrick McCarthy will explore how contemporary playwrights and composers are using historical and literary stories to find creative ways to stage the American Civil War on the occasion of its sesquicentennial. (Spring 2015)

New Work Developed: War Dept., a musical by Ruth and Jim Bauer set in Ford’s Theater after the assassination of President Lincoln. War Dept. was selected to be part of the 2014 National Music Theater Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. Four Harriets, a play by Harvard University Professor Timothy Patrick McCarthy that chronicles the personal, political, and literary lives of four abolitionist women: Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harriet Wilson, Harriet Jacobs, and Harriet Tubman. (Reading, April 28 at 7:00PM, Loeb Drama Center)

“Dramatic Arts 105: Production Dramaturgy and A.R.T. Civil War Project” This seminar taught by A.R.T. Director of Artistic Programs/ Dramaturg Ryan McKittrick will give students opportunities to engage dramaturgically with work in The National Civil War Project. (Spring 2015)

Public Dialogues: “All the Way: The Civil Rights Act from 1964 to Today,” a conversation moderated by Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Director of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University, during the run of Robert Schenkkan’s All the Way, a play about LBJ and the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Co-hosted by the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research and the A.R.T. (Sept. 23, 2013) PHOTO: GRETJEN HELENE PHOTOGRAPHY


“All the Way?: The Unfinished Struggle for Civil Rights,” a conversation with playwright Robert Schenkkan, Harvard Law School Professor Lani Guinier, Tufts University Professor Peniel E. Joseph, and Harvard University Chief Diversity Officer Lisa Coleman. (Oct. 22, 2014)


“Fighting for Freedom: The Civil War and Its Legacies,” a conversation with Columbia University Professor Eric Foner and Harvard University Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (Feb. 8, 2015, following the 2:00PM matinee of Father Comes Home From The Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3))


"Crossing: A Lecture/Recital," a conversation with composer Matthew Aucoin. Presented by the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard. (Mar. 12 at 6:00PM, Paine Hall)

* These conversations are part of The A.R.T. of Human Rights, a

collaboration between the A.R.T. and the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, directed and hosted by Harvard University Professor Timothy Patrick McCarthy, and supported by a project grant from Mass Humanities. Upcoming discussions include: “Our Bondage, Our Freedom: Abolishing Modern-Day Slavery,” and “With Malice Toward None: Wounded Warriors and the Future of Peace.”

View the Public Dialogues archive online and look for the schedule of upcoming events at americanrepertorytheater.org/civilwarproject

LOEB DRAMA CENTER 64 Brattle St., Cambridge | OBERON 2 Arrow St., Cambridge

New Work Devised and Produced by the A.R.T. Community Connections Program:

The Proclamation Project, a collaborative creative writing/ performance intensive for local high school students, who draw inspiration from the Civil War and other themes and events from American history. The inaugural July 2013 workshop was simultaneously conducted with the Alliance Theatre's Collision Project, a program for Atlanta-area teens. Each week, via Skype, both groups shared their process and exchanged ideas on the legacy of the Civil War in America. Proclamation 2 (Nov. 2014) was inspired by themes of rebellion, protest culture, and radicalism. The group of students used The Radical Reader as their source text and worked with A.R.T. artists and Harvard University Professor Timothy Patrick McCarthy to devise a new piece. Proclamation 2 premiered at OBERON and focused on an Occupy Wall Street-style protest that asked the question, "Will you join up or will you turn away?"


Futurity: A Musical by The Lisps, an indie-rock, sci-fi musical about a Union soldier who collaborates with the mathematician Ada Lovelace to end war. (Mar. - Apr. 2012, OBERON)


STAGING THE CIVIL WAR A note from choreographer Liz Lerman I have always had an active imagination, by which I mean images, objects, pictures, and—because of my dance training— rhythms, energies, and spatial projections fly through my mind at all times. For me, this brain movie is like a second universe, accompanying me everywhere and available to me if I remember to pay attention and look at what is there. So when I heard that there was a consortium of museums in Washington, D.C. preparing to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, the fact that I had an immediate picture in my mind of a series of performative events was not a surprise. What was curious to me is that when I thought about it more, and analyzed the pictures, I realized that I was also imagining new ideas about the Civil War. It seems I had already assessed and internalized the idea that there was new knowledge about the war years because a whole new generation of scholars was asking the questions. Many of these academics were coming at the War from the new perspectives of their own life experiences as well as using current technologies to access different data. More women, more people of color, more first-generation Americans asking questions of the war years. It was bound to be exciting. I was very interested in finding out how other artists hear, see, and listen to these stories, and how they would translate them to the stage. So it was my hope that through The National Civil War Project the various theaters and universities would assemble and hear from scholars all kinds of data, and that the commissioned artists would also be able to talk to each other about how we heard and felt and saw the emergence of these ideas. Healing Wars, the piece I made for the Project, was initially an investigation of what happened to women in the war. As my research developed, I began to pursue the cross-dressing soldiers,

the nurses and nuns, and the ways in which female protagonists wrote about their experiences. A trip to The National Civil War Medicine Museum in Frederick, Maryland moved me to examine the world of amputations, which was a prominent part of the Civil War and a grim reminder of the nature of long-lasting wounds as our own men and women returned from Iraq with fewer limbs. I was fortunate to get to spend the fall of 2011 at Harvard as Artist in Residence. While there, I spent a bit of time with President Faust. We talked about her own book, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War, including some specific images that I was beginning to consider as background for Healing Wars. But more importantly, the conversations led me to perceive an overall tone and emotion which eventually underscored all the stories I put on stage for Healing Wars. In addition, I participated in several of the roundtables that the A.R.T. organized for The National Civil War Project. All were quite moving as we listened to scholars and artists alike describe their research, their approaches, and their ways of trying to comprehend and understand the vast subject of the War and its consequences. Here is one moment from those conversations that might shed some light on how the bringing together of scholars and artists works. Robin Kelsey, the Shirley Carter Burden Professor of Photography at Harvard, gave a wonderful lecture on one of Alexander Gardner’s famous photographs from the era, this one showing recently emancipated men getting ready to bury fallen soldiers whose bodies had decayed on the battlefield. The ambiguities inherent in the photograph, along with the long and twisted interpretations about race post-Civil War, led to a character in Healing Wars who stepped directly out of this image.


