If you’re looking for a common theme or idea around which Actors Theatre builds its season, you won’t find one. At least not a conscious one, according to Artistic Director Les Waters.
What you will find instead is a selection of shows that excite both the artistic staff at ATL and the men and women who will bring the shows to the stage.
So if Watersâ€™ previous two seasons overseeing the theater’s output are any indication, then what you will see in Actors Theatre’s 2014-2015 season is, whether the show is a local premiere or annual ritual, a series of theatrical works united by a commitment to clear, engaging storytelling and vibrant, imaginative staging.
In other words, we’re in for a good time.
The 2014-2015 Brown-Forman mainstage series kicks off this week with William Shakespeare’s â€œLoveâ€™s Labour’s Lost,â€ running through Sept. 21. The playful reimagining by members of the Theatre de la Jeune Lune will have extra fun with this Shakespeare comedy, incorporating text from The Bard’s other works to celebrate the many lovers in his plays.
“Shakespeare himself appropriated and transformed material from other writers,” Waters said. “Theyâ€™ve taken material from every other Shakespeare plays and incorporated it into their production.”
The yearly scarefest “Dracula” returns Sept. 12 through Oct. 31 with a few tweaks to keep the frights fresh, and the other Actors tradition, Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” will receive a complete facelift with a new set, costumes and more.
“With ‘Dracula’ and ‘A Christmas Carol,’Â theyâ€™re like community rituals,” Waters said. “I find it very fascinating every year discussing with people whatâ€™s changed over the years and which ones they particularly liked – what they thought the interest was in the production.”
“A Christmas Carol” runs Nov. 25 through Dec. 21.
On the newer end of the spectrum is the premiere of Jason Robert Brown’s â€œThe Last Five Yearsâ€ (Oct. 7-26), a musical featuring two lovers telling their tale – only one is telling it beginning to end, and the other vice versa. Associate Artistic Director Meredith McDonough, whom Waters said has a “passion” for new musicals, will direct.
Also leading into the holiday season will be â€œTribesâ€ by Nina Raine (Nov. 11-Dec. 8), the award-winning drama about finding one’s voice. In “Tribes,” a deaf boy who has never really been heard within his family meets a girl losing her hearing. The play was one of the most popular plays to be produced among theaters across the nation in 2013-2014.
2015 will begin with Tarell Alvin McCraney’s “The Brothers Size” (Jan. 6 through Feb. 1). McCraney, a MacArthur fellow, has crafted a play about family loyalties in a post-prison drama that is the second part of his Brothers/Sisters trilogy.
“We’re introducing new people,” Waters said. “I think Tarell McCraney is one of the brightest, most talented of American writers, and his voice is certainly new to Actors Theatre.”
Waters will revisit a piece of his own history at ATL as he revives the 2004 Humana Festival entry “At The Vanishing Point” by Naomi Iizuka (Jan. 27 through Feb. 15), which he originally directed. The play is an ode to Louisville’s Butchertown and was originally done in a site-specific location in the neighborhood. This revival will feature new material and music from Kentucky native Ben Sollee.
“The play always was about a community that was vanishing,” Waters said. “The meat-packing industry was diminishing in that area, and it’s still in a sense about what the history of the town was and how once the industry was removed, the neighborhood changes and becomes something else. It’s not a documentary in any sense. But it talks about community and family within a particular neighborhood.”
The Humana Festival of New American Plays returns with its 39th showcase of the latest in American theater March 4 through April 12. Artist conversations and behind-the-scenes events will accent most of the productions this year, inviting in the community to experience every side of Waters and company’s artistic refreshing of Louisville’s storied regional theater.
“There are great artists on board to do the shows, great pieces of storytelling, and I sincerely hope people enjoy them as much as we do,” Waters said.
For more information, tickets and showtimes, go to www.actorstheatre.org.