Oakland Theater Project has announced its 2023 Season: History Against Hope, a lineup of six productions featuring groundbreaking new plays, re-edited classics and the company’s first musical.
“If what poets and philosophers tell us is true and history is a story we can never completely escape, maybe hope is the strength that gives us the freedom to try,” said Michael Socrates Moran, co-artistic director of OTP.
“Our six plays this season grapple with the paradoxical tension between history and hope in today’s world. As we continue to face enormous uncertainty and deep disillusionment, theatre, as a realm of illusion, has a role to play in how we might choose hope in a world that often seems committed to repeat history.”
The season kicks off February 3-26 with the world premiere of Exodus to Eden, written and directed by Oakland Theater Project co-founder and co-artistic director Michael Socrates Moran. This contemporary epic, created specifically for the members and artists of the Oakland Theater Project Company, follows the journey of an exiled people across America, through environmental devastation and into their dreams. From a dispossessed family in search of a lost future, to the man, to the angels, to a girl named Edén, this production features an unforgettable cast of characters and an ensemble cast of 17. Inspired by the Grapes of Wrath, the book of exodus and the members of OTP’s society, Exodus to Eden takes place after the story ends and before the story begins again. Seeking hope in a time that often seems hopeless, the tale asks the question: what do we worship in America today? Can we change it? If so, how could we change it to renew our world?
From March 31 through April 23, OTP presents the Bay Area premiere of the multi-award winning play Is God Is by Aleshea Harris, directed by OTP Co-Artistic Director William Hodgson. After becoming an Off-Broadway hit in 2018 and a runaway success in London’s West End, Aleshea Harris’ contemporary epic is finally making its Bay Area debut. After receiving a letter from a mother they thought was dead, Racine and Anaia, 21-year-old twins, embark on a dirty northeast-to-southern odyssey to the Valley, in a bid to avenge their past. Harris weaves “the ancient, the modern, the tragic, spaghetti western, hip-hop and afropunk” (Relentless Award, 2016) into an unforgettable story of two women who see justice and take control of their own stories.
From May 26 to June 18, OTP continues its tradition of reviving classic American dramas for our times, as Michael Socrates Moran directs Edward Albee’s Tony Award-winning drama Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? After a teachers’ party at a college in New England, George and Martha (played by associate art director of OTP Lisa Ramirez: The Crucible, The Wasteland, A Streetcar Named Desire) welcome young couple Nick and Honey for some late night drinks and games – but the games aren’t limited to mere party food, and the goal is starting to emerge as something deeper and more dangerous. Written in 1962, Albee’s masterpiece continues to resonate with its exploration of truth, illusion, and protecting one’s own version of reality, no matter the cost.
From September 1-24, OTP will present the West Coast premiere of groundbreaking theater artist Taylor Mac’s Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus, directed by Emilie Whelan (A Streetcar Named Desire). The 2019 Broadway hit, which garnered seven Tony Award nominations, is set after the bloody conclusion of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus. Two servants are tasked with cleaning up the sequels, in a dark, comical room that The New York Times called “fabulous and scruffy: a provocatively beautiful mess.” An exploration of power, privilege, death, survival and the role of art in shaping the world, Gary reveals how hope can be hilariously created after history explodes into the bloody apocalypse.
Then, from October 27 to November 19, Oakland Theater Project presents its first ever musical: Cabaret, with music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb and book by Joe Masteroff. Co-Artistic Director William Hodgson (Every Brilliant Thing) stars as Clifford and emcee in this one-of-a-kind production, directed by Michael Socrates Moran. In the twilight of Jazz Age Berlin in 1929-1930, the Nazis rose to power, while the hedonistic nightlife of the seedy Kit Kat Klub continued. There, a young novelist named Clifford Bradshaw meets a cabaret singer named Sally Bowles – but can their relationship survive the cataclysmic changes in the world around them? A collision of decadent celebration and psychological thriller, Tony’s multi-award-winning musical holds a stark mirror to a world in danger of repeating its gruesome history.
Finally, OTP presents an encore of Geetha Reddy’s “Totally Epic” (KQED) 2019 Mahābhārata, featuring OTP Society member J Jha in a bold, one-person narrative of the ancient text – with new scenes added! Dating from around 800 BCE, the Great Indian Epic has 100,000 verses and a cast of thousands of verses, and is retold to each generation of Indian children in a version that speaks of the times in which they live. . From tales of triumphant warriors to tantalizing stories woven between battles, borders shattered and paths forged, don’t miss this audience favorite, which examines the nature of conflict, betrayal and victory through a contemporary lens, and tells the story of a cosmic civil war in the hope that humanity will learn not to repeat it. Performance dates and locations will be announced at a later date.