National Civil War Project Father Comes Home Crossing Heroin/e 2014/2015 SEASON 617.547.8300 | americanrepertorytheater.org



americanrepertorytheater.org 2014/2015 SEASON

I did additional research in order to discover the actual truth of the image, and the circumstances of the men in the photograph. Since I was making a piece of dance theater, I was able to synthesize the various threads of those mysteries into a character that, at least to me, represents and reinterprets the extraordinary meaning of a freedman burying the dead of the Civil War as both a job and as a sacred act. I believe the Civil War is in our bones. I know that for every decision I made in Healing Wars there were countless roads I might have taken filled with grief, valor, cynicism, and hope. The compelling and torturous reasons for the War’s occurrence, the amazing and unique writing of its inhabitants, the spiritual nature of its combatants, and the extreme carnage surrounding all the stories have somehow made their way into our own narratives. It is a backdrop to so much of our contemporary life, in part because we are still fighting it. It gives artists and our communities of family, audience, and citizens much to ponder. As audiences encounter the work of the many artists commissioned as part of The National Civil War Project, they will be able to consider some of these ideas: that we have entered a period of endless war, that the themes of reconciliation and emancipation, of debts never paid and forgiveness, of trauma taken on by many who must then re-enter the so-called normal world are stories from our past, but also part of our lived experience today.


Healing Wars premiered at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. in June 2014 and has since been touring to Peak Performances at Montclair State University, University of Iowa, Virginia Tech, and La Jolla Playhouse.

"The compelling and torturous reasons for the War’s occurrence, the amazing and unique writing of its inhabitants, the spiritual nature of its combatants, and the extreme carnage surrounding all the stories have somehow made their way into our own narratives. It is a backdrop to so much of our contemporary life, in part because we are still fighting it."

LOEB DRAMA CENTER 64 Brattle St., Cambridge | OBERON 2 Arrow St., Cambridge

Liz Lerman is a choreographer, performer, writer, educator, and speaker. The inspiring force behind The National Civil War Project, she is the recipient of numerous honors, including a 2002 MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship.


National Civil War Project Father Comes Home Crossing Heroin/e 2014/2015 SEASON 617.547.8300 | americanrepertorytheater.org


FATHER COMES HOME FROM THE WARS: (PARTS 1, 2 & 3) January 23—March 1, 2015 | Loeb Drama Center By Suzan-Lori Parks | Directed by Jo Bonney Set during the Civil War, this explosively powerful new drama by Pulitzer Prize-winner Suzan-Lori Parks follows a slave, Hero, from West Texas to the Confederate battlefield. Inspired in part by the stories and scope of Greek tragedy, this trilogy examines the mess of war and the cost of freedom. This play is a co-production with The Public Theater. This work is supported, in part, by The Robert Brustein Endowment for New Work, The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust, and The National Endowment for the Arts.


An Interview with Director Jo Bonney By Brenna Nicely

Jo Bonney is the director of Suzan-Lori Parks’s new trilogy, Father Comes Home From The Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3). Originally from Australia, Bonney is known for tackling plays that deal with sharp social issues and challenging takes on contemporary life. After almost thirty years of working in New York City, she has garnered particular renown for directing premieres of new works by playwrights including Neil LaBute, Eve Ensler, Naomi Wallace, Eric Bogosian, Diana Son, Lynn Nottage, and David Rabe.

and although the script was already quite complete when we started rehearsal, as I talked over a scene and staged it with the actors, if she saw that a moment wasn’t quite landing after some serious work, she’d offer, “I think I can help there if I just add this beat or take away that.” You’re discovering the rhythm and momentum of the language and the story for the first time and it’s exciting. She can be wonderfully ruthless with her writing. BN: As a director, what draws you to Suzan-Lori Parks’s writing?

BRENNA NICELY: You’re known for directing world premieres. What appeals to you about developing a new play? JO BONNEY: Collaborating with the playwright is one of the great joys of working on a new play, which you obviously don’t have if you’re directing a production of Chekhov, Shakespeare, or Ibsen’s work. I’ve been lucky to work with playwrights like SuzanLori who are confident enough in their writing voice that they don’t feel threatened by my questions. As the director, sometimes your first reactions and questions can be useful. You’re one of the first to read the script and experience the story that they’ve lived with for a long time. Essentially, you’re the play’s first audience, and the process of putting the play on its feet is one of great discovery. One of the artistically satisfying aspects of working on a new play is that the collective spirit of everyone—director, actors, and designers—in a first production becomes part of the DNA of the play. For instance, Suzan-Lori was very present in the process,

JB: Really, what doesn’t? Suzan-Lori’s writing is very sophisticated and often lyrical while at the same time it has a great contemporary quality—funky and colloquial. That combination is unusual. It’s a use of language that you don’t often hear on stage and certainly not in film or TV. When I first read Father Comes Home, I was drawn to the epic scale of the three parts and the weight of the subject matter and then disarmed by the humor and crazy juxtapositions. I loved that the humor gave permission to the audience to laugh and relate to the characters as modern individuals. BN: Why do you think those juxtapositions are so important? JB: We are all extremely aware today that we are never unshackled from history. The events in Ferguson erupted as we were in rehearsal and then Eric Garner’s death and the

americanrepertorytheater.org 2014/2015 SEASON

subsequent acquittal and protests occurred while we were in performance at The Public Theater in New York. There is a straight line from the historical events taking place in Father Comes Home to the events in America in 2014. The play is a contemporary tale built on historical foundations or it’s a historical tale told in a contemporary vernacular—either way, a powerful combination. BN: Could you talk about that fusion of contemporary and historical in relation to the costume and set design? JB: My personal take after first reading the script was that the combination of period and contemporary was the way to go on stage, that the physical world of the play should mirror SuzanLori’s language and hybrid storytelling. If you take apart the costume items that each actor is wearing, there are some pieces that are true to the Civil War period, and then there are other items like sneakers, a fanny pack, or a rock 'n' roll t-shirt that are circa 2014. The same is true of the set; there’s the iconic slave shack, but the larger elements are very modern and fabricated from modern materials. I’ve worked with my costume designer, Emilio Sosa, and my set designer, Neil Patel, for many years. They understood immediately and ran with the idea. BN: You could even say the plays deal with three different periods of time because there are references to Ancient Greek plays and epics.

JB: Well, hopefully it all becomes one; it’s seamless. Greek myths and legends are a part of our culture. They are the stories that we’ve grown up with and they are still relevant today. Some of the characters in the play have epic names like Hero or Homer, but they could be contemporaries standing on the street corner outside. One of the themes running through the plays is the question of whether we are doomed to always repeat our history, our “old stories.” Can we ever learn from history? BN: The first thing that audiences hear when they come to this show is Steve Bargonetti singing and playing the guitar. Could you talk about the role of music in the production? JB: Suzan-Lori plays the guitar, she sings, she composed the music and wrote the lyrics. She actually performed the songs on stage in our first workshop in The Public Theater Lab several years ago. Now we have Steve, who is fantastic, and he has become literally another voice in the production, another character. His job is to introduce the evening and segue us from part to part. He also underscores moments in the play and often anticipates a character’s arrival. Each of the characters has their own theme. BN: As someone who did not grow up in the United States, how did you approach directing a play about an African-American slave, set in nineteenth-century America?


BN: There are certain lines and metaphors in the plays that stick with you. For example, the Confederate Colonel says, “I am grateful every day that God made me white.” Why is this line so haunting? JB: Perhaps because you know that no matter how much it is denied, this has been a cornerstone in the history of America. The line has an uncomfortable truth to it. In New York, there were audience members of color who thanked Suzan-Lori for having a white character actually say those words out loud. Without even asking for them, there are those who move through each day with privileges that others are denied.


Brenna Nicely is a second-year dramaturgy student at the A.R.T./Moscow Art Theater School Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University.

LOEB DRAMA CENTER 64 Brattle St., Cambridge | OBERON 2 Arrow St., Cambridge

JB: It doesn’t really matter where you grew up; globally we have all participated in a history of racism. It’s a shared truth. Yes, slavery is about color, but it’s also about economics. One of the biggest themes of the play is the idea of the worth of a man: Is a person of color worth less than a white man? Is a man worth more than a woman? Is an educated individual worth more than an uneducated individual? Is someone who was born into the upper classes worth more than someone born into poverty? The worth of a man—and I use the term “man” loosely—is a subject that informs our society every day. Another theme is the question of freedom. What does freedom promise? Will it feed, clothe, provide security and dignity? Should it be given or taken? These are questions that reverberate around the world today. They can be very large, abstract terms that in reality affect every small human being.


National Civil War Project Father Comes Home Crossing Heroin/e


SHE KNOWS WHEN SHE’S RIGHT Suzan-Lori Parks on Father Comes Home


Suzan-Lori Parks shot up in bed at 3 a.m., her playwriting imagination on fire. She suddenly saw a different ending for her new stage epic, Father Comes Home From The Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3), which was then a few weeks into rehearsals at The Public Theater. The change would be radical—instead of one slave murdering another during the Civil War, both would go free—and reshape the remaining Parts 4 to 9. It was the sort of epiphany, coming after seven years of writing the play cycle, that could be chalked up to impulsive thinking or jitters or both, as one confidant initially thought. But here’s the thing about Ms. Parks: When she thinks she’s right, she’s certain of it. No doubts, no fretting about self-sabotage. While some have knocked her work as selfindulgent or annoying at times, she has an exceptionally vivid sense of herself as a writer who exists on another plane from dramaturgical nit-pickers. “With this play, I was like Ben Franklin running around in the storm with my kite, jar and key, waiting for the lightning to strike and course through me,” said Ms. Parks, who has three Sanskrit tattoos on her left forearm that translate roughly as “go with the flow.” In the end, her certitude paid off with critical acclaim for Father Comes Home, which Charles Isherwood of The New York

Times called “the finest work yet” by Ms. Parks, who won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 2002 for Topdog/Underdog. … The high praise virtually guarantees that the remaining Parts 4 to 9 will be produced. Not that Ms. Parks is pushing herself to finish them quickly. While she has written rough drafts of Parts 4 to 9, which follow descendants of the Civil War characters as the plot unfolds through the 20th century to present day with a nod to the Iraq war, Ms. Parks said she expects those scripts to change considerably. She also described herself as a “meanderer,” noting that she finished other work, like adapting the book for the Broadway musical The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, while writing Father Comes Home. But most of all, she doesn’t put pressure on herself to follow one hit with a rushed attempt at another, saying she has developed a healthy relationship with success. In her sliver of an office at the Public, she pointed above her desk to a framed evaluation of her by James Baldwin, her creative writing professor at Mount Holyoke College in 1983, when Ms. Parks was 20. “An utterly astounding and beautiful creature who may become one of the most valuable artists of our time,” he wrote. Eighteen years after that, with two Obie playwriting awards to her credit, Ms. Parks won a MacArthur fellowship, and the next year the Pulitzer. “When Mr. Baldwin wrote that letter, I could’ve said, ‘Oh,


2014/2015 SEASON 617.547.8300 | americanrepertorytheater.org

By Patrick Healy

americanrepertorytheater.org 2014/2015 SEASON

LOEB DRAMA CENTER 64 Brattle St., Cambridge | OBERON 2 Arrow St., Cambridge



National Civil War Project Father Comes Home Crossing Heroin/e 2014/2015 SEASON 617.547.8300 | americanrepertorytheater.org


Lordy, look at me!’ And Topdog/Underdog—‘oh, Lordy!’ And being the first black woman of African descent to win the Pulitzer in drama,—‘oh, Lordy!’ ” said Ms. Parks, whose voice turned into a melodramatic squeal each time she exclaimed. (With her dramatic brown eyes that widen when excited and her thick dreadlocks, her personal style tends toward the epic as well.) “I’ve never let any of it go to my head,” said Ms. Parks, who is now 51. “I’m not a pat-myself-on-the-back kind of person. I look at this play and see a miracle. And then I just keep on keepin’ on.” If she hasn’t enjoyed an equivalent success to Topdog, she also professes not to care whether the latest reviews lead to a new one. Father Comes Home is too personal for her simply to be about ego, she said. The play draws in part on memories of her own father, who was a career Army officer, often going off to war (including two tours in Vietnam) and training exercises before returning home to Suzan-Lori (who changed her name from Susan-Lori after it was misspelled on a flier early in her career). And she is also drawing on new experiences as a mother to her toddler, Durham. (She is recently divorced, from the blues musician Paul Oscher.) “When I was a child, what I watched over and over was my dad coming back, and seeing what he was like and what we were like together,” Ms. Parks said. “And now that I’m a parent, I see how I’ve become much more resilient, and my SUZAN-LORI PARKS grit level—whoosh! That’s all coming into these plays now.” Jo Bonney, the director of Father Comes Home, said that she found it “incredibly exciting” that Ms. Parks was working on such an ambitious scale, especially at a time when many playwrights and theaters are concentrating on more affordable smallcast, 90-minute plays. (The first three parts of Father Comes Home are each about an hour long and feature multiple characters.) Yet Ms. Parks has also been “ruthless” with cutting and reshaping her own work, Ms. Bonney said. She noted a major change that Ms. Parks made to Part 2: It was originally set in a camp of Confederate soldiers, but she cut them in favor of focusing on another white character, the Colonel. Now, the Colonel emerges as a complex, memorable figure, with a powerful speech about his affection for his slave, Hero, the play’s main character. Hero himself delivers a provocative monologue about whether he is worth more as the slave of a prosperous white man than he would be as a freed black man on the road facing off with “patrollers." ... As it happens, Parts 1 and 2 originally didn’t exist. Drawing on the long journey and violent homecoming of The Odyssey as inspiration, Ms. Parks initially began the nine-part cycle with

Hero returning from the Civil War to find his wife, Penny, in love with a new suitor, Homer. There is also a character called Odyssey Dog, played by an actor dressed in a dog costume, who is a messenger of sorts. Ms. Parks said she related to him most, because of his excitement in telling a story and her own love for dogs. A 2009 developmental production at The Public drew praise—Ms. Parks also had rough versions of Parts 8 and 9 then as well—but she felt unsettled. “This is true for young and old writers alike: You have to listen in, listen in, listen in to your gut,” she said, pointing to her midsection. “The spirit is speaking through you. You have to say, ‘Talk to me.’” At which point Ms. Parks dropped her volume to a whisper, as if speaking in another voice, as she described details that became key plot points. “Find out where Hero got those coats he wears,” she said, barely audible. “And what was it like on the day he went off to war. Who is he really? He’s not just some guy who comes home and spoils the romance between Penny and Homer. Dare to see him as a human being.” Parts 1 and 2, set in the years before Hero’s return home in Part 3, then came into being. The original ending of these first three parts, as they were being rehearsed this fall, was driven by trauma and retribution: Hero, back from brutal battle alongside the Colonel, kills Homer. But this was no longer right, Ms. Parks felt after waking from that restless sleep. Hero, Homer, and Penny had sacrificed so much, and Hero himself had been given freedom, so Part 3 was crying out (in Ms. Parks’s subconscious, she said) to be about freedom for all three main characters. That day she hurried into rehearsal at The Public and whispered the idea to her director. “Try it,” Ms. Bonney said. Ms. Parks then banged out the rewrites and sent a text to the person she has trusted the most with her writing in recent years, The Public’s artistic director, Oskar Eustis. She raced to Mr. Eustis’s office, catching her breath as he read the new pages. Mr. Eustis, recalling the moment, said he kept his initial reaction to himself: He was worried that Ms. Parks was undercutting the power of Parts 1 to 3 by backing away from the original tragic ending and opting for optimism instead. “Then she read it all aloud, and I felt, in a very visceral way, that this wasn’t backing away from anything, but rather leaning into the future,” Mr. Eustis said. “In the time since she wrote it, Suzan-Lori has become a mother, and now I see she is leaning into hope. I felt this was a deep artistic impulse.” … Questions about the future plays were batted away with a laugh, an offer of cookies, and a classic Parks metaphor: blunt and unexpected, but one that made its point. “When you’re pregnant with a baby, when it’s 5 months old, are you going to pull it out and take a look at it?” she asked. “No. It will come in time.” From The New York Times, November 30, 2014 © 2014 The New York Times. All rights reserved. Used by permission and protected by the Copyright Laws of the United States. The printing, copying, redistribution, or retransmission of this Content without express written permission is prohibited.

americanrepertorytheater.org 2014/2015 SEASON

LOEB DRAMA CENTER 64 Brattle St., Cambridge | OBERON 2 Arrow St., Cambridge



National Civil War Project Father Comes Home Crossing Heroin/e


May 29—June 6, 2015 | Citi Schubert Theatre Music & libretto by Matthew Aucoin | Directed by Diane Paulus With the chamber orchestra A Far Cry Inspired by the diary Walt Whitman kept as a nurse during the Civil War, this world premiere opera by the extraordinary young composer Matthew Aucoin explores how the individual experiences of soldiers are remembered and told. As Whitman listens to wounded veterans share

2014/2015 SEASON 617.547.8300 | americanrepertorytheater.org

their memories and messages, he forges a bond with a soldier who forces him to examine his


own role as writer and poet. This new opera, featuring the Boston-based orchestra A Far Cry, an ensemble at the forefront of a dynamic new generation in classical music, is produced in association with Music Theatre Group.

OPERA’S MANIFOLD OBJECTS: Crossing Genres with Composer Matthew Aucoin By Brenna Nicely

Matthew Aucoin feels music through his whole body. When he reaches an impasse while composing Crossing, a new opera based on Walt Whitman’s Civil War diaries, he stands up and conducts his way to the answer, letting his body lead the way. Aucoin’s amiable character and genial sense of camaraderie at first mask the pluck and precision of his working style. He wields his conductor’s baton and his gentle smile with equal confidence. He swiftly conducts a rehearsal on bouncing knees, never neglecting the details. He diagnoses the tiny kink in a colossally rich chord with a surprising exactitude and obligingly shepherds his musicians to the solution.

Music was one of Aucoin’s first languages; he began playing the piano and reading music almost as soon as he could read words. While he remains loyal to his first loves—Verdi, Beethoven, and Stravinsky among them—Aucoin has also built up more diverse musical tastes. As a teenager who felt like classical music was too constrained, he discovered a love for jazz and indie rock. As teenagers, Aucoin and his friends formed the indie band Elephantom, which he performed with through high school and college. He reveled in the freedom of creating music with his peers outside of “the other world, where everyone tells you what to do.” Aucoin later fused all of his musical interests

americanrepertorytheater.org 2014/2015 SEASON



choices. He mixes inspirations of the past with his own intuition, intellect, and work ethic to inform his craft. Walt Whitman was a physically-minded poet who wanted to bring poetry to the working man. Aucoin’s goals echo Whitman’s as he hopes to shed the pretension of the classical music world and make it more accessible to a wider audience. Aucoin strives for a musical world where the audience can “access the deliciousness of the music without feeling like it was something that was reserved for a particular social class or a particular concert environment.” As Whitman searched for an American poetic idiom that could appeal to the elite as well as the working man, Aucoin writes his librettos in English and hopes that classical music can be something other than an elitist foreign import: “Italian opera is not a fancy thing for the wealthy. If you import a cheese from a village in Italy, you’re probably a rich person in America who wants to buy that cheese. But if you’re from that village, the cheese is nothing fancy—it’s just what’s for dinner, a natural product of the soil.” Aucoin’s pursuit of a more accessible classical music scene is both serious and whimsical: countless hours of work and revisions met with a waggish hand gesture and a cheese metaphor. Crossing is not Aucoin’s first opera, and Whitman is not the first American poet he has taken as a muse. As an undergraduate at Harvard, Aucoin wrote Hart Crane, an opera about the legendary American modernist known for his intricate style and grand attempts to express the entirety of the American experience. These men were both great poets and controversial risk-takers, but Aucoin points out that opera needs more: “The characters are larger than life as soon as they start singing, so the big question for what makes a good opera subject is, can it survive being blown up to that scale, and is it also interesting on a psychological level? Is it both big and intimate?” For Aucoin, opera is a visceral fusion of music, poetry, and theater: “The music has to be something that crackles in relation to the action. It has to be the action.” The Civil War’s daily hemorrhaging of sickness, illness, and spiritual suffering was both a devastating and defining moment in American history and in Whitman’s personal life—a time both big and intimate. Whitman found his calling as a volunteer caretaker and harbinger of hope in Washington’s hospitals, where the sickest of the Union’s soldiers bled away in a limbo between life and death, wondering if they would ever be able to return to the nation they fought to defend. In Crossing, Aucoin captures the fractured rhythms of a time when Whitman, searching for human connection and longing to become America’s literary savior, found his cosmic calling in intimacy. He wrote letters home for soldiers, absorbed their stories like a sponge, and strove to bring them justice in his writing. Aucoin takes up the gauntlet of Whitman’s brotherhood spirit and translates it into his own musical language in Crossing. From powerful orchestral swells to gentle and poignant vocal strains, Aucoin traps his poet and awe-inspiring chorus of soldiers in a singular universe of intimacy and grandeur, longing and hope. Brenna Nicely is a second-year dramaturgy student in the A.R.T./Moscow Art Theater School Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University.

LOEB DRAMA CENTER 64 Brattle St., Cambridge | OBERON 2 Arrow St., Cambridge

to create a broad tonal vocabulary that he developed as an undergraduate at Harvard. In college, Aucoin excelled in his study of poetry and developed his appetite for different musical styles in an environment of what he calls “do-it-yourself music.” He could perform, create, and conduct classical works in ensembles with other passionate students. Aucoin emerged with an unapologetically eclectic taste. “I "Aucoin strives want the freedom and spontaneity of jazz, I want the precision of classical notation, for a musical and I want the ecstasy of indie rock,” world where he reflects. “The climax of an Animal the audience Collective song is still for me the pinnacle can 'access the of musical ecstasy, identical to the climax deliciousness in a Verdi aria.” Aucoin trusts his diversified palate for of the music music and poetry, and it has paid off. His without feeling credentials at age twenty-four rival those like it was of Leonard Bernstein at the same age. something that Aucoin already has dozens of composing, conducting, and performing credits to was reserved his name. After the upcoming world for a particular premiere of Crossing directed by Diane social class or Paulus in May, Aucoin has forthcoming a particular works commissioned by the Metropolitan concert Opera and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. He is the Conducting Apprentice at the environment.'" Chicago Symphony Orchestra, an Assistant Conductor at the Metropolitan Opera, and the Composer-in-Residence at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. Already a respected professional in his field, Aucoin hopes to take advantage of a musical world growing with new possibilities and challenges. He describes the music business today as a supermarket. “We have more options than ever, but we risk superficially relying on the cheap, premade goods,” he explains. “It’s as hard as ever to write good music, but we now have more choices to make.” As the musical universe expands with each era and style, Aucoin avoids the temptation to make only easy


National Civil War Project Father Comes Home Crossing Heroin/e 2014/2015 SEASON 617.547.8300 | americanrepertorytheater.org


ON CROSSING By Matthew Aucoin

The act of setting a word to music is an act of “crossing” from one medium to another: the word’s bare form, dipped in the bath of music, becomes a new entity, neither language nor music but an independent substance with new properties and powers. Language, when it reaches us through music, no longer seems an abstract, bodiless means of signification, as it so often seems in our daily use or misuse of it: rather, it becomes a sensual presence, a graspable form. A word set to music is not, of course, pure sense data, like the sound of traffic, since—even through music’s radiance—we can still discern that it “stands for” something outside itself. But it is precisely this doubleness—this sense that an abstraction has been made whole again; that a mere “signifier” has been given new bodily form; that the gap opened by human consciousness has somehow, by human means, been healed—it is this unique capacity to reconcile and unite the senses that draws me to opera. It drew Walt Whitman to opera, too. “But for the opera…I could never have written Leaves of Grass,” he reminisced late in life. It’s perhaps surprising that the quintessential "Whitman American poet, the writer whose signature bard-call is a “barbaric considered yawp” rather than a refined warble, opera the spent his formative years—before pinnacle setting off to cross a wild, apparently of human “formless” poetic frontier—soaking in the bel canto operas of Donizetti, Bellini, expression, Rossini, and the young Verdi. I happen to something share Whitman’s opinion that the essence of 'beyond' the operatic singing has nothing to do with the stuffy salons and powers of social one-upmanship of the wealthy Americans who imported language it to New York in the nineteenth century: opera is a primal union of animal longing, as expressed in sound, and human meaning, alone." as expressed in language. Indeed, Whitman considered opera the pinnacle of human expression, something “beyond” the powers of language alone. But in his best poems, Whitman operates like an opera composer: he carries the English language, whose laws we thought we knew, across the border into a new musical landscape, where it is suddenly capable of formerly undreamed-of flights and cascades. Crossing is the title of my new opera, premiering this season at the A.R.T. It was inspired by Whitman’s years working as a volunteer nurse during the Civil War; though the primary narrative is fictional, inspired by just a few lines in Whitman’s diary, I sought to portray Whitman as himself—not as the persona we know from Leaves of Grass, but as the man whose powers and insecurities prompted him to create that persona. Gestures of “crossing”—that is, attempts at transcendence, escape, disguise, transformation—pervade the piece. Whitman has crossed into a world that is not his own, a world of guns and honor, black and white, North and South, a world without room for poetry; he has done so in an effort to step out of himself, out of his own life.

americanrepertorytheater.org 2014/2015 SEASON

FROM "THE WOUND-DRESSER" BY WALT WHITMAN ...Bearing the bandages, water and sponge, Straight and swift to my wounded I go, Where they lie on the ground after the battle brought in, Where their priceless blood reddens the grass the ground, Or to the rows of the hospital tent, or under the roof’d hospital, To the long rows of cots, up and down each side I return, To each and all one after another I draw near—not one do I miss, An attendant follows holding a tray—he carries a refuse pail, Soon to be fill’d with clotted rags and blood, emptied, and fill’d again. I onward go, I stop, With hinged knees and steady hand to dress wounds, I am firm with each—the pangs are sharp yet unavoidable, One turns to me his appealing eyes—poor boy! I never knew you, Yet I think I could not refuse this moment to die for you, if that would save you. On, on I go, (open, doors of time! open, hospital doors!) … Thus in silence in dreams' projections, Returning, resuming, I thread my way through the hospitals, The hurt and wounded I pacify with soothing hand, I sit by the restless all the dark night, some are so young, Some suffer so much, I recall the experience sweet and sad, (Many a soldier’s loving arms about this neck have cross’d and rested, Many a soldier’s kiss dwells on these bearded lips.) ---------------------------


Matthew Aucoin is the composer and librettist of Crossing.

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done, The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won, The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting, While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring; But O heart! heart! heart! O the bleeding drops of red, Where on the deck my Captain lies, Fallen cold and dead.



O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells; Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills, For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding, For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning; Here Captain! dear father! This arm beneath your head! It is some dream that on the deck, You’ve fallen cold and dead. My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still, My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will, The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done, From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won; Exult O shores, and ring O bells! But I with mournful tread, Walk the deck my Captain lies, Fallen cold and dead.

LOEB DRAMA CENTER 64 Brattle St., Cambridge | OBERON 2 Arrow St., Cambridge

Near the end of the war, a young Confederate soldier, John Wormley, unwittingly crosses into Union lands, and suddenly has to pretend to be an entirely different person in order for his wound to be treated. Whitman wants to offer the soldiers a kind of visionary escapism—comfort, beauty, entertainment, anything to take their minds off their current situation—but he quickly learns the limits of his own powers; the question of when and how every character in the opera will “cross” into the next life hangs over the action. And when Whitman falls in love with John, and risks crossing the line of his self-proclaimed sacred duty as “everyman” and healer, he is forced to confront the very insecurities he had come to the hospital to avoid. This gesture of stepping out of oneself in order to find oneself is fundamental to this opera, equally present at the micro- and macroscopic levels. It’s there in the basic action of singing a word, which dissociates it from its familiar sound and meaning in order to render its underlying sense. And it’s there in Whitman’s long arc, from the moment he bravely crosses out of his old life to the moment when—well, I’ll let you see the piece to find out.


National Civil War Project

NAMING: “The Significant Word UNKNOWN” By Drew Gilpin Faust

Men thrown by the hundreds into burial trenches; soldiers stripped of every identifying object before being abandoned on the field; bloated corpses hurried into hastily dug graves; nameless victims of dysentery or typhoid interred beside military hospitals; men blown to pieces by artillery shells; bodies hidden by woods or ravines, left to the depredations of hogs or wolves or time: the disposition of the Civil War dead made an accurate accounting of the fallen impossible. In the absence of arrangements for interring and recording overwhelming numbers, hundreds of thousands of men—more than 40 percent of deceased Yankees and a far greater proportion of Confederates— perished without names, identified only, as Walt Whitman put it, “by the significant word UNKNOWN.” To a twenty-first-century American, this seems unimaginable. The United States expends more than $100 million each year in the effort to find and identify the approximately 88,000 individuals still missing from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. The obligation of the state to account for and return—either dead or alive—every soldier in its service is unquestioned. But these assumptions are of quite recent origin. There have been many revolutions in warfare in the last century and a half. Although perhaps less dramatic than transformations of military technology and organization, changing attitudes toward the dead and missing have profoundly altered the practices and experience of war—for soldiers and civilians alike. Only with the Korean War did the United States establish a policy of identifying and repatriating the remains of every dead soldier. Only with World War I did soldiers begin to wear official badges of identity—what came to be known as dog tags. Only with the Civil War did the United States create its system of national cemeteries and officially involve itself with honoring the military dead. It was the Civil War, as Walt Whitman observed, that made the designation “UNKNOWN” become “significant.” … Central to the changes that have occurred since the 1860s is the acknowledgment of the importance of information: of knowing whether a soldier is dead or alive, of being able to

furnish news or provide the bereaved with the consoling certainty represented by an actual body. ... … Walt Whitman may have been the most famous of those who wrote from hospitals to notify kin of soldiers’ deaths. In 1862 the poet traveled to Virginia in search of his brother George, reported wounded after the Battle of Fredericksburg. George’s injuries proved superficial, but Whitman was deeply affected by his glimpse of war. Like many other Americans first encountering the aftermath of battle, Whitman was struck most forcefully by the sight in front of a Union field hospital of a “heap” of amputated “feet, legs, arms, hands, &c.,” pieces of humans who like the nation itself had been dismembered as a result of reasoned and would-be benevolent human intent. War’s ironies and man’s destructiveness both lay represented in that bloody pile. Whitman felt that any “cares and difficulties” he might have known seemed “trifling” in the face of such horrors: “Nothing we call trouble seems worth talking about.” The war and its suffering soldiers became his preoccupation. “Who are you…Who are you…?” he asked the dead, and concluded these soldiers represented “the majesty and reality of the American common people.” In these men lay the true meaning of the war. Whitman served, as literary critic M. Wynn Thomas has written, as “a surrogate mourner of the dead—one who took it on himself to do what the relatives could not do: to remember the dead man in the very presence of the corpse.” Whitman became a tireless hospital visitor, spending seven or eight hours each day ministering to patients, chiefly in Washington, D.C., where almost fifty thousand men lay sick and wounded. His efforts were less medical than consolatory; he provided rice puddings, small amounts of spending money, stamped envelopes and stationery, peaches, apples, oranges, horseradish, undershirts, socks, soap, towels, oysters, jellies, horehound candy—and love, comfort, and “cheer.” And he himself wrote hundreds of letters—often, he reported, more than a dozen a day—for soldiers unable to do this for themselves.


Father Comes Home Crossing Heroin/e 2014/2015 SEASON 617.547.8300 | americanrepertorytheater.org



americanrepertorytheater.org 2014/2015 SEASON

After suffering with his family the torments of uncertainty about George’s fate, Whitman understood well the importance of communication between battle and home front. “I do a good deal of this,” he wrote to the New York Times, “writing all kinds, including love letters…I always encourage the men to write, and promptly write for them.” He often wrote, too, to inform relatives of soldiers’ deaths. A revolutionary poet—Leaves of Grass has been said to represent “an absolute discontinuity with the traditions of English verse”—Whitman introduced no innovations to the genre of the condolence letter. Instead he provided families with the information they expected and needed: Your son, Corporal Frank H. Irwin, was wounded near Fort Fisher, Virginia, March the 25, 1865…He died the first of May…Frank…had everything requisite in surgical treatment, nursing &c…He was so good and well-behaved…At…times he would fancy himself talking…to children or such like, his relatives I suppose, and giving them good advice…He was perfectly willing to die…and was perfectly resign’d…I do not know his past life, but I feel as if it must have been good.

Excerpt(s) from THIS REPUBLIC OF SUFFERING: DEATH AND THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR by Drew Gilpin Faust, copyright © 2008 by Drew Gilpin Faust. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. Any third party use of this material, outside of this publication, is prohibited. Interested parties must apply directly to Penguin Random House LLC for permission. Drew Gilpin Faust is the President of Harvard University and the Lincoln Professor of History in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

LOEB DRAMA CENTER 64 Brattle St., Cambridge | OBERON 2 Arrow St., Cambridge

Irwin’s behavior in dying, Whitman concluded, “could not be surpass’d. And now like many other noble and good men, after serving his country as a soldier, he has yielded up his young life… in her service.” This was, Whitman assured the grieving mother, a prepared death, a willing death, a patriotic death—certainly a Good Death. And even though Whitman was himself not in any sense an orthodox Christian believer, he closed his letter by offering Frank Irwin’s family a carefully worded consolation of faith: “there is a text, ‘God doeth all things well’—the meaning of which, after due time, appears to the soul.” In his poem “Come Up from the Fields Father,” Whitman imagined the family that received a letter like those he wrote. In Ohio’s “vital and beautiful” fall, “all prospers well.” Apples and grapes ripen; the wheat is ready for cutting. But amid this harvest of life, news arrives of war’s harvest of death. A letter comes to the farm’s family, written not by their son Pete but in another’s hand. It reports his gunshot wound but does not yet communicate the more terrible truth that “he is dead already” by the time the letter arrives. It is a letter that will destroy the mother, as a rifle has destroyed the son.



National Civil War Project Father Comes Home Crossing Heroin/e 2014/2015 SEASON 617.547.8300 | americanrepertorytheater.org


CHEMISTRY AND MUSICIANSHIP The Boston-based ensemble A Far Cry By Julia Bumke

Like any great band, A Far Cry was formed in a living room jam session—but instead of riffing on rock hits, these classically trained musicians were digging into Mozart's string quartets. “We’d get together to have reading parties where we’d drink wine and sight-read quartets with our teachers and colleagues until three in the morning, when our neighbors would complain,” recalls violist Jason Fisher, one of the group’s founding members. Many knew one another through graduate school, and others had met at summer chamber music festivals. “We wanted to do something with all that energy—but we didn’t want to disperse and start more string quartets,” says Fisher. When someone suggested sight-reading chamber orchestra music, which fifteen or more of them could play together, inspiration struck. “We started setting up chairs for all of us,” remembers Fisher, “but someone said, ‘How about we just stand?’ and we’ve never sat down since.” Gone, too, was the need for a conductor: the musicians played off of one another, responding to visual cues from their fellow performers to operate as a cohesive unit. As violist Sarah Darling remembers it, A Far Cry’s name sprung from an early brainstorming session, and it immediately stuck: “We’re ‘a far cry’ from the classical music norm in many intentional ways, and, like the old town criers, we like spreading the word and making some noise.” What began as a relaxed assemblage of like-minded musicians has since grown into an internationally acclaimed ensemble. Praised by The New York Times as “brim[ming] with personality or, better, personalities, many and varied,” A Far Cry has become a fixture of the Boston classical music scene, while also touring worldwide and producing their own records. Just as the A.R.T. seeks to expand the boundaries of theater, A Far Cry pushes against the boundaries of the Western classical canon, experimenting with how music is rehearsed, performed, and experienced by audiences. Unlike traditional orchestras, where each musician is assigned a seat and a part, A Far Cry’s musicians rotate their seating democratically, taking turns as leaders and followers. “It’s like being on a soccer team and having to play goalie, sweeper, center forward, and every single other position,” explains first violinist Miki-Sophia Cloud, who will be sitting concertmaster on Crossing. This flexibility helps A Far Cry operate as an ensemble while also showcasing individual voices. A Far Cry also eschews the typical blind orchestral audition, where musicians try out behind a screen and are judged primarily for tone quality and accuracy. “It’s never only about who can play the notes with us, because there are so many wonderful musicians who can do that,” explains Fisher. “The right match with A Far Cry is someone who’s very communicative, very open, very outgoing in their expression, and willing both to lead and to follow in a committed way.” A potential member will often have performed with the group as a substitute in the past; in an


ensemble where its members need to collaborate closely with one another, chemistry and musicianship are vital. When it’s not touring—and playing everywhere from high school cafetoriums to grand concert halls—A Far Cry proudly resides in Boston, where it performs in local spaces that reflect its diverse aesthetic. For every program that the group performs in New England Conservatory’s historic Jordan Hall, it also plays a low-cost or free Saturday afternoon concert at St. John’s Church in Jamaica Plain for its local community. And since 2012, the musicians have been resident artists at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, where they perform both classical and contemporary works. A Far Cry has widened its reach this year by launching a new record label, Crier Records, and its debut album, Dreams and Prayers, was recently nominated for a 2015 Grammy award. The label aims to showcase the group’s unique balance of traditional and newly commissioned music. As violinist and label manager Megumi Stohs Lewis explains, the label allows A Far Cry to “share our whole process—from the spark of a Crier’s idea, to the creation of a program, through the rehearsing, the concert, the recording process, and finally the completed realization of that initial spark.” A Far Cry’s collaboration with the A.R.T. on Crossing represents many firsts for the group: the first time it will premiere an opera, the first time it will be formally conducted, the first time it will perform at Boston’s Shubert Theatre. But in many ways, Crossing represents a natural progression for the ensemble, debuting the work of an emerging composer while performing for a wider audience. “Working with the A.R.T., which is a cauldron for such a varied group of projects, felt like it was right up our alley,” explains Fisher. “And working with Matt, who’s such an enthusiastic, genuine, imaginative composer, has been intoxicating.” Julia Bumke is a second-year dramaturgy student at the A.R.T./ Moscow Art Theater School Institute For Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University.

americanrepertorytheater.org 2014/2015 SEASON

LOEB DRAMA CENTER 64 Brattle St., Cambridge | OBERON 2 Arrow St., Cambridge


National Civil War Project Father Comes Home Crossing Heroin/e 2014/2015 SEASON 617.547.8300 | americanrepertorytheater.org



March 13 - 21, 2015 | Zero Church Performance Space By Carson Kreitzer | Directed by Scott Zigler Playwright Carson Kreitzer explores the ambiguous lines between sanity and insanity, justice and crime in Heroin/e (Keep Us Quiet), a play inspired by the lives of two women: Anna Pankiev, the older sister of Sigmund Freud’s patient, the Wolf Man; and Ellie Nesler, a woman who shot her son’s accused molester while he was testifying in court. This production is presented together with Dutchman by LeRoi Jones and features students from the A.R.T. Institute Class of 2015.


An Interview with Playwright Carson Kreitzer By Kai-Cheih Tu

Carson Kreitzer was the 2007 Playwrights of New York (PoNY) Fellow. The A.R.T. is a proud partner of PoNY, providing an artistic home for PoNY playwrights. KAI-CHIEH TU: What inspired you to write Heroin/e (Keep Us Quiet), a play about two seemingly unrelated women? CARSON KREITZER: It’s one of my very early plays, but it remains one of my favorites. I first came across the Wolf Man and his sister in a literature class as a student at Yale. She was bright, boyish, and unmanageable as a child, but at a certain point she became very quiet, did a lot of reading, stopped wanting to go outside. That set off my alarms. Something happened, something happened right there. The Wolf Man went into therapy with Freud pretty soon after his sister committed suicide by drinking mercury, but the case history is all about Freud’s theory of castration anxiety. The Wolf Man’s despair is not in any way connected to the recent loss of his sister, who only rates a few paragraphs. But I became convinced from reading the case study that the Wolf Man’s sister had experienced sexual abuse as a child. Most of the troubled, upper-class women Freud studied in Vienna had something to say about having been molested as children. At first, he believed them. But soon he realized that his fledgling science would get no support if he accused all the wealthy families in Vienna of harboring sexual predators. So he came up with a new theory, Infantile Fantasy, that these women were making it up. That is, little girls want this to happen so they imagine it happens. We are still dealing with the repercussions of this today. When I was in college, it felt like the first wave of people stood up to say this kind of abuse was happening in our society, which was a long time after Freud said it wasn’t happening. This story, her story, really stuck with me. When I went to San Fransisco a year after I graduated, the Ellie Nesler event happened. I saw the whole media circus, and people

were very supportive of her, gathering outside the courtroom holding signs that said, “Ellie is a mother not a murderer.” But it turned out that she had methamphetamine in her bloodstream during the shooting, and the supporters disappeared. Her story connected with Anna’s in my head. At the time, my work was specifically concerned with anger. In this case, for one of them, the anger went inward into suicide; for the other, it went outward into homicide. Here are two women, a century apart, both dealing with childhood sexual abuse, which is still not talked about, still something kept hidden. KT: What are the differences between this early play and your later work? CK: I’ve never written another play like this one. It remains my only piece with dual, interwoven monologues. This play was partly inspired by a friend of mine, who had a new boyfriend. He kept telling her, "Stop interrupting me!" There were three of

americanrepertorytheater.org 2014/2015 SEASON

us, all young women, very close at that time, and we realized we were always talking simultaneously, but it was collaborative. We were not interrupting, we were agreeing, adding, shifting, but always listening to each other. I became fascinated with what you could hear. And I started recording our conversations and transcribing them to see how long we overlapped and where one idea picked up with another in this woven tapestry of conversation. KT: That’s the beauty of this play. It’s meticulously structured so that the overlapping lines create a melodious discourse. CK: Yes. It is structured more like a piece of music. Most of my plays are like a flow. And this play pushes the envelope of what audiences can take in. I firmly believe that people can hear two things at once.

“Here are two women, a century apart, both dealing with childhood sexual abuse, which is still not talked about, still something kept hidden.”

CK: The people I’m drawn to tend to have something to say to our time. I’m definitely concerned about representing them truthfully, but for me that means getting to a deeper level of truth. Details can tell you so much. I am a magpie for historcal details. But I’m a playwright, not a historian or a biographer. KT: A lot of your work is about outsiders, and about women who are considered troublemakers or mavericks. What do you think are the most serious challenges women face in the U.S. today? CK: I do believe there is a tyranny of the good girl that controls so many of us. We learn to be quiet; we learn to stand in the corner; we learn not to get in the way. If we step outside the bounds, we are punished severely. I love the women who challenge this. In terms of the current moment, the thing I’m most concerned about right now is reproductive rights. It’s terrifying to see those getting rolled back state by state. It’s all about controlling women and women’s bodies and not allowing women to be full citizens. We have certainly come a long way and things are better. But things get better and things get worse. Susan Faludi describes in her book Backlash the way women’s progress happens on the model of the tilted screw. It’s not just going up, it’s going up, down, up, down. Every time women’s rights move forward, there’s a backlash and we are punished. And we have to climb back up, a little higher next time. Kai-Chieh Tu is a first-year dramaturgy student at the A.R.T./ Moscow Art Theater School Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University.

LOEB DRAMA CENTER 64 Brattle St., Cambridge | OBERON 2 Arrow St., Cambridge

KT: Your plays are often anchored in true stories and historical figures— Aileen Wuornos in Self Defense, or Death of Some Salesman; Lee Miller in Behind the Eye; Tamara de Lempicka in Lempicka. How faithful do you need to be to history as a dramatist?






2/24 7:30P

2/22 2:00P

4/5 2:00P 7:30P




3/31 7:30P


2/17 7:30P

2/15 2:00P

3/1 2:00P

2/10 7:30P

2/8 2:00P

4/1 7:30P


2/25 11:00AT 7:30P

2/18 2:00PT 7:30P

2/11 11:00AT 7:30P

2/4 2:00PT 7:30P

2/3 7:30P

2/1 2:00P 7:30P


1/28 7:30P


1/27 7:30P


1/25 7:30P


4/2 7:30P


2/26 7:30P

2/19 7:30P

2/12 7:30P

2/5 7:30P

1/29 7:30P





4/3 7:30P


2/27 7:30P

2/20 7:30P

2/13 7:30P

2/6 7:30P

1/30 7:30P

1/23 7:30P



January - June 2015

4/4 2:00P 7:30P


2/28 2:00PT 7:30P

2/21 2:00PT 7:30P


2/14 2:00PT

2/7 2:00PT 7:30P

1/31 2:00PT 7:30P

1/24 7:30P


7:30P 10:30P


5/26 7:30P

5/24 2:00P

5/27 2:00P 7:30P

5/20 2:00P 7:30P

5/13 7:30P


5/31 2:00P



6/6 7:30P





5/29 7:30P


5/30 2:00P 7:30P


5/23 2:00P

5/16 2:00P 7:30P

5/9 7:30P


MONDAY, MARCH 2, 2015 Featuring performances from SARA BAREILLES, GAVIN CREEL, and PARSONSFIELD. (including a preview from Waitress, a new musical opening A.R.T.’s 2015/16 Season),



6/4 7:30P





6/2 7:30P




5/29 7:30P

5/22 7:30P

5/21 7:30P

5/28 7:30P

5/15 7:30P


5/14 7:30P



5/31 2:00P

5/19 7:30P

5/17 2:00P 7:30P


5/12 7:30P


5/10 7:30P






Visit us online for more information: americanrepertorytheater.org/ART-InTheWorld

Pippin [Tokyu Theatre Orb] Tokyo, Japan: Begins September 2015

Once the Musical [Ed Mirvish Theatre] Toronto, Canada: February 2015 - April 2015

Once the Musical [Seoul Arts Center] Seoul, South Korea: December 2014 - March 2015

The Heart of Robin Hood [Royal Alexandra Theatre] Toronto, Canada: November 2014 - Present

Once the Musical [Princess Theatre] Melbourne, Australia: October 2014 - February 2015

Once the Musical [Phoenix Theatre] London, U.K.: March 2013 - Present


Pippin September 2014 - Present

Once the Musical October 2013 - Present


Finding Neverland [Lunt-Fontanne Theatre] Begins March 2015

The Light Princess [New Victory Theater] February - March 2015

Sleep No More [The McKittrick Hotel] March 2011 - Present

New York, NY

Below is a selection of shows that started at the A.R.T. and continue to engage new audiences around the world.

A.R.T. in the World

As of1/11/15

Sara Bareilles, composer and lyrisict of Waitress.

Based upon the motion picture written by Adrienne Shelly Book by Jessie Nelson Music & Lyrics by Sara Bareilles Directed by Diane Paulus




Don’t miss the 2015/16 Season!

Dublin, Ireland: February 2013 March 2013 London, United Kingdon: [West End] March 2013 - Present US Tour: October 2013 - October 2014 Melbourne, Australia: October 2014 November 2014 EMAIL: TICKETSERVICES@AMREP.ORG FOR TICKETS















Join us Online!





For current promotions and discounts: americanrepertorytheater.org/discounts

Our friends are your friends. Meet our local partners.